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By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist
Copyright 2002, The Boston Globe

February 10, 2002

Last Sunday, Yasser Arafat published an 1,100-word op-ed column, "The Palestinian Vision of Peace," in The New York Times. In it, he wrote that the Palestinian people yearn to live "as an equal neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security for both." And he made a point of denouncing the murderers who have spilled so much innocent Jewish blood:

"Let me be very clear. I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorist groups against Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist organizations, and I am determined to put an end to their activities. . . . No degree of oppression and no level of desperation can ever justify the killing of innocent civilians."

That was Sunday, in English.

On Wednesday, in Arabic, Arafat addressed a rally in Ramallah, firing up the crowd with his call for "a million martyrs marching on Jerusalem." (A "martyr" in Palestinian argot is a terrorist who dies while killing Jews.) Later that night, a Palestinian terrorist donned an Israeli uniform, infiltrated the small agricultural community of Hamra, and murdered three people -- Moshe Makonan Majus, a 33-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia, and an unarmed mother and daughter, Miri Ochana, 45, and 11-year-old Yael.

The next morning, Arafat's Voice of Palestine radio jubilantly reported the attack. "The man carrying out the operation," declared senior news anchor Nizar al-Ghul, "became a heroic martyr." He said the killer was from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Squad, which is a division of Fatah, the PLO faction led by Arafat. The martial tone of the broadcast was deepend with the playing of "Al Quds Madinat Al-Salaam," a song that glorifies "martyrs" and "heroic martyrdom."

On Thursday night, Arafat again addressed a rally in Ramallah. "We will make the lives of the infidels Hell!" he swore, and once more raised the battle cry, "Millions of martyrs marching to Jerusalem!"

Meanwhile, Palestinian media, both print and broadcast, were continuing to celebrate Wafa Idris, the Arab woman who had detonated a massive bomb in downtown Jerusalem the week before. Fatah organized a parade in Idris's honor; young girls carried posters emblazoned with her picture. But nowhere was mention made of Arafat's article in The New York Times, and his condemnation of terrorism was not translated into Arabic.

So ended another week in the "Palestinian Vision of Peace."

For Arafat and his circle, peace is only a tactic. Over and over, they have affirmed that their goal is a Palestinian state "from the river to the sea." Time and again they have cited the PLO's 1974 "plan of phases" for liquidating Israel by stages. From the programs on Palestinian TV to the textbooks in Palestinian schools to the chants at Palestinian rallies, the Arafat regime drives home its message of hate: The Jews are our enemies and we will wipe them from this land.

Only the hopelessly naive or willfully blind can still believe that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority seek peace with Israel. After they were caught red-handed trying to smuggle in 50 tons of heavy weapons from Iran -- weapons that would have been used to murder thousands of Israelis -- Washington abandoned its last shred of faith in Arafat. The Bush administration makes no secret of its disgust for the man; on Thursday, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said talking with him is "a waste of time." Even Dennis Ross, the ex-Clinton envoy for whom the "peace process" was virtually a fetish, is urging President Bush to publicly break with Arafat.

Now if only Ariel Sharon could do the same thing.

For months, Sharon has insisted that there can be no negotiations "under fire" -- that is, while Arab terror continues. He has demanded seven days of nonviolence as the price for even talking about talks. He has painted Arafat as an unrepentant terrorist -- the Israelis' Osama bin Laden, he called him -- and publicly regretted not killing him in Lebanon when he had the chance 20 years ago. Above all, he has been adamant about freezing out Arafat and his thuggish dictatorship: "Any granting of legitimacy to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority," he said, "weakens the fight against terrorism."

And then, just in case anyone was inclined to take his words seriously, Sharon showed how hollow they were.

On Jan. 30, he invited Arafat's three most senior deputies -- Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Qurei, and Mohammed Rashid -- to his home for new talks. With the bodies of the latest terror victims not yet cold in their graves, Sharon decided -- like Ehud Barak before him and Benjamin Netanyahu before him -- that rewarding the killers of Jews would bring peace a little closer.

When will the Israelis learn? You cannot make peace with those who want you dead. Arafat and his gang are enemies, and enemies should be destroyed. One day there will be a Palestinian leader who pleads for peace -- not just in English but in Arabic, too. When that day comes, it will be time to negotiate. Until then, it's war.

Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe
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