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Israel should put Arafat on trial like Barghouti

By Ariel Natan Pasko
web posted June 14, 2004

"It is likely that Israel will consider bringing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to trial, too." That's right, you read it right, and the Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said it recently.

Yasser Arafat

For about two years now, I've been calling on the Israeli government to try Yasser Arafat like Nazi leader Adolph Eichmann for war crimes and crimes against humanity. I've written nine articles about it, such as, "Put Arafat on Trial Like Eichmann," "Don't Expel Arafat," "Poor Marwan," and "Hang Saddam, Then Arafat." With the exception of single articles by Alan Dershowitz, Uri Dan, and J. Grant Swank, Jr., I've been a lone voice. Sure there's been Israeli politicians calling for Arafat to be expelled from Israel, or "taken out and shot," but no one has called for a proper judicial process to educate the world about Arafat's horrendous crimes like Lapid recently did.

Then a week later, the recently evicted, former Transportation Minister Avigdor Lieberman, speaking on the popular Israeli television news show, "Politika," said, "There's no difference between Barghouti and Arafat, they're exactly the same, with one difference, Arafat is responsible for many more Israelis murdered in terror attacks, since after the Oslo Agreements."

So both Lapid and Lieberman agree that Arafat should be tried.

Israel's court system recently found Marwan Barghouti, founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade (later outlawed as a terrorist organization by the US) and a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, guilty of direct involvement in the murder of five Israelis. The Tel Aviv District Court acquitted him of 33 other attacks.

As leader of the Fatah-Tanzim terrorist organization, Barghouti was on trial for overseeing dozens of terror attacks. The judges explained their decision to acquit Barghouti of most of the cases on the basis of Israel's legal system, which they said, prevents the conviction of a leader of a terrorist organization for acts carried out by members of the group, if he himself is not directly involved, even though it may be known that the leader encouraged them to carry out the attacks and provided his associates with the finances to carry out the attacks. They said the law was far from satisfactory, but they were bound by the law as is.

Since when is an accomplice to serial murder ignored? Such antiquated laws in Israel must be changed. How is Israel going to contribute to the "War on Terror," if it can't even prosecute terrorist leaders?

"The accused [Barghouti] generally did not have direct contact with the people on the ground who perpetrated the attacks," the court verdict read. "The contact was made with people close to him, among them [his nephew] Ahmed Barghouti...who, with the support of the accused, planned and carried out the murderous attacks, using the money and arms that the accused made sure to supply to them for that purpose."

Israeli forces captured Barghouti in April 2002. He was arrested, together with his nephew, in a building only 500 meters from Arafat's Mukatah compound. His nephew, Ahmed Barghouti, received thirteen life sentences last year by the Ofer Military Court, for his part in the terrorist murder of 12 Israelis and the wounding of dozens of others.

In addition to his terrorist exploits, Marwan Barghouti has made statements such as, "After we attain a Palestinian state [in Judea and Samaria], there will be greater things for which to strive...There is no room for more than one state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean." Nothing particularly radical in comparison to what Yasser Arafat has said or done for years.

Yet Arafat -- as head of Fatah -- who personally ordered the terror attacks -- as the judges concluded -- and authorized the funds later used by Barghouti for the attacks, hasn't yet been tried.

Why not?

Till now, Israel hasn't brought Arafat to trial because it didn't want to prosecute public figures, Lapid said. But now, they've successfully prosecuted Barghouti, who in his sentencing was given five consecutive life sentences plus forty years.

Unrepentant, Barghouti throughout his trial insisted he didn't recognize the court's right to try him. At his sentencing, Barghouti accused the judges of cooperating with the "occupation" and compared them to Israeli Air force pilots "who drop bombs on children." The Tel Aviv District Court judges said that, "Barghouti's declarations that he is a 'man of peace' do not stand the test of reality...it has been proven that Barghouti was personally involved 'up to his neck' in acts of terror."

The judges said Barghouti's orders for terror attacks were sometimes "based on instructions" from Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. "Arafat would never give explicit instructions for attacks but he let it be known when the timing was right," the judges said. "He made sure his subordinates understood very well when he was interested in a cease-fire and when he was interested in terror attacks against Israel," the verdict said.

So, I understand that the Israeli court has verified that Arafat has had a direct hand in much of the terror perpetrated on Israelis. Add to that, the documentation Israel has found earlier linking Arafat to arms purchases and the funding of terror activities. How is it possible that about 1,500 Israelis have been killed since Arafat established the Palestinian Authority for Terror in 1993, and yet he's not held responsible? Do his fairly regular calls of "Jihad, Jihad, Jihad" mean nothing?

Although I don't feel the Fourth Geneva Convention applies to Judea, Samaria (the West Bank), and Gaza there is an interesting point to think about for those who prefer expelling Arafat. While Part 3, Section 3, Article 49 forbids individual or mass transfers from occupied territories -- and is likely to raise many cries worldwide that we are violating international law -- Articles 64, 66, 67, and 68 (of Section 3), allow the Occupying Power to bring to trial and impose the death penalty on a person guilty of espionage, serious acts of sabotage against the military installations of the Occupying Power, or of intentional offences which have caused the death of one or more persons. Israel would be on firmer legal ground -- according to the world -- trying Arafat for his involvement in murdering Israelis, and executing him, than expelling him.

Put Arafat on trial for crimes against humanity, i.e. the Jewish people, his war crimes in Lebanon, the American diplomats he's already admitted years ago to having ordered killed in Sudan, and all the other victims of his decades old serial murder spree in the name of Palestinian independence, and get it over with already.

Israel should put Arafat on trial like Barghouti, with one exception, Barghouti got life sentences, Arafat should be hanged like Eichmann.

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko. (c) 2004/5764 Pasko

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