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JewishJournal.com

October 10, 2002

Following Arafat’s Money Trail

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/following_arafats_money_trail_20021011

The Palestinian people are being betrayed and misled by the one "trusted leader" who is responsible for protecting their interests. Yasser Arafat chairman of the Palestinian Authority, has diverted funds allocated specifically for humanitarian aid purposes directly into his own pocket.

Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze'evi (Farkash), head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Military Intelligence Corps, reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Arafat is worth an estimated $1.3 billion. Is Arafat's priority peace and the alleviation of the plight of the Palestinian people, or is it to profit personally?

Ze'evi also reported that Arafat's current financial adviser, Muhammed Rashid, is continuing to channel funds to Arafat, despite the progress made by newly appointed Finance Minister Salem Fayed in taking control of the ministry's finances to eliminate corruption.

The accusation of corruption by diverting funds comes also from one of his own, Jaweed al Ghussein, former treasurer of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), who told the Israeli daily Ha'aretz that the leadership is corrupt and the Palestinians deserve a democracy. Al Ghussein was quoted as saying, "I found out how he took aid money earmarked for the Palestinian people to his own account."

The former treasurer alleged Arafat moved up to $8 million to his personal account every month and was aware of widespread corruption. Al Ghussein's allegations come amid strong international pressure on Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to reform a leadership that has been accused of rampant corruption since it was established in 1994.

Al Ghussein has been paying a high price for his honesty. His son, Tawfiq, and his daughter, Mona Bauwens, told Ha'aretz their father was kidnapped several times by the Palestinian Authority.

Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has put al Ghussein under "house arrest" in order to silence him from telling the truth. Adding insult to injury, the Palestinian Authority has also confiscated his Palestinian passport in order to prevent him from seeking badly needed medical treatment abroad.

Despite the overwhelming documentary evidence and facts, Palestinian Authority officials dismiss the claim of corruption amongst their leadership ranks.

The unveiling of Arafat's corruption supports President Bush's public denouncement that Arafat is incapable to lead the Palestinian people to peace and ultimately a future. The U.S. government recognizes the corruption of Arafat and the Palestinian Authority as well as the partnership with terrorism. Undoubtedly, Arafat has not acted as a responsible leader in the best interests of the Palestinian people.

A solution to stop Arafat's corruption and penalize him for sponsoring terrorism is the legislative bill HR 4693, known as the "Arafat Accountability Act" sponsored by Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks). According to HR 4693, Arafat has been directly implicated in funding and supporting terrorists who have claimed responsibility for homicide bombings in Israel. HR 4693 will penalize Arafat for sponsoring terrorism against both American and Israeli citizens in the land of Israel. Furthermore, it will hold Arafat, the Palestinian Authority and the PLO accountable, freeze their assets and provide for sanctions.

Congress finds the PLO, under the leadership of Arafat, has failed to abide by its promises, enumerated in the Oslo accords, to commit itself to a "peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides." The PLO continues to use terrorism and other acts of violence in an effort to extract political concessions. Congress also finds that "Yasser Arafat has failed, through words and deeds, to offer credible security guarantees to the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, and has once again violated his commitment to peace through the purchase of 50 tons of offensive weaponry from Iran." In other words, the money to alleviate Palestinians' suffering is being used to promote terrorism.

For example, Arafat promoted the instigation of acts of terrorism by smuggling illegal weapons of mass destruction aboard the Karine A. This ship was owned, operated and purchased by the Palestinian Authority for the express purpose of "smuggling illegal weapons" to Gaza to support the intifada violence against Israel. The cargo contained explosives, Katyusha rockets, missiles, mortars and rifles.

Arafat and the forces directly under his control are responsible for the murder of hundreds of Israelis and the maiming of thousands more since October 2000; not to mention the sacrifice of his own people.

As a direct result of his corruption and terrorism, each and every shahid (martyr) becomes a victim of Arafat's personal greed.

Evidence shows that Arafat has been directly implicated in funding and sponsoring and supporting terrorists who have claimed responsibility for the homicide bombings such as the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an off-shoot of Arafat's Al Fatah faction.

Affiliated terrorist militias also include Force 17, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Tanzim. All have claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks.

Again, let's follow the money trail.

During the IDF Operation Defensive Shield, many computers and documents were confiscated from Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, as well as other Palestinian Authority offices, directly linking Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to the acts of terrorism. Arafat had not only enriched himself, but he also failed as an honest peace broker, and as an honest leader for the progress of Palestinians.

Unquestionably, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority must take immediate action to not only to condemn -- but stop -- all acts of terrorism, especially the homicide bombings that have plagued Israel during the current intifada. Arafat must immediately confiscate and destroy the infrastructure of terrorism, including weapons, bomb factories and other offensive weapons. Furthermore, Arafat must urge all Arab nations and individuals to immediately cease funding for terrorist operations and payments to the families of terrorists. The huge question that looms large is whether Arafat will go against his own financial interest by stopping terrorism and will the international community allow him to keep diverting the funds?

While the Palestinian people languish in squalor with inadequate education, food, health care and shelter, Arafat enriches his bank accounts, "deep pockets" and personal wealth.

Tragically, the Palestinian people are bankrupt at the hands of their very own leader. Arafat's expropriated wealth of $1.3 billion from the diverted funds exceeds the personal fortune of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com ($1.23 billion) according to Fortune Magazine. Statistics of nongovernmental organizations providing humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Authority point out that $1.3 billion could do a lot to alleviate the plight of his Palestinian people. For example, it could feed 3 million Palestinians for an entire year and still leave $892 million to be spent on 1,000 mobile intensive care units ($69,900 each), as well as funding 10 hospitals, such as Gaza's Ahli Arab Hospital, for 10 years, leaving $585 million to fund other special projects such as the computerization of 10 hospitals at a cost of $4.57 million, the annual salaries of 10,000 medical employees ($4,200 each) and hospital vaccinations for 3 million Palestinians ($11.25 per injection). Moreover, 40,625 six-family dwellings could be built for Palestinians ($32,000 per unit).

Is it more important for Arafat to spend the money allocated for humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people on homicide bombing missions and the smuggling of 50 tons of "illegally smuggled" arms of mass destruction or provide proper education, food, health care and shelter?

One thing is clear. Peace is not profitable for Arafat. While the Palestinian people suffer economic hardships, their "trusted leader" profits personally. Arafat must be held accountable. Ethically. Financially. Morally. Politically.

Will the international community continue to support Arafat's corruption and the murder of innocent Palestinians as well as Israelis? Make no mistake, the ethical and financial responsibility belongs not only to Arafat but also to the entire international community to follow the final destination of the funds: Arafat's pocket or the Palestinian people.

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