Israel News

A collection of the week's news from Israel
A service of the Bet El Twinning Committee of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto

January 18, 2002
Issue number 362


Monday, January 21st, 8:00 pm

Itamar Marcus, Director, Palestinian Media Watch will speak on "What They're Really Saying: Fantasy and Truth in Palestinian Media"  at Shaarei Shomayim

Sunday January 27 6:30 pm

BESA Center Conference "How Can We Be Secure from Terrorism?" with Professors Efraim Inbar, Gerald Steinberg and Irwin Cotler. Leah Posluns Theatre, Bathurst Jewish Community Centre. For info, call 905-660-3563.


The Arafat I Know   By Ion Mihai Pacepa

Last week, Israel seized a boat carrying 50 tons of Iranian-made mortars, long-range missiles and anti-tank rockets destined for the Palestinian Authority. The vessel, Karim A., is owned by the Palestinian Authority and its captain and several crew are members of the Palestinian naval police. I am not surprised to see that Yasser Arafat remains the same bloody terrorist I knew so well during my years at the top of Romania's foreign intelligence service.

I became directly involved with Arafat in the late 1960s, in the days when he was being financed and manipulated by the KGB. In the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel humiliated two of the Soviet Union's Arab client states, Egypt and Syria. A couple of months later, the head of Soviet foreign intelligence, Gen. Aleksandr Sakharovsky, landed in Bucharest. According to him, the Kremlin had charged the KGB to "repair the prestige" of "our Arab friends" by helping them organize terrorist operations that would humiliate Israel. The main KGB asset in this joint venture was a "devoted Marxist-Leninist": Yasser Arafat, co-founder of Fatah, the Palestinian military force.

Gen. Sakharovsky asked us in Romanian intelligence to help the KGB bringing Arafat and some of his fedayeen fighters secretly to the Soviet Union via Romania, in order for them to be indoctrinated and trained. During that same year, the Soviets maneuvered to have Arafat named chairman of the PLO with public help from Egypt's ruler, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

When I first met Arafat, I was stunned by the ideological similarity between him and his KGB mentor. Arafat's broken record was that American "imperial Zionism" was the "rabid dog of the world," and there was only one way to deal with a rabid dog: "Kill it!" In the years when Gen. Sakharovsky was the chief Soviet intelligence adviser in Romania, he used to preach in his soft, melodious voice that "the bourgeoisie" was the "rabid dog of imperialism," adding that there was "just one way to deal with a rabid dog: Shoot it!" He was responsible for killing 50,000 Romanians.

In 1972, the Kremlin established a "socialist division of labor" for supporting international terrorism. Romania's main clients in this new market were Libya and the PLO. A year later, a Romanian intelligence adviser assigned to the PLO headquarters in Beirut reported that Arafat and his KGB handlers were preparing a PLO commando team headed by Arafat's top deputy, Abu Jihad, to take American diplomats hostage in Khartoum, Sudan, and demand the release of Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian assassin of Robert Kennedy.

"St-stop th-them!" Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu yelled in his nervous stutter, when I reported the news. He had turned as white as a sheet. Just six months earlier Arafat's liaison officer for Romania, Ali Hassan Salameh, had led the PLO commando team that took the Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympic Games, and Ceausescu had become deathly afraid that his name might be implicated in that awful crime.

It was already too late to stop the Abu Jihad commandos. After a couple of hours we learned they had seized the participants at a diplomatic reception organized by the Saudi embassy in Khartoum and were asking for Sirhan's release. On March 2, 1973, after President Nixon refused the terrorists' demand, the PLO commandos executed three of their hostages: American Ambassador Cleo A. Noel Jr., his deputy, George Curtis Moore, and Belgian charge d'affaires Guy Eid.

In May 1973, during a private dinner with Ceausescu, Arafat excitedly bragged about his Khartoum operation. "Be careful," Ion Gheorghe Maurer, a Western-educated lawyer who had just retired as Romanian prime minister, told him. "No matter how high-up you are, you can still be convicted for killing and stealing." "Who, me? I never had anything to do with that operation," Arafat said, winking mischievously.

In January 1978, the PLO representative in London was assassinated at his office. Soon after that, convincing pieces of evidence started to come to light showing that the crime was committed by the infamous terrorist Abu Nidal, who had recently broken with Arafat and built his own organization.

"That wasn't a Nidal operation. It was ours," I was told by Ali Hassan Salameh, Arafat's liaison officer for Romania. Even Ceausescu's adviser to Arafat, who was well familiar with his craftiness, was taken by surprise. "Why kill your own people?" Col. Constantin Olcescu asked."We want to mount some spectacular operations against the PLO, making it look as if they had been organized by Palestinian extremist groups that accuse the chairman of becoming too conciliatory and moderate," Salameh explained. According to him, Arafat even asked the PLO Executive Committee to sentence Nidal to death for assassinating the PLO representative in London.

Arafat has made a political career by pretending that he has not been involved in his own terrorist acts. But evidence against him grows by the day. James Welsh, a former intelligence analyst for the National Security Agency, has told a number of U.S. journalists that the NSA had secretly intercepted the radio communications between Yasser Arafat and Abu Jihad during the PLO operation against the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, including Arafat's order to kill Ambassador Noel. The conversation was allegedly recorded by Mike Hargreaves, an NSA officer stationed in Cyprus, and the transcripts were kept in a file code-named "Fedayeen.

For over 30 years the U.S. government has considered Arafat a key to achieving peace in the Middle East. But for over 20 years, Washington also believed that Ceausescu was the only Communist ruler who could open a breech in the Iron Curtain. During the Cold War era, two American presidents went to Bucharest to pay him tribute. In November 1989, when the Romanian Communist Party re-elected Ceausescu, he was congratulated by the United States. Three weeks later, he was accused of genocide and executed, dying as a symbol of communist tyranny.

It is high time the U.S. end the Arafat fetish as well. President Bush's currentwar on international terrorism provides an excellent opportunity.

The writer was the highest ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc. He is author of "Red Horizons" (1987), a memoir.   (Wall Street Journal Jan 10)

Arafat's Naval Adventure: It's time for him to go. By Tom Rose

If new proof were needed that reforming Yasser Arafat is a lost cause, the Israeli navy's pre-dawn seizure last week of a cargo vessel destined for Gaza City and packed with 50 tons of weapons supplied by Iran should have provided it. The ship was registered to Arafat's Palestinian Authority, paid for with PA funds, and skippered by a lieutenant colonel in the PA Navy who told investigators his assignment was to deliver his secret cache directly to the PA. At least 7 of the 13 crew members belonged to Arafat's private militias.

The Israeli government called it the largest and most dangerous illegal arms shipment ever attempted. Had it reached its destination, every inch of Israel would have been in range of its cargo, which consisted of long- and short-range Katyusha rockets, LAW and Sagger anti-tank missiles, long-range mortars, sophisticated mines, nearly two tons of hi-tech semtex plastic explosive many times more deadly than what the suicide bombers currently use, hundreds of high-powered sniper rifles, thousands of rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank grenades, and, most dangerous of all, an undisclosed number of SA-7 (Strella) anti-aircraft missiles capable of imperiling commercial air service into and out of Tel Aviv.

On the other hand, Arafat has been leading one terrorist organization or another for four decades. Why should a little Katyusha-running change anything? As it turns out, it won't. Israel seems to view the episode as just another public relations opportunity to be milked; the United States as a public relations challenge to be managed. Neither regards it as reason to begin the process of replacing Arafat's regime with one less malign.

Not only did the State Department refuse even to discuss breaking with Arafat, but Washington's special Middle East envoy issued no rebuke to Arafat. Quite the contrary. Retired Marine general Anthony Zinni concluded a visit to Israel two days after the boat was seized by telling reporters that he saw "a real opportunity for progress." A State Department official traveling with Zinni said bluntly, "Our mission will go on, ship or no ship."

That passing comment explains why recent American and Israeli efforts at Middle East peacemaking have so miserably failed. Excusing Arafat's criminality only insures more. If it takes the United States five days to so much as criticize the most brazen attempted violation of the Oslo Accords, what crime could ever justify Arafat's ouster?

The obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not the inability to resolve particular issues, but the violent, oppressive, and unstable nature of the Arafat regime. Until U.S. and Israeli policymakers realize that peace depends far more on the nature of a future Palestinian state than on its borders, Israelis will not know peace and Palestinians will not know freedom.

If a future Palestine were free, nonviolent, and committed to bettering the lives of its people and to living in peace with Israel, it wouldn't threaten Israel. But a Palestine that resembled the corrupt and dictatorial Palestinian Authority would be a mortal danger.

Dictators make bad neighbors, and before he is an Arab, or a Palestinian, or even a Muslim, Yasser Arafat is a dictator. When he founded the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964, there was not a single "Jewish settlement" to oppose nor an "Israeli occupation" to resist, because the West Bank was ruled by Jordan and Gaza was ruled by Egypt. Arafat created the PLO to destroy Israel. He learned that first he had to consolidate his power over a fractious and scattered people. He chose to do that by killing those who challenged him and oppressing the rest.

It took an inarticulate Israeli general turned prime minister to lay bare the fatal mindset from which Oslo was born. The PLO leader, said the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was the ideal partner precisely because he was a dictator. Arafat could crack down on terrorists, Rabin said, because, "unlike us, he doesn't have to worry about elections or human rights groups." Thus, Israel itself was midwife to the terrorist-supporting tyranny now in its midst. Rather than requiring that the Palestinian Authority have an open political system, Oslo gave Arafat both the time and the resources to consolidate his rule.

Like other dictators, Arafat has to worry not about losing an election, but about losing his life, and those most likely to take it are the extremists he has armed, funded, and trained. The notion that Arafat could ever crack down on the very organizations he needs to survive is preposterous. For Arafat, upsetting Colin Powell carries little risk. Upsetting Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or even his own private militias carries the ultimate risk.

But there's another, more important reason why Arafat isn't going to crack down on terrorists--namely, that they help him. In fact, these groups provide his regime with the best insurance stolen American aid money can buy: They keep the national focus on fighting the external enemy rather than on the failings of their leader. If Palestinians could vote, things might be different. Arafat might have to defend his record. And quite a record it is.

Many people think Arafat's refusal to rein in the terrorists demonstrates his weakness. But Arafat is far from weak when it comes to dealing with those Palestinians who clamor for an end to corruption, a freer press, religious liberty, or even elections. With these opponents, his retribution is swift and merciless. While the number cannot be known for sure, Arafat's PA is almost certainly responsible for the murders of dozens of political opponents, none of them Islamic extremists.

Since its creation in 1994, his Palestinian Authority has presided over the collapse of the Palestinian economy. He was given billions in aid, and squandered what he and his cronies didn't steal. With GDP down nearly 70 percent, Palestinians have seen their collective national net worth reduced by more than two thirds. Virtually nothing remains of a once reasonably vibrant private sector. Corruption exists on a scale that even the normally approving Europeans cannot abide. Public infrastructure has disintegrated. Public health standards, just seven years ago the highest in the Arab world, are among the lowest. And the disastrously self-destructive terrorist war against Israel that Arafat started last year has reduced Palestinians to the most desperate conditions they have seen since the creation of Israel in 1948.

Arafat denies responsibility for the actions of extremists he cannot stop. Yet he alone controls the state media, whose endless torrent of incitement to murder creates the climate in which young men embrace the vocation of terrorist. A central character on Palestinian television's leading children's show is a 7-year-old boy who aspires to become a suicide bomber. The people's cry for blood, which Arafat purposely foments, Hamas and Jihad can answer, creating in the process new martyrs to fuel the cycle. Arafat and Hamas aren't enemies or rivals, they are co-dependents. Arafat needs Hamas and Jihad to divert the people's hatred, while Hamas and Jihad need Arafat to provide "moderate" cover for their murderous acts. Arafat needs terror much more than he needs Colin Powell.

It seems worth asking why neither Jerusalem nor Washington ever sought to democratize the Palestinians. Particularly in the early stages of Oslo, when Arafat was dependent on American and Israeli support, the Palestinians would have had an excellent chance to build the first democracy in the Arab world. A democratic Palestine would have been a landmark achievement. If only someone had bothered to insist on it.

But it wasn't without reason that no Israeli, American, or European government ever made such a demand. It's just that the reason is a dirty little secret. The truth is that virtually no one in either government believes Arabs to be capable of--or even worthy of--democracy. In Israel, it is the supposedly enlightened left that most passionately rejects the notion that Palestinians could govern themselves democratically. The only reason the right hasn't rejected the idea is that it has never considered it. With the exception of Natan Sharansky, the deputy prime minister who spent nine years as a prisoner of Zion in the Soviet Gulag, not a single political figure has made the case for Palestinian democracy.

How else can one explain that when Secretary of State Colin Powell finally set out his much anticipated "vision" for reaching peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he never mentioned "freedom" or "democracy"? Secretary Powell used a November 19 speech at the University of Louisville to endorse an independent Palestinian state more emphatically than any U.S. official ever had before. But he devoted not even one sentence of his 43-minute address to what kind of state he thought Palestine should be.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is less about land, borders, or even refugees than it is about the inherent inability of dictators to be peaceful. It is dangerously premature to focus on where the borders of a future Palestinian state will be drawn before determining how it will be governed. For until someone gives them a chance to develop a more open political culture, the Palestinians will never taste the fruits of freedom, and peace will never come to the Middle East.

The writer is publisher of the Jerusalem Post. (Weekly Standard Jan 21)

Seized Ship Is Terror Wake-up Call By Yossi Klein Halevi

The Israeli operation that seized a ship filled with more than 50 tons of Iranian arms reportedly bound for Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority highlights Iran's central role in international terrorism. And combined with recent Iranian threats to Israel's existence, the weapons ship mocks the hope of those American officials who call for including the fundamentalist Muslim regime in the anti-terrorist coalition.

The weapons on board the Karine-A vessel--which the Palestinian Authority denies were headed its way--included Katyusha rockets intended for use against Israeli towns and more than 11/2 tons of explosives, which Israeli military intelligence agencies suspect may have been earmarked for car bombings or suicide attacks. And the revelation by the captain of the Karine-A of Hezbollah involvement in transferring the weapons onto the vessel at least suggests that the Lebanese terrorist group served as an intermediary between the Palestinians and the Iranians.

The emergence of a Palestinian-Iranian-Hezbollah connection transforms Palestinian terrorism from a local to a global terrorist threat. Iran's terrorist mischief becomes even more frightening in the context of its nuclear program. Though Iran has insisted its nuclear development is intended for peaceful means, at least one Iranian leader is actively contemplating nuclear war against Israel. On Dec. 14, Hashemi Rafsanjani, former Iranian president and currently chairman of the government's powerful guidance council, told a Tehran University audience that the vast Muslim world could easily survive nuclear war, while tiny Israel would be destroyed. "The founding of the state of Israel is the worst event in all of history," he said. "If the day comes when the world of Islam is equipped with weapons similar to those that Israel possesses ... nothing will remain after one atom bomb is dropped on Israel."

That day could be approaching. According to Israel's defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Iran is about three years away from developing a nuclear strike capability. And Israel is already well within range of Iranian missiles. That threat is hardly confined to Israel alone: Iran is developing new generations of ballistic missiles with intercontinental range.

When the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin initiated the Oslo peace process, one of his main rationales was the need to neutralize the Palestinian conflict and free Israel for an eventual confrontation with its existential enemy, Iran. Sooner or later, Rabin believed, Israel would be forced to destroy Iran's nuclear capability, just as Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981.  Rafsanjani's speech reveals Rabin's prescience in identifying Iran as a threat to Israel's survival.

As Washington contemplates its next strike against terrorism, Iran needs to be moved from the column of potential allies to the column of potential targets. In fact, an attack on Iran--even before a strike against Iraq--may be strategically compelling. Attacking Iran first would preclude the danger of an Iranian seizure of Shiite areas of southern Iraq. And an attack on Tehran could embolden the democratic uprising against the mullahs that is stirring just below the surface of imposed uniformity.

Destroying the Taliban has been a crucial first step in the war against radical Islam. But the real defeat of Islamic extremists must happen in Tehran, where the movement won its most compelling victory.

The message of modern holy war first emanated from Iran; indeed, the war against the U.S. that culminated on Sept. 11 began with the seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979.

Israel's interception of the weapons ship has sabotaged Iran's moderate image, carefully cultivated in recent months to avoid scrutiny of its nuclear program. But now that its continuing involvement in international terrorism has been exposed, it cannot be allowed to continue its nuclear development unimpeded.

If President Bush is serious about challenging terror at its root, he cannot avoid a confrontation with the regime that initiated anti-American terrorism and that is considering a nuclear nightmare.

The writer is the Israel correspondent for the New Republic and a senior writer for the Jerusalem Report.

Double Standards  Jerusalem Post Editorial

The controversy surrounding the destruction of 21Palestinian houses on the edge of the Gaza Strip illustrates that almost every battle in this conflict is twinned with another battle - the battle for world opinion. In this second battle, we are not only hindered by bumbling in the public relations field, but by double standards and gullibility toward outright lies from the Palestinian side. 

In response to the killing of Raed Karmi, ubiquitous Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi blasted us for a "policy of willfully targeting innocent Palestinians." Ashrawi's definition of innocence is evidently an unusual one. Karmi, who belonged to Yasser Arafat's Fatah, has been linked to half a dozen specific terrorist attacks and even boasted in an August 23 CNN interview that he "trained teenagers to carry out terrorist attacks inside Israeli territory." 

The CIA now reportedly believes the Palestinian Authority is not only lying about having no connection to arsenal captured on the Karine A, but Arafat himself was behind the smuggling operation and the opening of ties with Iran. 

Now the PA is saying that hundreds have been rendered homeless by the operation in Gaza and is having a field day with pictures of Palestinian children picking through destroyed homes. 

But the fact that the PA is blithely spreading mammoth distortions does not mean our spokesmen can afford to make even innocent mistakes in facts. The IDF, which initially claimed that all the destroyed houses were uninhabited, has now revised this to "most" and has offered to help anyone mistakenly harmed. 

Clearly, not a lot of advance thought was put into explaining in a comprehensive and credible way what the IDF did. Previously, the same IDF that carried out the masterful commando raid on the Karine A could not find a plane to bring journalists to Eilat for a press conference displaying the arms, nor provide foreign journalists with translation of the remarks made there. All this points to either not understanding or not taking seriously the existence of this second battlefield. 

Even if the government handled its public relations perfectly, however, the greatest handicap is the glaring double standard routinely applied to Israel. The French Foreign Ministry, for example, condemned the demolition operation and stated that "a violation of the Geneva Convention is unacceptable." By citing the Geneva Convention, the French are essentially accusing Israel of a terrible crime, the abuse of civilians in war time. It is necessary to state here that, unlike the "targeted killings" of terrorists also routinely condemned by the international community, this operation may not have surgically omitted harm to Palestinian civilians. But who is ultimately responsible for this harm: Israel or the Palestinian forces that have used these homes as cover to shoot at Israelis and to hide smuggling tunnels? 

The big picture here is that Israel goes to great length to avoid civilian casualties, while the Palestinians routinely and deliberately use their own civilians as shields in attacks against Israeli civilians.

Nor does the wholesale Palestinian abuse of the civilian-military distinction enshrined in the Geneva convention stop here. The greatest Palestinian abuse of its own civilians has been the deliberate refusal to resettle Palestinian refugees, like refugees have been resettled from every other conflict in the world. The world has never seen a conflict in which hundreds of thousands of refugees are maintained in camps for generations for the sole purpose of keeping a conflict alive. 

That conflicts produce refugees is a humanitarian tragedy. World War II produced some 70 million, the founding of India and Pakistan produced millions more, as did almost every war since, including the recent American campaign in Afghanistan. The humanitarian imperative is obviously to settle the refugees as quickly as possible, but in this case the international community has colluded with the Arab world and the Palestinian leadership in doing exactly the opposite. The UN even went so far as creating two refugee organizations - one for Palestinians (UNRWA) and one for the rest of the world (UNHCR) - with essentially opposite missions. 

Israel should hold itself to high standards of limiting harm to civilians in its fight against terrorism, but if the world really cares about protecting civilians, it should be calling the Palestinian leadership to account not only for terrorism, but for using its own civilians as both shields and weapons. (Jerusalem Post Jan 15)

'My Camel Ate the Manifest': Readers explain it all to Colin Powell

By James Taranto

   "Powell Wants Explanation From Arafat"--Associated Press headline, Jan. 11.  Friday's Best of the Web Today invited readers to help Yasser Arafat come up with an innocent explanation for the arms shipment the Israelis seized two weeks ago. S.E. Brenner kicked things off by floating the Winona Ryder excuse: Arafat was doing research for a film part.

   The response was impressive--more than 200 readers had ideas for Arafat, and many of them were quite witty indeed. Here are our favorites:

Ed Poniatowski: "We bought the stuff to keep it from falling into  the hands of the Taliban."

Michael Gleeson: Recent gunfire by Palestinian officials, apparently directed at Israelis, is actually all accidents, misfires and the result of guns being dropped. Israeli propaganda has promoted the false notion that they were intentional. Cargo aboard the ship from Iran was for use in gun-safety classes.

Dan Dressel: There has been a really bad roach problem in Gaza, and they don't trust the locals with poison.

Cliff Thier: "The property that the Israelis stole in international waters were guns that the Palestinian Authority was buying to keep off the streets of American cities and out of the hands of American children. We are outraged that the Israelis, not content to murder thousands of Palestinian children, wish to kill American children as well."

Neal Sanders: It's all a simple ordering error. Arafat, seeking a nonviolent, creative outlet for the Palestinians under his authority, had requested a "shipload of art supplies." Someone in purchasing read it wrong and sent in an order for a "shipload of arms supplies."

Gina Graham: The guns were for the 21-gun salute that Arafat will have to celebrate his next Nobel Peace Price.

Richard Hunter: "Goat season starts Monday."

Charles Austin: "Well, you see, Colin, we acted in the fine tradition of sanctimonious journalists everywhere trying to sneak weapons through airport screeners. Naturally, we had no intent to use any of these weapons.  We had already scheduled the press conference to announce how the armed forces and the intelligence services of Israel were clearly not competent to defend the people of Israel without substantially more state assistance. I mean, if they could not keep out a large shipment of arms like this, how could they possibly defend themselves from individual suicide bombers. At the now cancelled press conference, the Palestinian Authority was going to ask the state of Israel to implement programs that would turn all workers into government employees."

Talbot Thrasher: Arafat has in the past, on several occasions, pledged to follow the road of peace. Well, any biblical scholar knows that this entails turning swords into plowshares. So Mr. Arafat had secretly ordered a shipment of "real" weapons, since the Palestinian Authority did not have any of their own, to use in a soon-to-be-announced publicity stunt. They were going to disassemble all the Katusha rockets, use the residual explosives in the blasting required for wells for the new water system, and weld all the now-empty tubes into pipelines to carry the water. Then they would melt down all the shell casings and use the brass for woodscrews for the new housing projects and the remaining electronic components could be converted into thermostats.

Duane Speight: "We need the weapons for self-defense, Mr. Secretary. In case you haven't heard, Palestine is lousy with trigger-happy terrorists!"

Mike Albrecht: "I did not have relations with that vessel, the Karine A."

Pablo Gersten: The Washington, D.C., police department accidentally put the wrong address in their "Guns for Toys" promo, in which inner-city gang members trade their guns for basketballs and Nintendo machines. So unwitting gang members mailed their guns to the Palestinian territories and are anxiously awaiting their new Nintendo Gamecubes.

Geoff Colton: Arafat needed the weapons to seek out and capture the real murderer of Nicole Simpson.

Gregory Taylor: He thought they were pomegranates.

Billy Watson: The shipment was no doubt undertaken when Arafat was distracted because it was his day to be governor of New Jersey.

Bob Mugele: The rifles were obviously for training the Palestinian Olympic team for shooting events such as the modern pentathlon.

Alan Glosson: It was "art" for the lobby of a new Palestinian Authority Headquarters.

M. Farrar: "It was for my daughter's dowry."

Marc Bielec: Arafat had a coupon that was about to expire for "buy one Katusha rocket, get 10,000 weapons of your choice free."

Brad Randall: "I was planning to use the explosives in a giant fireworks display to celebrate the coming peace agreement with Israel."

Ned Thompson: "My intelligence people said the Taliban were relocating. We needed the arms to defend ourselves against those repressive terrorists."

Peter Hart: "After receiving the arms shipment, I was going to turn it over to Israel--one suicide bomber at a time."

Michael Flynn: "It was all part of my plan to clamp down on terrorists. See, it works like this. I get all the weapons in Gaza. I hand them out to whoever wants them. If they use them, bingo, we know they're a terrorist and we can round them up. It was perfect."

James Walsh: "Well, you see, Secretary Powell, it had come lately to my attention that Iran, which even your very own State Department has identified as a terrorist state, had accumulated a giant stash of weapons that might be used to support terrorist groups, and we in the Palestinian Authority thought that we would do our part to combat terrorism by taking custody of some of those weapons so that they wouldn't fall into the wrong hands. We weren't going to use them to hurt anybody--we just got intercepted by the Israelis before we could land them and get them to the incinerators."

An anonymous reader: Please attribute these to an anonymous reader. We are talking about a terrorist here, you know (or at least an international figure), and I don't want to be identified: "Haven't you listened to that Johnny Cash song, 'A Boy Named Sue' (where Sue kicks everyone's butt)? I'm scared to death of a man named Sharon."

"Those were prizes for the Jerusalem Midnight Basketball League."

"Ship? What ship? Hey, did you see that story about the guy who beat up the hockey coach?"

Rick Richman: He may have been at the meeting authorizing the shipment of the weapons, but he drank a lot of iced tea and may have been in the bathroom when the issue came up.

John Brothers: "Yeah, we ordered those weapons to kill . . . Hey look--over there! Osama bin Laden!" (Arafat scurries away.)

Steve Sturm: There were actually two ships in the Red Sea--the Karine A and the Karine B (or maybe it was the Anna Karine A). One was full of weapons, the other full of toys. The plan was for the Israelis to be lured into boarding the wrong ship, which would result in all kinds of negative publicity. As it was, the Palestinians got it wrong and let the Israelis get the right (wrong?) ship.

Paul Smith: The ship belongs to the U.S. Postal Service, and darned if they didn't deliver to the wrong address again.

"Katbyte": "My camel ate the manifest."

Thomas Macauley: "Was Tom Daschle responsible for the anthrax sent to his office?"

Jerry Dorethy: "The Israelis did this! Arabs are not smart enough to arrange such a shipment. It was brokered by the Israelis, then they doctored the paperwork to implicate us. Surely you can see the pattern after they destroyed the World Trade Center."

Brian Cronin: The Katayusha Rockets are to help with urban renewal--in Tel Aviv.

Brian Stern: It was a gag gift for Ariel Sharon's birthday.

Herve Wiener: Arafat read in Men's Health that chicks dig guys with big arms (shipments).

Scott H.: "Those weapons weren't mine. I was just holding them for a friend. Who? Um, just some dude I met at the gas station. John something. I don't know. Can I go now?"

Joe Chronister: Hoping to bolster his sagging ratings in the United States, Yasser Arafat has hit upon the idea of creating a sitcom about the wacky world of the Palestinian Authority. Knowing the American weakness for the golden days of television comedy and its current preoccupation with all matters military, he decided to shoot a pilot (figuratively speaking) based on the classic "McHale's Navy" in hopes of selling the concept to Hollywood. Arafat himself confidently assumes the role of the hapless and befuddled Capt. Wallace Binghamton, whose authority is constantly undermined by the boisterous high jinks of Lt. Cmdr. Quinton McHale (convincingly played by the Katrine A captain, Omar Akawi). Comic actors from the community theater milieu of Hamas and Islamic Jihad help round out the cast of "Arafat's Navy," their fresh-faced earnestness more than making up for their scant small-screen credentials.

Jim White: "Wait a minute, you just don't understand! Some poor, underprivileged Palestinian kids are having to use rocks!"

The writer is editor of   (Wall Street Journal Jan 14)

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