Portraying himself as spiritual successor to Caliph Omar, the PLO leader builds a solid Muslim-Christian Alliance against Israel in the battle for Jerusalem.

YASSER Arafat is universally regarded as an Arab nationalist intent on establishing a secular, democratic Palestinian state. But the fact, is he is not. Arafat is a Muslim. And it is his faith that is central to his vision, and drives his cause.

As his role model, Arafat has chosen the seventh century Islamic hero, Caliph Omar Ibn el-Khattab. The PLO leader has called Omar Mohammed's right-hand general, and the second Muslim caliph after "the Prophet's" death his spiritual forbear.

It was Omar who brought almost the entire Middle East under the sword of Islam. In 638, after commanding some of the most brutal campaigns in history and destroying Jewish and Christian populations in numerous towns and cities, Omar finally wrested Jerusalem from Byzantium (Christian) rule.

When the Byzantine patriarch Sophronius surrendered the city to the caliph, he handed over the keys to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The two men signed an agreement whereby the Arabs would permit Christian civil and religious freedom in the city, and the Christians would pay tribute for the privilege.

Control of the Christian holy sites was kept firmly in the hands of the Muslims. The Omariya treaty contained the added condition that Jews not be permitted to live in the city.

The following pages describe how Arafat, inspired by the historical account of Omar's achievements, has been developing an insidious strategy to ally the Muslim world (represented by the PLO), with Christendom, in the battle for Jerusalem.

His plan is not new, and has to a great extent already been realised. Hundreds of church leaders and Christian media have been co-opted into supporting the man and his cause.

A central element in Yasser Arafat's strategy for securing Christian collaboration in his battle for Jerusalem has been the PLO leader's repeated identification of himself as spiritual successor to Omar.

On May 14, 1994, 10 days after signing the Gaza-Jericho First agreement in Cairo, Arafat told Muslims in a Johannesburg mosque that he had only agreed to sign after securing from Israel a letter promising future PLO control over Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

"And I had insisted to mention the Christian holy sacred places before the Islamic holy sacred places, because I have to be faithful to the agreement between the Caliph Omar al-Khattab and the Patriarch Sophronius," he declared.
On Christmas Day 1995, Arafat ordered Arab newspapers in Israel to place on their front pages a picture of himself embracing Greek Orthodox Patriarch Deodoris, considered the senior church leader in Jerusalem. The story accompanying the photograph reported "that the Patriarch had declared himself the spiritual heir to Sophronius, and had welcomed Arafat as Omar's heir." (The Jerusalem Post 28/12/95)
(One unfortunate editor, Maher Alami of Al-Khuds, did not obey the order, and a furious Arafat had him kidnapped from his Jerusalem home and imprisoned for a week.)

Last September 24, the following statement was broadcast on PLO Authority Radio:

"Yes, Jerusalem is awaiting those who will liberate it and return it to the times when it was the city of peace, under the guardianship of Omar el-Khattab, agreed upon by all the trends in Christianity which recognised Islamic sovereignty over Jerusalem, and that the Muslims would be the guardians of the Christian holy places.
According to the Omariya Agreement (between Omar and Sophronius), there was one stipulation made by all the Christians to the Muslims: absolutely no Jews in Jerusalem. This agreement was in effect from the time of Omar until the British Mandate in 1917. Britain then allowed the Jews not only to enter the city, but even brought them in and planted them throughout Palestine and gave them a state. And this is the truth of the problem."
This announcement was followed by a recording of Arafat inciting his PLO policemen to action after Israel opened an exit to the "Western Wall Tunnel" the day before. (The incitement was to result in over 60 Arab and 16 Israeli deaths.)

Israel's action was, Arafat declared, a declaration of war: "The Arab nation will not stand by idly and watch, and neither will the Islamic nation. And our Christian brothers throughout the world will not stand by idly to watch... [W]e must walk in the footsteps of our brothers in Jerusalem, in order to see what's happening from the Arab, Islamic and Christian perspective ... [the Israelis] are trying to judaise Jerusalem."

This last sentence, and many similarly ludicrous statements which fly in the face of indisputable, recorded history, were included in the PLO Authority's Ministry of Information package distributed in Bethlehem last Christmas.

Arafat's appeals to the Christian world have seen numerous churches rally to his side, and not just in the Middle East. It is important to remember that, of the more than 26 million Christians living in the Middle East, only 600,000 are ethnic Arabs, and only about 2 per cent of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are Christian. All this means that Jerusalem clerics and other so-called spokesmen for the Christian Arabs, have a very small constituency indeed.

Therefore, if Christian support for the PLO's cause was confined to the few thousand Palestinian Arab Christians represented by these Jerusalem churchmen, it would pose no threat to Israel. But this Christian support is worldwide, massive, and growing.

It should be noted that on Christmas Day 1996, for the second consecutive year, the Christian world watched, without a murmur, as Arafat the Muslim was seen on global television attending Christmas Communion services in Bethlehem.

The true story of Omar and Sophronius

Many of the Christians who have so readily responded to Arafat's appeal would be shocked by the historical account of Omar's brutal rape and pillaging of the Holy Land and numerous surrounding lands and of the systematic extermination or enslavement of their Jewish and Christian communities.

When he alludes to the agreement between the caliph and the patriarch, Arafat relies on his audiences being largely ignorant of the despair with which Sophronius for more than four years watched the bloody Islamic conquest before he, in hopeless resignation, surrendered to Omar.

In The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam, Egypt-born scholar Bat Ye'or writes:

"In his sermon on Christmas Day, 634, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, lamented over the impossibility of going on pilgrimage to Bethlehem as was the custom, because the Christians were being forcibly kept in Jerusalem: 'not detained by tangible bonds, but chained and nailed by fear of the Saracens', whose 'savage, barbarous and bloody sword' kept them locked up in the town.
"Sophronius, in his sermon on the Day of Epiphany 636, bewailed the destruction of churches and monasteries, the sacked towns, the fields laid waste, the villages burned down by the nomads who were over-running the country. In a letter the same year to Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, he mentions the ravages wrought by the Arabs." (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Teaneck: 1996)
Under the leadership of the man Arafat idolises, the Arabs raided Babylonia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia and Armenia, pillaging, and putting thousands of Jews and Christians to the sword, enslaving them, or forcibly converting them to Islam.

Recorded Michael the Syrian:

"Omar sent Khalid with an army to the Aleppo and Antioch region. There, they murdered a large number of people. No-one escaped them. Whatever may be said of the evils that Syria suffered, they cannot be recounted because of their great number; for the Taiyaye [Arabs] were the great rod of God's wrath."
Michael went on to describe how Palestine too was laid waste and thoroughly plundered by the invading Arabs. (Chronique de Michel le Syrien translated from Syriac and edited by Jean- Baptiste Chabot, Paris: 1901)

History has recorded the fate of Christians and Jews who were not prepared to live as second-class citizens under Islam. More recent history documents the sufferings of Jews, Christians, and even Muslims who have refused to take "their rightful place" under the rulership of the Muslim Arafat.

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