Yasser Arafat was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and mass murderer who is celebrated as a hero by his successors in the Palestinian Authority, among others. Arafat’s successors have in fact collected thousands of objects — photographs, pistols, the trademark sunglasses and military-style suits he favored — for display in a museum under construction at his former West Bank headquarters. In exchange for a preview of the museum the AP flacks for the museum and for the good memory of Arafat.
There is no museum commemorating Arafat’s many victims, among whom are late United States Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel and deputy chief of mission George Curtis Moore. I told the story of the murder of Noel and Moore by Arafat in the Weekly Standard article “How Arafat got away with murder.”
Working on the Weekly Standard article, I asked Dennis Ross if he was aware of Arafat’s responsibility for the 1973 murders of Noel and Moore. Ross was the Middle East envoy and chief peace negotiator in the administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Perhaps no American official spent more time with Arafat than Ross.
Ross told me: “I was aware that State had looked into it, but I didn’t know that a conclusion had been reached.” I asked him whether, if in fact the department had determined Arafat’s involvement, we should not have dealt with him like a criminal rather than an honored guest. “That’s a legitimate question,” he responded. “Had it been understood at the highest levels, it should have factored into the decision making. What we would have done had we been fully aware of it after the Israelis made their decision to proceed in dealing with Arafat, I can’t say.” I asked him what he would say to the average citizen with the perspective that the murderer of American officials shouldn’t get a pass. “It’s fair to say,” he said, “at a minimum, that it’s hard to fathom.”
The case of Yasser Arafat is one to which Milan Kundera’s famous adage — “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” — should be applied.
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