CNN coverage

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Sep 13 19:02:11 MDT 2001


NY Times, September 13, 2001

THE ARABS Arafat Angrily Insists Palestinians Didn't Rejoice

By JAMES BENNET

JERUSALEM, Sept. 12 - Yasir Arafat angrily rejected tonight any
suggestion that Palestinians had rejoiced over the terrorist attack
on the United States on Tuesday, declaring that the Palestinian
reaction was one of identification and not satisfaction with American
suffering.

"For your information," Mr. Arafat said, when asked in an interview
about images shown around the world of Palestinians celebrating, "it
is clear and obvious that it was less than 10 children in East
Jerusalem, and we punished them." It was unclear how this assertion
could be squared with photographs suggesting that there were more
people.

In the rare telephone interview, Mr. Arafat, who donated blood today
that was intended for Americans wounded in the attack, said Israelis
were taking advantage of the world's focus on the horror in the
United States, and perhaps exploiting its anger over Tuesday's
images, to tighten restrictions on Palestinians and to assault the
West Bank town of Jenin, where seven Palestinians were killed today.

Mr. Arafat, who spoke from Gaza City, emphasized that Palestinians
had reason to feel compassion for Americans. "As Palestinians, we too
have experienced the tragic loss of innocent civilians, who suffer
from violence on a daily basis," he said. "Our hearts go out to the
people of the United States during this tragedy, our prayers are with
them." He paused, then, spacing the words out for emphasis, repeated
three times, "God bless them."

But interviews on the streets of Ramallah and Nablus today revealed a
more diverse, complex Palestinian response to the attack. Some
Palestinians condemned it, while others, furious at the United States
for its policies here, said they hoped America had learned a lesson.

"Some people say Israel is an American state, but I say America is an
Israeli state," said Muhammed Nabil, sitting in his candy stall in
the dusky warren of figs, fresh meat and sneakers that is the Nablus
market.

Israelis today relished the Palestinian predicament over the terror
attack. "From the perspective of the Jews, it is the most important
public- relations act ever committed in our favor," wrote a guest
columnist in the daily Maariv.

But Palestinian officials fanned out in the news media to counter
this Israeli drive, deploring terrorism and urging sympathy for the
Palestinian plight. They argued that a handful of extremists were
being treated as representative of all Palestinians.

In addition to the drive to collect blood from Mr. Arafat and others,
the Palestinian Authority announced that all Palestinian
schoolchildren would stand on Thursday for five minutes of silence.

West Bank towns were mostly quiet after the attack on Tuesday. But in
Nablus, Palestinians took to the streets joyfully, without cameras to
egg them on.

In the interview, Mr. Arafat at first insisted that "they were making
this big demonstration because of the siege and the escalation of the
Israeli military attack against Jenin."

Told that people in Nablus said today that the demonstration was in
celebration of the terror attack, Mr. Arafat acknowledged that "there
are some fanatic groups, and I'm sorry to tell you that these fanatic
groups have been established by the Israelis."

This appeared to be a reference to the fact that Israel, seeking a
counterweight to Mr. Arafat, assisted a fledgling group called the
Islamic Resistance Movement in the 1980's. The group is known better
now by its Arabic shorthand, Hamas, the name for the now-militant
group seen on posters today in Nablus.

Mr. Arafat went as far as to praise the United States for its
handling of the staggering peace effort here. He said Secretary of
State Colin L. Powell had telephoned him today, and he insisted that
"there is a big effort from the American administration" toward
peace.

Asked if the United States would be justified in using force against
any country implicated in the attack, Mr. Arafat said, "It is their
decision, not my decision." But he added, "Those who have done this
fatal crime and fatal mistake against the American people have to be
punished."

Nablus is reached by a road that winds through terraced hillsides
dotted with olive trees and, on the high ground, Israeli settlements.
With Israelis clamping down on Palestinian towns after Tuesday's
violence, the road was almost empty today.The town's police
headquarters is mostly rubble from an Israeli F-16 attack in May.

Some in Nablus condemned any violence against civilians. Amin Amira,
a 43-year-old fruit vendor, said he was dismayed by Tuesday's
demonstration. "I don't believe that this reflects the feeling of the
Palestinian people," he said.

Others were more sympathetic to the demonstrators. "We go to the
checkpoints and are subjected to brutal measures by the Israelis, and
Americans support that," said Ahmed Takrouri, 20. "When people went
to the streets yesterday, it was because of that feeling."

--
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 09/13/2001

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