Here's the low-down: there's nothing in it any of us -- well-informed supporters of Israel -- don't already know, or haven't already known for years. However, articles confirming our prejudices and possibly spreading the message always make satisfying reading, and this was no exception.
The first half of the article basically focuses on Arafat's financial misdemeanours, and how he sucked the Palestinian economy dry. Unfortunately, the Israelis don't come out smelling of roses here either -- the author spends a good couple of pages rehashing the Ginossar Affair, in which some unscruplous, rather prominent Israelis basically helped the Pals launder money, in return for some large commissions. All you really need to know is contained in the end of this paragraph:
Lev also agreed to create an investment fund for leading members of the Palestinian security apparatus, which was registered on the Isle of Man under the name Supr a-din—a pun on "Saladin." Management commissions for the fund were paid to Rachid's deputy, Walid Najab, through a company called MCS, which forwarded a commission to Ginossar and Lev through a company that the two men had set up in Tel Aviv under the name ARK, a Hebrew acronym for "Anachnu Rotzim Kesef"—"We Want Money."The last few pages are devoted more to politics, and the question of Camp David / the second Intifada. The article includes a quote from Ehud Barak basically saying outright that he conceived of Camp David as a way of exposing Arafat's true intentions to the world -- something I don't believe at all. It also includes a direct admission by Mamduh Nofal, the former military commander of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, that the 1996 riots over the HAsmonean Tunnel were ordered by Arafat:
Nofal says that the impetus for the violence was the statement by the newly elected Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he would not speak to Arafat directly. Arafat was furious at the slight.Similarly, he says outright that the violence of the second Intifadah was planned well before Camp David:
"I was with him in his office," Nofal recalls. "He got up and walked around the desk. He was very, very angry. Finally he calmed down a bit and he pointed to the phone on his desk. He said, 'I will make Netanyahu call me on this phone.'"
Arafat ordered demonstrators into the streets, and told them to provoke the Israelis. When violence erupted, the Israelis were blamed. "I was sitting with him again when the phone on his desk rang, and he looked at me and said, 'It's Netanyahu.' And it was him."
The second intifada also began with the intention of provoking the Israelis and subjecting them to diplomatic pressure. Only this time Arafat went for broke. As a member of the High Security Council of Fatah, the key decision-making and organizational body that dealt with military questions at the beginning of the intifada, Nofal has firsthand knowledge of Arafat's intentions and decisions during the months before and after Camp David. "He told us, 'Now we are going to the fight, so we must be ready,'" Nofal remembers. Nofal says that when Barak did not prevent Ariel Sharon from making his controversial visit to the plaza in front of al-Aqsa, the mosque that was built on the site of the ancient Jewish temples, Arafat said, "Okay, it's time to work."The only other notable interesting point in the article is that it brings up again the possibility that Arafat died of AIDS:
How long did you know that he was sick?" I ask.One thing the article doesn't do a great job on is providing a psychological portrait of Arafat -- why did he behave as he did? Ultimately, it basically treats him as a cross between a fantasist and a narcissist, but it doesn't spell it out strongly enough for my taste. Good article nonetheless.
"For the last year. Last year in September he told me he doesn't feel well. So, and he felt that something was not right, and it looks like he had the same symptoms again, but the last time he had enough immunity. Yeah, he knew."
I am struck by [Munib] al-Masri's use of the word "immunity," which is a word characteristically associated with aids.