Since my book Light One Candle was published and translated into several languages, I am often invited to the States and Europe to speak about my experiences as a boy during the Holocaust. Recently, I was in Germany. After my lecture on the Holocaust, I was asked by someone in the audience what I thought of Yasser Arafat from the point of view of a Holocaust survivor.
I didn't have to think long to answer that question.
"The first thing that comes to my mind is that Arafat is the only man since Hitler who gave direct orders to kill Jewish children."
To emphasize my point I repeated it:
"As far as I am concerned, Arafat is the only mass murderer of Jewish children since Hitler."
The person asking me the question was rather taken aback by my answer.
"Surely, you are not comparing Arafat to Hitler."
"Why not? Per haps one can't compare the sheer numbers murdered by Hitler to that of Arafat, but the idea and intention was the same. I am sure that all the Holocaust survivors will agree with me. There is irrefutable written evidence, including copies of checks signed by Arafat to reward the murderers. Arafat sees Jewish civilians, including children, as legitimate targets for murder. I believe that he wouldn't have any problems with murdering all the Jewish inhabitants of Israel and declaring a Palestinian state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean. I further believe that after pushing us out to the sea, he would eventually take over Jordan and declare it as the East Bank of Palestine under his leadership."
"Aren't you exaggerating?" the man asked with open hostility. "Look at the honor verging on veneration he is given by his people and by practically the entire leadership of Europe. How do you account for that? Surely the whole of Europe can't be wrong."
"Remember the Danish story of the king's new clothes?" I replied. "As he was walking naked down the street, the whole population was told that this was the king's new suit. The population lining the street applauded the king, except for one innocent child who exclaimed: 'Look! The king is naked!'
"I am still waiting for at least one courageous person to shout out: 'Arafat is a terrorist, a murderer, and a liar!' But there is no one among the leaders of Europe to do it.
"To list the endless number of international crimes that Arafat committed would fill a thousand pages. To name a few:
"He caused thousands of death among the Israelis, and brought nothing but ruin to his own people:
"On his orders, planes were attacked at Munich, Rome, Zurich and other places. In the TWA plane that blew up over the sea after leaving Athens were dear friends of ours, a couple that left behind two orphans and a large grieving family and friends.
"To name a few more international crimes:
"Four planes were abducted and blown up in Jordan.
"He brought international terror to unprecedented levels, almost causing the collapse of the international airline industries. Endless billions of dollars had to be wasted in building security checkpoints at airports all over the world. We have Arafat to thank for that. And yet he is considered, in the UN and Europe, a hero.
"But then, the following scenario, as far as Israel is concerned, can show the duplicity of the UN and the Europeans:
"Imagine if the Arabs had won the war against Israel in 1948 and they would have given the whole land to Jordan. Then assume that Arafat would try and revolt against the Jordanian king in a similar Intifada he is presently waging against Israel. What would be the reaction of the UN and the Europeans to King Abdullah's bearing down on the Palestinians? Would the UN and Europe rise en masse to protest the slaughter of the Palestinians?
"We actually don't have to speculate what would have happened. The answer is in the pages of the history of the region.
"In 1970, Arafat decided to hijack Jordan and declare it Palestine. The majority of Jordanians were Palestinians anyway. His plan was to murder King Hussein and take over the country. Once he would be in charge of Jordan, Israel was next on his list. Unfortunately for Arafat, King Hussein's army gave Arafat and his Fatah army a solid trouncing.
"King Hussein mowed down thousands of Palestinians without mercy and Arafat barely escaped with his life to Lebanon. The Palestinians call that battle for Jordan 'Black September'.
"How did the world react to the brutal suppression of the Intifada by the Jordanians? Was there an outcry in European cities with hundreds of thousands marching in the streets shouting anti-Jordanian slogans? Did the 51 Muslim states in the UN scream in protest against the Jordanian king?
"Not only was there no outcry anywhere in Europe or the UN, the majority even sympathized with the king, and approved of his actions against the Palestinians wholeheartedly!
"We can understand why the UN, with its 51 Muslim states is against us, but Europe, a continent soaked with Jewish blood? You have a nerve to apply such a double standard against the State of Israel, where the majority of the Holocaust survivors found refuge after the collapse of the Nazi Empire. An empire that found, among the European nations, not an insignificant number of collaborators for the murder the Jewish people."
"Do you have anything positive at all to say about President Arafat?" the same person asked in a voice heavy with sarcasm.
"I was thirteen years old when Hitler ordered the murder of a million and a half Jewish children. I survived," I said, "but I will never forget it. Whatever positive actions Arafat ever undertook were more than negated by his order to murder Jewish children."
There was a prolonged silence after my rather heated speech. I have a feeling that I won't be invited to that place again. So be it. It was great to return to my own country, Israel. With all its faults, it is home, the best place on earth.
As I watched the news of Arafat's death, I remembered my conversation with the German man in Frankfurt. I am sure he is mourning the passing of that "great Arab leader, Arafat; the person who was given the Nobel Prize for Peace." As far as we are concerned, we can safely say that we have one less deadly enemy. Yimach sh'mo vezichro.