- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

Judging from the new report on international terrorism released on Tuesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell remains as determined as ever to pretend that Yasser Arafat isn't supporting terrorism against Israel. The report whitewashes the role played by Mr. Arafat in creating the West Bank terrorist infrastructure responsible for 400-plus Israeli deaths since September 2000.

"We have not been able to determine or make final judgment on how far up and who in the Palestinian Authority (PA) may or could be and had been directing [terrorist] activity" against Israel, said Francis Taylor, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism. The report ignored the evidence amassed by Israel showing that members of Mr. Arafat's security services have actually been involved in carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel and protecting wanted terrorists from arrest by Israel. Instead, it criticized Israel for making the PA security apparatus "less effective" by carrying out raids against police facilities that were harboring known terrorists. About the most negative thing Mr. Taylor could bring himself to say about Mr. Arafat was that he "can do much more to control" the activities of terrorist groups.

This argument has a bizarre, almost surreal, quality to it in the wake of the copious documentation of Mr. Arafat's role provided by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon when he visited President Bush on May 7. The information provided by Mr. Sharon shows that, far from making any serious effort to prevent terrorism, Mr. Arafat and his security services were doing all they could to help it flourish.

To cite just a few of many examples, documents captured by Israel show that a senior Arafat aide, PA West Bank General Intelligence Chief Tawfik Tirawi, was arming and dispatching terrorists to carry out attacks in Israel. "Lists of names of potential suicide bombers that Israel handed over to Tirawi, demanding that they be arrested by the PA, were instead used by Mr. Tirawi to warn the terrorists to avoid arrest," the Jerusalem Post noted. In Mr. Arafat's Ramallah compound, Israel captured documents showing that the PA leader ordered payments of $600 each to three members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is responsible for scores of suicide bombings and shooting attacks. Moreover, as Sayed Anwar of The Washington Times reported yesterday, Palestinian documents captured by Israel show that Mr. Arafat financially supported Atef Abayat, the late boss of the Al Aqsa group in the Bethlehem area. Mr. Arafat authorized a $300 payment to this fugitive terrorist last year at a time when Israel was demanding his arrest on murder charges.

Rep. Tom Lantos of California, ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, was right on the mark when he criticized the State Department report as "misleading" and called it "a crude and transparent attempt to exonerate Arafat rather than reveal the truth." Foggy Bottom seems to put a higher priority on propping up a terrorist dictatorship than on providing factual information.

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