Criticisms of Arafat and Palestinian leadership

Author and Page information

  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Last Updated Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Arafat was heavily criticized for not taking the offers given at recent Camp David talks, where Ehud Barak "generously" offered more land. Even elements of various peace movements blame him for not accepting.

Israeli and US leaders have expected him to control the current protests, which others have pointed out would be near impossible due to the immense size of the civil uprising, where the Palestinians that are frustrated, humiliated and betrayed have been enraged at recent events. Some of the factions supporting extremist actions such as suicide bombings etc have been able to undermine Arafat's support as well.

The US comments of Barak's "generous" concessions of land is also seen by some as insulting to many Palestinians given that this is still not at the pre-1967 levels, which was demanded by the Oslo accords, and numerous UN resolutions.

Over the years, Palestinians are getting increasingly frustrated at Arafat and the leadership of being corrupt and looking for their own power interests. As documented by the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and others, Arafat's own security forces have committed human rights violations against Palestinians. While initially their popularity was high with the Palestinian population, after years of living away from Palestine, many of the leaders seem to have become out of touch with the people.

Regarding the issue of occupation, the following summarizes well the failing of the Palestinian leadership to help clearly articulate their issues so that others will listen and understand:

"Thus far, this intifada has been a total failure. It hasn't succeeded in realizing three of its clear political aims: to explain to the Israeli public in particular and to the world in general that the Israeli presence in the territories is nothing other than occupation; to explain that the occupation-control of another nation on its own land, by means of military force, when that nation does not have the the right to make decisions about its life, is both morally wrong and bad from a pragmatic political point of view; to explain that the Palestinians are sick of this occupation."

Amira Hass, They don't see the occupation, Ha'aretz (English Edition), August 22, 2001

This article from Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for the Independent, in UK, sharply criticizes Arafat. Robert Fisk is one of the few in mainstream western journalism that is so vocally outspoken about Israeli policies, as other quotes throughout this section show. However, he is equally critical of the current Palestinian leadership and hence perhaps this is more appropriate an article than many other Western mainstream sources criticizing Arafat.

The beginning of December 2001 saw ghastly suicide attacks in Israel, by Hamas members, killing 25 people. As a result, Israel responded with military retaliation and increased enormous political pressure on Arafat's Palestinian Authority to arrest and crackdown on those Hamas members who organized this. Subsequently, as reported by the Guardian (December 8, 2001), Arafat had arrested some 200 members of Hamas.

However, this has also highlighted another issue -- that of the growing rift between various factions and groups amongst the Palestinian people. There is increasing extremism, frustration and the drowning out of more moderate voices and approaches. For example, many in Israel accuse Arafat of not doing enough, while many in Palestine criticize him of acting almost like a puppet of Israel, helping doing their "dirty work". Hamas, for example, is also gaining more popular support as the conflict goes on, while the popularity of the Palestinian Authority is all the while reducing, as the BBC, for example, reports (December 4, 2001). The Independent also notes this:

"Being ordered to enforce Israel's security interests always placed Mr Arafat in a dilemma. Moving decisively against Hamas, which enjoys deep support among Palestinians, would risk his own leadership and possible civil war. He also knows that jailing militants en masse is unlikely to satisfy Israel for long, as it would almost certainly fail to stop the attacks."

Phil Reeves, Sharon aims guns at Arafat as ties are severed, 14 December 2001

The tit-for-tat violence, of Israeli targetted assasinations and use of military hardware such as F16s, missiles, tanks etc, of Hamas suicide bombers and so on has led to more anger on all sides, Israeli and Palestinian.

The increasing crackdown on the Palestinian Authority by the Israeli military and the limitation of Arafat's ability to do anything has been noted by U.N. Secratary General Kofi Annan:

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat should be given more room to operate and the "political time to act," United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today as he began an official visit to Austria.

"By being isolated and virtually being under house arrest makes it difficult for him to lead," Mr. Annan told a press conference in Vienna following his meeting with Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The Secretary-General added that Mr. Arafat was in an extremely difficult situation, being asked to stop the violence and being asked to lead.

"And yet, as a leader, he and his institutions are under so much pressure that I really do not see how that is going help, how he is going to go about delivering what the international community is asking him to do," Mr. Annan said. "We need to be careful how we deal with the situation because when the leader who is supposed to act is weakened to the point of impotence, we have a real problem on our hands."

In Vienna Annan says 'isolated' Arafat should be given more room to lead, UN News Service, January 29, 2002

Where next?

This article is part of the following collection:

Author and Page Information

  • by Anup Shah
  • Created: Monday, October 16, 2000
  • Last Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Back to top