Times Soft-Pedals Palestinian Conference Paying Paranoid Tribute to Terrorist Arafat

Isabel Kershner reported from Bethlehem Friday on a conference held by the Palestinian group Fatah, and drew the usual blank when it came to talking about Palestinian terrorismagainst Israel.

AnAssociated Pressphoto of a mural of Fatah founder Yasir Arafat accompanied the story, with this nauseating caption paying tribute to the terrorist:

A mural of Yasir Arafat smiled upon Gaza City, and his spirit dominated the Fatah conference this week in the West Bank.

Kershner, whose reporting is often hostile to Israel, welcomed the rough-and-tumble jawboning at the conference:

Some delegates complained of bad planning, and observers described an atmosphere bordering on anarchy. But others said they were happy that the full spectrum of members' opinions was finally being aired.

"I am proud," saidSaeb Erekat, a senior aide ofMahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah's leader. "Are we fighting? You bet! Are we screaming at each other? You bet!"

Taisir Nasrallah, a delegate from the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, said he felt "overwhelming anger" among the members against the traditional leadership. He added that many delegates wanted the old leaders to be held accountable for Fatah's failures, like the loss ofGazato Hamas.

The conference opened on Tuesday and was supposed to last three days. But by Thursday, delegates were still mired in discussions on how to hold fair internal elections when hundreds of their counterparts were stuck in Gaza, prevented from leaving by Hamas.

As Churchill said, better jaw-jaw than war-war, and given the violent base of both Fatah and its even more radical Palestinian rival Hamas, perhaps the relatively civilized disagreements at theconference are some kind ofwelcome sign.

But did Kershner have to totally ignore Arafat's terrorist history, both in the name of Fatah and the Black September and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, when blandly relaying a Fatah conspiracy theory about his death? (You'll never guess who they blame for Arafat's "murder.")

One point of consensus reached on Thursday was the notion that Israel was responsible for the death ofYasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader and Fatah founder, who died in 2004. In the convention hall, delegates blamed Israel for having kept the ailing Mr. Arafat under siege in his headquarters in the West Bank. Fatah officials said they would continue to investigate the circumstances of his death, and suspicions that Israel poisoned him.

Delegates have come to Bethlehem from as far as Yemen and the United States. They include people as diverse asSari Nusseibeh, an intellectual from Jerusalem who has championed nonviolence, andKhaled Abu Asba, who took part in a notorious attack in 1978 in which an Israeli bus was hijacked and about three dozen Israeli civilians were killed.

At National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg pointed to the Israeli view left out of Kershner's story, as provided by the Jerusalem Post:

The Fatah conference's unanimous resolution Thursday to hold Israel responsible for the death ofYasserArafatleft Israeli officials annoyed and bemused, with Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai remarking there was a better chance of negotiations on Mars than in the region, and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon saying the conference was a "serious blow to peace."

"This was another lost opportunity for the Palestinian leadership to adopt moderate views," Avalon toldThe Jerusalem Post. "Instead, it reverted to making extreme statements. This has raised suspicions that the Palestinians do not want a two-state solution, but rather a one-state solution."

Yishai said that the decision relating to Arafat was "pathetic," testimony to the Palestinians' true intentions. "There is no room for any negotiation here," he said.