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memri
April 1, 2002 No.
361

Arab Television Channels Interview Arafat

Following the Palestinian terrorist attacks during the Jewish holiday of Passover, on March 29, 2002, Israel launched a military operation against the Palestinian Authority. As the Israeli army entered Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, Arafat granted interviews to leading Arab television channels. Following are excerpts from these interviews:

Interview With Al-Jazeera[1]

Arafat: "They decided to take me as a prisoner, a deportee, or to kill me. No. I say to them [that I will be] a martyr, a martyr, a martyr, and a martyr. …'And they will be in the front line until Judgment Day'… and 'one of their martyrs [who falls in the battle for Jerusalem] is worth 40 martyrs'[2]... Allah, give me martyrdom in… [Jerusalem], the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens, and the place our lord Jesus was born… I may be martyred, but certainly one of our boys or one of our girls will wave the flag of Palestine over the walls of Jerusalem, over the minarets of Jerusalem, and over the churches of Jerusalem. 'They think it is distant, but we know it is imminent, and we are right'… 'They will enter the mosque as they entered it for the first time'[3]... This is the path I have chosen… Allah, give me martyrdom..."

"We defend not only Palestine, the Arab nation, and not only the holy Islamic and Christian places ­ but also all men of freedom and honor in the world. This is our destiny. This is a divine decree..."

"Let those far and near understand: None, among the Palestinian people or the Arab nation, will be willing to bow and surrender. But we ask Allah to grant us martyrdom, to grant us martyrdom. To Jerusalem we march ­ martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march ­ martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march ­ martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march ­ martyrs by the millions."

"This is a call to the Arab and Islamic nations and to all the Christians in the world. This is the sacred land called in the West 'Terra Sancta,' Holy Land. We defend these holy places..."

"We said to the Americans: You must act. Where are you going? Don’t you know this will shake the Middle East? I say to our Palestinian people: 'Oh mountain, the wind will not shake you.' I say to our Arab nation: 'To Jerusalem we march ­ martyrs by the millions.'"

Question: "Mr. President, Sharon said in his press conference that you have become an enemy, that you are not a partner for peace, and that Ramallah has become a den of terrorism. How do you respond to that?"

Arafat: "Isn’t he [Sharon] a den of terrorism? The occupation is not a den of terrorism? The F-15 and F-16 warplanes are not a den of terrorism? The tanks that place me under siege are not a den of terrorism? Bombing civilians is not a den of terrorism? Forty-seven thousand Palestinian martyrs and wounded in this Intifada are not a den of terrorism? Destroying the institutions of the Palestinian people is not a den of terrorism? Destroying all the farms of the Palestinian people is not a den of terrorism?..."

Question: "Is it possible that the Israeli forces will try to assassinate you?"

Arafat: "They are more than welcome. I seek martyrdom. Allah, grant it to me. Am I better than that heroic youth Fares Odeh? We are seekers of martyrdom. We are all seekers of martyrdom. The entire Palestinian people is a seeker of martyrdom..."

Question: "Mr. President, do you think that this extensive invasion by the occupation forces is in response to the Netanya operation,[4] or a response to the Arab initiative at the Arab summit?"

Arafat: "No. It is a response to the Arab summit in Beirut…to Crown Prince Abdullah’s initiative... This is an Israeli response to all the peace attempts because they do not want peace. They do not want peace!!! (sic) We must remember these things. These extremist elements murdered my partner Yitzhak Rabin. Why did they murder him? Because they do not want peace."

"Why do they distort Camp David? They ask why we did not accept Camp David. Should I surrender Jerusalem to them? Who can accept such a thing? Tell me, who can accept such a thing?... They are the plunderers, the murderers, the real terrorists in the entire world, in the entire world. We are the only people in the world under occupation. We put our hand in your [the Israelis'] hand... If this is the response to the Arab initiative, what does it mean? Who are the terrorists? The Palestinians? The Arabs? The Muslims? The Christians? Did we bomb the statue of the Virgin Mary [in Bethlehem]? The entire world turned upside-down because of the Taliban's attempt to destroy the statue of Buddha ­ is the statue of Mary not sacred? Is she not the only woman mentioned in the Koran? Is there not a Koranic chapter bearing her name?"

Question: "Sharon says that now there is a war without geographical borders. How do you assess the situation?"

Arafat: "By Allah, we consider all possibilities. Nobody is shaken, nobody is scared, nobody is retreating. To Jerusalem we march ­ martyrs by the millions." Interview With Egyptian TV [5]

Arafat: "I want to tell you something: The world went wild because of what the Taliban did to the statue of Buddha. But when they destroyed the statue of the Virgin Mary, who is the only woman mentioned in the Koran, no one in the world says a word... We defend these holy places: To Jerusalem we march ­ martyrs by the millions."

Question: "...What do you plan to do while the tanks are two meters away..."

Arafat: "What two meters?!! They are bombing me. Can’t you hear the bombing?"

Question: "...Actually, we hear it from a distance..."

Arafat: "They attacked positions within the leadership compound."

Question: "...The question was, what will you do in this situation? How can the Palestinian leadership calm the situation?"

Arafat: "We are all seekers of martyrdom. We will not hesitate and will not retreat... As I told you: To Jerusalem we march ­ martyrs by the millions."

Question: "Is this a specific response to the Netanya operation?"

Arafat: "Great! All this in response to the Netanya operation?…"

Question: "It is obvious that the sympathy and enthusiasm of the Arab street is not enough. What do you demand now from the Arab leaders?"

Arafat: "To act in the international and global sphere with all the leaders in the world, in order to stop this international and global terrorism led by Sharon. Don't talk to me about terrorism in Kandahar, don't talk to me about Taliban terrorism, and don’t talk to me about terrorism anywhere. The most important and most dangerous terrorism is the terrorism going on in the sacred land..."

Question: "Mr. President, we are following [events] with you and we see the Israeli tanks approaching... We are with you in our hearts and souls and we pray for your safety and the safety of the Palestinian people."

Arafat: "Man, don’t wish me safety! Pray for me to attain martyrdom! Is there anything better than being martyred on this holy land? We are all seekers of martyrdom..."

Interview With Abu Dhabi TV[6]

Arafat: "Allah, grant us martyrdom in defense of the Christian and Muslim places holy to you... We are in the front line, and this people is defending these holy places…"

"True, he [Sharon] besieges us…True, he uses all the weapons prohibited by international law. True he uses depleted uranium, true he uses toxic gases…but we are steadfast… 'And they will be in the frontline until Judgment Day'…"


[1] Al-Jazeera TV/Palestinian Authority TV, March 29, 2002.

[2] This is a reference to a Koranic verse.

[3] This is a reference to a Koranic verse.

[4] The March 27, 2002 bombing of a Passover Seder held at a Netanya hotel.

[5] Egyptian TV/Palestinian Authority TV, March 29, 2002.

[6] Abu Dhabi TV/Palestinian Authority TV, March 29, 2002.