Surely any but the most obtuse regular visitors to this space will understand just how painful it is for the Monitor to extend even the slightest praise to “60 Minutes” hatchet man Mike Wallace.
But praise we must, because Wallace conducted a refreshingly hard-hitting interview with Yasir Arafat that aired this past Sunday night. Some excerpts for those who missed it:
Wallace: You say you want peace. Correct, Mr. President?
Wallace: But you incite Palestinians, especially young Palestinians, to violence. Just this past week you said publicly, “Millions of holy warriors are on their way to Jerusalem. Jihad, jihad, jihad, jihad, holy war, holy war, holy war, holy war.” What does this mean?
Arafat: I am repeating some of holy Muslim words, not more.
Wallace: On your state controlled television a few months ago, a cleric. Here’s what he said on your television: “Whoever can fight them with his weapons should go out to battle. Nothing will deter the Jews except the color of their filthy people’s blood. Nothing will deter them except for us voluntarily detonating ourselves in their midst.” I find that hard to believe.
Arafat: I did not hear it.
Wallace: Four out of five Palestinians in a recent poll, 83 percent actually, said they believe that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt; that there is money that has been stolen consistently, that your people – I mean, look. Around here, they have money, they have jobs, they have cars. The Palestinians who live out here in Ramallah, where the unemployment is 36 percent, and down in Gaza, where it’s 48 percent, they don’t live the way that you do. It’s a comfortable life for you and your colleagues.
Arafat: Do you want to see my bedroom?
Wallace: Do I wanna see your bedroom?
Wallace: I, I’m not sure that I understand the invitation. But what about your bedroom?
Arafat: Every penny is under the control of the IMF.
Wallace: The International Monetary Fund.
Arafat: All what you are mentioning is one of the part of the Israeli attacks against us.
Wallace: The Israelis are persuading your fellow Palestinians that you’re corrupt?
[Voiceover:] On another subject, the Israelis have persuaded most of the world that Arafat tried to smuggle in a boatload of high powered weapons. But Arafat still insists he knew nothing about it.
Wallace: Chairman Arafat, look. Omar Akawi, the captain of the captured arms ship, told the press that the arms in the ship were destined for the Palestinian Authority, that senior PA officials had organized the consignments. The fact of the matter is that not just Israel, the United States, George Bush, the world community…
Arafat: First of all.
Wallace: Knows that you made a mistake.
Arafat: Colin Powell had mentioned that there is no relation with Arafat, this ship.
Wallace: No relation?
Wallace: Colin Powell said?
[Voiceover:] Actually, that’s hardly what Colin Powell said. And the secretary of state’s spokesman emphasized to us that in Mr. Powell’s Capitol Hill remarks…he did not exonerate Chairman Arafat.
Wallace: You’re telling me that you had nothing to do with that ship?
Wallace: Who did? Who did the ship?
Arafat: You have to ask the Israelis.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org