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Al Sharpton in Israel skips students for Arafat

Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2001

Sharpton Nixed Terror Victims for Arafat Lunch

What was billed as a fence-mending trip to Israel turned divisive on Monday, when presidential hopeful the Rev. Al Sharpton canceled a meeting with Jewish terrorism victims to have lunch instead with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The Sharpton-Arafat sitdown outraged trip organizers.

"I worked on his intinerary with the Israeli consul general, and he was supposed to meet with the students who survived the Tel Aviv bombing attack," Rabbi Marc Schneier told the New York Daily News.

Schneier heads up the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which has worked to repair damaged relations between blacks and Jews.

"The purpose of the [Sharpton] trip was to demonstrate solidarity with Jewish victims of terror," he added. "If I was going to reconcile with the Jewish communtiy, I would not be meeting with Yasser Arafat."

Sharpton's decison to dis Jewish terror victims conjured up memories of his last visit to Israel in 1992, when he tried to serve papers on a Hasidic driver involved in the car accident that sparked the Crown Heights riots.

Encountering shouts of "Go to Hell" at the Tel Aviv airport, Sharpton shot back, "I already am in hell."



October 31, 2001 -- JERUSALEM - The Rev. Al Sharpton told Israeli officials that Colin Powell had asked him to make his controversial visit to Yasser Arafat - but the State Department yesterday denied the claim.
Sharpton "is not a messenger or emissary," a spokeswoman for the secretary of state said.

Sharpton's just-revealed remarks on Monday to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres helped explain how the controversial, unscheduled trip to the Gaza Strip was added later that day to Sharpton's three-day Mideast tour.

According to official minutes, Sharpton told Peres that Powell "asked him to meet with Yasser Arafat and to encourage him to take steps against terrorism."

"Foreign Minister Peres joined in this stand and encouraged Sharpton" to see Arafat, the minutes said, according to a top Israeli official.

The State Department spokeswoman said Sharpton had called Powell and they spoke about U.S. policy in the Mideast, but Powell did not ask Sharpton to see Arafat.

Sharpton canceled a meeting with Israeli victims of terrorism to visit Arafat. He met later with some victims.

Officials close to the Sharpton visit said it was understood that his trip was meant to express solidarity with Israel - and would include no meetings with Arab leaders.

Sharpton told the Israeli Foreign Office he had changed his thinking about the Mideast after Sept. 11 and felt he should come to Israel to take a stand against terrorism.

After hectic internal debate, the Foreign Office decided a Sharpton trip was acceptable and on Monday Sharpton met with Peres in Tel Aviv.

An eyewitness to Sharpton's meetings with Peres and Arafat said Sharpton was "careful and formal" with Peres - but warm and friendly with Arafat, the two even walking arm in arm as they met with reporters.

A Jewish organizer of the Arafat visit called it "a disaster."

Sharpton wound up his trip yesterday with a tour of Jerusalem's Old City and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and met with terror victims' relatives.


NY Post - Editorial


October 31, 2001 -- Al Sharpton said yesterday that his sitdown with Yasser Arafat was undertaken at the recommendation of no less a luminary than Secretary of State Colin Powell - to which Powell's people promptly said, in effect: "Nonsense."
So who do you believe?

Colin Powell? Or Sharpton, the man who insists his trip to the Middle East was meant to express solidarity and to "deal with victims of terrorism in Israel"?

The Rev skipped a planned meeting with Jewish victims of Palestinian terrorism on Monday, and instead went off to Gaza for a private luncheon with Arafat - from which he emerged walking arm in arm with the PLO chief.

All of which had the members of Al's entourage grumbling in embarrassment and frustration. "If I was going to reconcile with the Jewish community, I would not be meeting with Yasser Arafat," said Rabbi Marc Schneier, who helped arrange the trip.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the "Kosher Sex" author who is traveling with Sharpton, said he stayed away from the Sharpton-Arafat meeting because "it would be insensitive for me to be there while my people are burying their dead."

Palestinian terrorists murdered five Israelis over the weekend.

Is anyone really surprised here?

It's not as if Sharpton hasn't pulled stunts like this before - speaking the language of conciliation, then doing something deliberately provocative.

Indeed, he made a public point of consulting with such figures as Henry Kissinger and Mort Zuckerman, the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, for advice in planning the trip. Then he ran off for a friendly chat with Arafat.

Great way to show solidarity with the people of Israel, Al.

To be sure, the Rev had said he wanted to send a message that "innocent people should not be killed and should not be terrified." And no one needs to hear that message more than Arafat.

But the smiles that attended the meeting suggest strongly that Sharpton said nothing to raise Arafat's hackles - like asking him to end the wanton violence and murder aimed at Israeli civilians.

And if Sharpton instead suggested to Arafat that his people are the victims of Israeli terrorism - well, it's understandable why The Rev's hosts might be more than a tad upset.

Another "new" Al Sharpton?

Sounds like the same old one to us.

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