Yasser Arafat pumped millions of dollars into the Aksa Martyrs Brigades even as he let his disillusioned security forces go without pay for months, according to a forthcoming book by Matt Rees, the Time Magazine bureau chief in Jerusalem.
The revelation comes as Palestinian officials announced this week that the Palestinian Authority was unable to pay the salaries of its civil servants and security personnel for November. Arafat, who is receiving medical treatment in Paris, reportedly phoned his finance minister to order him to pay the salaries on time.
In an incident described in 'Cain's Field: Faith, Fratricide, and Fear in the Middle East,' due to be published this month by Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Rees reveals how Arafat sent $2 million to the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Gaza in June 2002 but provided only a pittance to pay the salaries of his official security forces.
According to 'Cain's Field,' an advance copy of which has been obtained by The Jerusalem Post, two senior Palestinian intelligence officers visited the home of Major-General Abdel Razak al-Majaideh, commander of Arafat's Gaza National Security Forces, in June 2002. The intelligence officers, who had not been paid for several months, learned from Fatah contacts that Arafat just sent $2 million to the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in Gaza. An outraged Majaideh complained to them that Arafat sent him only $30,000 to pay the wages of all the Palestinian security officers in the Gaza Strip.
'It was the equation of Arafat's interests,' writes Rees. 'Two million dollars against $30,000. Arafat was working against his own people, ignoring them while he shoveled wads of cash to gunmen.'
For the first time, Rees reveals the inside story of Arafat's divisive, self-destructive rule, detailing what the gunmen did with the cash they received from Arafat.
He shows how the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, ruled Palestinian towns like gangsters in defiance of security officials who gradually learned they didn't have Arafat's backing.
Rees also recounts the shocking story of a Christian girl from Bet Jala, near Bethlehem, who was coerced into sex and then murdered by Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leaders in Bethlehem.
After killing the girl, the group's leaders released a statement saying that they 'wanted to clean the Palestinian house of prostitutes.'
Rees writes that the 'thugs sexually degraded her, punished her for it, and then claimed the position of moral champions from a society that they more than anyone were responsible for sullying.'
'Cain's Field' also reveals the story of the deputy chief of General Intelligence in Gaza, Zakaria Baloush. He tired so much of Arafat's double game that he announced he would run against him for the job of president.
Arafat never held the elections, but he did try to persuade Baloush to return to the fold. When Baloush told Arafat he could no longer work for the head of General Intelligence in Gaza, Amin al-Hindi, Arafat said: 'So kick him out. Throw him into the sea.'
Rees says that Arafat ran the Palestinian Authority just as he had the PLO - as a personal fiefdom where no one ever knew whom to trust. 'He never made the transition to a responsible, orderly government,' said Rees.
Relations with Israel, even during the Oslo years, were also subject to Arafat's duplicity. Rees writes of a Palestinian intelligence officer who wanted to give information to the Shin Bet about Israeli MIAs from the battle of Sultan Yakoub in 1982. When the intelligence officer brought the Israeli officials to Arafat, the Palestinian leader rebuffed them, saying that the intelligence officer was sick and needed to stay home for medical treatment."