Arafat should return Nobel, says rabbi

LOS ANGELES — The Simon Wiesenthal Center is launching an international campaign aimed at stripping Yasser Arafat of the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 1994.

The Palestinian leader shared the award with then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for their joint efforts toward Middle East peace through the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian accords.

"The recent policy of Arafat's Palestinian Authority in issuing a death sentence against anyone selling Palestinian land to a Jew — a decision embraced by Arafat himself — makes a mockery of the Nobel Peace Prize conferred upon him," Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Wiesenthal Center, wrote to Francis Sejerstedt, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

Israel has accused the Palestinian Authority of direct responsibility for the recent murders of three Arab land dealers.

Palestinian officials have said that such land sales are crimes punishable by death, but they have sharply denied any involvement in the slayings.

"Sanctioning the murder without trial of individuals," wrote Hier, "is a form of behavior reminiscent of the Dark Ages and reeks of the anti-Semitism invoked by the Nazis."

Hier said he will call upon human rights organizations and advocates of democracy throughout the world to join his campaign.

Tom Tugend

JTA Los Angeles correspondent