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Rebuffed Arafat Scraps Museum Visit

January 17, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Plans for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum next week as suggested by State Department officials were scrapped following objections from American Jewish groups, The Washington Post reported today.

Museum director Walter Reich was warned by members of the Jewish community that Arafat was ``Hitler incarnate″ and should not be welcomed, the Post said, quoting unidentified museum sources.

Arafat is scheduled to be in Washington on Thursday to meet with President Clinton in an attempt to revitalize peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel. Clinton also is expected to meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week.

Arafat’s visit to the Holocaust Museum was suggested by U.S. deputy special Mideast envoy Aaron Miller and his superior, Dennis Ross, the Post said.

It said Arafat canceled the visit after Reich and Miles Lerman, a concentration camp survivor and chairman of the Holocaust Memorial Council, told him he could attend only as an individual. They denied Arafat the special measures for security and protocol routinely give to world leaders.

Lerman said Arafat and Israel’s talks with the Palestinian Authority deeply split the U.S. and the world Jewish community.

``We believe the museum should not get involved in a political dispute where half of the people are for something and half are against it,″ he told the Post.

Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Irdineh said the blame lies with museum officials.

``He said yes. They are saying no. It’s as simple as that,″ he told the Post in a telephone interview from the West Bank city of Nablus. ``We have been extending our hands since the days of (the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin and our hands are still slapped. Somebody is still living in the past.″

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