The former Mayor of Santa Cruz, California, Scott Kennedy regularly used his position in government to push a pro-Islamist agenda. As Vice Mayor, he wrote a letter to Days Inn condemning the latter’s interest in a seaside hotel located in a Jewish section of the Gaza Strip. As a Council Member, he wrote a letter to then-Vice President Al Gore, calling on him to refrain from using the Islamic term for holy war, “jihad,” in a negative fashion. Kennedy has compared the creation of the state of Israel, which he calls “the catastrophe,” to the Holocaust. He was a co-founder of the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz, and he is a leader of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) Interfaith Peace-Builders Delegation.
On October 9, 2002, Scott Kennedy was part of an FOR delegation that met with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat (see photo of Kennedy with Arafat on this page) in his compound in Ramallah, West Bank. When later recounting the conclusion of his meeting with Arafat, Kennedy repeatedly made reference to Arafat’s charm and graciousness. “We excused ourselves,” said Kennedy, “thanked Arafat for meeting with us, and stood. Arafat suggested a group photo and one of his aides took photos with cameras belonging to each member of our delegation as well as his own. As we filed out of the room, President Arafat grasped my left hand. I thanked him for our meeting and released his hand as I followed the rest of the delegation out the door. He continued to squeeze my hand. At the top of the stairs, I again thanked him and released my hand. He held tight and indicated he motioned for me to proceed downstairs. At the foot of the second flight of stairs and as we approached the door, uniformed guards with machine guns stomped their right foot and offered a crisp salute as President Arafat passed. We pushed past other members of the delegation who had been instructed to wait inside the door. Still clasping my left hand, Arafat moved me towards the door. We stepped into the night air — to be greeted by two dozen photographers and cameramen. Arafat clasped my hand and greeted the crowd. He then kissed me on both cheeks and gave me a warm smile. Each delegation member in turn was similarly sent on their way down the stairs.
“During the hour-long bus ride back to Jerusalem, we debriefed our visit with Arafat. [Delegation member] George observed that Arafat tended to look to the past rather than to the future and that he didn’t communicate a strong vision. Still, he evidenced a lot of commitment to the continuing struggle of the Palestinians. Michael noticed that throughout his comments Arafat never bashed either Sharon or Bush, even though we might have expected harsh words about them. Several commented that Arafat was very gracious toward us and that he demonstrated to us a very strong feeling of identity with and empathy for the Palestinian people. I was made aware how much easier it is to hate and demonize Arafat in the abstract than in person. I think we all were surprised to find him so personally engaging. Rimon remarked at the family style meeting that seemed more a discussion among friends than other gatherings he had observed.
“As a delegation, we definitely enjoyed meeting President Arafat As a result of our time together, we could more readily understand the way in which and the extent to which Arafat symbolizes the Palestinian movement for national self-determination.”