N.Y. officials urge removal of wax Arafat

Tussaud's museum statue unwelcome, petition says

May 17, 2001|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

ALBANY, N.Y. - Gov. George E. Pataki and dozens of state legislators are urging that a figure of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat get the boot from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in New York's Times Square.

A bipartisan group of Assembly members contends in a petition that it is "an affront to decent law-abiding citizens for Arafat to be welcome in any way, shape or form" - even if that form is wax.

Though Pataki was critical of the Arafat statue, he said it is not immediately clear what can be done to force its removal.

But he did say, "I don't think it's appropriate to have any image of Yasser Arafat that portrays him in a positive light."

Calling Arafat "a terrorist," Pataki - whose likeness is also in the museum - said the figure "has no place in New York, in my view, no place anywhere."

While Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani successfully ejected the real Arafat from the opera at Lincoln Center in 1995, it does not appear that the wax Arafat will get the heave-ho anytime soon.

The museum's general manager, Janine Scarpello, said in a statement: "The decision to portray an individual is irrespective of any political or religious stance."

State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew, condemned Arafat for orchestrating Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli citizens and said he plans to lead a demonstration outside the museum tomorrow.

Hussein Ibish, a spokesman for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, called the protest "typical pandering by New York politicians. It's pathetic."

The museum opened in October, with the Arafat statue. Hikind said he recently learned about it from constituents, visited himself - and was appalled.

Giuliani's press office said the mayor had no comment.

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