Yasser Arafat died....years ago.

by Preston 3 Replies latest social current

  • Preston


    Yet again, Yasser Arafat is dying. We thought he'd been killed back in 1982 when the Israeli air force flew around Beirut attacking apartment blocks and homes they thought he was visiting. Their bombs tore to pieces hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians but Arafat was never there. Then we thought he'd died in a plane crash in the Libyan desert -- but it was the pilot who died and the bodyguard who shielded him in his airline seat. Then we thought he'd bought it on the road to Baghdad when he suffered a blood clot. But Jordanian doctors brought him back to the world of the living. Now, again, we're preparing for the old man's death. Yet like the Pope, he seems to go on and on and on.

    He is a wearying man, not just in his repeated death but in life as well, a man who married the Revolution -- as his wife was to discover -- rather than develop a coherent strategy for a people under occupation. And in the end, he became like so many other Arab leaders -- and as the Israelis intended him to be -- a little dictator, handing out dollars and euros to his ageing but loyal cronies, falsely promising democracy, clinging to power in his shambles of an office in Ramallah. Had he done what he was supposed to do -- had he governed "Palestine" (the quotation marks are daily more important) with ruthlessness and crushed all opposition and accepted all Israel's demands -- he would be able now to visit Jerusalem, even Washington.

    I recall how, just after the famous handshake on the White House lawn, I told an Israeli friend in Jerusalem that it was only fair that he would now have to live with Arafat next door. After all, I said, I'd had to suffer his near-occupation of West Beirut for seven years. Those were the days when he promised to return all the refugees of pre-1948 Palestine to their homes, when he deliberately sacrificed thousands of Palestinian lives in the Tel el-Zaatar camp to earn the world's sympathy, when he tolerated aircraft hijacking and talked about "democracy among the guns" and eventually left his people in Beirut to Israel's murderous henchmen in the Phalange.

    The Arafat mug was never going to find its way on to university walls like Guevara or even Castro. There was -- and still is -- a kind of seediness about it and maybe that's what the Israelis saw too, a man who could be relied on to police his people in their little Bantustans, another proxy to run the show when occupation became too tiresome. "Can Arafat control his own people?" That's what the Israelis asked and the world obligingly asked the same question without realising the truth: that this was precisely why Arafat had been allowed back to the Occupied Territories -- to "control" his people. The only time he did stand up to his Israeli-American masters -- when he refused to accept 64 per cent of the 22 per cent of Palestine that was left to him -- he returned in triumph to Gaza and allowed the Israelis to claim he was offered 95 per cent but chose war.

    When he started negotiating with the Israelis, he had not even seen a Jewish settlement but he put his trust in the Americans -- always a dangerous thing to do in the Middle East -- and when Israel began to renege on the withdrawals, there was no one to help him. Israel broke withdrawal agreements five times.

    Then came intifada two and the Palestinian suicide bombings and 11 September 2001, and it was only a matter of time -- about six hours, to be exact -- before Israel said Arafat was linked to Osama bin Laden and that Ariel Sharon, too, was fighting world terror in his battle with the "terrorist" Arafat. In a country where the word "terrorist" is even more promiscuously used than it is in the United States, it was applied to Arafat by every Israeli official and every right-wing journalist outside Israel.

    Sitting like an old and dying owl in his Ramallah headquarters, it must have struck Arafat that he had one unique distinction. Some "terrorists" -- Khomeini, for example -- die of old age. Some -- Gaddafi comes to mind -- become statesmen courtesy of mendacious folk like Tony Blair. Others -- Abu Nidal is an obvious candidate -- get murdered, often by their own side. But Arafat is perhaps the only man who started off as a "super-terrorist", was turned overnight by the Oslo agreement into a "super-statesman" and then went back to being a "super-terrorist" again. No wonder he often seems to be losing attention, making factual errors, falling ill.

    Like all dictators, he made sure that there was no succession. It might have been Abu Jihad, but he was murdered by the Israelis in Tunis. It might have been one of the militant leaders whom the Israelis have been executing by air attack over the past two years. It could still be, just, the imprisoned Marwan Barghouti. And, if the Israelis decide that he should be the leader -- be sure the Palestinians won't get any choice in the matter -- then the prison doors may open for Barghouti.

    Yes, Arafat might die. The funeral would be the usual excruciating rhetoric bath. But the truth, I fear, is that Arafat died years ago.

    [This article appeared in The Independent, Oct. 30, 2004.]

  • avishai

    Fantastic article.

  • Realist

    i agree an excellent article.

    sadly it is a recurrent historic scheme that maniacs on one side are fighting against maniacs on the other side.

  • z

    Yasser Arafat: An obituary

    Tovah Lazaroff, THE

    He dreamed of dying a martyr like his "brave" peace partner, Yitzhak Rabin.

    But in the end, an isolated Yasser Arafat succumbed to a brain hemorrhage in a hospital, a week past the ninth anniversary of Rabin's assassination and long after their deal had collapsed.

    In an interview with Al-Jazeera he once said he would opt for martyrdom over being killed or taken a prisoner. "I say to them ... Allah, give me martyrdom in . . . [ ], the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens."

    Famous for cheating death he survived an Israeli air raid on his PLO headquarters in Tunis in 1985 and a plane crash in the Libyan desert in 1992, only to die of an illness in a hospital bed after keeping the world guessing his fate for a week.

    Absent from his last public appearance on Friday October 29, when he left his Ramallah compound, was the military uniform he typically wore. Instead he sat in his pajamas, with a wool cap on his head, as first he clutched his supporters and then kissed one of their hands.

    The 75-year old leader rose to power as a terrorist, but captured world respect when he agreed to a peace deal with under the Oslo Agreement, best symbolized by the famous handshake on the White House lawn with Rabin
    and former
    President William Clinton in September 1993. Arafat along with Rabin and Labor Party Chairman Shimon Peres all received Noble Peace Prizes in 1994 for their work on that agreement.

    His role as a peacemaker was short lived as both and the blamed him for the failure of once he rejected a land for peace
    deal at
    in 2000.

    "Sir, you hold personally the responsibility for the failure of the summit," told Arafat at the time.

    With his stubble beard and trademark kaffia arranged to look like the map of , for more than four decades, - whether as a terrorist or a diplomat - Arafat was the symbolic figurehead of the Palestinian struggle for statehood.

    "I come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun," Arafat told the United Nations when he first addressed it in 1974 while wearing a
    holster. His reliance on violence, but his pursuit of diplomacy alternately made him abhorred and lauded by leaders around the world.

    He courted both the former and the West. He made a career out of turning defeat into victory. After traveling around the world, his last three years were spent in growing isolation, confined by to a battle scarred compound in Ramallah. A recent AP photo showed him sitting writing alone on a chair in a room devoid of people and furniture.

    Known also as Abu Amar or sometimes as "the Old Man," Arafat's formal name is Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat As Qudwa al-Hussaeini. As a testament to his myth-making abilities, the exact details of his life are hard to pin down.

    He always claimed as his birthplace, while documents show it was actually , a city to which his parents had recently moved. Some
    biographers speculate that in spite of this, it's possible his mother could have returned to her parents home in
    for the actual birth.

    Following the death of his mother in 1933 from liver disease, Arafat lived in for nine-years in his uncle's home near the Western Wall. It was later torn down by after 1967 when it developed the area for worshipers. As a child Arafat understood that the Zionists fighting the
    British for a state were his enemy. At age 13, he was sent back to
    to live with his father, but he did not lose his connection to the Palestinian struggle.

    Some biographers say that already at age 17, helped smuggle arms from into Palestinian. When war broke out in 1948, he temporarily left
    his studies at what is now
    to join the fighting in .

    He received an engineering degree and worked briefly as a civil engineer in before turning to terrorism in hopes of crushing .

    "Isn't it better to die bringing down your enemy than to await a slow, miserable death?" asked Arafat in 1969.

    In the late 1950s he created Al-Fatah, an underground guerrilla movement that led attacks against . The Arab League joined it with other Palestinian groups when it formed the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964.

    When Arafat became its chairman in 1969, it split from the Arab League and became its own independent organization. Under Arafat's leadership in the 1970s and through most of the 1980s, the PLO became synonymous with terrorism.

    According Barry Rubin's biography of Arafat, the PLO committed more than 8,000 terrorist acts between 1969-1985. It was responsible for the deaths of more than 650 Israelis, 28 Americans and scores of people from other countries. Among its more memorable acts was the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes in in 1972, the attack on a school in Maalot in 1974 that led to the death of 21 school children. It also hijacked four planes in the 1970s and the Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro in 1985.

    Israelis were not the groups only target. In 1971 the PLO assassinated the Jordanian Prime Minister Wasfi Tel. It kidnapped and killed US Ambassador to Khartoum Cleo Noel and Deputy Cheif of Mission Curtis Moore as well as a Belgian diplomat Guy Eid, in 1973. Still it failed in its plan to attack the embassy in in 1973 and to kill Jordan King Hussein in 1974.

    In this midst of this violence, Arafat became the first representative of a non-governmental agency to address a plenary session of the United Nations
    (U.N.) General Assembly. The PLO was soon an official observer at the UN.

    With both the Israelis and Arabs trying to kill him, Arafat always swore he had a nose for danger. In the 1960s, he heard Israeli soldiers coming for him and leaped out the widow. When he lived life on the run, he took nothing for granted when it came to his safety, and only ate food that had been inspected for poisoning.

    It was a fear based in reality. In 1971, an
    associate tried to poison his rice. Romantic alliances was rarely a topic of conversation. Initially his 1991 marriage to his secretary Suha Tawil was a secret. Their daughter Zahwa was
    born in
    in 1995.

    His tactics of fermenting violent dissent against the Jordanian government forced King Hussein to chase him out of the country in 1971. became his next home, but he was driven out by in 1982. He lived in exile in until 1994, when under he was allowed into Palestinian areas for the first time in 26 years.

    Even before , he made his mark in the diplomatic arena when in 1988, at a UN session, he renounced terrorism and accepted 's right to exist.

    He stated that it was "the right of all parties concerned in the conflict to live in peace and security, including the state of , and and other neighbors."

    He lost international credibility when he supported during the first Gulf War. But he regained it with . When the first Palestinian elections were held, Arafat was chosen as president of the newly established Palestinian Authority in 1996. His position became obsolete when by 2002 refused to deal with him after violence broke out following the failure

    In an uneasy alliance, leadership was then split in 2003 between Arafat, who remained chairman of the PA and the post of a prime minister, held first by Mahmoud Abbas and than by Ahmed Qurei.

    While blamed Arafat for the outburst of terrorist activity that killed more than 1000 Israelis, he still some of his retained his ties with peace groups and the Israeli left.

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman Ra'anan Gissin once said of Arafat, "he promised us the peace of the brave, but gave us the peace of the grave."

    Information from "Yasir Arafat a Political Biography" by Barry and Judith Colp Rubin and "Arafat in the Eyes of the Beholder" by Janet Wallach and John Wallach was used in this report

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