November 15, 2005

In praise of Arafat

Unlike the tributes to Yitzhak Rabin, there's been comparatively little in the media about the anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat. Here's an article on the man and the myth by Karma Nabulsi in the Guardian.

Regarding the myth, Nabulsi feels that only the negative aspects took root.
The myth instead gave rise to Ariel Sharon, as the Israeli public felt only a Sharon could deal with that mythical monster Arafat. It gave the neoconservative hawks in the US administration the opportunity to redesign the Middle East in harmony with the views of their ally Israel, and for the British government to absolve themselves from doing anything whatsoever. Instead they watched, some cheering, while a democratically elected leader was imprisoned for years and slowly killed, without apparently feeling any moral queasiness or shame. This myth made all that possible. Arafat the obstacle.
She believes that a positive myth will replace the negative one:
What of the alternative myth of Arafat - the one that will eventually triumph in the history books? The one that will include just a fraction of the epic stories about him that most Palestinians grew up with? Arafat, for all his flaws and mistakes, stood for a just peace, based on a historic compromise. He believed in international law, in a two-state solution based on implementing UN resolution 242, and for a just settlement for refugees, the main victims of this conflict. His legitimacy came from more than the fact that he was democratically elected: he performed a historic purpose in the life of Palestinians, a purpose as yet unfulfilled. By representing his people's general will and collective spirit, he symbolised the absent state's sovereign institutions.
Ha'aretz reports that the Palestinians are seeking a UN inquiry into Arafat's death, arguing that he was poisoned by Israel.

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