New York

Arafat Dies, and Calls a Bluff


courtesy of PNA

Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian president who inspired, angered, and for more than forty years led his nation’s resistance against Israeli occupation, passed away last night in a Paris military hospital.

Arafat died, as he and millions of his people had lived much of their lives, stateless, and far from home.

The Palestinian president spent decades vividly reminding humanity what a nation deserves, sending fighters, then negotiators, to gnaw on the conscience of the world. The battle he fought for Palestine was bloody and emotional, joined by superpowers and ideologues, and manipulated by tyrants and opportunists. Whatever one thought of Arafat, few could question his motives, or his dedication to the cause.

“We have made the Palestinian case the biggest problem in the world,” he told an Egyptian newspaper last month, reflecting on his accomplishments. “One hundred and seven years after the [founding Zionist] Basel Conference, 90 years after the Sykes-Picot Agreement, Israel has failed to wipe us out. We are here, in Palestine, facing them. We are not red Indians.”

His critics argue that Arafat was incapable of leading the Palestinians the final mile, the part after the revolution, to statehood. And to those critics – especially Ariel Sharon, and George W. Bush — his death offers a test.

The contours of the conflict haven’t changed. Palestinians still demand a state in full, and still, hundreds of thousands of settlers live in cities in the West Bank and Gaza, in islands protected by troops and connected by highways for the use of settlers alone. The refugees still demand justice, and Palestinians everywhere still claim Jerusalem as their capital.

The notion that these demands now soften misunderstands the Palestinians, a polity defined by struggle, and simply known by its leader.

In a sense, Arafat’s timing was impeccable. He hung around just long enough to congratulate Bush on his re-election, and to remind the American president of his peace plan. Then, he asked him to show his cards.


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