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How Yassir Arafat Destroyed Palestine

How Yassir Arafat Destroyed Palestine



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Published by Smarth
A refreshing and unconventional look at the man who was responsible for catapulting the Palestine issue to international awareness...all leaders have faults, and some have more than others...Arafat did!
A refreshing and unconventional look at the man who was responsible for catapulting the Palestine issue to international awareness...all leaders have faults, and some have more than others...Arafat did!

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Published by: Smarth on Jan 17, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Atlantic Monthly | September 2005
N A 
 How Yasir Arafat destroyed Palestine
The war for Jerusalem that began after Israeli PrimeMinister Ehud Barak's failed peace offer at Camp David inthe summer of 2000 has become the subject of legends andfables, each one of which is colored in the distinctiveshades of the political spectrum from which it emerged:Yasir Arafat tried to control the violence. Arafat wasbehind the violence. Arafat was the target of the violence,which he deflected onto the Israelis. Depending on whichday of the week it was, any combination of these statementsmight have been true.In his patchwork uniform, which combined a military tunicwith a traditional kaffiya, the Old Man, as those who hadknown Yasir Arafat the longest called him, was a strangeand defiantly contradictory person. He was the father ofthe Palestinian nation, and the successor to the Muslimconquerors of Jerusalem, Omar Ibn al-Khattab and Saladin.His official title was
of the Palestinian Authority, atitle that is ambiguously translated as "chairman" or"president." Arafat was also the chairman of the PalestineLiberation Organization and the head of Fatah, the PLO'scentral faction, which he founded in Kuwait in the late1950s. The title that came first on his personal stationerywas head of Fatah, which means "conquest"—a backwardacronym for Harakat al-Tahrir al-Falistiniya, thePalestinian Liberation Movement. Spelled forward theacronym yields "Hataf," which means "death."Arafat's failure to conquer Jerusalem did not shatter hisconviction that history was moving in his favor: underpressure from within and without, isolated in the world,the State of Israel would eventually crack apart anddissolve, to be replaced by Arab Palestine. "We willcontinue our struggle until a Palestinian boy or aPalestinian girl waves our flag on the walls, mosques, andchurches of Jerusalem, the capital of our independentstate, whether some people are happy about it or not," he
promised. "He who doesn't like it may drink the water ofthe Dead Sea." Arafat understood his actions as part of anunfolding within the long duration of historical timerather than as disembodied headlines on CNN. The inabilityof his diplomatic interlocutors to understand what he wasdriving at exposed the fatal limits of the Westernconception of politics as a way to find a happy mediumbetween competing interests.Arafat's given name, Muhammad Abd al-Rahman Abd al-RaoufArafat al-Kidwa al-Husseini, provides close readers with abiography in brief of the man who created a nation out ofthe Arab refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The boyMuhammad Abd al-Rahman was born in Cairo on August 24,1929, and grew up in the city's Sakakini district. Both hisparents were Palestinians. His father, Abd al-Raouf, was amerchant from Gaza. In the late 1920s Abd al-Raouf leftGaza to prosecute a claim to a large chunk of Cairo that hebelieved was the rightful property of his family. The claimwas futile, and preoccupied him until the day he died.Arafat seldom mentioned his father and didn't attend hisfuneral. His mother, Zahwa, for whom he named his onlychild, was a daughter of the al-Saud family, whose home inthe Old City of Jerusalem was part of the neighborhood thatwas bulldozed by the Israelis after the 1967 war to createa plaza in front of the Western Wall. Although not born inJerusalem, as he often claimed, Arafat did live in the al-Saud family house for several years with his brother Fathiafter his mother died, in 1933. Arafat's grandfather wasnamed Arafat, and his family name was al-Kidwa. His clanwas the al-Husseinis of Gaza, not the famous Jerusalemfamily. "Arafat" was the only part of his given name thathe would carry into adulthood; "Yasir" was a childhoodnickname related to the word for "wealthy" or "easy." Hedidn't like school, and showed an early talent fororganizing the neighborhood kids. "He formed them intogroups and made them march and drill," his sister Inam tolda biographer. "He carried a stick to beat those who did notobey his commands. He also liked making camps in the gardenof our house."It made sense that a people without a homeland, with only arecent shared history of expulsion, flight, catastrophe,shame, and defeat to bind them together, would fall underArafat's spell. He was famous for his mastery of
,the ability to dodge a threat, and of
, conspiracy.Those who met him, even his intimates, inevitably described
themselves as
, awestruck. The man they met was
—humble and modest. As much as anyother man, Arafat was responsible for the making of themodern Middle East. The raids he launched on Israel fromGaza, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon in the 1960s helped toprecipitate the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, which stripped theArab regimes of their credibility and set the stage forArafat's emergence as the Arab Che Guevara. Arafat'screation of a Palestinian para-state inside Lebanon in the1970s made him a wealthy man, and a linchpin of Sovietstrategy in the region. Expelled from Beirut in 1982 byAriel Sharon, he went into exile in Tunis, where he watchedwith surprise as a younger generation of Palestinians roseup against the Israeli occupation in 1987. His support forSaddam Hussein during the Gulf War left him broke andstripped of his political assets in the early nineties, andout of touch with the young revolutionaries in the WestBank and Gaza. In 1993 Arafat signed the Oslo Accords,which committed Israel and the United States to a processwhose end point would be the establishment of a Palestinianstate. He returned to Gaza through Egypt on July 1, 1994.In a largely traditional society Arafat stood out becausehe was self-made, the symbolic incarnation of a people thatowed its continued existence to him. Decades before hebegan to show his age in public, his lips trembling, hishands shaking, his belly distended—even then he was knownas the Old Man. His speeches were laundry lists of slogansand exhortatory phrases such as "
Ya jabal ma yahzak reeh
"("O mountain, the wind cannot shake you!") and "
Li-l-Qudsrayyihin, shuhada bi-l-malayyin
" ("To Jerusalem we march,martyrs by the millions") interspersed with Koranic verses.The symbolic leader of the Palestinian nation spoke with apronounced Egyptian accent. His lips flapped when he spoke.To some, the combination was irredeemably comic. Hedistinguished himself within the Palestinian nationalmovement by his boundless energy for the cause,
,which might also be translated as "the case," a termappropriate to a proceeding in a courtroom. One of thepeculiarities of the nation that Arafat created was that itwas founded on a festering grievance rather than anypositive imagination of the future; the worse things werein the present, the stronger the Palestinian case became.For the diplomats of the European Union, whose dream ofcreating a new kind of political organization that wouldrival the United States for global influence was burdened

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