, 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