Yasser Arafat: Around the World
Author: Joe Schumacher
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 11/16/2004
The World debates Yasser Arafat’s Legacy and what his passing means for Middle East.
From http://news.bbc.co.uk/, http://www.aljazeera.com/, http://news.yahoo.com/,
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/, http://nobelprize.org/index.html, http://www.democracynow.org/index.pl,
From BBC News
Hamas seeks unified
Palestinian militant groups
Hamas and Islamic Jihad have again called for a unified leadership to be set up
following Yasser Arafat’s death.
Their call came at a meeting in
Mahmoud Abbas, who has replaced Arafat as leader of the Palestine Liberation
The groups want to be part of a
joint leadership until presidential elections scheduled for early January 2005.
For now, both groups are
refusing to participate in the election.
They argue that the vote will
only be used to install a leader associated with Mr Arafat’s Fatah movement,
which has always held the levers of Palestinian power.
The BBC’s Alan Johnston in
Gaza says it is
hard to see the Fatah leadership giving up any real decision-making power to the
He says the levers of
Palestinian political power have always been firmly in the hands of the faction
that Yasser Arafat founded and led – the Fatah party.
Powerful Islamic movement
But the powerful Islamist
movement, Hamas, and its sister party, Islamic Jihad, say that they should now
be drawn into the power structure.
After the meeting with Mr Abbas,
a spokesman for Hamas said that there would be further talks on the issue.
“We are insisting on the need
for legislative and municipal elections in addition to the presidential poll,”
said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zukhri.
“We are opposed to any monopoly
From Al Jazeera
Be the Palestinian Mandela?
Harrison, Arab News
Marwan Barghouti allowing himself to be nominated as a candidate in the
Palestinian elections slated for Jan. 9, 2005, Israel and the US are placed in
a politically interesting position.
to see Western-style democracy take root in the Arab region — to the extent of
invading Iraq and tolerating
the huge “collateral damage” among the civilian population during the drive for
liberation — it promises to be an interesting test of America’s
commitment to the principle of democracy should Barghouti
ousted a president they determined as evil and threatening in Iraq, how will the
US deal with a freely and democratically elected president — described as a
terrorist — in jail in Israel?
argue that Barghouti should not be recognized because he has a history of
terrorism would be disingenuous in the extreme. The US has accommodated ex-terrorists quite
comfortably before in the Middle East, as
several generations of Israeli prime ministers evidence. Their terrorism though
was not directed against the US or its current
Indeed, the world and the US have rightly
acclaimed the jailed Rolihlahla (Nelson) Mandela as a statesman. Ironically
Rolihlahla can easily and somewhat prophetically be interpreted as
“troublemaker.” The Nelson was added by a schoolteacher.
Mandela’s time in jail did nothing to damage his standing.
He was there as a result of what the state he lived in perceived as terrorism.
The policy of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) — armed wing of the ANC of which Mandela
was a prominent figure — was not to target civilians or white people. However, a
report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission says that whatever the
intent, it happened. Between 1961 and 1963, before Mandela was jailed, about 190
attacks were recorded, undertaken mainly by regional operatives.
Barghouti is the leader of the Fatah movement in the
West Bank, and has been closely identified with
one of its militant offshoots, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Israel issued an
arrest warrant for him in September 2001, accusing him of organizing
paramilitaries and conspiring to murder. Eventually he was only convicted for
causing the deaths of five people, as there was insufficient evidence connecting
him to the other 21.
first appeared in court August 2002 — charged with the killing of 26 Israelis
and belonging to a terrorist organization. He denied the legitimacy of the
Israeli court, insisting he was not a criminal but an elected politician; he was
a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He has denied founding Al-Aqsa
but has hailed some operations by the group, which has also attacked Israeli
military targets. The group claimed him as their leader, not helping his
Barghouti and Mandela are products of their native lands.
Barghouti has never been exiled or been compromised by questionable links with
political figures outside the state. Amin Al-Husseini — a mulla and friend of
Hitler and Ahmed Shuquairi who worked for the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior
could not claim that. Arafat was born in Cairo —
though he frequently claimed Jerusalem as his birthplace — and cannot claim
a Palestinian birthright. Barghouti is fluent in the language of the people he
has to deal with. Mandela as a lawyer understood the language and culture of the
powers he opposed. Barghouti speaks Hebrew and has dealt at many levels with
Israeli society. Barghouti’s targets, like Mandela’s, were essentially military
and his organization was entirely home grown.
the strongest points in Barghouti’s favor is that, born in the post-partition
generation, he has always called for a two-state system. Arafat for 30 years of
his career called for the elimination of Israel; in the
last ten he became at best equivocal.
you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then
he becomes your partner,” said Mandela; but it could just as easily be
Comparisons may be odious, but if they were not effective,
then the lessons of history would teach us nothing. By electing Barghouti, the
Palestinian people may create an iconic president. This will force the major
powers oppressing Palestine to deal with what will then be an
ex-terrorist elected by the people.
From Yahoo News –
ARAFAT’S DEATH BRIDGES
NO GAPS IN POLARIZED PERSPECTIVES
By Georgie Anne Geyer
BRUSSELS, Belgium — The European and American
perspectives of Yasser Arafat (news – web sites)’s death
could not be more different.
His broken and failing mortal
body was welcomed in Paris hospitals last week, French officials
accompanying the dying Palestinian leader at every turn almost in the style that
they would honor any head of state. When he died, his coffin was carried to the
plane that would take the man on his last journey, to Cairo and then Ramallah,
where world leaders would respectfully see him off.
The American response looked
quite different. President Bush (news – web sites), who
never liked the difficult, indecisive, sclerotic Palestinian leader, was civil
in wishing the Palestinians well, but only barely. Speaking in Washington with
an ever-worshipful Tony Blair (news – web sites), the
American president gave no indication that he would finally fulfill his promise
to the British prime minister to use American power to help force an
Why these extreme differences of
policy and perception between America and Europe, and even Great Britain?
First, on the spiritual and
existential level, Europe has learned from a
series of destructive wars over the centuries that human motivation and behavior
are not fixed. Individual human beings for the most part are not inspired by
implacable evil but by the worldly situations they find themselves in. Human
beings can change according to these conditions — so the wise man changes the
Anwar Sadat, who originally
supported the Nazis in World War II, eventually became the world’s most
respected voice of peace; Jomo Kenyatta, the Mau-Mau terrorist in the colonial
war against the British, later was accepted by the world as leader of an
independent Kenya; the wise Sultan of Oman co-opted the leaders of a Marxist
movement fighting him and made them his leading cabinet members.
But there is little
understanding in the Bush administration that life is an evolving experience, a
moving river that can carry one to different destinations. Rather, the “W”
vision is that good and evil are set in man, and the person is doomed to be that
forever. That is behind the Bush idea that all insurgents must be destroyed,
pure and simple.
Today, the Americans question
the Europeans’ principles of evolutionary change, of seeing Arafat as the
leader, albeit flawed, of the Palestinians, and of working with
Iran on its nuclear policy until they
find it cheating.
The Europeans, for their part,
question the American principles of employing unlimited force to gain suzerainty
in Iraq (news – web sites), of
seeing other nations as cultureless pieces on a cynical chessboard, and of
refusing to distinguish between “good dictators” in Libya, Uzbekistan and
Kyrgyzstan and “bad dictators” in Syria and Iran.
The European position is that
most evil in the world is situational, the result of historical dislocation and
injustice. The American position is that some men and women are evil incarnate
and thus must be destroyed.
Also, the European position on
Israel, far more critical
than America’s, sees
criticism of Israel as simply responsible judgment
of an immensely armed nation-state that has, in fact, done considerable harm to
the Palestinians. The American position on Israel is that it, as the famous “only democracy
in the Middle East,” can do no harm in
protecting itself and all “give” must come from the Palestinians.
Europe today is a work in
progress, fluid and ready for responsible change; America believes
it is completing a long democratic experiment that has essentially led to its
struggle, then, is caught between these two interpretations of man’s mind and
These counter ideas and counter
convictions on human change also are emerging over Iran. The
Europeans do not want to turn Iran into a mortal enemy, even while
keeping an eye on their nuclear program. The American policy is, at least
rhetorically, leaning toward still another military “solution” there.
So is the death of Yasser Arafat
likely to bring forth real change in the ongoing tragedy that haunts the
Middle East? Not likely, I would think.
When President Bush and Prime
Minister Tony Blair met this week, the American leader still made no promises to
the Brit. Journalists in London were immediately saying, “Hey, Tony, where’s the
There was no answer. And so the
Americans continue to hyperventilate that the “road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad,” while the Europeans insist it is the
other way around. Meanwhile, in the Middle
East, no road seems to be going anywhere.
From Foreign Policy Magazine
Think Again: Yasir
By Dennis B. Ross
In 1974, Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), declared before the United Nations that he came “bearing an
olive branch and a freedom-fighter’s gun.” Nearly 20 years later, the world
still does not know if Arafat is a statesman dedicated to peaceful coexistence
with Israel or a resistance leader
dedicated to armed struggle. As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict enters a
tenuous new phase of peace negotiations, understanding Arafat’s true motives
will be essential to fostering a lasting agreement.
“Arafat’s Goal Is a Lasting
Peace With the State of Israel”
doubt it. Throughout the Oslo peace
process, everyone involved—Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Egyptians, Saudis,
and other Arab leaders—shared the belief that Arafat wanted peace with
Israel. It seemed logical. After all,
Arafat had crossed the threshold and recognized Israel,
incurring the wrath of secular and religious rejectionists. And he had
authorized five limited or interim agreements with the Israelis. Although Arafat
held out until the last possible minute and strived for the best deal, he
eventually made the compromises necessary to reach those interim agreements.
Unfortunately, such short-term
progress masked some disquieting signals about the Palestinian leader’s
intentions. Every agreement he made was limited and contained nothing he
regarded as irrevocable. He was not, in his eyes, required to surrender any
claims. Worse, notwithstanding his commitment to renounce violence, he has never
relinquished the terror card. Moreover, he is always quick to exaggerate his
achievements, even while maintaining an ongoing sense of grievance. During the
process, he never prepared his public for compromise. Instead, he led the
Palestinians to believe the peace process would produce everything they ever
wanted—and he implicitly suggested a return to armed struggle if negotiations
fell short of those unattainable goals. Even in good times, Arafat spoke to
Palestinian groups about how the struggle, the jihad, would lead them to
often his partners in the peace process dismissed this behavior as Arafat being
caught up in rhetorical flourishes in front of his “party” faithful. I myself
pressed him when his language went too far or provoked an angry Israeli
response, but his stock answer was that he was just talking about the importance
of struggling for rights through the negotiation process.
But from the start of the
negotiations in 1993, Arafat focused only on what he was going to receive, not
what he had to give. He found it difficult to live without a cause, a struggle,
a grievance, and a conflict to define him. Arafat never faced up to what he
would have to do—even though we tried repeatedly to condition him. As a result,
when he was finally put to the test with former President Bill Clinton’s
proposal in December 2000, Arafat failed miserably.
To read more – go to
Yasser Arafat –
Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat As Qudwa
al-Hussaeini was born on 24 August 1929 in Cairo**,
his father a textile merchant who was a Palestinian with some Egyptian ancestry,
his mother from an old Palestinian family in Jerusalem. She died when Yasir, as he was
called, was five years old, and he was sent to live with his maternal uncle in
Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine, then under
British rule, which the Palestinians were opposing. He has revealed little about
his childhood, but one of his earliest memories is of British soldiers breaking
into his uncle’s house after midnight, beating members of the family and
After four years in Jerusalem, his father brought him back to Cairo, where an older
sister took care of him and his siblings. Arafat never mentions his father, who
was not close to his children. Arafat did not attend his father’s funeral in
In Cairo, before he was seventeen Arafat was smuggling arms to
Palestine to be
used against the British and the Jews. At nineteen, during the war between the
Jews and the Arab states, Arafat left his studies at the University of Faud I (later Cairo University) to fight against the Jews in the Gaza area. The defeat of
the Arabs and the establishment of the state of Israel left him in such despair that he applied
for a visa to study at the University of Texas. Recovering his spirits and
retaining his dream of an independent Palestinian homeland, he returned to
University to major in
engineering but spent most of his time as leader of the Palestinian
He did manage to get his degree
in 1956, worked briefly in Egypt, then resettled in Kuwait, first
being employed in the department of public works, next successfully running his
own contracting firm. He spent all his spare time in political activities, to
which he contributed most of the profits. In 1958 he and his friends founded
Al-Fatah, an underground network of secret cells, which in 1959 began to publish
a magazine advocating armed struggle against Israel. At the
end of 1964 Arafat left Kuwait to become a full-time revolutionary,
organising Fatah raids into Israel from Jordan.
It was also in 1964 that the
Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was established, under the sponsorship
of the Arab League, bringing together a number of groups all working to free
the Palestinians. The Arab states favoured a more conciliatory policy than
Fatah’s, but after their defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Fatah emerged
from the underground as the most powerful and best organised of the groups
making up the PLO, took over that organisation in 1969 when Arafat became the
chairman of the PLO executive committee. The PLO was no longer to be something
of a puppet organisation of the Arab states, wanting to keep the Palestinians
quiet, but an independent nationalist organisation, based in Jordan.
Arafat developed the PLO into a
state within the state of Jordan with its own military forces.
King Hussein of Jordan,
disturbed by its guerrilla attacks on Israel and other violent methods,
eventually expelled the PLO from his country. Arafat sought to build a similar
organisation in Lebanon, but this time was driven out
by an Israeli military invasion. He kept the organization alive, however, by
moving its headquarters to Tunis. He was a survivor himself, escaping
death in an airplane crash, surviving any assassination attempts by Israeli
intelligence agencies, and recovering from a serious stroke.
His life was one of constant
travel, moving from country to country to promote the Palestinian cause, always
keeping his movements secret, as he did any details about his private life. Even
his marriage to Suha Tawil, a Palestinian half his age, was kept secret for some
fifteen months. She had already begun significant humanitarian activities at
home, especially for disabled children, but the prominent part she took in the
public events in Oslo was a surprise for many Arafat-watchers.
Since then, their daughter, Zahwa, named after Arafat’s mother, has been
The period after the expulsion
from Lebanon was a low time for Arafat and
the PLO. Then the intifada (shaking) protest movement strengthened Arafat
by directing world attention to the difficult plight of the Palestinians. In
1988 came a change of policy. In a speech at a special United Nations session
held in Geneva, Switzerland, Arafat declared that the PLO
renounced terrorism and supported “the right of all parties concerned in the
Middle East conflict to live in peace and security, including the state of
Israel and other
The prospects for a peace
agreement with Israel now brightened. After a
setback when the PLO supported Iraq in the Persian Gulf War of 1991,
the peace process began in earnest, leading to the Oslo Accords of 1993.
This agreement included provision
for the Palestinian elections, which took place in early 1996, and Arafat was
elected President of the Palestine Authority. Like other Arab regimes in the
area, however, Arafat’s governing style tended to be more dictatorial than
democratic. When the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu came to power
in Israel in 1996, the peace process
slowed down considerably. Much depends upon the nature of the new Israeli
government, which will result from the elections to be held in 1999.
From Democracy Now
Chomsky on Yasser Arafat,
Iraq and the
This past weekend, MIT linguistics
professor Noam Chomsky spoke at the 25th Anniversary of Coalition for Peace
Action in Princeton,
New Jersey. The historian and
author of over 100 books spoke about Yasser Arafat, Iraq and the military draft. This is
an excerpt of what he had to say.
Noam Chomsky, speaking at
the 25th Anniversary of Coalition for Peace Action in Princeton, New
NOAM CHOMSKY: I had a
little time on the airplane and read this morning’s Times and there is,
as expected, a front page story that is in the weekend review by a very good
reporter. It’s about a highly significant topic, how to establish democracy —
or the president’s messianic vision, as the Boston Globe calls it, my own
newspaper. And it discusses a current example, which has had a huge amount of
media commentary in the last couple days, the Palestinian issue, what happens
after Arafat. The first paragraph says that the post-Arafat era will be the
latest test of a quintessentially American article of faith, that elections
provide legitimacy, even to the frailest institutions. Okay, that’s our
quintessential article of faith. Then it goes on, and we’ll skip to the last
paragraph. The last paragraph on the continuation page says there’s a paradox.
In the past, the Bush administration, and he could have added every previous
one, resisted new national elections among Palestinians. The thought was that
the elections would make Mr. Arafat look better, and give him a fresher mandate,
and might have helped give credibility and authority to Hamas. So in other
words, we have a quintessential commitment to democracy, but in the single
example that is given we oppose democracy because the outcome might come out the
wrong way. Well, there are some conclusions you can draw from that one example.
To read more go to – http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/15/1448219
From the New York
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, OP-ED COLUMNIST
The day after Yasir Arafat died, USA
Today carried a big, bold headline that caught my eye. It said: “Arafat Dies,
All I could think of when
reading that headline was its double meaning. Yasir Arafat left a void of
leadership, with no formal successor. But he also left a void of achievement.
And it is that second void that really matters, considering that he led the
Palestinian movement for some 40 years.
You will pardon me if I don’t
join in the insipid chorus about how Arafat’s great achievement was the way he
represented the “aspirations” for statehood of the Palestinian people and,
through terrorism and resistance, put the Palestinian cause on the world
Excuse me, but Yasir Arafat put
the Palestinian cause on the world map in 1974, when he was invited to address
the U.N. General Assembly. What did he do with all that attention after that?
Very little. There is a message in his life and his legacy for every world
leader: If all you do is express the aspirations, but never produce the reality,
then history will judge you very harshly. And any honest history of Yasir Arafat
will judge him on his voids, not his visions.
Will we now see the emergence of
a Palestinian leadership – a broad coalition from Hamas to Fatah – ready to take
the collective decision to really reconcile with the Jews that Arafat was not
ready to make on his own?
Will Arab leaders, like Crown
Prince Abdullah of Saudi
Arabia, who put forth a peace plan, be ready to
really help the Palestinians make the tough decisions by giving them Arab cover?
Or will we simply have another generation of expressive politics by Arab
leaders, who love the Palestinian cause but not the Palestinian
Ariel Sharon seems to have
already started to learn some of the lessons of Arafat’s life. Mr. Sharon was
asked recently what made him change his mind, and risk his own life and
political career, to undertake a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza after so many years
opposing such a move. His answer: There were things he could see “from here”
that he couldn’t see “from there.”
In other words, sitting in the
chair of the prime minister, he could suddenly see the long-term interests of
the Israeli people in a different way.
“Sharon has started to give up his popularity
among his own constituency, because he realizes that the welfare of the Israeli
people, as a whole, requires decisions that are unpopular but unavoidable,” said
the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi. But Sharon cannot stop just with Gaza. He’s got a lot more popularity to give up
with his old constituency if we’re going to see a deal on the West Bank.
Finally, what about President
Bush? When it comes to the Arab-Israel question, he’s had a little bit of Arafat
disease himself. He’s given some of the best speeches of any president on the
Arab-Israel issue and delivered the most pathetic diplomacy I have ever seen.
This divide reflects the
paralyzing split in his administration between those who understand that
America will never win the
war of ideas in the Middle East without working seriously on the most emotional
issue in Arab political life – the Palestine question – and those, like the vice
president and secretary of defense, who think the whole issue is overrated. The
first group are right, the second are wrong. The president needs to
If only President Bush called in
Colin Powell and said: “Colin, neither of us have much to show by way of
diplomacy for the last four years. I want you to get on an airplane and go out
to the Middle East. I want you to sit down with
Israelis and Palestinians and forge a framework for a secure Israeli withdrawal
from Gaza and progress toward a secure peace in the West Bank, and I don’t want
you to come back home until you’ve got that. Only this time I will stand with
“As long as you’re out there, I
will not let Rummy or Cheney fire any more arrows into your back. So get going.
It’s time for you to stop sulking over at Foggy Bottom and time for me to make a
psychological breakthrough with the Arab world that can also help us succeed in
Iraq – by making it easier for Arabs and Muslims to stand with us. I don’t want
to see you back here until you’ve put our words into
Yasir Arafat preferred to die,
beloved by all his people, in a Paris military hospital – rather than sacrifice
his popularity and maybe his life so that the majority of his people could live
and die at home. Will Ariel Sharon, George Bush and the Arab and Palestinian
leaders now follow his model and play to the crowds, or play to