The Facts Machine

"And I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide"

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

YASSER ARAFAT

Michael Jackson molested kids. Does that change your opinion of "Billie Jean" or "Beat It"? Should they take back his Grammys?

Should they take back Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize?

If you answer one way on one of those questions, you must answer the same way on the other.

First of all, a news-graphic contest:

CNN:


Elegant! You'd think it was Reagan or Princess Di.

MSNBC:


Blunt! Big block letters, and impartial adjective "pivotal". Note Arafat's furrowed brow; obviously he has fundamental character problems.

The winner?

Fox News! Their picture seems embedded in the background of the their main page, so I can't post it here, but it's the most evocative and balanced (!) of the three cable newsies.

Three representations of Arafat are shown: The young, sunglasses-donning Arafat raises his hands above his head. We see Yasser shaking hands with Rabin, with Bill Clinton presiding over the moment. And we see the older, frail Arafat of present day. Fox's photo essay in enjoyable too, in a "here's Yasser with..." sense.

Anyway, onward...

Yasser Arafat has embodied the best and the worst of the Palestinian cause. He made the single best choice in the past 15 years of the conflict, and he made the single worst choice in those same 15 years. Both of those choices came on American soil, interestingly enough, and within 100 miles of each other.

Best: 1993 at the White House. With a nudge from Bill Clinton, he and Yitzhak Rabin, upon agreeing to the terms of Oslo, embarked on a solitary action that had not been remotely dreamt of for a generation: The shaking of hands between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians. For many, to see that happen was to believe that anything was possible. The sad flipside was that for the hopelessly entrenched from both points of view, to see that happen was to be struck with the fear that their cause for anger and bloody righteousness may be fading. This fear surfaced in the assassination of Rabin by a pro-settlement Israeli radical, yet on the Palestinian end, the ultimate sadness was that the very same fear came about through Arafat himself...

Worst: 2000 at Camp David. Yasser Arafat's decision to walk away from the table at Camp David, choosing instead to launch another intifada, was disastrous and wholly counterproductive. Anything, or certainly much of whatever was unsatisfactory about the offer made to him by Barak and Clinton could have been negotiated after the fact. At that time, Arafat thought there was more to be gained from an adversarial status quo, and by provoking the Israelis, through violence, to elect a more conservative government (Sharon and the Likudniks) and have world opinion turned against them. Not only was he wrong, but with the invasion of Iraq by the American-led coalition, Arafat's cause got swept under the rug, as the decision was made -- on all sides -- that there was a bigger fish to fry. It was a miscalculation on his part, one that has ended thousands of lives, most of them Palestinian Arabs.

All that said, the cause of Palestinian statehood remains a worthy one, and Arafat deserves credit for being the catalyst for the modern Palestininan nationalist movement. So, in this time of your passing, I say to you, Yasser, thank/fuck you.

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