November 11, 2004

Arafat Dies

The symbol and very embodiment of Palestinian national aspirations is dead. The WaPo appears first out of the gates with a Lee Hockstader obit.

By dint of ruthless violence often directed at civilians, artful manipulation and the sheer theatrical force of his personality, he managed almost single-handedly to elevate the grievances of a few million disenfranchised Palestinians to a prominent place on the world's political agenda...

Yet for all Arafat's public exposure, a sense of mystery remained about his essential nature and some of the basic facts of his life, thanks partly to his own efforts at obscuring them.

He could be charming, courtly and good-humored in private, pouring tea for his visitors and regaling them with amusing (if inflated) accounts of his battlefield exploits, narrow escapes and political travails. Yet he was an unimposing character, 5 feet 4, bald, thick-waisted, bug-eyed, temperamental, ineloquent and modestly educated. People delved into his speeches in search of an ideology, only to come up empty-handed. To this day, there is confusion about his place of birth, controversy about his battlefield exploits and debate about any number of episodes in his spectacularly eventful life.

Still, few doubted his knack for survival, the product of astonishing talent, luck or intuition. Many or most of his closest aides and confidants were murdered in the course of their long guerrilla struggle. But Arafat emerged intact from 40 assassination attempts (by his own, probably exaggerated tally), plus wars and rebellions, car accidents, a plane crash that killed both the pilot and co-pilot, and a stroke. And he managed to keep himself and his Palestine Liberation Organization whole and relevant despite devastating political setbacks and military defeats.

And the end:

Even as the negotiations sputtered on after Camp David, in September 2000 a bloody new Palestinian insurrection erupted at the very site that had been central to the talks -- the Temple Mount -- following a visit there by Arafat's longtime nemesis, Sharon, then the Israeli opposition leader. The new intifada spread, with Arafat's blessing or consent, and in the process it destroyed his dreams of self-determination in the near term for his people.

Provoked by Palestinian suicide bombers and other attacks, Israel reoccupied large swaths of the West Bank, inflicted thousands of casualties, destroyed much of the Palestinian economy and started building a security barrier intended to deter the suicide bombers from entering the country -- even as it separated thousands of Palestinians from their own land.

Declared officially "irrelevant" by Sharon, who had by then become prime minister, Arafat was shunned by the Bush administration and confined by Israeli troops to the bomb-blasted rubble of his once-grandiose presidential compound in Ramallah, the West Bank's main city. His globe-trotting days finished, his health in decline, his aspirations shattered, Arafat had become a prisoner in his own land.

Risking an Israeli assassination attempt or forced exile if he left the compound, he passed his days in isolation, receiving foreign diplomats and issuing pronouncements that seemed increasingly divorced from events. His influence waning and his profile at home and abroad in decline, he lived on more as a symbol than an actor in Palestinian affairs. And his lifelong dream -- self-determination for the Palestinian people -- remained elusive.

More on the ramifications of Arafat's death as soon as time allows.

Posted by Gregory at November 11, 2004 04:45 AM
Comments

"ARAFAT IS DEAD! Good riddance."

"Excuse me, can you repeat that please?"

"I said ARAFAT IS DEAD; GOOD RIDDANCE!"

"Excuse me, would you mind repeating that again, slowly and very loudly, please?"

"AR-A-FAT IS DEAD! GOOD RID-DANCE!"

"Please say it again?"

"What... are you DEAF, or do you think I am a LIAR, or do you have Alzheimer's or something!?"

"No. I hear perfectly fine, I'm sure you're as honest as the day is long, and my mind - thank God - is as sharp as a pin!"

"Then why are you making me repeat it over and over again!?"

"I just like the way it sounds!"

posted by reliapundit

http://astuteblogger.blogspot.com/2004/11/no-i-just-like-way-it-sounds.html

Posted by: reliapundit at November 11, 2004 01:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Arafat went to a fortune teller to learn when he would die.

"You will die on a Jewish holiday" was the answer.

Today is a Jewish holiday.

Posted by: Paul at November 11, 2004 01:52 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The WaPo writer argues that "[Arafat's] lifelong dream -- self-determination for the Palestinian people -- remained elusive."

This is asinine. Unless one equates self-determination with Arafat's dictatorship, there is nothing whatsoever that would suggest that Arafat's objective at any point was "self-determination for the Palestinians."

In fact, during his forty years of misrule, Arafat was the principal enemy of Palestinian democracy. He created a mafia-style thugocracy in which courts had no power and elections no meaning. He assassinated his rivals, and executed others who fell afoul of any of his terrorist puppet organizations. He stole billions from his people and ground them into fourth-world misery and squalor. He refused the most generous peace offer that any Palestinian leader will ever see, and all for the simple, blindingly obvious reason that a real Palestinian democracy would have brought Arafat's spree of slaughtering and looting to an end.

For Arafat, the worst possible situation was always the best possible situation. His cause was always and everywhere the cause of one thoroughly corrupt and savage man. One pities the Palestinians all the more that they could not, would not, rid themselves of their greatest oppressor-- the John Gotti character in the keffiyeh.

Posted by: lex at November 11, 2004 09:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lex;

I agree, but many on the Left confuse self-determination with indiginous rule - as if a nation ruled by the Taliban or Saddam or Stalin or Mao-- OR ANY OTHER TYRANNY -- could be self-determined.

Self-determination can ONLY come about as the result of democracy; there is no other way for the sovereign people to determine and constitute themselves.

As such, democracy is never "imposed" as critics of the neo-cons love to charge; democracy is the only means by which people can mutually constitute a government of common self-rule.

What is imposed is tyranny; the removal of the imposition of tyranny is thus LIBERATION - when it is followed by democracy. When it followed by another tyranny, it is merely a coup d'etat.

Arafat was not a democrat; Arafat was a tyrant; therefore he was anti-thetical to self-determination of the Palistinian people.

**** Bush got this from the start; it's why he took the tough road and isolated Arafat - which is one of the two or three MAJOR reasons the Europeans don't like him. ****

Posted by: reliapundit at November 11, 2004 11:24 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I don't agree that Arafat's lifelong dream was self determination for the Palestinian people -- if he had wanted that he could have had it. His lifelong dream was the extermination of the Jewish state, and he was blessed with his choice of enemies. No other nationality would have been as easy to murder and abuse, while simultaneously claiming the moral high ground. Arafat's life and career are proof that anti-Semitism is bred in the bone of the average European, much more verulently than anti-black racism in the average American.

Posted by: wayne at November 12, 2004 09:46 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

WAYNE: right on.

Posted by: reliapundit at November 12, 2004 03:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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