November 14, 2004
What most young people don't remember is that before 1993, Arafat was synonymous with terrorism. The PLO was a guerilla organization very much like Al Qaeda. Here are just a few highlights of President and Nobel Laureate Arafat and his PLO merry pranksters in the '70s and '80s.
The man who had been exiled from both Egypt and Jordan was invited to Oslo in 1993 from his exile in Tunis, to sit down with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Here, the Osama Bin Laden of the '70s and '80s was given his own autonomous region to govern and a workable roadmap to getting a completely independent nation. I could go on about the numerous failed opportunities in the '90s, but they are so numerous I won't even name them. It is an almost undisputable fact that Arafat was offered 97% of the West Bank and all of the Gaza strip and on behalf of the Palestinian people replied, "NO. All or nothing."
I think we all know how that turned out. And what has Arafat, as the leader of the autonomous Palestinian territory, managed to amass besides failed opportunities in his ten years at the helm? Oh, about $7 billion! Estimates vary from $300 million to $7 billion, but he's no doubt worth a fortune. Since the 1970s, the PLO has been receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from Arab states and many other western nations. I don't know the exact numbers but it would make a nice shame graph for an ambitious blogger.
This man, who used the plight of the Palestinian people in Refugee camps as political capital, has wealth measured in billions. And yet, he was lauded by Western diplomats and journalists. An anchorwoman for the BBC reported his death with tears in her eyes. Nearly every Foreign Minister in Europe attended his funeral.
Yes, I'm well aware of his George Washington status with the Palestinians. He was powerful human symbol and forceful advocate; Palestinians united behind him in their pursuit of a homeland--or so says Jimmy Carter. I can think of another powerful advocate who rallied a humiliated people to a great pursuit. He felt the same way about Jews as Arafat.
Are we so afraid to call it like it is? Will Osama Bin Laden someday sit down with an American president to negotiate the withdrawal of troops from Saudi Arabia? Arafat has proven that you can move from terrorist to statesmen. He was able to do so because we allowed it. "Give peace a chance" is a really comfortable slogan. When facing a monster, it can me more comfortable to listen to him than to fight him.
I would just as soon homosexuals have every right that I do. I don't really care about abortion. I'm not crazy about the Patriot Act but I'm a one issue voter. And President Bush and I agree on one thing: this, while certainly tragic, is preferable to this.
-- the husband
MORE TO GROK:
Update from Sarah: If you seek his monument, look around you.
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