Arafat 101

If you’ve ever taken a basic course in leadership, you’re told that Rule Number 1 for building sustainable communities is to ensure that you have a successor. That person should be groomed, educated, and assured that they will maintain the values, objectives, and aspirations of a community if the leader is, for whatever reason, absent. This rule holds whether you’re a president, activist, CEO, radical, athlete on a team, military officer, executive director, or chairman.
Mr. Yasser Arafat, moving through the crowd in a bulletproof coffin, had a tremendous amount of time to ensure that his complex constituency would be represented and empowered. As in his life, in which he surely represented the dreams of many Palestinians but could never get past his intransigence to earn his people real peace, he has failed in his death to be a leader of substance and action. It’s a sad judgment and a sad day for many people but I actually believe the future for Palestinians may start today.

5 thoughts on “Arafat 101”

  1. Bad, bad Yasser… Now the barbarians are going to tussle over his legacy.
    If the ‘out’-fighting was bad, just you wait for the in-fighting…

  2. Did anyone see 60 Minutes last night?
    Yasser-bastard is more like it. I think he started to like the Saudi money he was getting, and so the Camp David Accord ended up taking a back-seat. Too bad the didn’t dump his remains – his ashes, whatever – into the Red Sea, or down a drain someplace.
    I hear Alfred Nobel wants a refund…

  3. noam chomsky spoke at princeton over the weekend and he offers an interesting perspective on the mainstream media’s spinning of arafat’s life and death (as published on ‘democracy now’ yesterday):
    “….Well in conformity with these guidelines [the first premise of which is that we, the government, are always guided by benign intent], the New York Times before had a front page think-piece on Arafat’s death. So did many other journals, but I’ll keep to the Times, they’re all approximately the same. The article begins by informing us, first paragraph again, that Arafat was both the symbol of the Palestinians’ hope for a viable independent state and the prime obstacle to its realization. He was never, it goes on, he was never able to reach the heights of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, who won back the Sinai through a peace treaty with Israel in 1979 because he was able to reach out to Israelis and address their fears and hope with his visit to Jerusalem in 1977. That was the same story in every newspaper I looked at with slight nuances. There is a documentary record, rich as possible sources, unambiguous, and it happens to tell a different story. But it’s not allowed. And it is not allowed because it would violate the fundamental principle that what we do is benign, we, meaning the government, not the population. So, let’s take a look at that. The documentary record shows uncontroversially and explicitly and unambiguously that the main obstacle to the realization of the Palestinian state was Washington, and competing pretty well for second place is the New York Times and its colleagues, which have consistently “mispressed” or misrepresented the crucial facts. And the crucial facts are not in doubt. I’ll run through a small sample because it’s brief. Let’s pick some examples. So in 1976, the United States became the chief obstacle to a Palestinian state, very simply. The Security Council of the United Nations debated a resolution calling for a two-state settlement, a Palestinian settlement, a Palestinian state alongside of Israel, both states having all the rights guaranteed in the international system. This was in accord with a very broad international consensus that was supported by the Arab states, backed by the PLO and just about everybody. And in fact by then it had crystallized as an overwhelming international consensus. The U.S. vetoed. It was vetoed. The U.S. veto, incidentally, is a double veto. It vetoes the resolution and also vetoes recording in history. So it’s out of history but it happened. It happened again in 1980, the same resolution, the same again. There is a long record up to the present. It continues consistently, General Assembly initiatives from Europe, initiatives from the PLO, initiatives from the Arab states. Whatever they are, the U.S. blocks them. And that continues, the most recent dramatic case, there are plenty of others, was in Geneva in the year 2002. There are a series bases for settlement along the lines of the international consensus. It was presented by prominent Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. It was strongly supported by almost the whole world with the notable exception the United States, which alone refused to send even a message of support as was indeed reported in the New York Times in a very dismissive article, saying, this is all nonsense. Let’s go to Sadat. Well again, the facts are clear. Sadat in fact did go to Jerusalem and make a proposal, but it was not – but that proposal in 1977 repeated one that he had made in 1971. In 1971, not 1977, Sadat offered a full peace treaty to Israel in accord with official U.S. government policy offering nothing to the Palestinians. Their rights had not yet entered the international agenda. That was recognized by Israel to be a genuine peace offer. They rejected it. They preferred expansion to peace. This is the labor government. Expansion then meant into the northeastern Sinai. Important question as always is what’s the U.S. going to do under Kissinger’s initiative. The U.S. decided to reject its official policy and to support Israeli rejectionism, the policy was what Kissinger called stalemate in his memoirs. Stalemate, we prefer to stalemate not negotiations, just force. That led directly to the 1973 war. A very close call for Israel. Nuclear alert. Very close call for the world. After that, Kissinger recognized that you cannot just dismiss Egypt as a basket case, began his famous shuttle diplomacy, that led to the Camp David agreements where indeed in 1979 the United States and Israel accepted Sadat’s 1971 offer, okay. Actually from the U.S.-Israeli point of view, a harsher offer because by that time, it included a call for a Palestinian state in accordance with a new emerging international consensus, which faced an impossible obstacle, namely the U.S. government and its median commentary. Well, that goes down in history as a diplomatic triumph for the United States. In real history it’s a diplomatic catastrophe. The U.S. refusal to accept a peaceful settlement in 1971 led to a terrible war, very dangerous one, years of suffering and misery with effects that still are very much there. But it shows the advantages of owning history. You can kind of reshape it into your own — to satisfy your own needs. And you therefore get the first paragraph that I just read from the world’s leading newspaper, front page think-piece, duplicated just about everywhere in the media, and that includes journals of opinion. You might try to look for an exception. The example does illustrate again the basic guidelines of commentary, media in particular, but commentary generally. We’re good, meaning the government, not the people, we accept the totalitarian notion that we identify the people with the state, so when they say we, it means the government. The government is good. We are good, benevolent, well-intentioned, that we seek peace and justice. We’re foiled by villain who cannot rise to our exalted level. It doesn’t matter what the facts are. Not that it matters what simple logic tells us….”
    for full text, see

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