Friday, November 12, 2004

NEWSDAY: Arafat's legacy 11-12-04

Revolutionary leader's legacy will endure

Ray Hanania is former national president of the Palestinian American Congress and a syndicated columnist based in Chicago.
November 12, 2004

As he survived ruthless assaults against his life over the years, Yasser Arafat's legacy will survive the blistering attacks from his harsh critics.

Arafat was a great revolutionary, a freedom fighter and, to the Palestinians, a hero. If Arafat can be faulted for anything, it was that he was never a good negotiator, nor was he a great government leader either.

But what revolutionaries ever are? Arafat faced an even greater, more insurmountable challenge of trying to transform from a revolutionary to the leader of a government constantly undermined by Israel's refusal to go far enough in making land concessions for peace.

Arafat's genius is undeniable. He took the Palestinian people out of an oblivious desert. And, in the face of the greatest hate-inspired propaganda campaign directed against any people on this Earth, he prevailed - exposing a canard instilled by Israeli extremism that "the Palestinians, they don't exist."

Arafat was the first real Palestinian leader who could and did recognize Israel's right to exist, even without demanding a quid pro quo from the Israelis. He accepted the concept of a two-state solution in spite of a rule of law that prevailed on the side of Palestinian claims.Arafat embraced the concept of a two-state solution that he mistakenly believed was on the up-and-up with Israel.

He did so knowing full well that during that process Israel never once acted on its promise to dismantle its settlements, which are illegal, every single one, in the face of even the most conservative interpretations of international law.

The peace process blamed on Arafat for failing was never on the up-and-up. It was always skewed toward Israel's best interests and advantage. It was managed by a negotiator with a religious conviction towards Israel, and a nation that was more advocate for Israel than a fair arbiter for compromise.

The assertion that Israel's offer to the Palestinians at Camp David was "fair" or "just" is so patently outrageous that it's hard to resume peace negotiations from that point with any seriousness.

There is only one fair solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict, and Arafat supported it. It's the Israelis who do not.

It is a compromise that demands the return of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, lands occupied in the 1967 War.

It is a compromise that demands Israel dismantle all of its illegal settlements, including those built around East Jerusalem on lands confiscated illegally from their Palestinian owners.Justice and fairness demand that Israel trade, inch-for-inch, land for any that it keeps. I

nstead, Israel's "greatest offer" proposed one inch for every nine inches of occupied land, and not even in writing.Arafat's compromise is a compromise that insists that Israel accept responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugee problem. Dozens of former Israeli leaders have confessed as much in their final writings. It's ridiculous and insulting to even entertain as serious Israel's rejection of responsibility.

Arafat's legacy defines the only compromise that is acceptable and workable. Either the Israelis accept it or they bequeath to the future endless violence and conflict.

Israel will forever be challenged by a people who refuse to surrender, who cannot be defeated and insist on a compromise based on fairness and justice.

As he did in life as a noble leader who deserves everlasting Palestinian gratitude, Arafat continues to elude his adversaries. Arafat survived a week of claims that he had died that began on the ninth anniversary of the assassination of his only real peace partner, Yitzhak Rabin.Many extremists, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, believe that now that men like Arafat and Rabin are gone, they can impose a solution that is neither just nor fair.

But Israelis must accept that there can be no peace without justice or fairness. Israelis can no longer continue to hide behind Arafat as the excuse for why peace is unachievable.

It's not Arafat who has been standing in the way of a genuine peace, but the refusal of most Israelis to be fair, just or even honest about history.

It's time for Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East and in the United States to re-embrace the Rabin-Arafat doctrine and change their attitudes and reopen the contacts that have been abandoned for the past four years. What Palestinians and Israelis need today is that attitude change to make peace possible.

It would have been a tremendous gesture of peace by the Israelis to allow Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem. But they refused that request. Instead, Arafat will be entombed in his old rubbled headquarters, the Muqata in Ramallah. Although Arafat, the man, will be gone, his inspiration to fight for justice and fairness is a legacy that will forever flourish among Palestinians.

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc.


Anonymous said...

Why were the comments removed Ray? The truth bothering you. Have a problem with it? Just like to spout off with your bull rhetoric. How can you sanction Osama and at the same time praise Yasser. deep down, aren't they the same face of the coin. TERRORIST IN ARMS.

Ray said...

Are you that stupid that you don't even know which column you are responding too? :)

That's hilarious. You should take a pill and calm down. Arafat is a great man, reflected in the hatred and ugliness you spew. Clearly, you have no morales and that is reflected in your pathetic inability to express yourself in an intelligent manner. Comments like yours only emphasize the truth of my columns.

So thank you :)

Ray Hanania