Thursday, November 11, 2004


Ever since Yasser Arafat got sick, editorial after editorial has described him as a corrupt terrorist who killed thousands of innocent Israelis. Now these editorials say, we have a chance at peace, something that W has also said now that Arafat has died. This anti-Arafat rhetoric has sickened me. Was Arafat perfect? No. He turned out to be a poor administrator and corruption was a problem. However, is he at fault for the situation in Israel-Palestine? Is he the one who has forced the Palestinian people into poverty and second-class citizenship in the region? Was it Arafat who forced millions of Palestinians off of their land after World War II and into a state of permanent poverty with the approval of Britain and the United States? Hell no.

Let's also remember who started the second Intifada. It was Ariel Sharon who decided to go strolling with Israeli military figures at the Temple Mount in a direct challenge to the Palestinians. It is the Israelis who have never been able to admit that they treated the people of Palestine in a way not altogether unlike the way they had just been treated in World War II. It's the Israelis who don't want Palestinians to achieve economic and social equality within the state of Israel. And frankly, Israel deserves the lion's share of the blame for the suicide bombs that have killed thousands of their people.

After all, what was Arafat and the PLO to do? Their land had been stolen from them. Racism abounded and still abounds in Israel. They were forced to live in horrible conditions in refugee camps. At least until the Camp David meetings in 2000, Israel never offered any sort of settlement to begin stemming some the problems that led to the rise of the Intifada and suicide bombers. Barak should receive credit for making the offer and Arafat scorn for rejecting it out of hand. But since then, it's not as if Israel has continued to make reasonable offers. Their response was for Sharon to start the Second Intifada, then to elect him prime minister and for the oppression of the Palestinians to continue.

It was time for Arafat to pass from the scene. He did all he could do and by now he was a negative influence on solving these difficult problems. He should have accepted Barak's offer and put the ball in Israel's court to follow through. He should have been less corrupt. But for peace to really have a chance in Israel, we need Sharon to pass from the scene too and new Israeli policies to combat anti-Arab racism, get the settlers out of the West Bank and Gaza--by military force if necessary, give the Palestinians real economic opportunities, and give them the state that they need and deserve. Then we'll start talking about a real solution.