Free-Floating Hostility

Thursday, November 11, 2004


I learned of Yasir Arafat's death when the local NBC affiliate put it on the crawl during LAX. But 12 hours later I still don't know what to make of it. An headline this morning calls Arafat an "icon," which is a nice neutral word. I suspect Arafat's legacy likely too complex to be understood for years and years, or at least until Sunday when Tom Friedman, in recovery from his bout of neo-conitis, will write about it in the New York Times.

Arafat created a Palestinan national identity that wasn't there before. And his ability to get on television and have the ear of major leaders certainly was a source of pride. But by the end, Arafat's political capital relied on the struggle for "liberation." A concrete land with set borders would have ended that struggle as well as the dreams of taking back the whole of Israel that he embodied. I think he'll be defined by his last major act on the world stage, walking away from Camp David when he was being offered a deal that included rights to Jerusalem. It set the stage for Sharon's ascendance, allowing him to cast Arafat as the primary obstacle to peace and engage in a military policy that has managed to kill a lot of people though -- it must be said -- has also slowed the rate suicide attacks.

On the political level, I'm not sure how much Arafat's death will change the dynamic in the peace process. My sense is not much because Israel marginalized him and found no one else to negotiate with. Perhaps this will force Sharon to choose someone to sit on the other side of the table. But I don't see how the basic political realities have really changed. Hamas is still there along with economic blight and a sense of powerlessness. I don't believe Sharon could ever have made a deal with Arafat because the emnity was too great. But I'm not sure I trust Sharon to make a deal with some other Palestinan leader. He's been a part of the fight too long. And if a new Palestinan leader gets too close to Israel does he immediately lose his legitimacy, and therefore the ability to bring the people with him as he tries for peace? I just don't know.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at November 11, 2004 12:08 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Yasir Arafat's greatest contribution to the World is the refinement and near-legitimation of Mass Media Terrorist Spectacle. I would refer to him as the Bizzaro Ghandi. By using violence against civilians in spectacular means, he was able to bring more attention and sympathy to his cause than various other oppressed groups (some with arguably greater claims for justice).

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