The International Writers Magazine: REALITY CHECK with James
Arafat is dead. I could have written that well over 100 times in
the last seven years of penning this column alone. Come to think
of it, I may have done it once or twice anyway.
Forget about how
many times he could have bitten the bullet over the last 40-odd years
of his public life. After all, this is a man who was a functioning revolutionary
freedom fighter/terrorist, whose base camp was smack dab in the center
of the country he was threatening to reconstruct and/or obliterate for
nearly half a century. This is tantamount to Osama bin Laden hanging
out in Cleveland making his handy videotapes and masterminding the random
If you had told me ten years ago that Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic
would be in prison, while Yasser Arafat died in a French hospital of
natural causes, Id have taken that action against vicious odds.
Then again this is man best known for waging war, while winning a Nobel
Peace Prize. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, but swore Jerusalem his birthright.
He was pummeled in two major conflicts with the Israeli Defense Force,
but still managed to maintain credibility with his people. He pretty
much invented modern terrorism, but ran around shooting the peace sign
This is what we in the business call a lifer. I choose to call Arafat
a survivor, and an enviable one at that. Damn enviable. Whether you
loved him or hated him, it was hard not to give him that.
I hated him.
He was a terrible thug. He was also a classic narcissist, claiming to
fight for Palestine, negotiate a state, while grabbing as much face
time on international news and free meals at the White House, but you
never got the feeling this was viable without him running the show.
He had Fidel Castro blood. He was full of himself, and, in the end,
a miserable failure.
Most of us learned of Yasser Arafat and his band of loons called Fatah,
and later the PLO, at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Germany. Arab
guerillas took hostage and later murdered 11 Israeli athletes, much
of the drama unfolding on television with Howard Cosells nasal
drone providing the gory soundtrack. It was the first Olympics I recall
watching. Watergate followed this nicely, and my cheery life of cynicism
But the PLO was just getting warmed up. By the early 1980s Arafats
brand of freedom fighting nearly had all of Lebanon in flames, another
ignominious defeat his worshippers chose to ignore and his enemies saw
fit to let pass.
Yet, death and failure did not deter Arafat. If anything, it was this
kind of brutal mayhem that had people paying attention to the Palestinian
effort to gain statehood in the first place; a resounding victory for
terrorism, and a blow to sober reason and judgment. Of course, those
were loftier concepts to swallow after the powers that be carved up
the Middle East like a Thanksgiving turkey following WWII, concluding
nicely with the U.S.A.s recognition of the Zionist movement as
Israel and the only sane nation in the region.
This, of course, was nothing approaching sanity. Israel has been the
home office for inhumanity and ultra-violence for thousands of years.
Three monotheistic cultures forced to inhabit the same land they each
considered their destiny, the Lords recipe for disaster.
Enter stage Arafat. Forever wrapped in his trademark checkered kaffiyeh
and handy desert fatigues, Arafat played the religious/cultural card
well. Not unlike his successors today who use the Arab culture and Islamic
religion to beat their megalomaniacal chests or corporate goons who
hide behind the American flag. Blatant opportunists. History and the
current globe are littered with them. But no one with half a brain bought
it, least of all the myriad of Israeli leaders who were forced to beat
back Arafats minions time and again, still unable to crush him
completely. This was when Arafat went to plan B, negotiator for peace
settlements, which was a rather interesting maneuver, since he had nothing
in which to negotiate. Apparently unfamiliar with the way things work
on this planet, Arafat developed what I call The Crazyman Theory.
It is one rarely tried by those whipped in a war or sent packing by
progress and gluttony like the American Indian, whose "I was here
first" thing didnt work out all that well.
Arafat seemed to believe that since the Palestinian people, of whom
he could not be included, mind you, had been living there for centuries,
they were entitled to the land. He was also able to continue to carry
rifles around and wave a fist, while keeping pace in the dignitary circuit.
It was quite Al Capone of him, really. I always thought that was what
I most admired about Arafat, his balls; a big scary pair. Rather fearsome
in their enormity.
But even these fleetingly triumphant moments ended in tragedy. After
unconscionably winning the Nobel Peace Prize for signing the Oslo Accords
with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994, an Israeli extremist
assassinated Rabin, not unlike the shooting of poor Anwar Sadat after
he was seen shaking hands with an American president and an infidel.
This is simply because while Arafat put on the good face for the world,
he was spreading hate and fear among his people, blowing up innocent
women and children at bus stations and markets and dance halls. Ive
been in Jerusalem. You cant spit without hitting an Israeli soldier.
Yet, they only seem to be harmed as collateral damage in these monstrous
acts of random violence. So while fighting for freedom may be humanitys
noblest act, murdering the innocent in cold blood is its most heinous.
In the end, Yasser Arafat was a murderer, because the cause does not
justify the means or the direction of those means.
This does not bother the megalomaniac, and it did not sway Yasser Arafat.
Whether it was peace accords or killing innocents, Arafat was in the
news and being cheered and the target of assassinations. He was just
one of those people whose notoriety seemed as insane as his methods.
And now Arafat is dead, and no one seems to know what this will mean
for peace in the region.
It couldnt hurt.
© James Campion November 12th 2004
all rights reserved