‘Not now Yasser, we’re watching TV’, was the cry that went up on East Coast USA when the Palestinian leader died. CBS said their ‘over-enthusiastic news producer… will know better next time than to deprive viewers of their crime fix’. In some ways, that’s a fitting response because Israel was formed, on what Israel Zangwill and many after him called, ‘a land without people’. Later Golda Meir, would argue that ‘There was no such thing as Palestinians, they never existed. Before 1948, we were the Palestinians.’ Today it’s hard to deny Arafat led a people who exist.
Arafat must take much of the credit for forcing the world to recognise a pre-Israel Palestinian people, currently in need of a homeland. Yet he often cast them in the worst light. If nobody seemed to notice 750,000 refugees in 1947/8, they certainly noticed the Munich Massacre, an ugly first impression of a people. Israel’s beginnings were also ugly, with its freedom fighters happy to call themselves terrorists when fighting a war against the same British army that had recently defeated Hitler. The difference is that the Zionist freedom fighters won, while loser Arafat remained a terrorist.
Arafat was an elected leader without serious opposition, but it was clear that he was a politician meant for opposition. He simply wasn’t up to leading the Palestinian Authority, an embryonic state. With Arafat gone peacefully, the Palestinians have a chance to select a leadership that can take them to the next level. Let Arafat carry the terrorist tag, in the hope it goes with him to the grave, and a Palestinian State will be theirs to lose.
Farewell John Peel……Farewell George Best