If Ariel Sharon succeeds in murdering Yasser Arafat, as he
wants to, the Palestinian leader will remain in the collective memory of
his people, and the whole Arab world, like Moses in Jewish memory.
Moses rebelled against Egyptian oppression, led his people
forth from "the house of bondage", led them for 40 years in the desert,
made a new people out of them and brought them to the threshold of the
Promised Land. He did not enter the land itself – God only showed it to
him from afar. That will be told about Arafat, too, if he becomes a martyr
Moses is, of course, a mythological figure. No serious
scholar in the world believed that the exodus from Egypt really happened.
Experts explain that it could not have taken place at all. But that is not
really important: the mythological Moses shaped the consciousness of the
Jewish people more than any flesh-and-blood leader of a nomad tribe in the
desert could have done.
The Haggada, the book read on Passover’s eve by almost
every Jewish family throughout the world, commands us to feel as if we
ourselves had set forth from Egypt. The basic Jewish ethos is built on
this premise. The text of Ten Commandments in Deuteronomium 5 explains why
on the holy Sabbath the servants and slaves must be allowed to rest, too:
"Remember that thou wast a slave in the land of Egypt."
In the new myth that is being born before our eyes, Sharon
is the Pharaoh and we are the ancient Egyptians. In the story about the
Exodus, the Bible lets God say: "I have hardened (Pharaoh’s) heart and the
heart of his servants." After every calamity that befell him, Pharaoh
broke his promise to free the Israelites. Why? What was God’s purpose? He
wanted the Israelites to become hardened by the hardship, before they
started on their long march. This is what is happening to the Palestinians
So what will happen if an Israeli bullet kills Arafat now?
After Moses, no second Moses appeared, but Jehosuah, the merciless warrior
who committed genocide. (This, by the way, is also a myth. All serious
scholars believe that this holy genocide never actually happened.) After
Arafat, the heir will not be Abu-this or Abu-that. It will be Brother
Kalachnikoff – like the song we used to sing in our youth, during the
fight against the British occupation: "Give the floor to Comrade
Parabellum, Give the floor to Comrade Tommy-gun." Parabellum was a pistol,
tommy-gun a sub-machine-gun.
There will be no Palestinian Quisling – and if a candidate
would be found, he would be killed the next day, like Sharon’s Lebanese
Quisling, Bashir Jumail. Dozens of local guerilla leaders will take over,
and they will start a campaign of revenge that may go on for many years,
not only in the country, but throughout the world. The life of every
Israeli will become hell, all the world will become a Jerusalem-style Ben-Yehuda
street. No Israeli embassy, no airplane, no tourist will be safe.
The dead Arafat will be by far more dangerous than the
living Aarafat. The living Arafat is able and willing to make peace. The
dead Arafat can not. He will eternalize the conflict.
In our days, historians wonder what folly took possession
of the Jewish people 1930 years ago, causing them to start a hopeless
rebellion against the Roman empire and bringing utter destruction upon the
Jewish commonwealth in Palestine. A hundred years from now, historians
will ask themselves what folly took possession of this people, causing it
to elect Sharon, a bloody person who has not done anything in life apart
from shedding blood and set up settlements. What folly took possession of
this people, causing it to prefer settlements and some territories to
peace and conciliation? And how does this people remain indifferent, when
the whole Arab world offers it – perhaps for the last time! – real peace
and normal relations, and the public is listening to the silly ranting of
politicians and commentators, who ridicule the offer and cheer Sharon on,
at the start of a bloody campaign worse than any one before?
History remembers the few, who warned the people of the
disaster that is bound to follow if they listen to the Zealots. History
will remember us, the few who are warning the people now of the disaster
that will befall all of us, if we follow Sharon and his gang. Let’s hope
that our voices will be heard in time, so that we can start on a new road.
If Arafat will be murdered, it will be the moment of no return.
[The author has closely followed the career of Sharon for four decades.
Over the years, he has written three extensive biographical essays about
him, two (1973, 1981) with his cooperation.]