Arafat is Still a Leader, Regardless

Edna Yaghi’s Column

“Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”

Nelson Mandela from prison

Recently there was an article in The Observer by Peter Beaumont about Palestinian President Yasser Arafat being a leader basically of nothing.

However, walls, locks and prison doors do not a prisoner keep. Arafat’s personage may be confined but nevertheless, his mind is free and he is still the leader of the Palestinian people. The fact that he is under house arrest and even town arrest are possibly more inspiring than if he were able to move from one place to another. His very detention is but yet another somber symbol of the total siege of the Palestinian people themselves.

Beaumont goes on to say that Arafat’s confinement has led to not only his isolation from his own people, but from “his old friends in the Arab world.” Yet it is hardly visible what Arab leaders have contributed to the Palestinian cause for the past 54 years much less to the 16 month old Intifada. Yes, there have been flowing speeches, as flowing as some of the garb the billionaire leaders adorn themselves with, but verbosity and eloquent words help no one as long as it is only lip service. Perhaps the Arab leaders in their rhetorical flowing speeches have even shed a tear or two for sport, but the Palestinian people themselves were sold out long ago and have been left almost entirely on their own to resist, with little but their bare hands, the brutal oppression and occupation of the Jewish racist state of Israel.

Israel is the fourth greatest military power in the world, thanks to the benevolence of the American government. It has the latest American weapons at its disposal and possesses weapons of mass destruction. Israel does not hesitate to use its arms against the Palestinian civilian population and everyone is a target from newborn, to schoolchild, to pregnant woman, to the elderly. No one is safe from bombs dropped by F-16 planes, from the bombardment of Apache helicopters or from the machine guns of Israeli soldiers.

Yet US President George W. Bush voices his anger about the 50 tons of rockets and ammunition that were allegedly being smuggled into Gaza and he nearly chokes on another pretzel whenever an Israeli is killed. I just don’t get it. Something very vital is missing. Why is Israel allowed to have all the weapons and the go-ahead to kill Palestinians, but Palestinians are not even allowed to defend themselves?

Even if Arafat is done away with by the Israelis, his death will not mean the end of the Palestinian people. Quite the opposite, his detention inspires every true freedom lover and he could become a worldwide symbol of resistance just as Nelson Mandela was during the 26 years of his incarceration. Even if Arafat were killed, his death just might lead his people forward to victory just as the death of the Scotch freedom fighter William Wallace did for his fellow countrymen.

Out of their ashes, proud and strong like the Phoenix, the Palestinians rise.