Yasser Arafat’s legacy remains heroic

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The New York Times’ self-hating "moderate" columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, always does his best to disguise his religious-based pro-Israel bias. But in the saga of the deteriorating health of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, he can’t seem to restrain a bitter hatred that merely demonstrates his anti-Palestinian bias.

Writes Friedman, Arafat "was a bad man, not simply for the way he introduced a whole new level of terrorism to the world politics, but because of the crimes he committed against his own people. There, history will judge him harshly."

No Mr. Friedman, pro-Israeli religious hypocrites like you will continue to savage the Palestinians while soft-balling criticism of Israel, mainly because you, too, oppose a just and fair peace accord based on a truly balanced scale of land for peace.

As he survived ruthless assaults against his life over the years, Arafat’s legacy will survive the blistering prejudice of Israel’s cunning advocates like Friedman who dominate the Western media and English-speaking history with pro-Israel blather.

Friedman doesn’t have the Chutzpah to advocate for a genuine peace, nor hold his people, the Israelis, to the same harsh standards that he constantly inflicts upon Palestinians who, like Arafat, had insisted on a peace that was just and fair.

Arafat was a hero. Plain and simple. He was a revolutionary in the same sense of George Washington. If Arafat can be faulted for anything, it was that he was never a good negotiator, nor was he a great government leader either. But what revolutionaries ever are?

Arafat faced an even greater, more insurmountable challenge of trying to transform from a revolutionary to the leader of a government constantly undermined and influenced by Israel. But his genius is undeniable.

Arafat took the Palestinian people out of an oblivious desert. And in the face of the greatest ever hate-inspired propaganda campaign directed against any people on this Earth, he prevailed exposing a canard instilled by Israeli extremism (which is more common than Friedman or others would admit) that "the Palestinians, they don’t exist."

Arafat was the only Palestinian leader who could and did recognize Israel’s right to exist, even without demanding a quid pro quo from the Israelis. He accepted the concept of a two-state solution in spite of a rule of law that prevailed on the side of Palestinian claims.

Arafat embraced a negotiated compromise that he mistakenly believed was on the up-and-up with Israel. He did so knowing full well that during that process Israel never once acted on its promise to dismantle its settlements, which are illegal, every single one, in the face of even the most conservative interpretations of international law.

The peace process blamed on Arafat for failing was never on the up-and-up. It was always skewered toward Israel’s best interests and advantage. It was managed by a negotiator with a religious conviction towards Israel, and a nation that was more advocate for Israel than a fair arbiter for compromise.

The assertion that Israel’s offer to the Palestinians at Camp David was "fair" or "just" is so patently outrageous that it’s hard to resume peace negotiations from that point with any seriousness.

It may have been the "best offer," but it was flawed. Never written down. Never affirmed. Always waved like a mirage to draw the Palestinians into conceding more in exchange for what they always get from Israel, nothing.

There is only one fair solution to the Palestine Israel conflict and Arafat supported it. It’s the Israelis who do not. It is a compromise that demands the return of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, lands occupied in the 1967 War.

It is a compromise that demands that either Israel dismantle ALL of its illegal settlements, including those built around East Jerusalem on lands confiscated illegally from their rightful Palestinian owners.

Justice and fairness demands that Israel trade, inch-for-inch, land for any that it keeps. Instead, Israel’s "greatest offer" proposed 1 inch for every 9 inches of occupied land, and not even in writing.

Arafat’s compromise is a compromise that insists that Israel accept responsibility for creating the Palestinian refugee problem. Dozens of former Israeli leaders have confessed as much in their final writings. It’s ridiculous and insulting to even entertain as serious Israel’s rejection of responsibility.

Arafat’s legacy defines the only compromise that is acceptable and workable. Either the Israelis accept it or they bequeath to a future endless violence and conflict.

Israel will forever be challenged by a people who refused to surrender, who cannot be defeated and how insist on a compromise based on fairness and justice.

As he did in life as a noble leader who deserves everlasting Palestinian gratitude, Arafat continues to elude his adversaries, including his most recent, the call of God himself.

Arafat will die when he chooses, and not a minute sooner.

I thought it was the ultimate irony that news of Arafat’s "death" began on the very day that many remembered his only real partner in peace, Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin was murdered by an Israeli fanatic on Nov. 4, 1995, demonstrating that Israelis are just as prone to violence in the face of a reasoned outcome that requires true compromise.

Many extremists, including Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, believe that now that men like Arafat and Rabin are gone, they can impose a solution that is neither just nor fair.

But Israelis must accept that there can be no peace without justice or fairness. Israelis can no longer continue to hide behind Arafat as the excuse for why peace is unachievable.

It’s not Arafat who has been standing in the way of a genuine peace, but the refusal of most Israelis to be fair, just or even honest about history.

Although Arafat, the man, will be gone, his inspiration to fight for justice and fairness is a legacy that will forever flourish among Palestinians.

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