Yasir Arafat – A Symbol of Freedom

On April 2, 2002, Yasir Arafat was offered a permanent exile by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from his isolated life within the boundaries of his headquarters in Ramallah but he said, “he would rather die than leave West Bank”.

The man, who in his over four decades long unmatchable struggle and sacrifices, if wanted, could cash a luxurious and peace life. He could bargain a piece of land in the name of freedom and on the mercy of Israel to record his name in history as founder. But as long as he survived, he never compromised because of the blood shed by unaccountable martyrs in the struggle of independent state of Palestine.

On November 11, 2004, this great freedom fighter left this world with giving the message to his followers and human rights activities around the world that in the struggle of freedom and peace ones lifetime is not enough for the cause. Yasir Arafat made himself ever alive by dieing without compromising on principles. According to another great leader and Nobel Peace winner, former South African President Nelson Mandela, said, about Yasir Arafat, “he was not only concerned with the liberation of the Arab people but of all the oppressed people throughout the world, Arabs and non-Arabs. To lose a man of that stature and thinking is a great blow to all those who are fighting against oppression".

Pope John Paul II tributes him as “A leader of great charisma who loved his people and tried to guide them towards national independence" .

Born in Cairo, Egypt in 1929, Yasir Arafat formed Palestinian Students’s Leaque in 1949 in Cairo. To enforce his voice for the freedom of Palestine with power and politics, in January, 1965, Yasir Arafat announced Fatah Guerrialla Movement. Then on February 4, 1969, he took over the chairmanship of Palestine Liberation Organization.

On November 13, 1974, Yasir Arafat delivered an historic speech at the United Nations. He, wearing gun holster and holding sprig, in his long and stunning speech, he said “our revolution has not been motivated by racial or religious factors. Its target was never the Jew, as a person, but racist Zionism and undisguised aggression. In this sense, ours is also a revolution for the Jew, as a human being, as well. We are struggling, so that Jews, Christians and Muslims may live in equality, enjoying the same rights and assuming the same duties, free from racial or religious discrimination. We do distinguish between Judaism and Zionism. While we maintain our opposition to the colonialist Zionist movement, we respect the Jewish faith. Today, almost one century after the rise of the Zionist movement, we wish to warn of its increasing danger to the Jews of the world, to our Arab people and to world peace and security”.

On June 6, 1982, Israel invades Lebanon to crush PLO, forcing Arafat and his loyalists to flee Beirut. He escaped death from Israeli air raid on PLO headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia.

Yasir Arafat tried every possible means and options for peace and freedom of the people of Palestine. On December, 12, 1988, he accepted Israel’s right to exist and renounced terrorism. Yet he never received counter offer from Israel on the recognition of Palestine.

When Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait in August, 1990, Yasir Arafat supported him. Many believe that this was his crucial mistake as he annoyed many Key Arab States including Saudi Arabia. In result, Yasir Arafat received enormous cut down aids from the Arab States to PLO.

A major break through happened in September, 1993 when Yasir Arafat signed an accord with Israel in Oslo on Palestinian autonomy getting control of most of the Gaza Strip which was 27 percent of West Bank.

In July 1994, he returned from exile, after 26 years, to Palestine and established Palestinian authority in Gaza strip. In the same year, he was awarded Nobel Peace Prize. Again in January, 1997, Arafat signed an accord with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Israeli pullout from 80 percent of West Bank city of Hebron.

On July 11, 2000, with the efforts of former US President Bill Clinton, Yasir Arafat singed historic accord of "Camp David II" with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, however, later the summit was declared a failure.

Some world leaders today particularly US, UK leadership and Australian Prime Minister John Howard are describing Yasir Arafat as an obstacle in peace. Prime Minister John Haward (referring Camp David Summit) in a radio interview said, Yasir Arafat missed the opportunity and he could have achieved peace for his people.

Referring Camp David summit as ‘missed opportunity’, means supporting Israeli agenda and totally ignoring Palestinian demand.

The failure of “Camp David II” summit did not surprise most Palestinians or those who understand the Palestinian opinion on the issues. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s well-publicized "red lines" going into the negotiations delineated a position very far from the minimum that the Palestinian national consensus could accept as a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Barak loudly announced that Israel would not return to its pre-1967 war borders. He sought to annex settlement blocs containing about 80% of the 180,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank (excluding Jerusalem) to Israel.

Like every Israeli leader since 1967, Barak demanded that the Palestinians accept all of Jerusalem as Israel’s "eternal capital." And Barak insisted that Israel would accept no moral or legal responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem.

In essence, Barak demanded that the Palestinians give their blessing to Israel’s many violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention and dozens of UN resolutions since 1967–most notably the confiscation of land for civilian purposes, settling civilians in occupied territories, the unilateral and internationally unrecognized annexation of East Jerusalem and the installation of some 175,000 Jewish settlers there.

Since January 2002, Yasir Arafat and key members of his cabinet were isolated in PLO headquarter in Ramallah. Israeli forces surrounded PLO headquarter with tanks and armored personnel carriers.

On the other hand the rest of the Arab leaders were found to be less interested in Yasir Arafat’s situation.

On going US-led forces operation in Iraq, the systematic destruction of Iraq, the helpless and weaken conditions of Arab Leaders, all this made Yasir Araft disheartened and mentally and physically distressed. Yet he never compromised with the Israeli authorities.

Today, Yasir Arafat is not in this world but his lesson will be remembered by many generations.