Thursday, November 11, 2004

"He slept and ate little, took no vacations and neither drank nor smoked." Jane Brody wouldn't have had a bone to pick with old Yasir

Judith Miller's Arafat obit makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about the man. Which is fine for most obits, but in this case is nauseating.

"No other individual so embodied the Palestinians' plight: their dispersal, their statelessness, their hunger for a return to a homeland lost to Israel."

This statement makes very little sense in the context of what Miller later implies in her obit, which is that the state of Israel preceded the idea of a Palestinian homeland, meaning that such a homeland could not possibly have been "lost to Israel."

"Mr. Arafat assumed many poses. But the image that endures - and the one he clearly relished - was that of the Arab fighter, the grizzled, scruffy-bearded guerrilla in olive-green military fatigues and his trademark checkered head scarf, carefully folded in the elongated diamond shape of what was once Palestine."

"Grizzled." What an understatement, try "physically revolting, even to Suha." I suppose that makes Michael Phelps or Rufus Wainwright "passable."

"Mr. Arafat leaves an ambiguous legacy. He succeeded in creating not only a coherent national movement, led by the Palestine Liberation Organization, but also the very consciousness that made it possible. A master of public relations, he made the world aware of Palestine as a distinct entity. And he helped persuade Palestinians, who now number five million to six million, to think of themselves as a people with a right to sovereignty."

"He slept and ate little, took no vacations and neither drank nor smoked." No wonder he was driven to terrorism.

"Many Palestinians compared him to David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founder and first leader, seeing Mr. Arafat as an Arab pioneer who struggled to lead his people back to their promised land. Many Israelis, by contrast, regarded him as an archterrorist, an opportunist who endorsed peace merely as a tactic to destroy Israel - 'a beast on two legs,' as the late Israeli leader Menachem Begin once called him."

That's a good one the one hand, on the other hand. The Times won't take any side.

"Over the years, 'old man' became apt. His once-taut stomach gave way with age to paunch despite his frequent walks and the treadmill behind his office. What remained of his hair, almost always hidden by his trademark head scarf, turned gray. The face, with its three-day stubble, became visibly lined, his eyes weary."

It is really a waste of space in an obit to describe the physical aging of the deceased. It's sort of assumed, right?

"That same year, he also began wearing his trademark kaffiyeh, which impressed both Arabs and Westerners when he first traveled to Europe in a Palestinian student delegation."

Those scarves are awfully popular in Paris, even (especially?) among non-Arabs. Can't say I saw too many Jewish star necklaces worn in solidarity by non-Jewish French people. Arafat picked the right place to die.

"Successive Palestinian crackdowns on Hamas and other militants invariably gave way to deals, pledges of forgiveness and rounds of kisses."

Feeling queasy yet?

"The White House's hostility to the Palestinian leader hardened over time as American intelligence officials informed the White House that he was lying about his opposition to violence against Israelis. Officials said Mr. Bush came increasingly to equate Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians with militant Islamic attacks on Americans."

Wonder why Bush might associate the two. I mean, it's not as if Islamic militants ever associate Americans and Israelis, not to mention use "Jew" and "Israeli" interchangeably. And those conspiracy theorists who assume Israel was responsible for 9/11? Yeah, it's got to be Bush who's confused.

"Despite deteriorating political and economic conditions, many Palestinians blamed Israel and not their leader for their plight. For many, until the end, Mr. Arafat remained the symbol of Palestinian aspiration to a state, the only man who could have sold the painful compromises for peace to his people had he chosen to do so."

What can we conclude from this, that Palestinians are out of it? That Arafat was, in fact, the grizzled, admirable man Miller suggests she thinks he was? Who the hell knows. I like the Times, they write awful good over there, but sometimes...

Judith Miller offers this in the way of balance: "Palestinians in many Arab countries, including Syria and Lebanon, were restricted to camps and denied citizenship, while their host governments spoke in heartfelt tones of the Palestinian cause."

Uh, yeah, how about that? That strikes me as huge.


Anonymous said...

Descriptions don't tell the entire story; to wit-
He was kind to his dog, put his country's interests first, was a vegetarian, did not steal from his country's treasury, no reports of sexual harassment of underlings, did not smoke or drink. Well it is not Arafat who apparently has billions socked away nor is it Bill Clinton (obviously).

However it does fit Adolf Hitler.

Anonymous said...

On the Palestinian Scarves so popular in Paris, one might say that they became, probably since the 1970s, a general (fashion) symbol for the left, and then even lost their direct political character for many. I doubt that wearing such a scarve is a conscious political statement for most people, though pro-Palestinian sentiments are certainely strong in France.
In defense of France: There were huge solidarity demonstrations in France after fire-bombings against Jewish institutions like schools, assumably committed by Islamic terrorists. It's true, there is a huge anti-Semitism in France, especially among Arabic immigrants, but at the same time, there is a strong tradition of anti-antisemtism as well.
- Jochen