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November 12, 2004

Terrorist Psycho-Babble

One of the less-attractive features of modern liberalism is the need to understand and sympathize with pretty much any form of evil. That this urge for understanding doesn't extend to conservatives should be instructive.

So it's interesting to see how the death of Arafat is being dealt with in the press. Aside from the Kofi Annan/Jimmy Carter/Jacques Chirac triumphirate, the most common observation seems to be of Arafat's weakness. Poor man, he just couldn't help himself.

Consider this Denver Post editorial:

History will have its hands full reaching a verdict on Yasser Arafat, who died Thursday at 75. During a long and complicated tenure as the face and the soul of Palestinian leadership, he was a hero to so many, and to others a bloody-handed terrorist.

In recent years he was an obstacle to peace and to statehood both. Whether out of weakness in his will or in his political position, he was unable to conclude the promise of his revolutionary goals.

Or E.J. Dionne, lamenting Lost Chances:

Yet Arafat was a failure. He could not make the leap from terrorist to national leader. He could not accept the cost of acknowledging the existence of the state of Israel. He put factional politics, the rhetoric of revolution and his control of the money coming into the Palestinian Authority over the less-glamorous goal of a normal Palestinian state with workaday politics.

The tragedy for the Middle East, for Palestinians and for Israel is that Arafat could never decide who he really was. His beginnings as a revolutionary and a terrorist were understandable, if despicable in so many ways. He had a cause and a people whose interests were not being attended to -- not by his fellow Arabs any more than by the rest of the world. He would bomb and kill and assassinate -- even young Israeli athletes -- so that attention would be paid.

He won recognition and a place at the table. He won visits to the White House and Camp David and a Nobel Peace Prize. He was on the verge of achieving the Palestinians' dream, a state of their own with passports of their own and a government of their own. A place to call home, an entity that would allow them to be referred to not as refugees but as citizens.

But he walked away.

Please. Spare me. When Arafat began his "career," Israeli Arabs weren't rebelling against the state, and the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention to Temple Mount, were in Arab hands. But Arafat set about killing Jews, not Jordanians or Egyptians. The Jordanians put up with him until 1970 when his predations became destabilizing to the East bank of the river, and they sent him to Lebanon.

As for the Post and their "weakness of will," is there nothing that can't be reduced to an international version of Weight Watchers? The west and Israel, under urging from Israel's "best friend," Bill Clinton did everything possible to prop him up, make concessions under the pretense that this would strengthen him internally. Dictators are always worried about their political positions. That's why they have things like Force 17, to make sure their enemies stay quiet.

If there's anything that Arafat didn't suffer from it was "weakness of will." Arafat had one of the strongest will around, outlasting Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Secretaries of State. When he famously walked out of three-way talks with the US and Israel, Madeline Albright went chasing him down the hallway, heel clicking, then calling to have the gates close. "Please, just tell us what you want."

What he wanted, what he never stopped wanting was dictatorial power over all of Mandatory Palestine, the end of Israel, and a chance to be treated and feted like Nasser.

It is in no way sad that he couldn't seize the moment, that he "wasn't able" to control himself just a little longer. The forces of Good have frequently benefitted from the impatience of Evil. Had Arafat signed the accord, had he been able to restrain himself just a little, how far would Clinton and the Europeans have pressed Israel to accomodate then?

The Jimmy Carters and Kofi Annans of the world gave him the latter. Thank God the Israelis were stopped from giving him the former.

Posted by joshuasharf at November 12, 2004 01:08 PM | TrackBack
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