Opinion Editorials, November 2004, To see today's opinion articles, click here: www.aljazeerah.info
Yasser Arafat: A Leader Who Did Not Compromise the Rights of his People
By Hassan A El-Najjar
Al-Jazeerah, November 11, 2004
The Palestinian President Yasser Arafat died on Thursday, November 11, 2004 after about a week of struggle against a mysterious and sudden sickness, in the French Percy military hospital in Paris, thanks to France for that care and that support.
The 75 years old Yasser Arafat met his Creator as happy as he could be. He led the Palestinian people since 1969, when he became the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), relentlessly towards fulfilling their goals of freedom and independence from the Israeli occupation of their homeland, Palestine. He upheld the Palestinian inalienable rights, as documented in the numerous resolutions of the UN General Assembly and documents of international organizations.
From the beginning of his adult life, he devoted himself to the Palestinian cause. As a university student, he established the Palestinian Student Union in Cairo in 1952 hoping to represent Palestine in international political events.
He established the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fateh, together with Salah Khalaf and Khalil Al-Wazir, in 1956, as a genuine response to the Israeli occupation of Gaza Strip, following the Tripartite Aggression on Egypt in October 29, 1956 by the Britain, France, and Israel.
Fateh started armed struggle against the Israeli occupation of Palestine in January 1, 1965. The struggle was conducted by humble means and attracted little attention until the Israeli pre-emptive and expansionist war of June 5, 1967.
The 1967 war demonstrated the incapacity and helplessness of Arab states to defend themselves against the ever expansionist Zionist state. The main reason was their meager resources compared to unlimited resources available to Israel from the United States and World Zionists.
Arafatís main achievement was involving the people and depending on them to liberate themselves from their oppressors, instead of waiting for helpless Arab governments to do it.
The turning point for the rise of Arafat was the Battle of Karameh on March 21, 1968, which he won against the arrogant Israeli occupation forces. Arafat, known as Ash Shaikh at that time, commanded less than one thousand Palestinian fighters from Fateh. He was told by his intelligence and by friends in the Jordanian army that the Israeli War Minister, Moshe Dayan, would invade the East Bank of the River Jordan to crush the Palestinian resistance there. He had the option to withdraw his fighters to safety up the Jordanian mountains. However, he refused and argued with leaders of other Palestinian organizations to stay and confront the invading Israeli forces. The result would be either martyrdom or victory, he argued. In both cases, the Palestinian resistance would win more support from the people. He got what he wanted. The battle lasted from about 9:00 am to about 9:00 pm. Over a hundred Palestinian fighters were martyred (killed). Israeli losses were scores of soldiers killed and wounded and about 27 tanks and personnel carriers were destroyed. Some of them were brought to downtown Amman for people to see. The Jordanian army artillery on the mountains participated in the battle pounding the Israeli invading forces in the valley. Palestinian fighters from other resistance organizations joined Fateh fighters to win the battle. The victory was badly needed after the humiliation of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories in 1967. It was the battle for Arab dignity, which is the meaning of the name of the village of Al-Karameh, which was the main base for Fateh in the Jordan valley.
Following the Karameh victory, Arafat was elected as the leader of the PLO, in 1969. Then, in 1974, he was invited to give a speech before the UN General Assembly, as the representative of the Palestinian people. He was invited to give another speech before the General Assembly in 1988. The ill-advised US Secretary of State George Schultz denied him visa to come to New York to give his speech. This action violated the UN agreement with the US, which resulted in that the UN General Assembly moved completely to Geneva, Switzerland, to hold a special session to listen to Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian leader. Arafat had the attention of the whole world during the period of giving his speech, something George Schultz and his pro-Israel advisors never contemplated it would ever happen.
Arafat and the Palestinian national liberation movement survived numerous wars, plots, invasions, and crises ever since, such as the Black September 1970 civil war in Jordan, the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1978, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the siege of Beirut in 1982, the first intifada (Uprising) in 1987-1993, and the second intifada that has started in 2000, which Palestinians are determined not to end until the Israeli occupation ends.
The greatest legacy of Yasser Arafat is his steadfastness in front of all pressures on him to compromise the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, particularly the right to resist the Israeli occupation, the right for the establishment of an independent state as a result of self-determination with Jerusalem as its capital, and the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees. He never gave in to the pressures from Arab governments, US government, and the Israeli government to crack down on Palestinian resistance organizations before the withdrawal of Israeli occupation forces from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The most remembered moment, because of TV coverage, was the shake hand with Yitzhak Rabin on the White House Lawn on September 13, 1993, a moment of peace that was assassinated in 1996 with the assassination of Rabin.
The most courageous moment of Arafatís life was when he rejected the Barakís ill-intentioned proposal for resolving the final status issues, in Camp David in 2000. Barak offered a mockery Palestinian state that would be composed of isolated cities and population centers, or Bantustans, a state without control over its borders, skies, or resources. He also insisted on the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees, who were forced out of their homeland by Israelis in 1948.
Ever since, the Israeli government and the US government have considered Arafat an obstacle to their view of peace. He was threatened of death, exile, and finally of being sidelined and isolated in his demolished office, which was the case for the last two and a half years. But he insisted on his position until the last moment of his life.
Arafat set a very high standard of steadfastness for his successors, who will be watched carefully by their people and the world expecting them to uphold the Palestinian national rights as Arafat ever did. This is the least the Palestinian people deserve after their century-long suffering.
Arafat died today but he will be ever alive as a world symbol of freedom and relentless struggle against oppression and tyranny.
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