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Yasser Arafat: Condolences To Palestinian Nation


Yasser Arafat - 1929-2004 Condolences To Palestinian Nation

The Palestine Human Rights Campaign offers its condolences to the Palestinian Nation on the loss of a leader who symbolised their struggle for freedom and self- determination.

To Yasser Arafat must go the credit of putting the Palestinians on the international stage. That was the Palestinian leader's most notable achievement but his stature was also determined by the size of the obstacles he had to overcome. No other national leader of our generation has been called upon to face such cruel tests and to cope with such adversities as he. From the brutal confrontation with the Jordanian army in 1970 to the bloody Israeli siege of Beirut in 1982 and the humiliating siege of his ruined headquarters in Ramallah, until his recent departure for Paris, Arafat succeeded in overcoming one cruel test after another and earned the respect of the majority of Palestinians. The Israeli decision to trap him in his destroyed Ramallah office made him a symbol again to the Palestinians, themselves imprisoned by Israeli walls and wire struggling to survive in ruined villages and towns.

When Arafat appeared on the stage of history, at the end of the 1950s, Palestinians, as a people were close to oblivion. The name Palestine had been eradicated from the map and Israel, Jordan and Egypt had divided the country between them. The world had decided that there was no Palestinian national entity, that the Palestinian people had ceased to exist. Within the Arab world the "Palestinian Cause" was still supported, but it served only as a ball to be kicked around between the Arab regimes. Each trying to appropriate it for its own selfish interests, while brutally putting down any independent Palestinian initiative.

The early 1950s were a formative influence in the shaping of Arafat’s characteristic style. As the co-founder in Kuwait of Fatah, he had to manoeuvre between Arab leaders, playing off one against the other, evading traps and circumventing obstacles.

With the shameful rout of the Arab armies in 1967 and the electrifying victory of the Fatah fighters against the Israeli army in the battle of Karameh in the Jordan Valley, Fatah took over the Palestine Liberation Organisation. With that Arafat became the undisputed leader of the entire Palestinian struggle. But there came a time when Arafat had to face the reality that the Palestinians could not liberate their historical homeland and would have to settle for a state of their own on the West Bank and Gaza. For their part Israeli leaders realised that they had to talk with the Palestinians. In 1993 the two adversaries formally recognised each other and the Oslo Peace Accords were signed on the White House Lawn. The tragedy for Arafat was that every time a peaceful solution seemed near, successive Israeli governments retreated and attempted to redraw the terms, putting Arafat in an impossible position.

Yasser Arafat’s principles and minimum terms were always clear and remained unchanged: A Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; Palestinian sovereignty over East Jerusalem (but excluding the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter); restoration of the 1967 border with the possibility of limited and equal exchanges of territory; evacuation of all Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and a resolution of the refugee problem.

For Arafat and the Palestinians, that is the very minimum they would accept in return for the 78% of historical Palestine which they lost to the Israelis.

One of Arafat's failings was his inclination to make all decisions by himself. As one of his sharpest critics said: "It is not his fault. It is we who are to blame. For decades it was our habit to run away from all the hard decisions that demanded courage and boldness. We always said: Let Arafat decide!"

And decide he did – peace with Israel.

With the passing of Arafat, Israel and its ally the United States have lost not only an adversary but also a partner for peace.

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