A note from Katie on Arafat's Death
Sunday, 14 November 2004
To all my dear family and friends abroad,
I have been following the news reports of Arafat's death on Sky news, CNN, and BBC World and all I can say is I'm appalled to watch the world's Western leaders making statements over what an "icon" and a "symbol" Arafat was. This man practically invented modern terrorism - hijackings, the targeting of women and children, bombings of bus-stops and cafes, suicide bombings, the lot.
He did indeed put Palestinian nationalist aspirations on the map, but only so long as Palestinian statehood could be achieved alongside the total annihilation of Israel. He founded the PLO three years before the 1967 war, (a war started by five Aab nations to wipe Israel off the face of the earth) so please don't talk to me about occupation. Arafat's stated and singleminded objective was to wipe Israel off the map years before 1967, when there was no West Bank, no occupation, and when Israel was nine miles wide.
Do you know what I felt when Arafat died? I felt like it was a victory. Arafat and his minions murdered thousands of people, many of them children and innocent civilians, and by blocking peace and negotiation at every turn, he caused his own people untold suffering. And now it's 2004, and he's dead and we're still here. He failed in his objective. His last big push for fame and intransigence has been the second intifada, an intifada which has been disastrous for the Palestinian people, not to say for the thousands of Israeli civilians he had killed. A lot of Palestinian people are out on the streets today weeping for Arafat - and a lot of them aren't. Suicide bombings. Was that really the most that Arafat had to give to history in the 21st century? Was that really it?
Do you know what is amazing about the Israeli people? Their incredible restraint. Arafat has been a symbol of suffering and hatred for us for so many years. You could forgive Israelis for dancing in the street when he died. But there was nothing. I read all the time about attacks on Moslems, both physical and verbal, that go in the US and the UK. Moslems on the street don't get attacked here. Not even the morning after a bombing. Instead, on the night of Arafat's funeral, which was also the ending of Ramadan, Malcha shopping mall in Jerusalem was packed with Arab Moslem families doing their shopping and eating at all the restaurants. I know because I was there. Nobody looked as if they were mourning. They all looked as if they were there for the same reasons as Aryeh and I were, to catch a movie and grab someting to eat at Pizza Hut.
Here's to better times for all of us. Arafat has gone, but not Arafat's culture, the culture of hatred, incitement, rejectionism, feudalism, and financial corruption that he has left behind him in every Palestinian office and every classroom - that will take much longer to eradicate. It will all depend on the courage of his successors, may God give them strength. Meanwhile, we are left with a billion missing EU and UN dollars that flowed into the coffers of the Palestinian Authority and were never heard of again (I take that back, $100,000 dollars a month did go to paying for Suha Arafat to live in a Paris hotel). While Arafat was in power, not one new school desk, not one new hospital bed, appeared anywhere in the West Bank. Where did that money go? You could ask David and Nava Applebaum, but they won't be able to hear you. They were blown to pieces the night before Nava's wedding at the Hillel Cafe bombing.
So next time you hear about what an icon Arafat was, please keep in mind what he was for me and my countrymen - a champion of unneccessary suffering and death. Fifty six years ago, the UN voted that a Palestinian and Jewish State should exist alongside each other in the middle east; Israel accepted the resolution and the Palestinians rejected it and decided to go to war instead. Where is Israel today and where are the Palestinians today? I pray for the sake of every Palestinian and every Israeli that there are some brand new leaders waiting in the side-lines. We sure as hell need them.
As for me, it goes without saying you won't see me dancing in the street after Arafat's death. But that doesn't mean I don't want to.