Arafat's style stood in the way of substance for his people

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Posted: Friday, November 12, 2004

The ... departure of ... Yasser Arafat (has removed) the only icon that Palestinians have had since their land was transformed by the United Nations into the Jewish state of Israel 56 years ago. He reinvented himself from being a civil engineer in Kuwait, part of the six-million-strong Palestinian diaspora living in various countries but not in the independent state that it yearned to have.

He was a practitioner of the in-your-face school of politics whose primary weapon was his personal veto: No to opportunities for Palestinian statehood offered by sympathetic leaders like former U.S. President Bill Clinton, no to anything other than full and complete possession of the historical Palestinian homeland the maximalist approach that Israel would never countenance. Like many ambitious men with a driving dream and an emotionally charged constituency, Arafat substituted stubbornness for statesmanship. That is why Palestinians now lack a clear voice for their cause.

As Arafat's name becomes one for the ages, it is fair to ask: What if he had been more practical on behalf of dispossessed Palestinians and less focused on grandstanding? His flag would have stood for full-fledged statehood today, not as a symbol of a worthy cause that failed during his extraordinary lifetime.

Singapore Straits Times - Nov. 10

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