Yasser Arafat -- mighty symbol of Palestinian identity

It has now fallen to a new generation to finish the work begun by Yasser Arafat. His name and personality are indissolubly linked with the Palestinian popular movement reorganized on the modern basis of a national liberation struggle. Before the launching of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the idea of the Palestinian nation as a people of a definite territory, regardless of religious backgrounds of individual Palestinians and irrespective of any wider, e.g., pan-Arab, identity was neither widely nor generally accepted. Today those continuing to reject or resist this view stand utterly exposed. Such an outlook is associated not merely with backwardness, but actually with the darkest reaction and retrogression. This represents a tremendous step forward not only for the Palestinians' struggle for national rights, but also for the struggle of peoples around the globe for self-determination.

Before the Second World War, a tiny group of ancient families of prominence and standing -- an incipient national bourgeoisie -- formed a significant strand of the leadership of the Palestinian national movement. They worked largely through international connections in other regions and countries of the Arab world as well as in certain European capitals and the United States. Today, as a result of the work unfolded by Fatah, the PLO and the first and current Intifadahs, anyone who would attempt to reduce the Palestinian personality to that of supplicant to the world imperialist system of states actually has to reckon with a very different prospect. Among a people activated and made vigilant by decades of stern and unremitting struggle against Zionist oppression and occupation, any perceived "acceptance" anywhere among the Israeli Cabinet or the U.S. State Department of such an individual could well become a kiss of death.

Most significantly, there is the fact that Palestinians around the globe, however much they differ over many issues of the Palestinian National Authority and its role and over how to deal with the U.S. imperialist-Zionist axis, remain united as one about the general direction given to the struggle for their national rights. Whether there be two states or one in Palestine, and regardless of whether and when the Israelis wake up and scrap the imperial mission of Zionism, and no matter where and in whatever circumstances the Palestinians are still living together, that direction is set. The fact of the Palestinians being a people with, and in, their own land cannot and will never be extinguished by any combination, however desperate, unleashed by the world imperialist system of states. This is another important legacy of Yasser Arafat's life and work.

This stand and consciousness has survived all the pressures from the imperialists, Soviet social-imperialists and Zionists -- especially during the so-called Oslo Process from 1993 to 1998, and through the great "incredibly generous offer" fraud unleashed at Taba in 2000 by U.S. President Bill Clinton and the war criminal Ehud Barak -- to compromise principles and accept half-a loaf or often much less; to give up permanently any and all claim to the entire territory of historic (pre-1947) Palestine; and to bottle up and bury the cause of national liberation and the struggle to implement the right of self-determination inside a so-called authority stripped of all meaningful power.

The monopoly media expend considerable effort to sow doubts about the support among the current Palestinian leadership for the right of return for those Palestinians whom the Zionist war machine and its "ethnic cleansing" operations turned into refugees in 1948 and 1967. The fact is, however, that when -- as in Beirut during the Israeli invasion of central and northern Lebanon in 1981-82, or at Jenin in 2002 -- the Zionist war machine unleashed attacks on the very refugee camps to which its earlier actions had already consigned Palestinians, Yasser Arafat and the PLO distinguished themselves in teaching the aggressors lessons they would not soon forget.

At the time the Soviet superpower imploded and predictions of the "end of history" and of struggles for social and national liberation were everywhere, the first Palestinian Intifadah was at its height, becoming the first major national liberation struggle of the post-bipolar period. Its persistence has become an important source of inspiration for the resistance in Iraq to the current American-led occupation. Today not even Ariel Sharon dares to repeat what one of his predecessors, Golda Meir, said of the Palestinians: "They don't exist!" In her day, Israeli public opinion hewed shamelessly to portrayals of Palestinians alternately as non-existent or as inconsequential, easily-crushed insects. A recently-conducted opinion poll in Israel, on the other hand, disclosed a massive rejection of the government's mindlessly punitive treatment of the PLO Chairman and Palestinian National Authority president as a virtual prisoner of his Muqtada compound in Ramallah.

Increasing numbers of people today now also see through the focus of media attention on anything that looks like "splits and divisions among the Palestinians" and "ordinary Palestinians' fear and loathing about the future." The effort to deflect attention from the simplest and most essential fact that the Palestinian struggle itself repeatedly exposes, which is that Zionism remains racist to its core, aggressive through its every pore, and the Eternal Victimizer and Eternal Provocateur of the Palestinians, not the "eternal victim" of "Arab terrorism," is impossible to deny. As proven recently by the decision of the Canadian Islamic Congress to retain their national president in his post after he told the truth on television about the conduct of the Zionist occupation, the impact on popular consciousness even in Canada of the evident justice of the Palestinian struggle has been sufficient to block and deflect a major assault by the monopoly media on the organized Canadian Muslim mainstream.

It is due in no small measure to the work and life of Yasser Arafat that the Palestinian struggle for rights has become one of the broadest and profoundest points of convergence within the movement that has revived and re-energized on all continents in recent years.

One Humanity, One Struggle! President Arafat, we salute you!

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Copyright New Media Services Inc. 2004. The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of shunpiking magazine or New Media Publications.