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One year after Yasser Arafat's death, and he has passed into silent myth and legend. As with all great historical figures, the myth is both powerful and pervasive. Yet in Arafat's case, it possesses a peculiar driving force that frames the manner in which we see the present. Indeed, everything about the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is shaped by this myth. In the west it is entirely a negative myth, cultivated by the press and parroted by political elites, diplomats and intellectuals. It is obvious why Israel would portray its enemy in such a bad light, but why did this negative myth take hold outside Israel with such strength and persuasion?Funny, but I seem to remember the press literally weeping at his death and statesmen wailing in the streets. The article does seem to be gunning for "most gratuitous overuse of the word 'myth'" award. They carefully deconstruct Arafat the living god and reconstruct the devil of Sharon, Sharon you know has been the sole mover of Israeli policy since 1949 and Arafat was the benevolent wiseman leading his people to peace except for the machinations of that darn Joo.
What of the alternative myth of Arafat - the one that will eventually triumph in the history books? The one that will include just a fraction of the epic stories about him that most Palestinians grew up with? Arafat, for all his flaws and mistakes, stood for a just peace, based on a historic compromise. He believed in international law, in a two-state solution based on implementing UN resolution 242, and for a just settlement for refugees, the main victims of this conflict. His legitimacy came from more than the fact that he was democratically elected: he performed a historic purpose in the life of Palestinians, a purpose as yet unfulfilled. By representing his people's general will and collective spirit, he symbolised the absent state's sovereign institutions.Hello? Trying to topple the Jordanian monarchy? Destabilising Lebanon? Black September and lots of dead Joos in Munich? Ripping off his beloved people to keep family in Paris on the high life? Explanation? Oh here it is, the author is
Karma Nabulsi is a politics fellow at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and a former PLO representativeIt's like having Goebbels covering the Nuremberg trials.