it's official. i just want to point out that for the past two years israeli and bush administration officials have been insisting arafat was "irrelevant." but if he was, why are israeli and bush officials treating his death as such a big deal?
when oslo first was announced, i had high hopes for arafat. i guess i was too optomistic but i thought he had the potential of developing into a sort of nelson mandela for the palestinian people. but in the end, i guess he just didn't have it in him. at the same time, after barak lost power in israel, the israelis government was pretty shameless in blaming every terrorist attack in israel on the man. even when a rival group to arafat's al-fatah organization (like hamas or islamic jihad) claimed responsibility for an attack, sharon would blame arafat and attack his compound yet again. the man always seemed to get more credit than he deserved from the peace movement, but also more blame than he deserved from the likudniks. in the last few years, the sharon government seemed to need arafat to kick around. he was a convenient face for all terrorist attacks in israel. secretive groups with obscure leaders don't make good targets for fiery speeches.
arafat was, in his heart, a secular nationalist. in that sense he was part of a dying breed. this earlier generation is being replaced by islamist groups like hamas. maybe it's just my own bias, i think secular leaders allow more room for pragmatism and compromise than religiously motivated ones--although arafat himself was not strong enough to make enough compromise for peace. so maybe there is no loss on this front.
some people i know are cheering his death, viewing it as a clear opportunity for peace. i'm not so sure. it is actually possible to go backwards from where arafat was. not by much, but it is possible. arafat, at least, was open to the concept of negotiations, even has he was unwilling to make the hard choices to make negotiations effective. besides, i cannot stomach cheering anyone's death. even a disappointment like arafat.