Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Arafat: Peacemaker or Terroist?

Or, How The Press Was Won
By Jason Chesworth


Peacemaker or Terrorist? Since his death on November 11th from causes still unknown, journalists, pundits and experts from both sides of the Iron Wall have been tripping over themselves to canonize, lionize, demonize and eulogize the late leader of the PLO and Noble Peace Prize winner.

But, what lies behind the terms ‘Peace’ or ‘Terror’? S& met with Abdel Takriti, Campaign Co-ordinator for Coalition Against the Deportation of Palestine Refugees, and asked whether Arafat would be remembered as a Peacemaker or a Terrorist.

Without blinking he replied, “First of all, you have to ask the question: Who is remembering? If you are talking about Palestinian people, of course the question is irrelevant. That version of terrorism is an incitement of the Palestinian population and negates the very idea of Palestinian armed struggle.” Furthermore, Takriti clarified the Western perspective by adding, “There is mass disinformation over here. Everything is judged in these abstract terms that have no actual reference to reality.”

An example of disinformation: CTV Newsnet recently ran a minute-long clip just before a commercial break depicting a “training camp” for Palestinian children. The television showed images of children as young as eight-years-old running through military-type drills with AK-47 rifles. Cut to commercial, and the vast majority of the viewing public is left with the haunting vision of a Freedom-hating, Terror-breeding society. No attempt to pose the question, “Why?” or to frame this reality in any kind of context was made.

In today’s age of rampant disinformation, context not information has become the real power. How can we properly question a situation without understanding the contextual framework that surrounds it? Perhaps this is why terms such as Zionism, Eretz-Israel; names like Theodore Hertzl, Vladimir Jabotinsky and ideological concepts like, “A land without a people for a people without land” are completely left out of our media’s analysis of the current situation.

Takriti, a Masters student of Political Science at York University, lucidly explains the roots of the conflict in his excellent article in The New Socialist Magazine.

He states, “Far from being the incomprehensible matrix that it is often made out to be, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is easy to understand. It is a native-settler conflict quite like many others that have emerged ever since Columbus made his wretched journey to this hemisphere. Its roots lie in nineteenth century Europe where flagrant anti-Semitism led to the development of the Zionist ideology. Zionists argued that Jews were a nation, and that they should create a “national homeland” to which all of them would emigrate. In the 1898 Basel conference they stipulated that this homeland should be established in Palestine. It mattered little for the Zionist leadership that Palestine was already inhabited. To them, Palestinians were nothing but savages that degraded the Promised Land; they were a nuisance that had to be removed.”

Yasser Arafat did not create the conflict that existed before his birth. Neither did Ariel Sharon. Both have been major players in its history and both have led their followers toward goals that, depending on which side of the “security fence” you’re born on, have been viewed with integrity and justification. As evidenced in the recent U.S. assault on Fallujah, one man’s terrorist is another man’s resistance fighter.

But, when the topic of terrorism has reached an impasse, the media turns on Arafat for his financial holdings and private wealth. He has been criticized for maintaining a personal wealth at the expense of his own people with holdings in a Coca-Cola bottling plant, a cell phone company, and venture capital funds in the U.S. and favourite off-shore Capitalist Mecca, The Cayman Islands. Recent reports now confirm that Arafat had invested at least $6.3 million dollars with Citibank through the Palestinian Commercial Services Co., a Ramallah-based company that he controlled.

Before we ask whether Yasser Arafat was a Peacemaker or a Terrorist, we first need to ask the question: “Do we consider Heads of State that commit crimes against Humanity, that withhold vast sums of wealth against the best interests of their people, that engage in illegal means of war, to be terrorists?”

The hardest questions are answers in themselves.

Illustration by Trevor Turner

Originally published: Scene and Heard

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