Now that Yasser Arafat has officially died, and the press is no longer guessing as if his life is a Florida election it is time to write on the subject. Personally, I have never been a fan of Arafat, though I will have to agree with a fellow comrade that this is no time to criticize his faults.
However, I respectfully wonder how Edward Said would have handled all this moment in time. Said, a personal hero, was spitting at Arafat until his very death, though I believe Said would have held his tongue at the moment in time. Yasser Arafat will forever be linked to the Palestinian people, their identity, and their struggle and for us to waste time condemning Arafat in a time for mourning would be an affront to the Palestinian people. There is no reason for our side to do so, I am sure the Sharon government will be doing everything in their power to write history according to their standards.
What will happen next? That I have no idea, nor does anyone really. The fact that they are splitting Arafat’s authority amongst three individuals is a frightening proposal. Allow us to jump back to 323 bce to the death of Alexander the Great, one of history’s most remembered figures (and the unfortunate cause of another Hollywood movie). Alexander, a brutal dictator, a ruthless military commander, and a brilliant leader died at a very early age. His kingdom was split amongst his generals and chaos and civil war erupted. The consolidated power that was, no longer existed, and everything fell apart. I fear that history could repeat itself, if this most delicate matter is not dealt with accordingly.
Unfortunately, all of this will unfold before us in the next years, so it is foolish to sit around and speculate. The Palestinian people deserve our respect and solidarity in this time of mourning. And for those of us, who felt as Said did, remember that Arafat paid his respects when Dr. Said died, and I am sure Dr. Said would have done the same.
The Alexander/Arafat angle I began writing on is interesting. Let me do a hint of research, and pull out some old course notes. That could be a very interesting research project.