Arafat's Images Examined Arafat's Origins and Early Essay

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Arafat's Images Examined

Arafat's Origins and Early Life

Oslo

Clinton Camp David Summit and the "Clinton Parameters"

Arafat's Death and Legacy

Yasser Arafat has been described throughout his career, both by many detractors and supporters, as the "father of the Palestinian people." The view in Colin Shindler's A History of Modern Israel provides a more pro-Israel approach and accurately describes Arafat in all of his duplicitous glory. In this essay, the author strives to provide additional support with other portrayals of Yasser Arafat in an attempt to enhance Shindler's portrayal of the deceased leader of the PLO, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

This admirable study faithfully retells Israel's national story, Shindler mostly concentrates on how the Jewish Commonwealth has been historically unable to fulfill peaceful ideals due to the seemingly never ending war with the Arabs. Particularly tragic in his opinion was the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. In his tale, he gives the readers a vision of the state's past history and balances it off with the struggle to realize the dreams of Zionism. In his opinion, many of these ideals have fallen victim to the politics of the moment. By raising these questions from the past, Shindler opens up the debate about whether or not the conflict could have been avoided.

Shindler's study has been very well received and with good reason. Israel is understandable that a country like Israel is the sum total of its history.

Shindler is fundamentally asking why 60 years after Israel's founding have the country's burdens not lightened? Why has it not garnered more accolades from the other nations? On the one hand, the international community approved the founding of the state of Israel, yet they do not let it function like the other nation states.

This two faced approach is not only used by the West and the Arab world toward Israel. In terms of the Palestinians, it is probably symbolized by no one on the planet better than by Yasser Arafat. He has been described throughout his career as "the father of the Palestinian people." This essay will examine Arafat's status as symbol and politician and will evaluate the meaning of this title. What we will find is that like many politicians, the image he projected was many times different depending upon which audience the person finds themselves in, that is, in the energy dependent West or the oil supplying Arab world.

One thing that however did not change is the symbol of Arafat as the father and chief politician of a Palestinian people that was fighting to establish its national rights. What was less visible and much more real was that Arafat, as well as many of the leaders and countries involved in the "peace process" knew that nothing likely was to come out of it. Rather, the politics of oil determined that a "process" had to go "forward."

As with many "peace settlements" between the Arabs and Israel (the Camp David accords of 1979 between Egypt and Israel come to mind immediately), the skids are greased with generous amounts of weapons sales and U.S. weapons manufacturers become involved, as we will see later. As the U.S. is the largest weapons supplier to all parties in the region, any analysis of the situation on the ground comes up short unless you analyze this part of the "peace process." In addition, the deployment of U.S. forces in the region has to be analyzed to understand the background political and military strategies that the American administrations repackage and involve in supposed peace moves. As Condoleeza Rice very candidly defended U.S. weapons deals in the region in an article of Der Spiegel magazine, she said that the U.S. was determined to maintain the balances, military and strategic, within the region (Ilsemann S.V. 2007).

Although not widely known, much of the $150 million dollars of aid per year to the Palestinian Authority is composed of security aid and dissident Palestinians have accused PA officials of embezzling millions of dollars in this aid. Allegedly, they have been using the aid money to speculate in the food and fuel market in the West Bank (Middle East Newsline 1 August 2008). This culture of corruption did not appear overnight. It came out of the duplicitous policies established under Chairman Arafat.

Arafat's Origins and Early Life:

Everything about Arafat, even his place of birth is not straight forward. The best and most agreed upon guess is that he was born in Cairo, Egypt, directly contradicting the official PLO biography which has him born in the old city of Jerusalem, although he grew up in Jerusalem from the age of four (Cery and Brexel 2004, 11-12). It was important for public consumption that the leader of the Palestinian people be born in the capital of Palestine.

Many times, a name tells us several things about a person. Unlike in English and modern Western languages, in Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Arabic, names mean something. His given name was Mohammed Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Ra'ouf Qudwa Al-Husseini (Cery and Brexel 2004, 13). The name he took was Yasser Arafat. In Arabic, Yasser means "easy" or "no problems" (Rubin, B.M & Rubin, J.C. 2003, 12). The name Arafat denotes Mount Arafat and the plains of Arafat which is mentioned in the Quran where Mecca is now located and where pilgrims begin the trek to the Kaabah (Surah II, 199). Given this, the PLO leader wished to give forth the image of friendliness balanced with a dedication to the Islamic tradition.

Very little else about Arafat's early life is certain including his actions during the 1948 and 1956 Wars between Israel and the Arabs. What is certain is the part of his life that was performed in front of the camera. This is his life in Fatah and the PLO. Even the date of Fatah's foundation is shrouded in mystery until his accession as PLO leader in 1969 and his fateful fight with King Hussein in 1970 during Black September.

After King Hussein ejected Arafat and his PLO fighters from Jordan in 1970, he and his organization turned increasingly to terror to reach their objectives. After its inconclusive results, Arafat began to look to other results, in order to change his public image to garner Western support (Ensalaco 2008, 2-4). Sometimes, a person's perception of themselves and the image that they are trying to portray is as important as the historical facts. Arafat learned this in a very interesting place.

Arafat's International Image:

Certainly, Arafat liked to show two faces (or many faces) and engages in duplicity (Shindler 2009, 3 and 237). To the West, he wanted to appear as the diplomat. To his Arab compatriots, he wished to appear as the uncompromising fedayeen warrior who would wage continual war against Israel. But, where did Arafat learn this Janus like behavior? The two-faced Roman god of gates and doors would prove a better model for Arafat than that of Mars, although his revelations would be useful on occasion as well.

Certainly, the PLO chieftain had enough of the tools of the god of war.

In Red Horizons, Ion Pacepa provides a unique viewpoint that few analysts have taken into account. At the time of his July 1978 defection to the U.S., Pacepa was the highest ranking intelligence official ever to defect from a country of the former Warsaw Pact. In addition to attaining the rank of a two-star Securitate general, he also was the advisor to dictator Nicolae Ceau-escu, acting chief of the foreign intelligence service and state secretary in the Ministry of Interior.

As an ally and supplier of aid and arms to the PLO, this Romanian perspective is truly unique. His political tome is aimed at Ceau-escu, not Arafat, however he definitely expresses disapproval in his memoirs of the close relationship between the PLO leader and the Soviet Bloc. However, he provides rich insights into the Arab leader at a critical time in Arafat and the PLO's development.

As Ceau-escu's right hand man, Pacepa had an intimate knowledge of Romanian and USSR support of Arafat during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Since this knowledge was never meant to be made public, we can rely upon it as a unique and more neutral portrayal, including a trip to Beirut which reveals interesting details about the development of the PLO in Lebanon at the height of the Lebanese Civil War.

Certainly, the Janus effect worked well on the PLO leader, just like it did on Ceau-escu who suggested it to Arafat and who needs to quoted in detail to catch the nuances of his deft diplomatic and propaganda offensive:

How about pretending to break with terrorism? The West would love it. Just pretending, like with your independence? (Arafat) Exactly. But pretending over and over. Political influence, like dialectical materialism, is built on the same basic tenet that quantitative accumulation generates qualitative transformation…Dialectical materialism works like cocaine…If you sniff it once or twice, it may not change your life. If you use… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Arafat's Images Examined Arafat's Origins and Early."  Essaytown.com.  April 7, 2010.  Accessed February 19, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/arafat-images-examined-origins/9025533.