Yasser Arafat: an open letter to the Guardian

This is a guest post by Stephen Hoffman

Dear Sir,

I read with incredulity your recent three page spread dedicated to Yasser Arafat. This wasn’t a three page piece of investigative journalism that the Guardian claims to be all about, but a piece of propaganda that sounded like it had been read out to the journalists in question from Fatah’s PR department. The reality that those reading the article didn’t get is that Arafat was a liar, obsessed by hatred of Israel which he spent an entire life trying to destroy. You would have thought more digging would have been done into Arafat, as this was a man, lest we forget, who pretended to be born in Jerusalem, when he was in fact born in Cairo. From then on in, lying to Arafat came as naturally to him as eating, drinking and sleeping.

Arafat claimed that he had nothing to do with the Second Intifada that led to the deaths of many Israelis and Palestinians from 2001. Yet the truth, as with many things Arafat claimed, was somewhat different. In 2000 the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak made a generous offer that would have led to a Palestinian state side by side with Israel made up of over 90% of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem. It was an offer Prince Bander of Saudi Arabia, hardly a friend of Israel, believed Arafat should accept. Instead Arafat destroyed the dreams of peace for many Israelis and Palestinians by rejecting the offer. In doing so he undermined the chances of a Palestinian state. Hardly the actions of a Palestinian hero as this love letter to Arafat erroneously presents. It’s far worse than that though. Having destroyed the peace process by his own obstinacy, he violently destroyed it by launching and planning the second Intifada, leading to the deaths of many Israelis and Palestinians that Arafat is ultimately responsible for. This isn’t a mythical assertion either when you consider that in the book Son of Hamas, written by firmer Hamas commander, Mosab Hassan Youssef, he illustrates that the man who had his fingers all over the second Intifada was Arafat. Somehow all this is missed by the Guardian article. Instead, it is naively assumed that Arafat did all he could to bring about a peace agreement, when in fact the opposite is true.

The three page paean to Arafat delivers a master of understatement when it posits that Arafat’s reputation was tarnished somewhat as critics of Arafat claimed that he was associated with violence. The reality was Arafat led the PLO from the 1970s when it was committing violence against Israel on a regular basis. One of the most shocking moments happened when Israeli athletes were killed in cold blood by members of Black September, a group with links to Fatah. The PLO as the article states wasn’t a revolutionary movement during the 1970s and 80s , but a terrorist organisation, whose armed faction, The Al Asqa Martyrs Brigade, helped bring us the suicide bomber in the second intifada.

This piece is part of a trend by the Guardian to ignore any criticism of Palestinian leaders and place all the fault on Israel. This article that presents Israel as the devil incarnate and Arafat as an angel from heaven is no exception. It is time the Guardian stuck to the facts. Glorifying leaders who were violent leaders whilst demonising Israel doesn’t help Israelis, Palestinians or the peace process. It is time the Guardian realised that.