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     Volume 4 Issue 22 | November 26, 2004 |

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The Promise of Jerusalem

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

There was chaos in Ramallah the Friday morning of Yasser Arafat's funeral. The helicopter door transporting the body of the PLO leader back to his rightful home opened and closed several times due to the havoc surrounding it. Security forces fired gunshots in the air as warnings. When the coffin finally came out, thousands of Arafat-followers crowded around, trying to touch the coffin and carry it -- to pay one last respect to the leader that fought tooth and nail, no-holds-barred, for the recognition of their unfulfilled dream, Palestine.

His wish was to be buried in a Jerusalem which would be the capital of Palestine. Instead, he was temporarily laid to rest in his compound in Ramallah. Palestinians still hope to carry their leader to his desired gravesite someday.

Over the decades we have seen many faces of Arafat through the world's eyes. We have seen the man who, to some, was a self-proclaimed guerrilla warrior, while to others he was nothing more than another Arab terrorist. We have seen him as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate (shared by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres), who then, six years later in September of 2000, walked away from peace talks with Rabin at Camp David. We have seen him as a man responsible for violence -- one who motivated his people to fight guns and bombs with sticks and stones. We have seen him as a charismatic leader who led an entire population through a revolution, which is now known as Intifada. We have seen his stubbornness, his will, his strength and his inability and refusal to compromise on anything that might endanger the idea of what he thought was right. A man with a mission, dedicated to his cause and nothing else. The 'lone soldier', so to speak, who spent the last few years of his life imprisoned in his home in Ramallah, while his wife Suha and nine-year-old daughter Zahwa live a cushy life in Paris, away from the struggle that their husband and father fought to the death.

Forty years -- that's how long this man fought. Forty years of demanding recognition and rebirth. Forty years, and still now there is no change, no progress, no hope to fulfil that frayed dream that Yasser Arafat so carefully painted out for his people. Forty years and now no one knows who will lead the Palestinian people to a victory that even now seems so distant and beyond reach. Forty years and President George Bush is left playing word games and stumbling through his false promises about dedicating his second term at the White House to the formation of Palestine. Forty years and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is now ready to negotiate peace talks with Palestinian authorities, claiming that "recent events" -- Arafat's death apparently being the main one -- "are likely to constitute a turning point in Middle Eastern history."

One has to wonder what Arafat was thinking during his last days. Did he wonder whether it was all worth it -- to spend over half his lifetime for something that he never lived to see? Did he have any regrets or anything that he would have done differently? Did he die peacefully, knowing that his fight would be carried on? Or did he worry that the struggle that he put his whole heart and soul into would be a forgotten dream?

There is always confusion about people who tend to wreak havoc, cause upheaval, force change whether it's needed or not. To some people they are dangerous, barbaric terrorists, and to others they are unnecessary trouble-makers who want attention. Yet, to a significant amount of people, they are heroes, icons, revolutionaries. They are the people who sacrifice their entire existences for a cause. They are the people that never give up, never bend and never break. Yasser Arafat was such a person. And although his death has caused total confusion and as a result, no one is sure what the future of the Middle East or Palestine will be, one has to hope that, in due time, his dream will become a promise of the future.


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