Death of An Icon

wd-arafat.jpg Yasser Arafat is dead. The news is hardly a surprise considering the flurry of speculation during the last week, the quarrels between Suha Tawil Arafat and the PLO leadership, the statements and counterstatements, but it’s nonetheless a blow to millions of people around the world.

When I was a child, my image of Arafat was inextricably mixed with that of the Palestinian struggle. I remember sitting on my father’s lap as he discussed the Fedayeen with my uncles. I remember asking my mother why we had to pay an extra 20 centimes to ride the bus and her answer was, “So we can help Palestinian children.” I remember seeing Arafat on television in his army fatigues and trademark sunglasses, his fingers raised in a V.

Of course, as an adult, I had significant disagreements with his politics and I was appalled at the corruption of his organization, but I think for today I will remember him as the Arafat of the early days, the secular revolutionary who brought his people’s struggle onto the world stage. And it saddens me that he passed on without seeing an independent state, without a burial in Jerusalem. Arafat is dead. Long live Palestine.

(photo from AP)

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