Remembering Arafat

THAT five got killed and hundreds injured marking Yasser Arafat’s third death anniversary in an environment typified by hostility and mistrust is a reflection on the Palestinian people’s condition today in the absence of the late leader’s unifying voice. It is unfortunate that the only certainty that has emerged in the time since Arafat is that his successor’s base was simply inadequate to carry on from where he left off, and the Palestinian people did not take long to sideline Fatah in favour of Hamas, indirectly setting off a violent clash that embarrassed and insulted everything Arafat stood for.

Truth be told, things never really looked too bright for Palestinians at any time during Israel’s long occupation, even when Arafat held aloft their banner. But post-Arafat has been particularly painful, with Palestinians’ supposed representatives sadly doing just as much, in fact more, to harm them than those who have long sought finishing them off. When the painful economic blockade pulverised economic activity and starved people in their homes, Hamas and Fatah took to a virtual civil war, catching ordinary suffering people in the cross-fire in an episode that will forever remain the most disgraceful blemish on the collective Palestinian conscience.

Considering the knee-jerk-reaction politics Hamas and Fatah have indulged in since the former’s landslide victory in Jan ’06, it is little surprising that the West and Israel stand on the verge of permanently sidelining whatever political resistance remains. Even though the Bush-sponsored Annapolis conference has run into some bottlenecks, it will materialise soon, and cement a mediator not backed by a good majority of the Palestinian people.

These are definitely not good times for the Palestinian people. And those claiming representation rights need to realise the glaring need for national reconciliation and unity, failing which any gain will be very temporary, even if it is materially beneficial on a personal level. The wider Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia and Syria, have made appreciable moves by keeping a distance from the upcoming conference till there is a guarantee of concrete action, beyond the usual — mere words. Palestinians, too, should pull up their socks and get their act together, lest they remain forever paralysed, unable to recover from the blow that Arafat’s passing dealt them three years ago.

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