Al-Ahram Weekly Online   4 - 10 November 2004
Issue No. 715
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Naguib Mahfouz

Arafat the revolutionary

By Naguib Mahfouz

For over 40 years Yasser Arafat has been the embodiment of Palestinian hopes. Disputes arose over his policies, rivalries divided his aides, but the majority of Palestinians remained solidly behind him. Some claim Arafat wasted a historic opportunity when he turned down Ehud Barak's offer, which had the backing of Bill Clinton. One has to keep in mind, however, that this offer denied the Palestinians the right to return. Arafat's life, let alone principles, would have been at risk had he agreed to Barak's ideas. Politics is the art of compromise. In that sense Arafat was more of a revolutionary than a politician.

Following the 1967 war President Gamal Abdel-Nasser accepted UN Resolution 242, which implicitly recognises Israel, while the PLO rejected it. Nasser acted as a statesman. The PLO acted as a revolutionary movement. For a while afterwards relations between Nasser and the PLO were strained. History will remember Arafat not as a statesman who negotiated the best deals, but as a revolutionary who turned the aspirations of an entire people into continued struggle.

Based on an interview by Mohamed Salmawy.

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