Arafat…Peace and Freedom
By: Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj
Like every morning, I was walking along the Gaza beach-- thinking, dreaming, breathing fresh air away from the fuel gas and dust and trying to maintain my emotional balance, which Israeli bombers strive to destroy.
It seemed that I had gone too far without realizing, I noticed a soldier coming down to the beach towards me. I was not sure if I was the intended target, until he waved his hand for me to stop. When I was close to him, I asked about the reason for stopping me from walking along the beach. He said that this small strip of the beach ran alongside President Arafat's office, and for security reasons, walking was not permitted.
Naively I responded, "But the President is in Ramallah". The soldier replied with what shifted the conversation to a totally different level, "But his spirit is here". Sincerely, I stumbled because I was not expecting such a high emotional charge in the early morning hours. I said, retreating, "I hope the President comes back soon". Then, I said, "May I ask that this area be cleaned in preparation for his arrival". The soldier said with determination and sincere emotions; "When the President comes, we will convert it into paradise; when President Arafat arrives, we will convert the salty see water into honey". I smiled as the soldier's eyes glowed with emotions and tears.
The moment was strange and overwhelming…this simple soldier was expressing his warm emotions like a poet armed with sincerity. I asked myself if there was something common between us. I am one of those who do not refrain from criticizing the Palestinian Authority, the President, and the Cabinet. But, we all have something in common, the soldier, myself, and everyone…we all have love for this homeland, its people, trees, sand, sea, sky and life…the prayers of the mosques, the screaming neighbors, the noisy cars, the graveyards, the olive trees and the graffiti that cover the walls along the streets-which are full of holes and bumps.
We also share the love of what Yasser Arafat represents while not necessarily agreeing on what he does. Yasser Arafat is the symbol that Palestinians agree upon. There is only him, no other, that dares to claim such a thing; and he is the one holding the flag, confronting oppression, humiliation and neglect.
Yasser Arafat is a symbol for the Palestinian people's tragedy and struggle.
We may differ, the soldier and I, about the extent of our support for Arafat's policies and the practices of the Palestinian Authority he is heading. I am always concerned about human rights, rule of law, independent judiciary and democracy. That is why I criticize the Palestinian Authority and why I blame Yasser Arafat personally for it. I consider him responsible for corruptions and malpractices, responsible for failure or absence of a strategy for peace, as well as wasting resources and state land. But, the soldier and many others may not be concerned with such details as much as they are concerned with the daily matters of existence and having a feeling of security.
For all of us however, Arafat represents the struggle against the occupation and oppression. For peace or war he is the one that calls the first shot. He is the only one that has the legitimacy to sign any agreement on behalf of Palestinians.
It is folly that those in the White House do not understand such facts. It is the racist elements in Israel and its lobby who persuaded themselves that Yasser Arafat is an obstacle in the path for peace…as if all that matters to them is peace? The opposite is true. What matters to the racists is war and seizure of more Palestinian land. The most threatening Palestinian is the one who calls for peace, because this unveils the racist’s true nature. That is why they even consider those Israelis who signed the Geneva accord as traitors and should be hanged. That is why they have to destroy Yasser Arafat, and portray him as the symbol of terror, then seclude him away from his people and any political battle in an attempt to prepare for killing him morally if not physically.
However, all that this administration and Sharon have succeeded in accomplishing is compelling the crowd to gather around Arafat.
Yasser Arafat is once again, as he always was, the most relevant political player in the region, basically due to the determination of this people to resist the external attempt to isolate him and their cause by doing so.
Keeping Arafat imprisoned is an insult to every Palestinian, every Arab, and every human who loves peace and justice.
Palestinian leaders should stop deceiving themselves and their people and should stop meeting any Israeli, American, or European leader without official permission from Yasser Arafat. The visitor should pass through Yasser Arafat first.
We have to stand firmly with Yasser Arafat and against the racist enemies of peace.
Yasser Arafat’s only crime was that he did not stop demanding the implementation of the UN resolutions. It is the American President and Sharon who consistently act against the UN resolutions and world opinion. They are the enemies of peace.
Freedom for Arafat should be the slogan for those who call for peace, because Arafat means peace… and freedom.
* Dr. Sarraj is internationally known and has his Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard University in the U.S.A.