Saluting Yassir

French honor guard carries the coffin

‘One of the outstanding freedom fighters of this generation,’ ‘a man of courage and conviction,’ ‘committed to the peace of the brave,’ ‘a powerful human symbol‘ who was the ‘Palestinian Abraham Lincoln.’ Such were the pronouncements of statesmen and news editors to mark Yassir Arafat’s death.

The most widespread media representation of Arafat’s life focused on his ‘unrealized dream’ of an independent Palestinian state. The LA Times, for example, spoke of the state that Arafat ‘dedicated his life to winning,’ and Reuters emphasized his ’40-year quest for a state.’

The fact is that Arafat rejected the offer of statehood ? what Bill Clinton called ‘a colossal error.’ Arafat’s primary motivation was maintaining his self-identity as the driver of conflict. As Dennis Ross concluded, ‘Arafat could not accept [the offer at] Camp David… because when the conflict ends, the cause that defines Arafat also ends.’ Apparently, most editors still can’t accept this unfortunate truth.

The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby cites two other examples of what he calls ‘flights of nonsense from Western journalists’:

Derek Brown wrote in The Guardian that Arafat’s “undisputed courage as a guerrilla leader” was exceeded only “by his extraordinary courage” as a peace negotiator. But it is an odd kind of courage that expresses itself in shooting unarmed victims ? or in signing peace accords and then flagrantly violating their terms.

Another commentator, columnist Gwynne Dyer, asked, “So what did Arafat do right?” The answer: He drew worldwide attention to the Palestinian cause, “for the most part by successful acts of terror.” In other words, butchering innocent human beings was “right,” since it served an ulterior political motive. No doubt that thought brings daily comfort to all those who were forced to bury a child, parent, or spouse because of Arafat’s “successful” terrorism.

CNN International typified the coverage by selecting a glamorous, calligraphic font for its homepage tribute, then linking to Arafat coverage with the blurb: ‘Arafat Story: Leader’s battle for peace.‘ (screen captures at right)

CNN’s summation of Arafat’s life as a ‘battle for peace’ was supported by this single, supposedly representative Arafat quote, boldly printed at the top of the page: ‘The battle for peace is the most difficult battle in our lives.’

CNN also featured a series of ‘Arafat quotes,’ where he calls himself a ‘freedom fighter,’ describes his commitment to peace and democracy, and labels the IDF the ‘real terrorists.’ Conspicuously absent are forty years of Arafat’s praise of terrorists and calls for jihad.

Missing from all other coverage was this tidbit from the London Evening Standard:

[Arafat] did not smoke, drinking only tea or water. His morning cornflakes were soaked in tea and honey. An insomniac who would not finish work until 4am, his only diversions were comics and Tom And Jerry cartoons.

? Kevin Siers of the Charlotte Observer captured Arafat’s unfortunate legacy:

For more cartoons on Arafat, see Cagle’s Cartoons.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.