The announcement has come from Paris that Yasser Arafat is dead. We offer our condolences to his family and all Palestinians who feel his loss. His passing is is certainly the end of an era in the Palestinian resistance movement.
The media are jammed with the predictable statements that the road to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is now open. Not surprisingly, the Israeli and U.S. governments are leading the parade. No one can say with any certainty where this transition in Palestinian leadership will lead, and it may well open up new possibilities for negotiations between Israel and the PA. At the same time, the notion that Arafat has been the sole, or even primary, obstacle to peace is more than questionable.
The eight Palestinian organizations that form part of our Palestine Democratic Development Program have become sharply critical of Arafat in recent years. In many cases, they have openly opposed what they see as his anti-democratic approach to governing the Palestinians. At the same time, they have never failed to recognize his influence in Palestinian society and his key historical role in the development of a Palestinian national identity.
Furthermore, they have always seen the Israeli occupation of Palestine as the primary obstacle to peace in the region. In the coming days, we will use this journal to share the views of those organizations and other Palestinian voices concerning the legacy of Yasser Arafat and the contours of this critical moment in Palestinian history.
Join us in that discussion…