Tuesday, March 15, 2005

With friends like Arafat, who would have needed enemies

Some encouraging news seems to be coming out of Lebanon, also the Palestinian Territories. Of course, President Bush will try to claim credit for much of this. He is a politician.

There may be some truth in what he says.

I have always considered myself a "fence sitter" on the question of whether the Iraq War could be justified. I'm still sitting on that fence.

I am sure there is more to these issues than just a simplistic "the war is fixing problems" analysis.

It is still possible that the war has been more of a hindrance than a solution.

Rather than relive some of those tired debates, I wish to contemplate another factor besides American politics.

This factor is the "passing of the guard."

People die.

New ideas evolve.

I am thinking, more particularly, about Yasser Arafat.

Things might improve now that Arafat is gone. He was somewhat of a belligerent stumbling block.

Hopefully, new leadership will be more committed to non violent change. They can get more concessions from Israel.

I have an interesting memory relating to news about Arafat back in the 1970s when I was attending Western Washington University. One of my classes was about the great non violent leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Gandhi was able to free India from the clutches of a powerful British Empire using nonviolent means.

Our class had a segment about some diplomatic trip that Gandhi took to London. The British government was just beginning to take him seriously and planned to put him up in elaborate diplomatic quarters.

Gandhi would have none of it.

He insisted on staying with a working class family in a poor part of London.

I remember how inspiring that story was.

Leaving the classroom on a cloud of inspiration, I next went to my dorm lobby where there was a television.

The cloud of inspiration vanished quickly.

News all over the TV was about Arafat coming to New York City for negotiating before the United Nations. The city, and UN officials, wanted to put him up on a military base where his safety could be protected. It would be comfortable, but easier to protect than a hotel.

Arafat would have none of it.

He insisted on staying at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He insisted on about the fanciest place in town. No working class quarters for him.

This created a major headache for those trying to protect his safety.

I remember thinking, "With friends like that, who needs enemies."


Anonymous said...

Good, pungent point about Arafat. I wonder if anyone else made the comparison between him and Ghandi at the time.

Anonymous said...

I agree, "changing of the guard" is helping facilate changes in the Mid-East. But I think Bush's policies can't be discounted in being agents of change. At any rate, it's interesting.