November 14, 2004
The Independent (UK)

Middle East: Death, Delusion and Democracy

That Yasser Arafat's death is seen as sign of optimism shows how catastrophic the conflict in the Middle East has become

by Robert Fisk

So the death of Yasser Arafat is a great new opportunity for the Palestinians, is it? The man who personified the Palestinian struggle - "Mr Palestine" - is dead. So things can only get better for the Palestinians. Death means democracy. Death means statehood. That the final demise of the corrupt old guerrilla leader should be a sign of optimism demonstrates just how catastrophic the conflict in the Middle East has now become. It's a bit like Fallujah. The more we destroy it, the crueler we are, the brighter the chances of Iraqi democracy. The more successful we are, the worse things are going to get. That's what George Bush said on Friday: that violence will increase as Iraqi elections grow closer - a total mind warp since the more violent Iraq becomes, the less the chances of any election ever being held.

Note how Bush could not even bring himself to mention Arafat's name. It's the same old agenda. The Palestinians have to have a democracy. They have to prove themselves; they - not the Israelis - have to show that they are a worthy "negotiating partner". And any new leader - the colorless Ahmad Qureia or the equally colorless and undemocratic Abu Mazen - must "control his own people". That was what Arafat failed to do even though he thought his job was to represent his own people, which is what democracy is supposed to be all about.

It's worth noting how this narrative has been written. The Israelis, with their continued occupation, their continued illegal construction of colonies for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, their air strikes and helicopter executions and live-fire shooting at stone-throwing children, are not part of this equation. They are just innocently waiting to find a new "negotiating partner" now that Arafat is in his grave. . . .


Akiva Eldar, "Sharon's Bantustans Are Far From Copenhagen's Hope," Haaretz, November 14, 2004

Donald Macintyre, "Jailed Fatah leader will be 'kingmaker' in Arafat succession," Independent, May 13, 2003

Hassan M. Fattah, "Faulting U.S., Report Urges Arab Lands to Democratize," New York Times, April 6, 2005

Robert Fisk, "In Middle Eastern elections, no one bats an eyelid when the leader gets 110 per cent of the vote," Independent, April 6, 2005

Patrick J. Buchanan, "What Does 'Democracy' Mean - Over There?,", May 2, 2005

Robert Fisk, "Telling it like it isn't," Los Angeles Times, December 27, 2005

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