President Yasser Arafat

( –  The outpouring of people in Ramallah, the West Bank, at the funeral of Yasser Arafat was a sign to the world of the love that his people had for the man that embodied their struggle.

What most of the world does not realize, and the press is not saying, is that there would have been 10 times the number if the people from Gaza and other West Bank cities and towns had been permitted to travel to Ramallah. Because of the apartheid system that the Israelis have imposed on the Palestinians and the blockade against Gaza, people did not have the freedom to move and to be with their leader as he was buried. Just think, if the Palestinian refugees in neighboring Arab countries, particularly Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, were allowed to journey to Ramallah to pay tribute to their leader, it would have been overwhelming.

Even those among his own people who disagreed, argued and also broke with Yasser Arafat have a measure of respect and admiration for him. The western press is busy now trying to paint him as an inept corrupt leader who missed an opportunity when he did not accept the offer of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak. The questions that the world should ask are, “What was he offered and what did he firmly reject from that offer?”

Palestinian security men guard the grave of veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as Palestinians pay their last respects inside the Mouqataa compound, his destroyed headquarters, Nov. 12 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Yasser Arafat died Nov. 11 at the age of 75 in a Paris hospital. Photo: AFP

For those who have an interest, they should read the article posted on the New York Review of Books, Volume 48, Number 13, August 9, 2001 entitled, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors” by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley. This article describes how the offer to the Palestinian cause was an insult to its people and Yasser Arafat.

In 1948, through a series of ugly massacres that the Zionist Jews carried out against armless and defenseless Palestinians, they annexed 78 percent of Palestine. In the 1967 war, Israel occupied the remaining 22 percent. The Barak offer which Arafat could not accept not only insisted on keeping Arab Jerusalem, but also insisted on yielding less than half of the 22 percent occupied since 1967. This simply means that the Palestinians, the natives of the land, will only get less than 10 percent of their total country, while the Jewish invaders get 86 percent. So, what would remain in the hands of the Zionists was the control of Palestinian water, air space, borders and the Palestinian economy.

As rumors abound on the Internet and in the Arab world about the assassination of Yasser Arafat via some sort of poison, the western media is attempting to put a final nail in his coffin. We are now watching past interviews of Yasser Arafat with prominent American news journalists, i.e. Mike Wallace and Larry King, being re-shown and re-edited to shape the image that they want to portray of this courageous freedom fighter. In its attempt to shape the legacy of Yasser Arafat, we continue to hear and read that he is the man who said “no” to the best offer for the Palestinian people.

However, this was an offer that he felt was an insult and disgrace to his people. He felt it would further entrench the Israeli apartheid system on his people. The world of people who struggle against their colonial masters should honor, love and respect a man who stood on principle and would not bow.

Neither President Bush nor Tony Blair, in their recent meeting at the White House, would pay their condolences to the family of Yasser Arafat. They only said their condolences to the Palestinian people and emphasized that now we have a chance for a new beginning–as if Arafat was the only obstacle to the American/Israeli peace plan.

There are no historical accounts where an oppressor, occupier and invader structured a peace agreement that was balanced for those whom they have oppressed.

The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan with Yasser Arafat in Palestine during the World Friendship Tour III in 1997. Photo: Kenneth Muhammad

In my work for the Honorable Louis Farrakhan as his International Representative, I met with Yasser Arafat on four occasions. My first meeting with him was in the city of Benghazi, Libya. It was a very memorable meeting for me, because he asked me to come and sit next to him as I gave him the greetings from Minister Farrakhan. We discussed the struggle and the plight of Black people in America. I suggested that he should have a meeting with the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. He said that he was willing and ready to meet with them anytime and anywhere. He then turned to me and said they will not meet with me because of the inordinate control and influence that the Zionists have over them. He directed me to one of his aides at the time, Abu Sharif, for further discussions.

When Arafat invited Minister Farrakhan to meet with him at his headquarters in Gaza, he gave our entire delegation an overwhelming reception. He discussed how the Israelis did not want peace and equity for his people, but only desired to suffocate them. He pointed to a bouquet of flowers on the table and said to Minister Farrakhan that one of the items that our people export was those flowers. He explained that the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and other rules implemented by them, made it hard for the Palestinians to do business. There was the destruction of their olive groves as a method of retaliation. These acts are just a systematic method to keep them from enjoying the fruits of their labor and causing more suffering to the Palestinian people.

I and many others are saddened by the loss of this giant in the struggle for oppressed people. It is painful that we cannot read his autobiography. It is painful that, before the 40 days of mourning has finished, the new Palestinian leadership is being pushed to make new arrangements for a so-called peace process with the Americans and Israelis.

They could take these 40 days of mourning that they have declared for their fallen leader to think and reflect. They can struggle to unify their people with agreed-upon goals. Never let those who have been historically opposed to your struggle dictate the time and place of your battle. There are internal enemies that would love to see chaos break out among the different factions in the Palestinian community. The enemies of the Palestinian struggle will promote this chaos.

We pray that Allah (God) will bless the Palestinian people to honor the goals and strength of Yasser Arafat. Do not let the talk of hidden bank accounts, money, corruption or what he gave to his wife and family diminish Yasser Arafat’s role or contribution to the struggle of the Palestinian people.

We must also remember that the Palestinian struggle is a part of the total global fight for freedom, justice, equality and liberation.