Stop me if you already heard this… I just need a good punchline
There’s two aged radicals sitting in a bathtub discussing their life achievements. One is a delusional revolutionary; the other is a bloodthirsty terrorist. The revolutionary says to the terrorist, “Hey Yasser, pass the soap.” And the terrorist replies, “Sorry Fidel, no soap, radio.”
Did you get it? Did you get the joke?
No, of course you didn’t, because there is no punch line. There’s no point to the story, just as there is no point to either Arafat’s life or Castro’s life. Yet, funnily enough, who among us would say that their lives have not been a joke, albeit humorless?
In the mid-1960s, Gamel Abdel Nasser, then President/Dictator of Egypt needed to shore up his position in the Arab world. When he first came to power in 1952, he had grand visions of becoming the next Saladin, and of uniting all Arab Muslims in an all-encompassing Arab League. Almost immediately, one tactic used by Nasser to muster support for his new regime was the initiation of organized terrorism against Israeli civilians. Since this was the most cowardly of actions that could be taken against a far smaller group of people, the sabotage and murder naturally found great favor among Muslims in the Middle East (I know it seems strange, but it’s their culture).
Nasser’s Suez Canal gambit failed soon afterwards. His attempt to create and sustain a federation between Egypt and Syria (known as the United Arab Republic) then disintegrated, and his attempt at “Arab Socialism” was doomed from the start by the diseases inherent in socialism. To make matters worse, Egypt was primarily an oil-less state. So as the oil-rich Islamic states became…well, rich, Nasser lost more and more influence within Egypt and throughout the Muslim world. Attention was being turned to Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. He needed something new, something big, and something no one would expect; so he invented PALESTINIAN NATIONALISM!
Yes, I have my facts correct, it was Gamel Abdel Nasser, via the Arab League, who invented the idea of Palestinian Arab Unity nearly two decades after all Muslim Arabs turned down the opportunity to have an independent Arab Palestine state. This new idea putrefied into something called the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Arab Palestinian Nationalism and the PLO never existed before then; it was virtually unheard of. Arabs living in or around Palestine didn’t consider themselves Palestinians. They were Syrians, Egyptians, Jordanians, or just Arabs. Consider these revealing quotes:
“There is no such country as Palestine. Palestine is a term the Zionists invented. . . . Our country was for centuries part of Syria. Palestine is alien to us…” (Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937)
“There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.” (Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian to Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, 1946)
“It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.” (Delegate of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Security Council, 1956)
“Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel…” (Zuheir Muhsin, late Military Department head of the PLO and member of its Executive Council, Dutch daily Trouw, March 1977)
Ironically, until the UN mandated Jewish Palestinian state declared its intention to rename itself Israel (Eretz Yisroel), it was the Jews living in Palestine who were called “Palestinians.” Palestinian Arabs were called, and referred to themselves as Arabs.
In any event, one Egyptian PLO recruit born 1929 in Cairo, Mohammed Abdel Rahman al Qudwa al-Husseini, changed his name to Yasser Arafat and became leader of a faction within the PLO known as Fatah. Among many other nefarious misdeeds, Arafat was responsible for the killing of the eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, and for the kidnapping and murder of U.S. diplomats Cleo Noel and George C. Moore in 1973.
When the ill-fated Oslo Peace Accords in 1993 released Arafat from near-exile in Tunisia, this monster of a man was allowed to resume terrorizing the world and the people he presumably represented. Although some important men-of-history may have originally utilized questionable tactics to make their cause known and accepted, their personalities and objectives were forged by the instinctive and compassionate need to help their people right a wrong. In many instances, when they were true to legitimate causes, they ultimately became respected and admired on the world stage as courageous leaders. Perhaps because Arab Palestinian Nationalism was simply a fabricated issue, the man who became known as Yasser Arafat never benefited from the shaping forces of a righteous struggle. He was a murderous, communism-brainwashed thug who remained unchanged due to a lack of authentic motivation or empathy. Arafat signed on to the PLO in the 1960s to wreak havoc and confusion, and he continues to do so to this very day. He was never a politician, or a diplomat, or an ambassador seeking peace and redress. He was a criminal and he is still a criminal.
Interestingly, several reports have surfaced over the last week indicating Arafat’s intention to preemptively step down from his position as “Palestinian President” sometime in the very near future. It seemed as though George Bush’s strong words and suggestions of abdication finally reached Arafat’s ears. Arafat subsequently rebuked any such notion and defiantly declared that only he will decide when he will step down. Over the last two days fresh reports have revealed that Arafat has just diverted millions of dollars meant to help the West Bank Arabs, to his wife’s bank account in Paris. This is not the first time that he has stolen money meant for his Arab constituency. Maybe his defiant declaration was just a delaying tactic until he can steal some more. It would certainly be consistent with his disdain for the “Palestinian” movement and his fellow Muslims.
Towards the end of World War II, the Italians finally gave the man that they had once cherished as Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, his just desserts: they shot him and his mistress and hung their bodies on a lamppost in Milan. I wonder how many West Bank Arabs it takes to hang an autocratic dictator from a lamppost? I think there’s a joke there, somewhere. I just need a good punch line.
Israel and the Arabs, Ahron Bregman and Jihan El-Tahri, 1998
The Palestinians-Portrait of a People in Conflict, Frank H. Epp, 1976
The Complete Idiot s Guide to the Middle East Conflict, Mitchell Bard, Ph.D., 1999
A Peace to End All Peace, David Fromkin, 1989
Myths and Facts, Mitchell Bard, Ph.D., 2001
From Time Immemorial, Joan Peters, 1984
The War for Palestine, Eugene L. Rogan, 2001