Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Arafat Legacy

Lately one reads a lot about the Arafat Legacy. To some he is a Hero, to others a murderous butcher. I am assuming that those who view him as a hero cannot understand those who view him as a terrorist, and vise versa.

I think that the reason for the divergence of attitudes is obvious. It is not that one side likes terrorism, and the other does not. It is also not that one side likes the keeping the Palestinians in the quandary that they are in and the other does not. (If you fall in to one of those categories, I probably do not like you, and this does not apply to you.)

It goes back to a difference that is the foundation of the theory of Just War, one that I have mentioned many times before.

Arafat is a terrorist. He is a murderer of school children. He violated every internationally agreed-upon norm of civility and human decency. He inspired the last 40 years of depraved anti-civilian barbarism, including the Sept 11 attacks. There are few words (in English, Arabic has some that come close) to describe the inhumanity of Arafat.

Arafat also has goals that one should be able to sympathize with. He wants to liberate his people from foreign rule. He wants political autonomy and national self-determination and independence.

Let us make believe that there were absolutely no political options that Arafat had for negotiating with Israel. Let us also pretend that Israel was mistreating and politically disenfranchising the Palestinians. And let us further stipulate that the Palestinians had a central negotiating body, and a whole bunch of other reasonable conditions were met. . . It would seem to me that he is then (under our hypothetical scenario)fighting something resembling a just war.

However, regardless of the justice of his cause, he is fighting the war unjustly.

Those who praise Arafat forget this distinction. They seem to think that if the cause is just then all means to achieve it are Ok. But it is not. If your cause is just, then you can still be a vile terrorist. All you need to do is to deliberately target one school bus. You still have a just cause, but you are a murderer.

One must not praise a man and forget how despicable he was, but of course one must not let the actions of terrorism make us forget that despite the abhorence of their ways, there is still a legitimate problem, and they have a grievance that needs to be resolved.

Arafat's legacy was that he managed to blur this distinction. He blurred it so bad that he got a Noble Prize from an organization that could not see past what they saw was his just cause, and his merely temporary decision to use just means to attempt to resolve it.

So the propaganda goes back and forth. One side recalls the oppression of the Palestinian people. The other side recalls Arafat's strategy: target the innocent.

Arafat was the wrong leader for the Palestinian people. Had there been someone else 40 years ago, to lead the Palestinians, who understood that one does not take a just cause and fight it unjustly, there likely would be a lot of messes that the world is not in today.

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