Arafat’s death no real loss for region’s peace

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 12, 2004

The Ironton Tribune Editorial Staff

A leopard never changes its spots. The world would be wise to remember that simple fact. As portions of the Middle East mourn the loss this week of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, many people will speak about his wonderful qualities.

His proponents will recall how Arafat almost single-handedly put the Palestinian cause on the world map. And they'll say that after he brought the cause to the forefront, Arafat kept it there for three decades.

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The proponents will tell the world that Arafat was the glue that held together much of the Palestinian Authority in recent years.

And those thoughts about Arafat do, in fact, tell part of his life's story. But to claim Arafat was purely a positive influence on the world only tells part of the story.

From the early days when Arafat first thrust himself onto the world stage, he showed his spots. In speaking to the United Nations General Assembly in 1974, Arafat strolled into the room with a holster strapped to his side and a twig in his hand.

"Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand," he said. It was the perfect first impression of the man. He spoke to U.N. members as he would address the world in the years ahead - out of both sides of his mouth. As he purported to want peace, he waged war.

From the early years of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Arafat and his followers attempted to force change at the end of a gun barrel. And, in some ways, their efforts worked.

But mostly their work since the late 1960s did more to separate the Jews from the Arabs in the region than the hundreds of year prior. With that said, we look forward to the potential for lasting peace coming from the void left by Arafat's death. Hopefully his followers will realize violence isn't the best answer.

Holding a gun on someone might make him or her agree to something they don't like, but it can never rid the leopard of its spots.