Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Essay on Yasir Arafat

Essay on Yasir Arafat

Did Yasir Arafat Do More Good or Bad for the Palestinian Cause and People?
2005 became the tragic year for Palestinian people because this year the life of the national leader, Yasser Arafat, came to its end. For many Palestinians living not only Palestine but in the Middle East and other parts of the world, he was like a father of the nation. He was not just a person that headed the national movement for the liberation of Palestine, but he personified this movement, he became the symbol of the strife of Palestinian people for independence and freedom. The death of Yasir Arafat practically divided the history of Palestine and the movement of Palestinians for liberation into two distinguishable parts: the epoch of Yasir Arafat and the epoch after Yasir Arafat. For many Palestinians his death was a great shock because Yasir Arafat was the major leader of Palestinians, whose contribution in the struggle of Palestinians for independence can hardly be underestimated. At the same time, his peace efforts were recognized on the international level as he became the Noble Peace Prize winner for his peace efforts resulting in the Oslo Accords that marked the beginning of the peaceful resolution of the long –lasting Palestinian conflict.


On the other hand, the personality of Yasir Arafat and his historical role was not absolutely positive as it may have seemed to be at first glance. The fact that world political leaders have ignored his funerals is a perfect illustration of the extent to which the figure of Yasir Arafat was controversial in the history of Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the struggle of Palestinians for independence. Symbolically, even his death was as controversial as his life and work because the actual cause of the death still remains under a question.

Nevertheless, the assessment of the contribution of Yasir Arafat in the history of the liberation movement of Palestinian people is even a greater mystery because for many Western leaders he was and still remains a terrorist, a person that was ready to use all possible means to defeat the enemy and grant his people for independence. In such a situation, this extremely negative image of Yasir Arafat contrast to the image of the national leader and hero of Palestinian people. This is why it is extremely important o evaluate both positive and negative aspects of his life and work in historical terms.

Yasir Arafat as a symbol of evil
In fact, Yasir Arafat was traditionally perceived as a leader of clandestine movement, which was often characterized as extremist and radical (Rubin and Rubin, 2003). In such a context, it is quite natural that for Israeli people and state, Yasir Arafat was the enemy number one, while his death was a great relief for Israel and its security services. However, in actuality, it turned out that the death of the national leader of Palestinian people rather raised new problems Israel had to solve than totally eliminated the threat from the part of Palestinian organizations which continue to the struggle started by Yasir Arafat, the struggle for independence.

In actuality, the chaos in Palestine that followed the death of Yasir Arafat was basically determined by those mistakes that he had made in his life time. It is obvious that, in spite of the image of the national leader, Yasir Arafat was not perfect and, in spite of his seeming political wisdom, he was not secured from errors he had made in abundance, especially in his early years in the political struggle. Obviously, he was too focused on his own leadership to be able to make objective judgments and create a strong ground for the further struggle of Palestinian people for independence. Probably, he was too self-assured and convinced in his ability to lead his people to freedom and peace, but, in actuality he had failed, while mistakes he had made in the course of his life undermined his positive image. In this respect, it should be said that even among Palestinians, it is possible to find critiques who argue that the policy of Yasir Arafat was insufficient and ineffective to make Palestinian people free of Israeli control.

In fact, it proves beyond a doubt that, in spite of all his efforts, Yasir Arafat had failed to improve the life of Palestinians consistently. Instead, they still live in concentration camp type territories and their freedom is limited consistently, while the independence of Palestine is still rather a desirable goal than a part of the contemporary reality. In such a way, Yasir Arafat fully benefited from his status of the national leader, but, in actuality, he had failed to improve the life of Palestinians.

However, there is even a more serious problem that Palestinians inherited after the death of Arafat. This problem is caused by his leadership. His charismatic leadership was so significant for Palestinian people that there is not a single person in contemporary Palestine that could become a new national leader. In fact, what Palestinian people look for is a new Yasir Arafat, but not a new leader. This is probably the greatest drawback and failure of Yasir Arafat because he had managed to unite the nation under his leadership but he had failed to prepare his follower, who could continue his work. As a result, after the death of Yasir Arafat, Palestine movement for the liberation became headless at the national scale since its leaders could not have such authority as Yasir Arafat had.

By the way, this is another problem of Yasir Arafat controversy. To put it more precisely, Yasir Arafat became the national leader but he proved to be too authoritarian to introduce democratic principles of the functioning of the PLO as well as he failed to stimulate the democratic development of Palestinian people (Mahmood, 78). This is why his opponents regard him as an undemocratic, authoritarian leader and the fact that there is no influential leader in contemporary Palestine compared to Yasir Arafat proves the fact that there is no democracy in Palestine as people cannot accept a democratically elected leader, but rather rely on the authority and leadership as the main qualities of the new leader.

At the same time, the methods of struggle Yasir Arafat had implemented during his life, especially at the beginning of the struggle, are probably the most controversial issues. Basically, it is the use of violent methods of struggle that made Yasir Arafat a terrorist. At any rate, Israeli and many Western leaders could not interpret violent methods of the struggle of Palestinians headed by Yasir Arafat otherwise but terrorism (Pipes, 2002). Even though in the 1990s he started to wider implement peace talks as the main tool of the resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the violent methods of struggle were so deep rooted that they repeatedly undermined positive effects of peace talks between Israel and Palestine and this is probably why Palestine is still stateless.

The contribution of Yasir Arafat as a freedom fighter
Nevertheless, the contribution of Yasir Arafat in the development of the Palestinian liberation movement and the growth of the national consciousness of Palestinians can hardly be underestimated. In actuality, Yasir Arafat became the national leader that had managed to unite Palestinians and, what was even more important, he became the personification of Palestinian struggle for freedom (Sayigh, 1997). In other words, he became a person who was ready to struggle for independence, take responsibility for violent actions and conduct peace talks with the enemy, which was traditionally associated with Israel. In this respect, it should be said that before Yasir Arafat the liberation movement in Palestine was weak and, as long as there were no leaders like Yasir Arafat, it was very convenient for Israel to accuse some extremist, innumerous groups in the clandestine struggle, which did not reflect the public opinion and the general position of Palestinian people. In stark contrast, as Yasir Arafat grew in power he had proved that his ideas of the freedom of Palestinians people, the necessity of change of the position of Palestinians and their return from abroad to the motherland, were not some abstract ideas or ideas of extremists, but these were ideas supported by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian people (Sayigh, 1993).

Moreover, it is possible to estimate that Yasir Arafat had managed to create the national idea of Palestinian people. What is meant here is the fact that he speed up the unification of Palestinian organizations in the struggle for independence and he created the ideological basis of this struggle as he made the idea of the national independence of Palestine from Israel the ultimate goal of his struggle and his entire life (Aburish, 1998). In addition, he developed the methods of the struggle. Even though, he was severely criticized for the excessive use of violence and the implementation of terrorist methods of struggle, these methods proved to be effective at the moment when they were used. In fact, it is due to the permanent threat of the violent attacks from the part of Palestinians that forced Israel to start peace talks with Yasir Arafat and Palestine.

In such a context, Yasir Arafat was not only the national leader of Palestinians but he became their representative on the international level. In this respect, it should be said that gradually he started to refuse from excessive violence and stick to negotiations. As a result, the Oslo Accords of 1993, which he was rewarded with the Noble Peace Prize for, and the Camp David Summit in 2000 became the turning points in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because they showed to the international community that it is possible to find the peaceful solution of the conflict and stop the military actions (Pipes, 2002). In such a way, Yasir Arafat paved the strategic way of peace talks which could lead Palestinians to independence, but his death had ruined his plans and it had thrown Palestine in the chaos of the struggle for power.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the historical role of Yasir Arafat is extremely controversial. On the one hand, he became the national leader that had united Palestinian people and headed them to the national independence. On the other hand, in spite of all his efforts, he failed to achieve the major goal of his life and Palestine is still stateless. Moreover, the noble goal of Yasir Arafat was dramatically overshadowed by the violent methods of the struggle he used. Nevertheless, whether Yasir Arafat was good or bad, he was the only person who could unite the nation and who could take decisions and control the situation in Palestine and he was the only one who made the world to take into consideration the strife of Palestinians for independence.
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