Finally, a Progressive Arab Intellectual

Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi, a progressive Jordanian intellectual living in the U.S., recently published an article in the Qatari daily Al-Raya titled “‘Mahmoud Abbas’ – Not ‘Abu Mazen,'” in which he claimed that the death of Yasser Arafat – who he describes as “a bone in the throat of the Palestinian cause” – constituted a breakthrough for the Palestinian cause, and that Mahmoud Abbas, unlike Arafat, should refrain from making populist decisions, should rely upon the constitutional institutions, and should incorporate intellectuals and businessmen in the building of the Palestinian state. The following are excerpts from his article:

Why Was Arafat ‘A Bone in the Throat’ of the Palestinians?

“There were many reasons for this, primarily the following:

* Arafat’s personality remained at [the stage when he was] the leader of a gang war, and did not move to the stage of becoming the political leader of a nation with a complex, intricate, and long history.

* Arafat was sick with mythomania, the condition of compulsive lying, one of the symptoms of hysteria, [a symptom] that causes people to lie unconsciously, just like breathing.

* Arafat was one of the Third World leaders who used to surprise the decision-makers in the region and the world with unexpected [actions], such as the establishment of the Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which increased the militarization of the Intifada and drove the peaceful solutions to the Palestinian problem further away…

* Israel, the West, and the U.S. did not believe Arafat’s words, statements, or decisions. These were not institutional, but individual, temperamental decisions, which surrendered to the will of the Palestinian masses. Arafat constantly demanded, and never gave a thing. As a leader, he was a tactician, not a strategist.

* Arafat was a populist, irrational leader, like any Third World leader who succumbed to the will of the public that created and crowned him, and [who] did not [work to fulfill] the needs of the public, present or future. His main concern was to please the public, which succumbed to his impulses, suffering from his bleeding, narcissistic, religious, national wounds.

* Arafat and a group of Palestinian poets, headed by Mahmoud Darwish, his cultural advisor and speechwriter for over twenty years, Samih Al-Qassem, Haroun Hashem Rashid, ‘Izz Al-Din Al-Manasrah, and others, converted the Palestinian problem since 1948 from a purely political problem to an imaginary lyrical problem that made them poetic superstars. That is what Arafat did when he refused all the political settlements that were offered him, which he viewed through the binoculars of the poet Darwish, and not through those of the realistic politician… “If [Arafat] had been like Nelson Mandela – as he would have liked – he would have signed the peace agreement at Camp David in 2000. But he did not, because he was Arafat, not Mandela.

* Finally, Arafat was a schizophrenic leader. He waved the olive leaf in the U.N. and among international circles, all the while brandishing the rifle in Amman, Beirut, Gaza and Ramallah. The international community could not place him within the peace camp or within the camp of war. This aimless wandering – in relation both to this matter and to other matters – led the Palestinian problem in various, complex, and intricate directions, all as a result of the succumbing of the Palestinian problem to the personal political temper of the leader, instead of to constitutional institutions.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)

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