Thursday, November 11, 2004

This is the end, my friend

"Yasser Arafat died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I saw the news on the CNN website: 'Yasser Arafat dies' That doesn't mean anything. It may have happened yesterday."
With due apologies to Albert Camus, I couldn’t but help replace ‘mother’ with ‘Arafat’ in one of the most hard-hitting opening sentences in literature.
There was a time when I hero-worshipped this man. His accented English, the gun holster, his black -and-white keffiyeh made me believe in the Palestinian Cause. I identified myself with the hundreds of Palestinian youth, who armed with nothing but rocks, challenged the might of the Uzi-toting Israeli Army.
It was the David-and-Goliath story, the irony being that the Israelites and Philistines had swapped places.
There are a few memories of him that stand out. Arafat addressing the UN Assembly with his gun by his side, Arafat giving Indira Gandhi a fraternal hug, Arafat offering to shake hands with Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin to seal the Oslo peace agreement at the White House lawns...
But over the last few years, the media destroyed the image of Arafat the freedom fighter. Increasingly portrayed as a man interested more in furthering his own political ambitions rather than seriously trying to win freedom for the thousands who looked up to him as their leader, Arafat lost his halo.
Another iconic figure had started to crumble, the disintegration hastened by a partisan media.
In the last few years, Arafat had joined the dark corner were I had relegated my collection of Fallen Idols: Maradona, Azharuddin, Tyson, Nadia Comaneci, Bachchan (post-ABCL)...
So, even as news about his virtual incarceration, his cancer, his comatose condition filtered through, it failed to touch me at a personal level. Even today, when I read that he is ‘officially’ dead, the first thought that came to my mind was that the newspapers would not have to sweat too much, as they had enough time to ready his obit.
A sad end indeed.
Adieu Arafat, long live the intifadah!

Best regards from NY! »
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