He was the Muslim Che Guevara in the world of freedom struggles. With the demise of communism and a bipolar world, Palestinians lost the main political power game which had helped them balance the Israel-America axis.
Today, Yasser Arafat, the icon of the struggle for Palestine, a symbol of his people's helplessness, passed away in Paris at the age of 75.
We are God's creation and we all return to Him. Inna lillahe wa inna ilahe rajioon.
Until this week, I, like the rest of the world, probably did not know that Arafat's full name was Muhammad Abdul Rahman Abdul Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa Al-Hussaeini.
Most of the world also did not know of Palestinians as a people until Arafat reorganized the Palestinians' struggle for freedom and gave them an identity independent of direct Egyptian or Jordanian control.
The non-Arab world also did not know what a black and white checkered cloth on a head is until Yasser Arafat popularized the keffiyah as a part of his dress which gradually became a symbol of resistance and struggle against tyranny around the world. He always draped it over his shoulder so that it looked like a map of Palestine.
He was from the rich Hussaeini family of Gaza and Jerusalem. But instead of choosing a life of comfort he joined the resistance of Palestinian people while still a teenager. Once educated as an engineer with his own successful contracting firm in Kuwait, he used his own wealth to launch al-Fatah, which in his leadership become the main group for Palestinian armed struggle. This set him on the course of becoming the first elected president of the Palestinian people.
In Israeli propaganda, Arafat moved from a "terrorist" to a "Nobel Peace prize Winner" and back to a "terrorist" based on his refusal to accept or reject what Israelis wanted him to do. If there is a person who personifies the demonization of a people, he was Yasser Arafat.
There are 9.6 million Palestinians in the world according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. They form the largest refugee group in the world according to the United Nations. In Palestine, about four million live a miserable life of subjugation in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza under the tyranny of Israel and the apathy of the world.
President Arafat wanted to be buried in Jerusalem where he was born, but Israel refused him his wish. He will now be buried in his bombed out compound in Ramallah. That may be a blessing in disguise. That rubble of the Palestinian headquarters also symbolizes the dignity of the Palestinian people in the midst of the ongoing Israeli bombing, killing and destruction. Maybe a future independent Palestine will decide to keep it in the same state as a museum to stand as a testament to the Palestinian struggle for freedom.
Israel kept President Arafat a virtual prisoner for two-and-a-half years in his bombarded headquarters and publicly discussed killing him. There was no peace process in place which considered Palestinians as a partner in the post-9/11 world which is hostile to freedom movements. However, Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian struggle have given much to the world: he and his cause have taught us that there is no "solution" to a struggle for freedom but freedom itself.
It is sad that even in Arafat's death my country has nothing positive to say about him. We are more busy killing freedom then spreading it today.
But maybe South African independence leader Mandela deserves to say the right words who once portrayed Arafat a "comrade in arms" on his ABC Nightline interview: "Yasser Arafat was one of the outstanding freedom fighters of this generation, one who gave his entire life to the cause of the Palestinian people."
We send our condolences to Palestinians who were Arafat's real family.
May God forgive Arafat's sins and shortcomings. May He guide Israelis to realize that there is no glory in denying Palestinians their freedom. May He guide our president to open his eyes and mind to understand that "freedom and justice for all" is the route to respect and honor for America in the global village. May God give patience and endurance to the Palestinian people. May He bless those Jewish souls who stand for peace and dignity of Palestinians. May God change the hearts of those who play god by killing innocent civilians.
"ArafatEconomicForum" by Copyright World Economic Forum (www.weforum.org) swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger - originally posted to Flickr as Yasser Arafat - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2001. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ArafatEconomicForum.jpg#mediaviewer/File:ArafatEconomicForum.jpg