Was Yasser Arafat a good person

"Of course Yasser Arafat was murdered"

Nobody in Ramallah is surprised by the Swiss autopsy result. For the majority of the residents of the Palestinian capital, it has long been clear that ex-President Arafat has been killed.

Ramallah. The likeness of the young Yasser Arafat smiles strikingly often, once in A4 format, once filling an entire wall of houses at motorists and passers-by in Ramallah. The picture from his early years as head of the PLO hangs there in memory of the anniversary of his death, which will be the ninth anniversary on Monday next week. There is still little activity in front of the mausoleum on the property of the Mukataa, the presidential seat where Arafat involuntarily spent the last years of his life. A lonely television team waits in vain for interviewees to conduct a survey about the results of the examinations by the radiation physicists from Lausanne. The guard in front of the grave is bored.

In the city center around al-Manara-Platz there are significantly more people on the move. “Of course Arafat was murdered,” says a 27-year-old engineer. "Israel was afraid of its sharp mind, its ideology and its goal of liberating our country," says the young Palestinian, who is stocking up with his wife and mother in the shops for the Muslim New Year. Now there has to be a process, the man thinks. “Arafat was a person like any other. Someone has to be punished for murdering him. "

 

Every child knows the rais

Arafat was at the head of the people for almost 40 years. Every child knows the Rais, the Palestinian leader with the keffiyah, which he wore tied around his head in his own way. With his death, the dream of Palestine seemed to have died too. “We love Arafat,” says the 22-year-old student Rawan Nasrallah. “He was the best president we ever had,” she believes, although she was barely 13 when Arafat died. Rawan does not want to say whether murder was the cause or illness led to his death when there is clear evidence. “I was too young when it happened,” she admits. "I don't believe either side, neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis."

The young student's skepticism is an exception. Hardly anyone doubts the murder theory. Few people know that there are new findings that strengthen the suspicion of poisoning. The Palestinians, it seems, are tired of the news. The peace process is currently of greater relevance. US Secretary of State John Kerry has extended his current trip to the Middle East by one day in order to resolve the crisis in the negotiations.

 

Focus on peace talks

“Kerry has no chance,” says a young officer. Israel does not want peace, it will continue to build settlements as long as the Americans do not exert stronger pressure. He does not find it convincing that Kerry brought millions of dollars with him for the Palestinians. "My God, we will not solve our problems with money." He does not believe that the new findings in the Arafat affair could influence the peace negotiations. It's about the construction of settlements and the borderline, the refugee problem and Jerusalem - all the big problems that Arafat would have liked to deal with himself.

In Ramallah, the author of Arafat's death is known anyway. Israel's then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon never made a secret of his deep dislike for the Palestinian chief. Many believe that he must be responsible for his death. Presumably he would actually have had his archenemy executed much earlier. The fact that despite numerous examinations a diagnosis of the symptoms of the disease has not been made confirms the suspicion against Israel for them.

 

Mistrust of Arafat's widow Suha

For Suha Arafat, the result of the radiation physicists from Lausanne is now definitive proof of an attack whose traces lead to Jerusalem. She wants to bring the murderers to justice. In Ramallah, however, hardly anyone is upset about the wife of the former Palestinian president, who was doing well abroad at the expense of the people.

Nobody wants to believe her that Suha Arafat was driven by strictly unselfish motives to have the causes that led to her husband's death investigated so late. “She was his wife, that's all,” says the student Rawan. Suha never had much love for Palestine. "Maybe she wants to prove to us that her Arafat was important after all."

AT A GLANCE

Ramallah. The city in the West Bank is the official capital of the Palestinian state and at the same time its business center. Here President Mahmoud Abbas resides in the Mukataa - the official seat where his predecessor Yasser Arafat spent the last years of his life. However, since Israel had placed him under house arrest, Arafat's freedom of movement was severely restricted. Surrounded by a court of favorites, he distributed the money of the autonomy authority. In the Mukataa, the PLO built a magnificent mausoleum for him, in which doctors exhumed his body the previous year.

("Die Presse", print edition, November 8th, 2013)