Fisking Arafat

When Fisk is good, he's good:

Sitting like an old and dying owl in his Ramallah headquarters, it must have struck Arafat that he had one unique distinction. Some "terrorists" -- Khomeini, for example -- die of old age. Some -- Gaddafi comes to mind -- become statesmen courtesy of mendacious folk like Tony Blair. Others -- Abu Nidal is an obvious candidate -- get murdered, often by their own side. But Arafat is perhaps the only man who started off as a "super-terrorist", was turned overnight by the Oslo agreement into a "super-statesman" and then went back to being a "super-terrorist" again. No wonder he often seems to be losing attention, making factual errors, falling ill.
Like all dictators, he made sure that there was no succession. It might have been Abu Jihad, but he was murdered by the Israelis in Tunis. It might have been one of the militant leaders whom the Israelis have been executing by air attack over the past two years. It could still be, just, the imprisoned Marwan Barghouti. And, if the Israelis decide that he should be the leader -- be sure the Palestinians won't get any choice in the matter -- then the prison doors may open for Barghouti.
Yes, Arafat might die. The funeral would be the usual excruciating rhetoric bath. But the truth, I fear, is that Arafat died years ago.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.