Jose Lev Alvarez Gomez

Arafat and the False Palestinian Narrative

Twenty years after his death, Palestinians continue to remember and praise Yasser Arafat as their “great leader”. Meanwhile, Israelis continue to remember him as a terrorist and, above all, the man who unleashed the Second Intifada that cost the lives of hundreds of Israeli citizens and forced the entire country to live in a permanent climate of terror. In the rest of the world there are opinions close to both versions and the feeling that, if he had wanted, he would have been the only one capable of reaching a definitive peace agreement (something that does not seem to be within Abu Mazen’s reach).

Arafat was the main figure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) for over 35 years, President of the Palestinian National Authority for 10 years – of course, without being democratically elected- and until his death, he accumulated many other “honorable” titles: guerrilla leader, terrorist, Nobel Peace Prize Award winner, etc.

Something that not even his staunchest enemies can deny him – another thing would be to determine whether this is a merit or not – is that he was one of the main inventors of one of the most used concepts in the last third of the 20th century: the Palestinian people.

No, no matter how much we want to sell the long-standing Arab-Israeli conflict as the long-standing “Palestinian-Israeli” conflict, the truth is that the Palestinians did not begin to have national aspirations until the late 1960s when the organization founded by Arafat, Al-Fatah, began to control the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

That said, it is important to understand that the “Arab-Palestinian” identity was born in the refugee camps, and their first “national” political movement -aware of the massive return of Ashkenazi Jews to the Land of Israel due to the rise of Nazism in Europe- was only founded in 1930 by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husayni (who was Hitler’s main advisor on Islamic matters in the Balkans and who spent the entire Second World War in Berlin) to make sure the Jews would not be able to establish a State in their ancestral homeland.

Emphasizing this point is important since such a thing as a pre-existing “Palestinian state” has never existed. Curiously, the truth is that the term ‘Palestine’ was given to this land by the Romans in their aim to humiliate the Jews and thus name them (yes, the Jews were the first “Palestinians”) and their territory with a name similar to that of the main enemies of the Jews: the Philistines. However, with the arrival of the British to the land of Israel, the three provinces that made up the aforementioned territorial extension during the Ottoman Empire and that had other names during the Turkish domination (the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem, the Sanjak of Nablus and the Sanjak of Acre), were renamed as the “British Mandate of Palestine” by the British Empire.

From here on, the Arabs living in this area -who are originally Lebanese and Syrian; there is nothing more factual than listening to the Arabic dialect of Gaza and the West Bank to confirm this (along with the surnames and historical bonds to these places with the clans that live there)- decided to create their national movement. Since the Arab Palestinians could not return with the tribes within the territory controlled by France (i.e. Lebanon and Syria) and fervently rejected the fact that 70% of the Land of Israel was legally owned by the Jews after they bought it, they decided to create a political/national movement to demonstrate nativity to the land and deny the self-determination right that the Jewish people have in this land.

After the establishment of the State of Israel and the appearance on the scene by the PLO, the reality is that “the conflict” was in fact between States: Israel was permanently being attacked by Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. These States’ main aim was not to create an independent Palestine but rather to eliminate the Jewish State and expand their borders into the Jewish State’s territory. That said, it must be remembered that until 1967, the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem were not “part of a Palestinian State” but rather were part of Jordan, while the Gaza Strip was part of Egypt.

PLO’s Palestinian solution (that it should be the Arabs of the area themselves who should confront Israel and not the rest of the Arab powers) was not initially part of the ideological arsenal of a PLO that had been created and financed by those same powers. Never before Arafat’s rise the creation of an independent Palestinian Arab State had been considered in the area that is today divided between Israel and the disputed territories. However, after 1967, not only did the PLO begin to claim the entire Israeli territory for its future state, but they also began to claim Gaza and the West Bank.

There is ample evidence that, throughout his life, Arafat understood terrorism as a “natural extension of the political arena”. His PLO rose to international fame when a group of terrorists from the organization, called Black September, kidnapped and murdered several Israeli athletes participating in the Munich Olympic Games in 1972.

This event was the beginning of his “career” and from there until the end only a few things changed. In fact, at the end of his life, he was remembered for being responsible for the Second Intifada (a deadly five-year terrorist uprising that caused the death of hundreds of Israelis in a chain of attacks unseen until then).

During this period, terrorists blew themselves up in cafes, restaurants, nightclubs, and buses, thus murdering all those who were unfortunate enough to be around them (almost always innocent civilians). Doubtlessly, these events were one of the most savage and indiscriminate terrorist acts in Israeli history and were all encouraged and permitted by Arafat.

But, even after a life as intense as his, Arafat is probably remembered as the man who did not dare to sign peace between Israelis and Palestinians when he had two historic opportunities to do so.

The first was at Camp David in 2000 after President Clinton, who had decided to end his presidency with such a golden finishing touch, decided to personally mediate between the two sides. The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, made an unprecedented offer: Israel’s commitment to return to the borders before the 1967 Six Day War, retention of only a few Israeli settlements in the West Bank, division of Jerusalem – although the Old City and the Western Wall would remain under Israeli sovereignty – and the return of thousands of Palestinian refugees to the future Palestinian State a symbolic measure.

Nevertheless, it is important to also highlight that the agreement included some aspects that were difficult for the Palestinians to accept: the non-recognition of the right of return for Palestinian refugees who fled the area during the 1948 Israeli Independence War and their descendants, or the Palestinian State’s demilitarized status. However, it is important to recognize that the Israelis also made very important concessions: the return of some territories won and maintained after several wars, willingness to dismantle the majority of the West Bank settlements, and the loss of sovereignty over certain areas of Jerusalem.

But, Arafat said no and upon returning to Ramallah he launched the Second Intifada. Months later, and faced with a new Israeli offer in Taba, he said no again. Perhaps, as he stated, an agreement could have cost him his life. Perhaps the Palestinian people were not ready for peace either. The truth is that if there was a man who could sign and convince his people to follow him on the path of peace it was Arafat, but he preferred not to do so.

Doubtlessly, Arafat left a legacy that could have been better: the territories under his control remained in misery despite the extraordinary amounts of international aid received (Arafat himself and a corrupt ANP leadership benefited from this anomaly; today Hamas’ leaders are the new beneficiaries) and the Palestinian people are only being taught on hating Jews and Israel, and that the extermination of the only Jewish State in the world is the solution (does not this sound like Hitler’s “Final Solution”?). This context fostered radicalization and Hamas -the Iran-backed Sunni terrorist organization that led the First Intifada and exploded during the Second Intifada- not only won the 2006 PNA parliamentary elections but also led a coup d’etat in the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Fatah refused to leave power. This event not only weakened the PNA’s authority but also consolidated the Iran-backed terrorist group as the main politico-military Palestinian group.

Unquestionably, Arafat was everything to his people: a natural leader, father of the “Palestinian nation”, a terrorist, and a man of peace (as aforementioned, he even received the Nobel Peace Prize Award in 1994 alongside Isaac Rabin and Shimon Peres after signing the Oslo Accords). But in the end, he was unable to give them a future. Not even his memory seems to serve to prevent, twenty years later, a new resurgence of violence.

Therefore, Arafat’s famous phrase that “what terrorists want: understanding the enemy, containing the threat” is not only false but an excuse to justify a black past in a world where fake news is “indisputable facts”.

In this “modern” and “progressive” world, chanting “death to the Jews”, denying the Shoah, and remembering the October 7th, 2024 massacre (with more than 1,300 Israeli civilians killed and 300 others abducted into Gaza; all in 17 hours !), is just “an exaggeration”.

In this “beautiful” world, Israel is accused of “genociding Palestinians” (yeah, they even invented a new word!) while forgetting that one hour before bombing a place we intercept civilians’ phones to warn them about this and literally “throw” letters from the air so they can know where we are going to attack (yeah, that’s why only 0.8 Palestinians civilians are killed by bombing and they even have enough time to prepare their cameras for the bombing; remember that they need to “show to the world how bad the Jews are!”).

In this world, Arafat’s phrase is the bait to justify terrorist groups and to validate entities that undermine the individual freedoms of the free world and the mere existence of our Judeo-Christian civilization.

About the Author
Jose Lev Alvarez Gomez, BS, MA, MA, MD, Sgt. (Ret) is an Israeli who completed a B.S. in Neuroscience, Israel Studies, and Pre-Med Track at The American University (Washington, District of Columbia) and a bioethics course at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts). After his undergraduate studies, he went on to become a sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces - Special Forces Unit 888, obtained a medical degree and completed two master's degrees: Applied Economics at UNED (Madrid, Spain) and International Geostrategy and Jihadist Terrorism at INISEG (Madrid, Spain). Currently, he is completing two more master’s degrees: Security and Intelligence Studies at Bellevue University (Bellevue, Nebraska) and Clinical Psychiatry at the European University of Madrid. Lev speaks eight languages, has written more than 180 academic papers/books/independent research projects/opinion articles/theses, is a member of multiple academic/medical organizations, and collaborates with several newspapers and journals. His professional interests are academia, applied economics/businesses, Israel studies, medicine, and scientific dissemination. José is a believer that in a diverse world, human beings are obliged to have multiple skills and varied knowledge to effectively contribute to their societies.