Yesterday a CBS news producer was fired for interrupting an episode of CSI: NY with a special report about Yasser Arafat's death.
Yes, I know. As of yet, the same network has yet to discipline anyone for using the counterfeit Bush National Guard memos.
Still, I think the personnel move tells you one of two things about the American soul:
First, that American's care far too much about a TV show, even at the expense of a historic event.
Or two, unless his name is Bin Laden, American's don't care when a terrorist dies.
I suspect it's a little bit of both, and sadly, probably more of the former.
You'll notice I called Arafat a terrorist. Not a freedom fighter, a misunderstood soul, an insurgent, or a statesman. The reasons for this are clear:
Freedom fighters do not order the kidnapping and execution of Olympic athletes, as the PLO did in Munich.
Misunderstood souls do not stand before the UN General Assembly wearing a holster and threatening violence if his wishes aren‘t granted. Israel understood exactly what he was.
Insurgents do not use their arms for personal profit. For while his people starved in poverty, Araftat's wife lived under the yoke of a $100,000 a month allowance.
And statesman do not abruptly reject the fulfillment of their goals, as Arafat did in the '90's when he realized that a Palestinian state would eventually mean the end of his own power.
Overall there seems to be a lot of confusion about what defines a terrorist nowadays - Bin Laden excepted. This week the Today show compared Iraqi insurgents to Washington's Colonial army, and the phrase "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" has popped out of several talking heads, not the least of them Diane Sawyer.
Let me clarify this point: engaging in violent acts for political gain is universal to a hundred causes, some of them genuine. Arafat's work does not meet this criteria. The intentional targeting of civilians is terrorism. Blindly pursuing death and destruction for its own sake is terrorism. Killing Israelis soley because they are Israelis is terrorism, and dressing it up in trite calls for a Palestinian state do not excuse it.
Ironically, the world is closer now to a Palestinian state then at any point in the last century. Not because of Arafat, but in spite of him. When history traces the evolution of that ideal it will crucify Arafat, who's actions delayed it's birth by hardening Israeli opposition to it. The most glaring miscue of the saga is the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Arafat in 1994.
To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, a winner of the award in 1973, "when a man like that wins it, it makes you wonder if you want to be part of the club".
I am not so naïve as to think nations must only deal with the pure of heart. If that was a condition of diplomacy WWII would not have ended in 1945 with the Japanese emperor alive and still enthroned, and history would be cluttered with a thousand unresolved conflicts.
We might have to deal with people like Arafat, but that isn’t an excuse to lionize them.
President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, both leaders traditionally loathe to work within timelines, have said they expect a new nation to emerge within four years. For the sake of the Palestinian people Arafat exploited, I hope they’re right.
And for the sake of peace in that troubled region, may it be a place that emulates the rosy misconceptions of Yassir Arafat, and not the grim reality.