Saturday, 20 November 2004

arafat's legacy

so much has been written about yasser arafat in the last month. most of it is crap that will soon be forgotten, but there is one issue that is fundamental to the future of palestinians that we should not forget.

it may seem indelicate to speak of arafat's stashed treasure so soon after his death, but what happens to that money will give us a clue to the path that the palestinian people are about to embark on.

there is debate about exactly how much money arafat had, with estimates ranging from 3 million to 3 billion US dollars. it is quite clear that whatever he had at the peak of his wealth will have been diminished in recent years as a result of the great expense of shoring up his politico-military support. whatever the amount however, it was enough for his estranged parisian wife to go head to head with his lieutenants over its control (with her even denying them access to him in hospital).

one can't even blame the man for keeping this money to himself. arafat was a veteran of a kind of arab politics that few of us in the west truly understand. this is a life where corruption is rife and no institutions can be trusted, loyalties are fickle and political support is gained through the use of arms. for a man like arafat to have survived in such a treacherous environment for so long despite the many attempts on his life by his rivals, is a testament to his pragmatism. it was only by spending large amounts on his armies and intelligence forces that he was able to stay alive and in power.

now that arafat is dead and the palestinians are on the verge of significant change, it is time for them to create the mechanisms and institutions of state. It is time for arafat’s money to come out of hiding and be part of a program of social reform for the betterment of the palestinian people. the significant amount of money collected worldwide to help the palestinians, should now be in the control of their government and should be spent on schools, hospitals, a justice system etc. it is no longer justifiable for whoever the next palestinian leaders are, to treat the coffers as a private war chest. There is risk inherent in this course of action but without it the Palestinian people will never have the freedom they desire, regardless of israel’s actions.