Saluting Abu Ammar

long time ago when i was probably ten or eleven, when i had just begun to actually hear things on TV and pay attention to them, i saw a man in a military uniform with a big smile and a “chapyeh” wrapped on his head. the tv announcer said something to this effect: “Yasser Arafat, rahbar-e terrorist-haaye Felestin…” (Yasser Arafat, leader of terrorists in Palestine)

i paused and thought about that word . i asked my mother about who he was and what a terrorist was? she told me a little bit about Palestine and the occupation of it by Israel. then she told me that i was too young to understand what terrorism was. she just added that he wasn't one!

when i was fourteen i started reading about Palestine and its leader Arafat — “Abu Ammar” — who was visited Iran after the revolution.

an analysis of his career is best left to political scientists. but i have always been interested in the Palestinian struggle for independence. i am also an absolute believer in non violent approaches to world problems. it is of great importance to me to remember him as a leader who lived for the independence of his people in the face of difficulties.

he was not a perfect leader, then again, who is? he didn't take advantage of all the opportunities he had to bring more sense to the issues facing the Palestinian struggle. but again i don't know of any world leader who hasn't failed at that task. unlike Fidel Castro, Arafat took more steps from his past and towards the future. in the peace process, he called Israeli Prime Minister Yitshak Rabin “my brother”, a giant step which was very costly for Arafat's reputation. he also fought Sharon and didn't bow.

i believe he wanted a more liberal approach to the peace process than he actually talked about. after all he was Abu Ammar and could only do so much and go so far. he belonged to a sense of nostalgia that a lot of us still have and need to revisit.

i am not sure how much of a burden he had become for the new generation of Palestinian leaders. perhaps his role as a leader was long over. i am sure one can fault his strategies and decision making on many different occasions. however, i salute him for his love of his land and people, i salute him for a life he spent fighting injustice, i salute him for the sacrifices he made in his personal life…

i think the lesson that needs to be learned from his life and role as a leader is to be strong in the face of difficulties, believe in the greater interest of the people, know where you stand in the history of your people's struggle, and perhaps more importantly, know when to step aside.

i think one of the brightest moments of the Palestinian struggle for justice, belongs to Abu Ammar and what he represented.

in the name of justice and peace; may his soul rest in peace.

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