Yasser Arafat’s Lack of Vision

Thomas Friedman [RSS] makes a valid point about Yasser Arafat in today’s column.

It is a sad but fitting coda to Yasir Arafat’s career that the prospect of his death seemed to unlock more hope and possibilities than the reality of his life.


Google is a wonderful tool. I spent time the other day Googling every variation I could of the words: “Yasir Arafat and Palestine and education.” I couldn’t come up with a single speech, or even full paragraph, in which Arafat laid out his vision for how Palestinians would educate their youth and nurture their talents. Maybe all his speeches on that subject were never translated from Arabic. Or maybe they just don’t exist – because this was never his priority. His obsession was with Palestinian “land,” not Palestinian “life.” Google the words “Yasir Arafat and martyrdom and jihad,” and the matches go on for pages.

Quite right. Arafat, like most revolutionaries, was all-consumed with winning independence but had no clue what he’d do with it if he had it. Indeed, of those who’ve obtained autonomy through violence, including terrorism, in the modern era, Nelson Mandela is the only example that comes to mind who became a legitimate statesman once he assumed the reins of power.

As for Friedman’s research methodology, however, I would note that use of LexisNexis might be more useful for such a project than Google.

Update: It might also help to search for “Yasser Arafat” rather than “Yasir Arafat.” The former spelling seems more common, although I’ve tended to spell it the latter way.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.