Saturday, November 20, 2004

Juan Cole comments re Arafat & Bin Laden

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the central issue in the Middle East. American support of for Israel has been the touchstone of nearly every anti-American gesture for decades.
So how come we didn't hear of an al-Qaida connection with Arafat? Could it be that Yassar Arafat was more powerful among his people than Bin Laden?

Arafat's secular nationalism was supple enough to compromise with Israel and to imagine a two-state solution, even if the road of negotiations remained rocky. The continued Israeli colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories during the 1990s helped, along with terrorist attacks by radical groups such as Hamas, to derail the peace process, which Sharon had always opposed.

Arafat's death creates a vacuum in Palestinian leadership that will not soon be filled. Sharon's assassination of major Hamas leaders has also weakened authority structures in that party. If the Israelis and the Palestinian leadership cannot find a way to reinvigorate the peace process, cells of radical young Palestinians may grow up that look to bin Laden for their cues. Link

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