On November 11, 2004, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat died under mysterious circumstances. The next day his body was brought to Cairo, where a official state funeral was held. Representatives of 50 countries participated in the event, both admirers and rivals.
Behind his coffin marched Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Syrian President Bashar Assad, King Abdullah of Jordan, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, the presidents of Tunisia and Sudan, the leaders of Sweden, Brazil, Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan, the deputy prime minister of China, the vice presidents of Austria, Bulgaria, Tanzania, Iraq and Afghanistan, the foreign ministers of Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Greece, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Canada, Indian and Slovenia, the parliamentary leaders of Italy, Russia, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates. It was an official farewell that was less impressive that Shimon Peres’ funeral, but still quite respectable for a president without a country.
The United States, the well known neutral intermediary between Israel and Palestine, sent a low-ranking representative: William Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Israel, on the other hand, gave it the finger.
No Israeli representative, either high- or low-ranking, or even very low-ranking, attended. None of the leaders of the opposition dreamed of showing his final respects to the leader of the Palestinian people, the first who recognized the State of Israel, and signed the Oslo Accords. Not Shimon Peres, not Ehud Barak, not Shlomo Ben-Ami and not even Uzi Baram bothered to participate in the Palestinians’ mourning.
Some of them had courageously shaken his hand in the past, other had embraced him enthusiastically several years earlier. But with the outbreak of the second intifada he was once again categorized as a satanic terrorist. The pundits of the sane, moderate left repeatedly claimed in innumerable learned articles that he was not a partner and there was nobody to talk to. When the body of the rais was transferred to Ramallah, the funeral was attended by several “extremist,” marginal Israelis, the likes of Uri Avnery and Mohammed Barakeh.
All the other peaceniks had to wait for the screening of the film “The Gatekeepers” in 2012; in other words, for the videos of all the chiefs of the Shin Bet security services, who declared that in real time they knew that Arafat did not encourage, organize or initiate the mass uprising in the second intifada, nor the acts of terror that accompanied it. For lack of choice the leader was forced to join the wave, otherwise he would have lost his prestige and his status. The disappointment at Barak’s unprepared and totally bizarre diplomatic step, and Ariel Sharon’s ascent to the Temple Mount, were among the main reasons for the eruption of the Palestinians’ unbridled opposition.