Friday, November 05, 2004

Yasser Arafat

Amid all the excitement, of course, serious illness seized someone else's president. Yasser Arafat collapsed in his Ramallah bunker and was, after some parley, transported to France for treatment. Something of the division this is likely to unleash was well pointed up by the political squabble that broke out over the question of whether or not he was alive. First of all, the media burst the story out that he was dead. Luxembourg's Prime Minister announced it to the European Council of Ministers, thus joining Jacques "The Hour of Europe" Poos on the very short list of memorable Luxembourg politicians. In fact the story originated on an Israeli TV station and was denied, first of all by Arafat's entourage and then (more convincingly) by his doctors. Apparently now he is in a "reversible coma". Whatever that may be.

It reminds me most of all of Monty Python's legendary Dead Parrot Sketch, in which a shopkeeper attempts to convince a customer that the parrot he's just bought is alive despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
"C: Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.


O: Well, o'course it was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed that bird down, it would have nuzzled up to those bars, bent 'em apart with its beak, and VOOM! Feeweeweewee!

C: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this bird wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'E's bleedin' demised!

O: No no! 'E's pining!

C: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker!

'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies!
'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig!
'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!!


Indeed. This may well be an Ex-Rais, even one with very rare Palestinian Khaki plumage. Don't assume, though, if he does die, that any positive movement will result. With very little of its former armed power or capability for patronage left, one of the few forces that drew Palestinians to the PLO rather than Hamas or Islamic Jihad was the prestige of Arafat. With him gone, the PLO and the PA are likely to fragment and drift into irrelevance. Ariel Sharon will probably think this wonderful, until the reality of a Palestine ruled by Hamas hits home.

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