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Why do Israelis hate Yasser Arafat so much?

Because anyone willing to fight you for what you believe is yours is, by definition, an enemy.

Even if the nicest person you can think of -- say, Mary Poppins -- knocked on your door one morning and demanded your house, you'd be pissed. Sure, she's sweet, entertaining, has friends who'll clean the chimney. But you'd still refuse. If you give her your house, where the hell are you gonna live?

In Israel's case, the person claiming half the house is Yasser Arafat. And instead of punctuating his claims with delightful song-and-dance routines offering spoonfuls of sugar in exchange for East Jerusalem, Arafat is offering suicide bombings, which -- percentage wise -- have been more deadly to Israeli civilians than seven World Trade Center attacks. But it's not just the recent series of bombings targeting civilians that's getting Arafat crossed off most Israeli Hanukkah gift lists. Before the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations of the 1990s, Arafat was the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the most famous terrorist group in the world.

Founded in 1964 and led by Arafat almost completely from its inception, the PLO fought by waging a guerilla and terrorist war against Israel and its citizens. Their tactics included bombings, rocket attacks and hijackings. The PLO carried out raids on Israel from Jordan (which borders Israel on the east) until 1970, when Jordan kicked them out. From there, they moved on to Lebanon (which borders Israel on the north), where they remained until 1982, when the Israeli military drove them out.

Away from Israel, Palestinians were responsible for countless terrorist attacks, including two of the most infamous in history. At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, a group calling itself Black September (a reference to the bloody September 1970 Jordanian/Israeli operation that drove the PLO out of Jordan) murdered the Israeli Olympic team. And in 1985, Palestinian terrorists hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean, murdering and throwing overboard an elderly Jewish tourist named Leon Klinghoffer.

One could argue that Arafat wasn't directly responsible for either of those attacks. But by actively (and successfully) trying to make himself the single dominant symbol of a Palestinian liberation movement that embraces the murder of civilians, his hands are bloodied by those and other similar attacks.

Many Israelis also despise Arafat because they see him as disingenuous about wanting peace, especially after he turned down an offer from Israel that would've given the Palestinians up to 97 percent of the West Bank for their own nation. Although Arafat's critics saw the Israeli offer as generous, he claimed that returning up to 97 percent of what doesn't belong to you, while keeping the parts you want most, isn't exactly generous.

Finally, like Arab hatred for Ariel Sharon, Israeli hatred for Arafat is hugely motivated by his success. As often and as hard as Israel has tried to destroy him and his movement since the 1960s, Arafat has been hugely successful at putting the international spotlight on the Palestinian fight for nationhood. We are a nation that cares little about international affairs, yet the Palestinian liberation movement is among the top stories in our news year after year.

The same can't be said of independence movements in Chiapas, Mexico, and the Kurdish territories of Iran, Iraq and Turkey -- or the Ogoni homeland in Nigeria. You don't see Colin Powell flying off to visit them.

andisheh.nouraee@creativeloafing.com

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