A Eulogy for Arafat

By Fr. Labib Kobti at Arab Cultural Center

Novemebr 11, 2004

For over forty years Arafat worked for the liberation of Palestine. He knew that he had a right and just cause and he wanted to win this cause. This is what I admire in him. Yes, his perseverance despite how long he had been humiliated, mistreated, persecuted by the Israelis. He stood firm on his cause and won an International recognition for the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign and independent state, when Israel was trying to tell the world that Palestine had never existed and Palestinians first were a bunch of refugees then a bunch terrorists. In 1982 during the invasion of Lebanon by Sharon when Arafat was thrown out of Lebanon, in his way to the so called exile in Tunis Arafat was received by Pope John Paul II. Arafat had always recognized this great jest form the Pope who got a lot of criticism from the USA and many Arabic and European Countries. At that time he was considered as a terrorist. Arafat saw in this meeting with the Pope a new area for his life, the Pope asked him to renounce terrorism. At that time I remember very well I was completing my studies in Rome. Arafat promised and kept his promise. He was even awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1994, I think that he was the only one who deserves it more than Rabin or Peres. In fact the others did not give a lot. He gave the right on 78% of Palestine so as to see the tiny Palestinians State in the 22% that the Israeli governments started filled with settlement ignoring their own promisees and the International Law.

 

When you see a person pursuing his ideals and stick bravely with his own ideal, you cannot but admire him and forget perhaps the many mistakes that he had done in his past. In fact, at his death, France honored Arafat in the name of the European Union as a head of State. In Egypt over 60 countries were represented, between them the USA. His so called enemies also were there giving respect to a person who really showed them that we can die and win. Yes, when you pursue your rightful ideal and accept any kind of suffering to reach that ideal, even if you die, you are the winner. Arafat ideal won and is winning.

What would the world remember about the Arabs in some years from now? And what the world would  remember about Arafat?

The World will remember that the Arabs had the most rightful and just cause, but they did not know how to market it for the best and bring justice to them selves and to the Palestinians. The World will remember about the Arabs that they had the wealthiest resources, Oil and money, but they did not know how to use it to gain independence, democracy and freedom. The world will remember that the Arabs had what could make from them the best on earth a rightful cause and unique possibilities but they used them to enslaves themselves.

About Arafat, I think, the world will remember that he tried to remind the Arabs of the rightful cause of the Palestinians, the wealth that they should use to bring about justice and peace, but they preferred to silent themselves by fears and by reverence to other countries, accepting to be rubbed by them, in stead of using at least part of their resources to bring dignity to their own Arabic people. The World will remember that Arafat died free and won his cause, and they (the Arabic Countries) stayed alive and by their own will they wanted to be slaves to the others and loose their dignity, credibility and respect.

 

As Arab American today, I feel that the cause and ideal of Arafat should help me to build my own ideals in the USA. I call on all of you to think with me. Please bear some moments with me, I have a point to make.

Till now I struggle with many people of our own on who we are as Arab-Americans! What would be our identity and is what our mission in the Great Country, the US that received us?

Never when I was in my own country, I would thought that I will feel more Arab than Lebanese. In the USA I felt like all of you despite that we are from different countries, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine ... we feel more Arabs than ever. We share the same struggles and we look to the same recognition and future. So want should be my ideal in this country, and what really should I pursue so as to win as Arafat did?

In fact, we are what all many Americans know about Arabs! We give them the sense of what really they should find when they go in any of our Arabic Countries. Did we give the best of what we are till now? Do Americans when they meet us or hear about us, as their fellow Americans, respect us and love us? Can we do more? Had we failed ourselves and become more American-Arabs than Arab-Americans? Do our children know equally English and Arabic? Are our children proud of their Arabic origin?

We have been through history the bridge between East and West and the Orientalists had always saw on us the real translators of our traditions and our cultures, our good values and our stands. Do they see the same thing today? I have really no real answers today on these questions. Many Organizations, Mosques and Churches are doing their best but till now we did not reach a level to realize and for some after 50, 60, 100 years what should an American know and recognize in us.

I am afraid somehow, that we may, I hope not, we are repeating the same mistake of our own government. We have the most rightful, just and truthful cause in the world, and we are unable to market as it should be in the USA. We have a lot of resources that many others do not have and we are unable to use it for the best. Will history then condemn us one day as it will condemn our Arabic Countries?

Arafat died winning a cause, I am afraid as a lot did that I will die before I see that Arab-Americans are listened to at the same level of others, you know what I mean, in this beautiful country.

Thank you