Commentary Magazine


Article Preview

Yasir Arafat by Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin; Arafat’s War by Efraim Karsh

- Abstract

The Eliminationist Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography
by Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin
Oxford. 354 pp. $27.50

Arafat’s War by Efraim Karsh
Grove. 296 pp. $25.00
Reviewed by David Pryce-Jones

Yasir Arafat has held the Pale s tinians in his personal grip for almost five decades—a fact that is itself a monument to the tribal and absolute politics of Palestinian society. His declared ambition has been to obtain a state, and so to remedy the historic Arab rejection of the 1947 UN partition plan that is evidently the abiding source of Palestinian misfortune. But what sort of state? Either it must live alongside Israel or it is meant to eradicate Israel. Which is it to be?

At times, and with high drama, Arafat has agreed to compromise—that is, to live alongside Israel—only to resort soon afterward to violence. This pattern of alternating between yes and no has caused mayhem and huge loss of life. The futility of it is also baffling. Is Arafat the helpless victim of cultural conditioning? Or does something in his character prevent him from taking the realistic measure of Israel, of other Arab leaders, and of the whole watching world?



About the Author

David Pryce-Jones, the British novelist and political analyst, is the author of, among other books, Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews (Encounter).