Nov 172004
Authors: Amy Resseguie

Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority, died Thursday in France after being in a coma and hospitalized for weeks.

While Arafat ruled across seas, his death has affected students at CSU.

The Palestinian leader of nearly 40 years worked to unite various factions and to create a Palestinian state in the Middle East.

Over the years, Arafat both supported and renounced terrorism and violence; he declared intifada against Israel in 1988 and 2000 and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

At CSU, reactions to Arafat's death were varied, but many students are united in the hope that peace will now come to the region.

"I hope the Palestinian authority will be carried on in a democratic way," said Ramadan Alkhatib, a member of the Palestinian Student Association. "The successor has to work hard to stop the violence."

Alkhatib, a civil engineering graduate student, said the burden of peace also rests heavily on the Israelis.

"They said they wouldn't continue (negotiations) with Arafat – now he's gone," he said.

Alkhatib said he was shocked and saddened at the news that Arafat had died, while some other students said they felt more relief at the news.

"I don't want to say that I'm happy that a person died, but it's a relief that he's gone," said Aaron Matzkin, a junior criminal justice major and Hillel member. "Maybe this will be the needed peace to start negotiations again."

Benjamin Carroll, Hillel vice president, agreed and said he believes a more moderate leader will enable the Palestinian people to achieve their goal of creating a Palestinian state.

"I'd like to see (interim Palestinian Chairman) Mahmoud Abbas truly elected into the position," said Carroll, a junior political science major. "He's respected by Israelis and he's respected by the majority of Palestinians."

Carroll also said it will be easier now for the Israeli government to work with the Palestinians and make appropriate concessions and compromises.

Matzkin said it is important for the Palestinians to work peacefully to create a state.

"The Palestinians are a people without a country and they still deserve a place to live," he said. "However, Arafat was in power for so long that there may be some people who are a little confused as to what to do now."

Alkhatib said he wants people to understand the Palestinians are not violent people by nature, but they felt forced to action to make the other parties hear their concerns.

"We hope that peace will prevail – they started the intifada not because they like violence, but because they saw a no-win situation," he said. "Throughout history, when you want a change, you have to have some kind of revolution."

Alkhatib also said he is concerned about American media portrayal of Arafat.

"Yasser Arafat was not a terrorist; he was the one who brought peace to the area when he signed the Oslo Accords in 1993," he said. "The other media in the world portray him in this good way, sometimes in an excellent way."

Carroll disagrees with this view of Arafat, saying he was, in fact, a radical who harbored terrorists. However, Carroll hopes the news of Arafat's death does not do more to divide people.

"I hope this hasn't become a bad rift," he said.

Matzkin agreed, saying the Palestinian people should unite behind a leader who will work to find a solution.

"Once the terrorism stops, there's absolutely no reason why the Palestinian people shouldn't have their own country – that's really the only thing standing in their way," Matzkin said. "Once they find a leader they will be able to achieve what they've been fighting for."

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