Today is the anniversary of Yasir Arafat's death.
The official Palestinian Wafa news agency published an article about how much Arafat supported Palestinian culture. But what it really about is that Arafat knew that he had to create a Palestinian culture, since no distinct culture existed before Zionism - Palestinian Arabs were just part of the larger Levantine or Syrian Arab society (with some Egyptian influences.)
Titled "Abu Ammar, friend of intellectuals," the article says:
The intellectuals whom Wafa met unanimously agreed on the interest of Martyr President Arafat in culture and intellectuals, as culture is an integral part of the revolution, and that the poem and the pen go hand in hand with the rebel’s gun in the course of the Palestinian revolution .
The article goes on to show that Arafat prioritized funding Palestinian Arab writers, and was keenly interested in using music for propaganda:
Khaled Habbash, 62, one of the founders of the "Palestine Lovers Songs" band, believes that President Yasser Arafat was interested in strengthening the Palestinian cultural identity, especially popular and patriotic songs .Abu Ammar used to meet from time to time with the band, especially after their return from tours in different continents of the world, encouraging them and repeating to them that the band is an ambassador for Palestine in the world, and he took care of the costs of producing revolutionary songs." He always emphasized to us the importance of the Palestinian identity, which is reinforced by traditional and patriotic songs, and reiterated that our musical instruments and our revolutionary and heritage songs that go hand in hand with the gun are indispensable," said Habbash, who now works as the culture officer at the Palestinian Consulate in Dubai.
If there was such a rich Palestinian cultural identity, why would it have had to be strengthened?
Another interviewee noted that Arafat supported disseminating posters with slogans like "Do you belong to the revolution? " and "Join the sons of Palestine!." He said, "Abu Ammar was of the opinion that our conflict is a cultural conflict no less fierce than other fields."
Arafat didn't support an existing culture - he helped create a culture where none existed before, because he needed to conjure a front for the world of an ancient Palestinian people with long standing ties to the land, even though nearly every prominent Palestinian family proudly trace their origins to the Arabia Gulf.
Further proof that Arafat's interest in culture was only in the context of conflict was that while he was creating a Palestinian culture, he was denying any Jewish history or culture in Israel. He famously told Bill Clinton that if Solomon built a Temple, it was in Nablus, not Jerusalem, and there was no trace of any Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. Since then, Temple denial has been a major feature of Palestinian discourse, with the Palestinian Authority demanding an apology from UN Secretary General for noting that the Jewish Temples existed in Jerusalem.
If Arafat really cared about culture, he wouldn't need to deny other peoples' cultures.
This article, meant to celebrate Arafat's love of Palestinian culture, actually proves the opposite: he considered culture to be a weapon like any other and his interest in the topic never went beyond how he can use culture as a means to ethnically cleanse Jews from the region.