<h3>A Peace Medal For Yasir Arafat
Jews, Marxism and the Worker's Movement

Esther Vilenska

A Peace Medal For Yasir Arafat

First Published: Morning Freiheit, July 6, 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(Tel Aviv) (Special to the Morning Freiheit)

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The Moscow Pravda of June 3, 1975 published the an nouncement that the World Peace Council had decided to award Golden Peace Medals bearing the name of Joliot-Curie to a number of persons, including Yasir Arafat, the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Since I am a member of the World Peace Council I wish to express my disagreement with this action.

I suppose that the World Peace Council had in mind the bitter fate of the Palestinian Arab people who are now for the eighth year living under Israeli occupation, but I should like to stress that the choice of Yasir Arafat was not warranted.

Why? One should not confuse the natural solidarity for the Palestinian Arab people, with support for its leader who is right when he protests the alien occupation, but who is definitely wrong when he leads a struggle to gain the national freedom of his people by means of terrorist methods and with the aim of nullifying the national self-determination of the Jewish people. Solidarity with the demand for the national liberation of the Palestinian Arab people need not lead to an infatuation for a nationalist leader of this people.

The history of national movements teaches us that they contain varied strivings and trends. The policy of the Israeli government which is one of persecuting the pregressive forces among the Palestinian population, of deporting inhabitants and of blowing up homes is largely to blame for the fact that the terrorist trend has established itself in the conditions of the underground.

Yasir Arafat represents a nationalist trend within the Palestinian people and decidedly not its democratic, internationalist trend. We are profoundly convinced that the time will come when the Palestinian Arab people will bring forth a humanist, democratic leader who will more fully articulate the desire of the Palestinian people to live in peace and mutual respect with the Israeli people.

We conduct a struggle against the Israeli government which does not recognize the right of self-determination of the Palestinian Arab people, and which also violates the international treaties dealing with occupied territories.


We fully recognize the democratic right of the Palestinian people to decide its fate for itself. But we very clearly differentiate between the people on the one hand and the policy of Yasir Arafat on the other!

The Palestinian people employ various forms of struggle. One form of struggle is political – through education in the press (despite strict censorship), demonstrations, strikes of students, of merchants, of prisoners and their wives and children, etc.

A second form of struggle is military – through acts of terror against the Israeli population which causes many victims and reinforces the chauvinism on both sides.

There are two political concepts: one seeks the liberation of the Palestinian people by ending the occupation and by abolishing the State of Israel and creating a Palestinian state in the whole of Palestine. The second concept seeks to end the Israeli occupation and to set up an Arab state alongside the State of Israel and on the basis of peaceful co-existence with it.

The occupation policy of the Israeli government helps to nourish the chauvinist tendency within the Palestinian Arab society. But this does not signify that an Arab nationalist concept which refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and urges terrorist actions against it should receive a medal.

Marx and Engels pointed out that general support for a particular national movement is not identical with support for the narrow objectives or the representatives of this movement. Later Lenin called for the strict differentiation between the just demands of a national movement for its own national liberation and the unjust declarations of certain nationalist leaders against the legitimate rights of another people.

I believe that the radiant name of the great fighter for peace, the distinguished scientist and humanist Joliot-Curie is deserving of respect and it should not be besmirched by presenting a Golden Medal bearing his name to Yasir Arafat.

(Transl. by S.R.)