The Geography of Palestine According to Arafat

by | Jun 14, 2002

The next time you see a picture of Yasser Arafat, take a look at his keffiyeh, the black-and-white headdress he never appears without. He wears it in an unusual style, carefully folded so that it comes to a peak at the top, drapes down over his left shoulder, then tapers to a point at the […]

The next time you see a picture of Yasser Arafat, take a look at his keffiyeh, the black-and-white headdress he never appears without. He wears it in an unusual style, carefully folded so that it comes to a peak at the top, drapes down over his left shoulder, then tapers to a point at the bottom.

Arafat’s oddly-arranged keffiyeh is meant to resemble the map of “Palestine” — the Arab state whose creation is his all-consuming goal. It is an emphatic symbol: Without uttering a word, Arafat conveys to everyone who sees him that Palestine is always on his mind.

But look again. The shape of Arafat’s keffiyeh doesn’t correspond with Palestine at all — not if Palestine means the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the territories Israel took from Jordan and Egypt during the Six-Day War. What it resembles is the map of *Israel* — the whole of Israel, from the northern peak of the Galilee, down along the Mediterranean coast, and from there to the southern tip at Eilat.

In short, the Palestine that is always on Arafat’s mind is not an Arab state that coexists with Israel, but an Arab state that takes the place of Israel. The message conveyed by his keffiyeh is indeed emphatic: It is a message of war without end.

The notion that Palestine equals all of Israel — and that all of Israel must be “liberated” to create a Palestinian Arab state — is no idiosyncracy on Arafat’s part. It is an axiom of the Palestinian movement, constantly repeated in its basic documents, its domestic rhetoric, its educational curricula — and its maps.

Visit, the Web site of Al-Fatah, Arafat’s faction of the PLO, and the first image you see is the Fatah emblem: a map of “Palestine” behind crossed guns and above a grenade. But the country depicted is Israel, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. (On the same Web site you can read the Fatah constitution, which says the organization’s goal is the “complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist . . . existence.”)

Fatah isn’t the only PLO faction whose emblem features a map of Palestine that comprises all of Israel. Most of them do, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestine Liberation Front, Al-Saika, and the PLO itself. (You can see the PFLP logo at ).

There is nothing subtle about these symbols or their Palestine-equals-Israel maps. They are calls for Israel’s abolition. With the signing of the Oslo peace accords — which began with Arafat’s solemn pledge that “the PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security” — all of them should have been scrapped. And it should go without saying that maps depicting all of Israel as Palestine ought to have no place at all in the Palestinian Authority, the civil administration that now rules the Palestinian people.

Sadly, they are ubiquitous.

Maps of “Palestine” on the walls of Arafat’s offices — occasionally seen in news photos or television footage — are actually maps of Israel. Agencies of the Palestinian Authority use the shape of Israel to denote Palestine in their emblems, stationery, and Web sites. Click on — the cyber-home of Arafat’s Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs — and a large map of Israel appears. The logo of the Ministry of Industry is a stylized map of Israel drawn in the Palestinian colors ( Smaller but unmistakable is the map of Israel at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation ( And the colorful “Map of Palestine” offered by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics is, in reality, a colorful map of Israel (see it at

It would take far more room than I have here to list all of the Palestinian agencies, publications, organizations, and web sites in which Palestine is shown as encompassing all of Israel. But at this late date, is it really necessary to prove that Arafat’s goal, and that of his regime, is the liquidation of the Jewish state?

On the day he signed the first Oslo accord at the White House in 1993, Arafat told an interviewer that the agreement “will be a basis for an independent Palestinian state in accordance with the Palestine National Council resolution issued in 1974.” He was referring to the PLO’s “phased plan,” which was adopted in Cairo on June 9, 1974. It calls for establishing a Palestinian state on any Israeli land that can be acquired through negotiation, then using that territory as a forward base for “liberating” the rest of Israel by force.

Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have never repudiated the phased plan; on the contrary, they have reiterated it time and again. “The Oslo accord was a preface for the Palestinian Authority,” one of Arafat’s government ministers, Abdul Aziz Shaheen, said in 1998, “and the Palestinian Authority will be a preface for the Palestinian state which, in its turn, will be a preface for the liberation of the entire Palestinian land.”

Palestinians and Israelis will never know peace until Arafat and his irredentist vision are expunged from Palestinian life. You will know that has happened when the word “Israel” appears on Palestinian maps.

Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe. This is an excerpt from his weekly newsletter, Arguable, and is reprinted with permission. To subscribe to Arguable at no charge, click here.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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