Although Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died Wednesday,
University student groups who are often no strangers to political
activity have remained largely silent over his death.

Although no student groups have organized activities to mourn
his death, discussion about the future of Middle East peace talks
and the future of the proposed Palestinian state have circulated
throughout campus, said Students Allied for Freedom and Equality
President Carmel Salhi.

Salhi said his group grieves the death of Arafat as a
Palestinian leader, but he said he believes that Arafat’s
contributions only minimally helped the Palestinian people in their
fight for a homeland.

“He will be missed. But at the same time his death and
burial symbolize that for all he accomplished in his life, the
Palestinians are still in the same place they were in
before,” Salhi said.

Salhi said one of the most glaring examples of the lack of
success of Arafat’s leadership was in that he was prohibited
from being buried in east Jerusalem by the Israeli government.

“Hopefully, Arafat’s death will make people come to
grips with the failures in the past and try to avoid (making the
same mistakes) in the future,” Salhi said.

But Or Shotan, head of the Israeli Student Organization, said
the death of Arafat symbolizes a whole new step in potential for
peace in the Middle East.

“His death opens up a whole new window for peace between
Israel and Palestine. I’m sorry about his death as a person,
but … he led uprisings of violence against Israel,”
Shotan said.

Jessica Risch, co-chair of American Movement for Israel, said
her organization’s primary hope is that the new leadership
which arises in his place will bring peace between the Palestinians
and Israelis.

“We just hope that the new leadership will arise and lead
us to peace. Israel looks for a partner in peace,” Risch
said.

Arafat, who was the leading Palestinian symbol over the last 40
years, watched his health take a turn for the worse on November 3
when he fell into a coma. His health conditions produced widespread
panic over would become his successor in the peace talks, and where
the future of the potential for peace between the Palestinians and
Israelis stood.

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