Years in active : From 1959 To 2004
Country of resident : Palestine
City : Ramallah
Gender : Male
Date of birth : 24/8/1929
Mohammed Yasser Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini , (24 August 1929 – 11 November 2004), popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar , was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and leader of the Fatah political party, which he founded in 1959. Arafat spent much of his life fighting against Israel in the name of Palestinian self-determination. Originally opposed to Israel’s existence, he modified his position in 1988 when he accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242.
Arafat and Fatah operated from several Arab countries. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fatah has forced out of Jordan and into Lebanon, Arafat and Fatah were major targets of Israel’s 1978 and 1982 invasions of that country. He was “revered by many Arabs,” and the majority of the Palestinian people, regardless of political ideology or faction, viewed him as a freedom fighter who symbolized their national aspirations.
Later in his career, Arafat engaged in a series of negotiations with the government of Israel to end the decades-long conflict between it and the PLO. These included the Madrid Conference of 1991, the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David Summit. His political rivals, including Islamists and several PLO leftists, often denounced him for being corrupt or too submissive in his concessions to the Israeli government. In 1994, Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, for the negotiations at Oslo. During this time, Hamas and other militant organizations rose to power and shook the foundations of the authority that Fatah under Arafat had established in the Palestinian territories.
In late 2004, after effectively being confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years by the Israeli army, Arafat became ill, fell into a coma and died on 11 November 2004 at the age of 75. While the exact cause of his death remains unknown and no autopsy was performed, his doctors spoke of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and cirrhosis.
Achievements and Awards
He did manage to get his degree in 1956, worked briefly in Egypt, then resettled in Kuwait, first being employed in the department of public works, next successfully running his own contracting firm. He spent all his spare time in political activities, to which he contributed most of the profits. In 1958 he and his friends founded Al-Fatah, an underground network of secret cells, which in 1959 began to publish a magazine advocating armed struggle against Israel. At the end of 1964 Arafat left Kuwait to become a full-time revolutionary, organising Fatah raids into Israel from Jordan.
It was also in 1964 that the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was established, under the sponsorship of the Arab League, bringing together a number of groups all working to free Palestine for the Palestinians. The Arab states favoured a more conciliatory policy than Fatah’s, but after their defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Fatah emerged from the underground as the most powerful and best organised of the groups making up the PLO, took over that organisation in 1969 when Arafat became the chairman of the PLO executive committee. The PLO was no longer to be something of a puppet organisation of the Arab states, wanting to keep the Palestinians quiet, but an independent nationalist organisation, based in Jordan.
Arafat developed the PLO into a state within the state of Jordan with its own military forces. Arafat sought to build a similar organisation in Lebanon, but this time was driven out by an Israeli military invasion. He kept the organization alive, however, by moving its headquarters to Tunis. He was a survivor himself, escaping death in an airplane crash, surviving any assassination attempts by Israeli intelligence agencies, and recovering from a serious stroke.
His life was one of constant travel, moving from country to country to promote the Palestinian cause, always keeping his movements secret, as he did any details about his private life. Even his marriage to Suha Tawil, a Palestinian half his age, was kept secret for some fifteen months. She had already begun significant humanitarian activities at home, especially for disabled children, but the prominent part she took in the public events in Oslo was a surprise for many Arafat-watchers. Since then, their daughter, Zahwa, named after Arafat’s mother, has been born.
The period after the expulsion from Lebanon was a low time for Arafat and the PLO. Then the intifada (shaking) protest movement strengthened Arafat by directing world attention to the difficult plight of the Palestinians. In 1988 came a change of policy. In a speech at a special United Nations session held in Geneva, Switzerland, Arafat declared that the PLO renounced terrorism and supported “the right of all parties concerned in the Middle East conflict to live in peace and security, including the state of Palestine, Israel and other neighbours”.
The prospects for a peace agreement with Israel now brightened. After a setback when the PLO supported Iraq in the Persian Gulf War of 1991, the peace process began in earnest, leading to the Oslo Accords of 1993.
This agreement included provision for the Palestinian elections which took place in early 1996, and Arafat was elected President of the Palestine Authority. Like other Arab regimes in the area, however, Arafat’s governing style tended to be more dictatorial than democratic. When the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu came to power in Israel in 1996, the peace process slowed down considerably. Much depends upon the nature of the new Israeli government, which will result from the elections to be held in 1999.
Information provided courtesy of www.allforpalestine.org