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Abu Ammar/Yasser Arafat 1929 - 2004: Fighting for peace

The Father of Palestine meets Allah after a last heroic battle

Mohammed Yasser Abdul-Ra'ouf Qudwa Al-Husseini was born on 24th August 1929, in the Gaza Strip, although other sources place his date and place of birth on 4th August in Cairo, Egypt, a typical example of the controversy which followed this great man throughout his life until his last breath.

He graduated from the King Fuad University in Cairo in 1951 with a degree in architectural engineering. After working in Egypt for seven years, he went to Kuwait in 1958. Here, he met Khalil El-Wazir (Abu Jihad) and they together planned the founding of the Fatah movement (in Arabic, Al-Fatah means "victory through Jihad" and is the reverse spelling of Hataf, Harekat at-Tahrir al-Wataniyyeh al-Falastiniyyeh, "Palestine Homeland Liberation Movement").

Back in Palestine, Yasser Arafat launched the Palestinian movement on 1st January, 1965, liaising with activists living in Jerusalem, before moving to Jordan in 1967, following the Six-day war.

Two years later, he was elected the third Chairman for the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (after Ahmad Shuqeri and Yahya Hamoda), a title which he retained until his death.

He was forced to flee to the Lebanon in 1969, after King Hussein expelled the Palestinians who had acted against him in the September War and he stayed here until 1982, when Beirut was besieged by the Israelis, who tried and failed to assassinate him, forcing him to take refuge in Tunisia.

The first Intifada broke out in the occupied territories in 1987, lasting until 1993, when Yasser Arafat signed the "Declaration of Principles On Interim Self-Government Arrangements", (Oslo Accords) on September 13th, together with Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, preparing the way for the signing of the Gaza-Jericho or Cairo Agreement, with Rabin, on 4th May, 1994. These agreements were the result of secret negotiations between the PLO and Israel following the 1991 Madrid Conference.

In July 1994, Arafat returned to Gaza for the first time in 27 years and the same year, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

This agreement led to the foundation of the Palestinian National Authority and the undertaking of obligations by both sides, foremost among these being Israel's promise to concede occupied territories to the Palestinians in return for peace - the "Land for Peace Process".

Initially withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and Jericho, additional agreements led to 95% of Palestinians living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza living under Palestinian Administration by 1997, although Israel only conceded less than 40% of the territory in these areas.

Here was the sticking point. Arafat has been accused by his opponents, and principally by the Israelis, of never fulfilling the promises undertaken in the treaties he signed, namely not addressing security issues and not seriously working for peace.

However, it should be remembered thatYasser Arafat stood firm in the face of extreme pressure and would not sell out for 95% of what he and his people were entitled to, namely the complete and de facto withdrawal of Israeli forces from 100% of Palestinian Territory. No compromise.

If Israel has systematically refused to fully comply with the agreements it signs and with UN Resolutions, any sell-out by the Palestinians would be a sign of weakness - and Yasser Arafat was anything but weak.

A born survivor, Yasser Arafat managed to keep himself in the leadership seat of the Palestinian cause despite the existence of various warring factions each making their own demands, he managed to unite the different factions into a single cause, managed to see his cause recognized by the UNO and managed to have the Palestinian cause legitimized in the international community.

Democratically elected as President by 83% of his people, Yasser Arafat's determination and considerable personal skills saw him justifying and legitimizing his cause in the eyes of his people and in the eyes of the world. He spent, and dedicated his 75 years fighting for peace. A perfect epitaph for Abu Ammar would be the continuation of his dream - the creation of a Palestinian State, living in harmony and peace in its sovereign territories, which nobody of right or reason believes should be denied to it.

Yasser Arafat leaves his wife, Suha At-Taweel and their daughter, Zahwa.

 

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