Yasser Arafat

Photo: Remy Steinegger / CC BY-SA 2.0

Yasser Arafat Biography

Yasser Arafat (August 24, 1929 – November 11, 2004) political leader and promoter of Palestinian independence. He was born in El Cairo, the capital city of Egypt. His father was Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini, a Palestinian from Gaza, and his mother Zahwa Abul Saud, a Palestinian from Jerusalem. He lived in Gaza, most of his childhood until his mother’s death. After that, Arafat begins a life in the Holy City of Jerusalem, occupied by the British, who founded on Zionist colonialism sought to protect their oil interests in Mesopotamia and the important Suez Canal. In Jerusalem Arafat would learn the precepts of the Koran.

He studied civil engineering at the University of Cairo but decided to quit. Motivated by the struggle of his country, seeing the situation so miserable that they lived because of the British invasion, supported by the League of Nations, wanted to be an active part of the fight of the Arabs against Israel. Soon, the withdrawal of British troops from the Palestinian region, followed by the Arab defeat, in 1950.

Yasser returned to Cairo to continue his engineering studies and was recognized for his political activism and for his broad leadership. For this reason, in 1952 he was named as the president of the League of Palestinian Students of Cairo University. His different occupations delayed his degree for several years, but when he finally obtained it, he moved to Kuwait, where he would found the Fatah Movement (Palestinian National Liberation Movement). This movement had the purpose of seeking the liberation of their homeland, by means of independence with respect to Arab governments.

In 1964, he would create a new organization to reaffirm his aspirations and his people to possess an autonomous state in the face of the territorial ambitions of Israel and their Arab neighbors. As a result, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was created, supported by the President of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser. In 1965, the PLO began the armed struggle against the Israeli occupation forces. The PLO’s conviction to wage an independent struggle is reaffirmed with the end of the Six-Day War when Israel defeated Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. They proceeded to occupy the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip, Sinai and the Golan Heights. During this event, Arafat is in charge of the PLO’s executive committee.

During 1968, the incorporation of young people to the armed struggle increases remarkably, due to the motivation and attraction that the people felt for the victory of the PLO before the Zionist army, as a consequence of this military victory its prestige grew. Thanks to the popularity and reverence, the PLO would become a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

However, in 1974 Arafat arrives at the United Nations facilities where he states his speech where the following phrase is celebrated: “War breaks out in Palestine, but it is in Palestine that peace will be born”.

In 1982, the invasion of Israel broke out over Lebanon, occupying the capital of Beirut. This invasion lasted three years. The Israeli army attacks the bases of support of the PLO and forces a rethinking of military-political strategy. Arafat had to take refuge with his organization in Tunisia.

The areas occupied by Israel in 1967 were proclaimed by the PLO in 1988 as an independent Palestinian state, with Arafat as a provisional political leader. Simultaneously, Arafat made a statement before the UN rejecting the use of terror as a political tool and calling for peace dialogues.

Some years later, Arafat’s intention to create dialogue and seek a political solution was approved in 1993 during the signing of the Oslo Accords with the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Isaac Rabin and Simón Pérez, the foreign minister. The agreements supported by the United States and signed in Washington were carried out. Arafat returned to Palestine as representative of an autonomous government called the Palestinian National Authority, which initially had only power over Gaza and Jericho, but then spread to the rest of the West Bank. For this effort, he would receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

His management under the leadership of the Palestinian National Authority focused primarily on the strategic purpose of achieving the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the occupied territories. This political project had many detractors; the Jewish extremists, with the complicity of North Americans, murdered Rabin.

Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister for the Likud party, was subtracted progressively contained the commitments assumed in Oslo. The withdrawal of Israeli troops caused delays and strong discord, therefore, negotiations were severely and violently interrupted since they began. In that sense, the Zionist leader Ariel Sharon with defiant attitude visits the esplanade of the mosques, the sacred place of Islam, to build a political position in view of his election as prime minister, supported by the most conservative sectors of Israel. Also, the second wave of Intifada was activated, expressing the exaltation of the Palestinian population.

The Zionist leader manages to win the elections, which generated an increase the violence, suicide attacks and destructive actions by the Arab people against Israel. The objective of the occupation forces, American allies and European powers was to pressure Arafat into exile. There was no objection to the issue of the violation of international law in the name of the war against terrorism. The seat of the political leader, Moukata, was the space where his resistance and commitment to the Palestinian cause was tested. Remarkable resistance after 18 months of siege that did not undermine the will of the Palestinian leader. Given this situation, he was poisoned with radioactive polonium, which forced him to be transferred to Paris, France.

In 2004, Arafat would die in a military hospital after entering a coma. His death was world news. His homeland paid hundreds of tributes.

His legacy did not die, young people recognize him in every act of resistance and remember him as a leader who was not defeated and did not give in to the defense of his people’s right to have an independent homeland. Thanks to the work of this man and his supporters, Palestine is recognized worldwide as a State.

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