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Yasser Arafat

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Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat (August 4 or August 24, 1929November 11, 2004), born Muhammad `Abd ar-Ra'uf al-Qudwa al-Husayni (Arabic محمد عبد الرؤوف القدوة الحسيني) and also known as Abu `Ammar (ابو عمّار), was co-founder and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (19692004); President1 of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) (19932004); and a co-winner of the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.

Arafat was a controversial and polarizing figure throughout his lengthy political career. While his supporters viewed him as a heroic freedom fighter who symbolized the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, his opponents often described him as an unrepentant terrorist with a long legacy of promoting violence. Still others accused him of political corruption, or being a weak leader who made too many concessions to the Israeli government during efforts to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arafat was known for his bouts of flatulence which spoiled the Camp David accords between him and Ehud Barak. The Camp David accords were hosted by former President William Jefferson Clinton.

Contents

Early life

Arafat was the fifth or sixth (sources disagree) of seven children. His father was an Palestinian textile merchant and his mother came from a prominent Palestinian family. Arafat claimed to have been born in Jerusalem on August 4, 1929; some of his legal personal documentation states the same. A birth certificate registered in Cairo, Egypt shows August 24, 1929 as his date of birth and Cairo as the place. According to one Arafat biography, this birth certificate was filed in Cairo by his father so Arafat could attend school there. [1] (http://www.britannica.com/nobel/micro/30_1.html) [2] (http://nobelprize.org/peace/laureates/1994/arafat-bio.html)

Arafat was four when his mother died, and he and his father moved to Jerusalem from Cairo, where the family had been living. In Jerusalem, they lived in a house near the Western Wall and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a holy site to Jews, Christians and Muslims. At the age of eight, his father re-married and the family moved back to Cairo. The marriage did not last, and when his father married once more, Arafat's sister Inam was left in charge of the upbringing of her siblings.

Arafat attended the University of King Fuad I (later renamed Cairo University). He later claimed to have sought to better understand Judaism and Zionism by engaging in discussions with Jews and reading publications by Theodor Herzl and other Zionists. But by 1946 he had become a Palestinian nationalist and was procuring weapons in Egypt to be smuggled into Palestine in the Arab cause.[3] (http://cnnstudentnews.cnn.com/fyi/school.tools/profiles/Yasser.Arafat/student.storypage.html) During the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Arafat left the university and, along with other Palestinians, sought to enter Palestine to fight for Palestinian independence. He was disarmed and turned back by Egyptian military forces that refused to allow the poorly trained partisans to enter the war zone. Arafat felt that he had been "betrayed by these [Arab] regimes". After returning to the university, Arafat joined the Muslim Brotherhood and served as president of the Union of Palestinian Students from 1952 to 1956. By 1956, Arafat graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and served as a second lieutenant in the Egyptian Army during the Suez Crisis.[4] (http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560094/Arafat_Yasir.html) Later in 1956, at a conference in Prague, he donned the keffiyeh, the traditional chequered head-dress which was to become his emblem.

Arafat's younger brother Dr. Fathy Arafat, founded the Palestinian Red Crescent and was involved in the humanitarian aspect of the conflict.

Fatah and the PLO

After Suez, Arafat moved to Kuwait, where he found work as a civil engineer and eventually set up his own contracting firm. Arafat had decided that the best way for Palestinians to gain control of Palestine was for them to fight and not rely on support from Arab governments.

In Kuwait in 1959, with the help of friends Yahia Ghavani and Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad) [5] (http://www.palestineremembered.com/al-Ramla/al-Ramla/Story175.html), together with a group of refugees from Gaza, Arafat founded a local section of al-Fatah. According to journalist John Cooley, the name means "victory" and is also an acrostic taken from the initials, read backwards, of Harahkat al-Tahrir al Filistini (F-T-H), meaning the Palestine Liberation Movement.2 Fatah dedicated itself to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the destruction of the state of Israel.

Arafat worked hard in Kuwait to establish the groundwork for Fatah's future financial support by enlisting contributions from the many Palestinians working there, who gave generously from their high salaries in the oil industry (ibid., p.91).

Fatah's first operation was an unsuccessful attempt to blow up an Israeli water pump station in 1965.

After the Six-Day War, Arafat is said to have escaped Israel by crossing the River Jordan dressed as a woman carrying a baby.

In 1968 Fatah was the target of an Israeli Defense Force operation on the Jordanian village of Al-Karameh ("honor" in Arabic language), in which 150 relatively poorly armed Palestinians and 29 Israeli soldiers were killed. Despite the high Palestinian death toll, Fatah considered themselves victorious because of the Israeli army's eventual withdrawal. The battle was covered in detail by Time magazine, and Arafat's face appeared on the cover, bringing the wider world their first image of the man. Amid the post-war environment, the profiles of Arafat and Fatah were raised by this important turning point, as he came to be regarded as a national hero who dared confront Israel and many young Palestinians joined as the ranks and armaments of Fatah swelled. By the late 1960s, Fatah had come to dominate the PLO, and at the Palestinian National Congress in Cairo on February 3, 1969 Arafat was appointed Palestinian Liberation Organization leader, replacing Ahmad Shukeiri. Arafat became commander-in-chief of the Palestinian Revolutionary Forces two years later and, in 1973, the head of the PLO's political department.

Jordan

In the 1960s tensions between Palestinians and the Jordanian government had greatly increased; heavily armed Palestinian resistance elements (fedayeen) had created a virtual "state within a state" in Jordan, eventually controlling several strategic positions in Jordan, including the oil refinery near Az Zarq. Jordan considered this a growing threat to its sovereignty and security and attempted to disarm the Palestinian militias. Open fighting erupted in June of 1970.

Other Arab governments attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution, but continuing fedayeen actions in Jordan (such as the destruction by the PFLP, on September 12, of three international airliners hijacked and held in Dawson's Field in Zarqa) prompted the Jordanian government to take action to regain control over its territory.

On September 16, King Hussein declared martial law. On that same day, Arafat became supreme commander of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), the regular military force of the PLO. In the ensuing civil war, the PLO had the active support of Syria, which sent a force of around 200 tanks into Jordan to aid them. The fighting was mainly between the Jordanian army and the PLA; the U.S. Navy dispatched the Sixth Fleet to the eastern Mediterranean and Israel deployed troops to aid Hussein, if necessary. By September 24, the Jordanian army achieved dominance and the PLA agreed to a series of ceasefires [6] (http://www.onwar.com/aced/data/bravo/blacksept1970.htm). See also History of Jordan and Black September.

Lebanon

Following the expulsion from Jordan, Arafat relocated the PLO to Lebanon. Because of Lebanon's weak central government, the PLO was able to operate virtually as an independent state. The PLO mounted intermittent cross-border attacks against Israeli targets, including civilians, from there.

In September 1972, the Black September group killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. A number of sources, including Mohammed Daoud and Benny Morris, have stated that Black September was an arm of Fatah used for more militant operations. The killings were internationally condemned and Arafat publicly disassociated himself and the PLO from such attacks.

In 1973-4, Arafat closed Black September down, ordering the PLO to withdraw from acts of violence outside Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, because overseas attacks attracted too much bad publicity. The Fatah movement continued to launch attacks against Israeli civilians and the security forces within the West Bank and Gaza Strip; moreover, in the late 1970s numerous leftist Palestinian organizations appeared which carried out attacks against civilian targets both within Israel and outside of it. Israel claimed that Arafat was in ultimate control over these organizations and hence had not abandoned terrorism. Arafat denied responsibility for terrorist acts committed by these groups. In the same year, Arafat became the first representative of a nongovernmental organization to address a plenary session of the UN General Assembly, and Arab heads of state recognized the PLO as "the sole legitimate spokesman of the Palestinian people." In his UN address, Arafat condemned Zionism, but said, "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." His speech increased international support of the Palestinian cause. The PLO was admitted to full membership in the Arab League in 1976.

The PLO played an important part in the Lebanese Civil War; some Lebanese Christians allege that Arafat and the PLO were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Lebanese citizens.

During the Civil War, Arafat allied the PLO with Lebanese Muslim groups, however, fearing a loss of power Syria's President Assad switched sides, and sent in his army to help the right-wing Christian Phalangists. The Civil War's first phase ended for Arafat with the siege and fall of the Palestinian refugee camp of Tal al-Zaatar. Arafat himself narrowly escaped with assistance from the Saudis and Kuwaitis.

Israel, allying itself with the Lebanese Christians conducted two major offensives into Lebanon. In the first (Operation Litani in 1978), the Israel Defense Forces and South Lebanon Army occupied a narrow strip of land, described as "the Security Zone". In the second, (Operation Peace for Galilee in 1982), Israel expanded its occupation to most of South Lebanon, but eventually retreated back to the Security Zone in 1985.

The Sabra and Shatila Massacre occurred during the second Israeli offensive into Lebanon. Between 460 and 3,500 Palestinian refugees were killed by Lebanese Maronite Christian Phalangist militias, sent into the camps by then Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon to clear out PLO militia. The Israeli offensive into Lebanon, which killed many Palestinians, and the massacre of Palestinian civilians at Sabra and Shatila, amplified the deep bitterness and mistrust between Palestinians and Sharon.

During the Israeli siege of Beirut, the United States and European powers brokered a deal guaranteeing safe passage for Arafat and the PLO to exile in Tunis.

Arafat actually returned to Lebanon a year after he was evicted from Beirut, this time establishing himself in Tripoli. Instead of being expelled by Israel, this time Arafat was expelled by a fellow Palestinian working for Hafez al-Assad. Arafat did not return to Lebanon personally after this second expulsion, though many Fatah fighters did.

The Fatah fighters infiltrated Palestinian refugee camps in the South. The War of the Camps was the Shi'a Amal party's effort to expel them. In the War of the Camps, Sabra, Shatila, and other camps were again attacked.

Tunisia

In September 1982, during the Israeli offensive into Lebanon, the Americans and Europeans brokered a cease-fire deal in which Arafat and the PLO were allowed to leave Lebanon; Arafat and his leadership eventually arrived in Tunisia, which remained his center of operations up until 1993.

Arafat again narrowly survived an Israeli attack in 1985, as IDF F-15s bombed his headquarters in Tunis leaving 73 people dead; Arafat had gone out jogging that morning.

During the 1980s, Arafat received assistance from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which allowed him to reconstruct the badly-battered PLO. This was particularly useful during the First Intifada in December, 1987. Although the Intifada was a spontaneous uprising against Israeli occupation, within weeks Arafat was attempting to direct the revolt, and Israelis believe that it was mainly because of Fatah forces in the West Bank that the civil unrest was able to continue for the duration.

On November 15, 1988, the PLO proclaimed the independent State of Palestine, a government-in-exile for the Palestinians which laid claim to the whole of Palestine as defined by the British Mandate of Palestine, rejecting the idea of partition. In a December 13, 1988 address, Arafat accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, promised future recognition of Israel, and renounced "terrorism in all its forms, including state terrorism" [7] (http://mondediplo.com/focus/mideast/arafat88-en). Arafat's December 13 statement was encouraged by the U.S. administration, which insisted on the recognition of Israel as a necessary starting point in the Camp David peace negotiations. Arafat's statement indicated a shift from one of the PLO's primary aims — the destruction of Israel (as in the Palestinian National Covenant) — towards the establishment of two separate entities, an Israeli state within the 1949 armistice lines and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. However, on April 2, 1989, Arafat was elected by the Central Council of the Palestine National Council (the governing body of the PLO) to be the president of the proclaimed State of Palestine.

In 1990 Arafat married Suha Tawil, a Palestinian Orthodox Christian working for the PLO in Tunis, who converted to Islam before marrying him. [8] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3965541.stm)

During the 1991 Madrid Conference, Israel conducted open negotiations with the PLO for the first time. Prior to the Gulf War of 1991, Arafat opposed the U.N. attack on Iraq, alienating many of the Arab states, and leading to the U.S. disregarding his claims of being a partner for peace.

Arafat narrowly escaped death again in 1992 as his aircraft crash-landed in the Libyan desert during a sandstorm. The pilot and several passengers were killed and Arafat received several broken bones and other injuries.

Palestinian Authority and peace negotiations

In the early 1990s Arafat engaged the Israelis in a series of secret talks and negotiations that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords calling for the implementation of Palestinian self rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a five year period. Prior to signing the accords, Arafat as Chairman of the PLO and as its official representative signed two letters renouncing violence and officially recognizing Israel on September 9, 1993. In return Prime Minister Rabin, on behalf of Israel, officially recognized the PLO. (See: Israel-Palestine Liberation Organization letters of recognition.) The following year Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin. Arafat returned to Palestine as a hero to some but a traitor and collaborator to others.

In 1994, Arafat moved to the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) — the provisional entity created by the Oslo Accords. On July 24 1995, his wife Suha gave birth to a daughter, who was named Zahwa after his deceased mother.

On January 20, 1996, Arafat was elected president of the PA, with an overwhelming 88.2 percent majority (the only other candidate was Samiha Khalil) [9] (http://www.pna.gov.ps/Government/gov/Elections_in_Palestine.asp). Independent international observers reported the elections to have been free and fair. However, because Hamas and other opposition movements chose not to participate in the presidential election, the choices were limited. The following elections scheduled for January 2002 were later postponed; the stated reason being inability to campaign due to the emergency conditions imposed by the al-Aqsa intifada and Israel Defense Force incursions and restrictions on freedom of movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

After 1996, Arafat's title as Palestinian Authority leader was "head" (Arabic Ra'is). Israel and the U.S. interpret the title as "chairman" while Palestinians and the U.N. translate the title as "president". The mass media uses both terms.

In mid-1996, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel. Palestinian-Israeli relations grew even more hostile as a consequence of continued conflict. Netanyahu sought to obstruct the transition to Palestinian statehood outlined in the Israel-PLO accord. In 1998, U.S. President Bill Clinton intervened, arranging meetings with the two leaders. The resulting Wye River Memorandum of 23 October 1998 detailed the steps to be taken by the Israeli government and PA to complete the peace process.

Arafat continued negotiations with Netanyahu's successor, Ehud Barak, at the Camp David 2000 Summit. Due partly to his own politics (Barak was from the leftist Labor Party, whereas Netanyahu was from the rightist Likud Party) and partly due to immense pressure placed by American President Bill Clinton, Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian state in parts of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip with an outlying suburb of East Jerusalem as its capital. The final proposal proffered by Barak would have meant Israeli annexation of 10% of the West Bank (largely encompassing current settlement blocs) in exchange for a much smaller swath of land in the Negev desert. Many Palestinians claim that accepting the offer would have had the effect of reducing the Palestinian state to "Bantustans:" scattered pieces of territory separated by highways for Israelis, security checkpoints and Israeli settlements. In addition, under the Israeli proposal, Israel would control the Palestinian state's water resources, borders, customs, and defense and a further 10% of the West Bank under nominal Palestinian sovereignty (chiefly along the Jordanian border). Also included in the offer was a return of a limited number of refugees and compensation for the rest. In a move widely criticized abroad and even by a member of his negotiating team and Cabinet, Nabil Amr, Arafat rejected Barak's offer and refused to make a counter-offer. When the Al-Aqsa Intifada, or Second Palestinian Intifada, was launched (2000-present), the peace process completely collapsed. After the start of the Second Intifada, Arafat's wife moved to live with her mother and daughter in Paris.

Political survival and marginalization

Arafat's long personal and political survival was taken by most Western commentators as a sign of his mastery of asymmetric warfare and his skill as a tactician, given the extremely dangerous nature of politics of the Middle East and the frequency of assassinations. Some commentators believe his personal survival was largely due to Israel's fear that he could become a martyr for the Palestinian cause if he was to be assassinated or even arrested by Israel. Others believe that Israel kept Arafat alive because they feared Arafat less than Hamas and the other Islamist movements gaining support over Arafat's secular organization. The complex and fragile web of relations between the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states also contributed to Arafat's longevity as Palestinian leader.

Arafat's ability to adapt to new tactical and political situations was perhaps exemplified by the rise of the Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organizations, Islamist groups espousing rejectionist opposition to Israel and employing new tactics such as "martyrdom operations" (also known as suicide bombings). In the 1990s, these groups seemed to threaten Arafat's capacity to hold together a unified secular nationalist organization with a goal of statehood. They appeared to be out of Arafat's influence and control and were actively fighting with Arafat's Fatah group. Some allege that activities of these groups were tolerated by Arafat as a means of applying pressure on Israel (see PLO and Hamas.) Some Israeli government officials opined in 2002 that the Fatah's faction Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades began attacks on Israel to compete with Hamas. Some sources claim that frequent Israeli military strikes against the Palestinian Authority made it difficult for Arafat's security infrastructure to effectively counter the increasing influence of groups like Hamas. Spokesmen for Hamas and Islamic Jihad have at times publicly supported Arafat, suggesting that the common goals supersede infighting between these factions.

On May 6, 2002, the Israeli government released a report, based in part on documents captured during the Israeli occupation of Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, with copies of papers signed by Arafat authorizing funding for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades' activities.

Others point to the constraints of the political situation, and argue that Arafat could neither condemn nor constrain the tactics employed; and that any attempt to do so would endanger his rule or his life, and possibly initiate a disastrous civil war. Furthermore, ending violent resistance activities would amount to a de facto surrender to Israel, which has access to weapons that Palestinians lack. The use of suicide bombers appears to be a permanent feature of this conflict. The number and intensity of attacks rose sharply in the first months of 2002.

In March 2002, the Arab League made an offer to recognize Israel in exchange for Israeli retreat from all territories captured in the Six-Day War and statehood for Palestine and Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Supporters of this declaration saw this offer, which included recognition of Israel by the Arab states, as a historic opportunity for comprehensive peace in the region, while critics of this offer say that it would constitute a heavy blow to Israel's security, while not even guaranteeing Israel the cessation of suicide bombing attacks. Israel ignored what it deemed to be a facile offer.

Shortly afterward, attacks carried out by Palestinian militants killed more than 135 Israelis. Ariel Sharon, who had previously demanded that Arafat speak out strongly in Arabic against suicide bombings, declared that Arafat "assisted the terrorists and made himself an enemy of Israel and irrelevant to any peace negotiations". Israel then launched a major military offensive into the West Bank (see "Operation Defensive Shield".)

Yasser Arafat in 1999
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Yasser Arafat in 1999

Persistent attempts by the Israeli government to identify another Palestinian leader to represent the Palestinian people failed; and Arafat was enjoying the support of groups that, given his own history, would normally have been quite wary of dealing with him or of supporting him. Marwan Barghouti emerged as a leader during the Al-Aqsa intifada but Israel had him arrested and sentenced to 4 life terms.

Arafat was finally allowed to leave his compound on May 3, 2002 after intensive negotiations led to a settlement[10] (http://english.people.com.cn/200205/03/eng20020503_95112.shtml); six militants wanted by Israel, which considers them terrorists, who had been holed up with Arafat in his compound, would not be turned over to Israel, but neither would they be held in custody by the Palestinian Authority. Rather, a combination of British and American security personnel would ensure that the wanted men remained imprisoned in Jericho. With that, and a promise that he would issue a call in Arabic to the Palestinians to halt attacks on Israelis, Arafat was released. He issued such a call on May 8, 2002, but, as was the case before, his public call to halt attacks was ignored.

On July 18 2004, in an interview in Le Figaro, U.S. President George W. Bush dismissed Arafat as a negotiating partner: "The real problem is that there is no leadership that is able to say 'help us establish a state and we will fight terror and answer the needs of the Palestinians'". [11] (http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=6674)

Arafat had a mixed relationship at best with the leaders of other Arab nations. At various times he had come under withering criticism from Arab leaders and press. In the last few years growing disenchantment with Arafat and his peers had surfaced within the general Arab press. However, he remained by far the most popular Arab leader among the general populace. The most frequent criticism of Arafat was that he was corrupt to the detriment of the Palestinian people. Arafat's support from Arab leaders tended to increase whenever he was pressured by Israel; for example, in 2003 when Israel declared it had taken the decision, in principle, to remove him from the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

Financial dealings

In August 2002, the Israeli Military Intelligence Chief claimed that Arafat's personal wealth was USD $1.3 billion [12] (http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=197188&contrassID=1&subContrassID=0&sbSubContrassID=0), though he provided no substantiation for this claim. The U.S. business magazine "Forbes" [13] (http://www.forbes.com/global/2001/1001/015.html) ranked Arafat as sixth on its 2003 list "Kings, Queens and Despots" [14] (http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2003/0317/134.html), estimating his personal wealth to "at least $300 million", without indicating its source for this claim.

In 2003 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted an audit of the Palestinian Authority and stated that Arafat diverted $900 million in public funds to a special bank account controlled by Arafat and the PA Chief Economic Financial Advisor. The IMF did not claim that there were any improprieties and it specifically stated that most of the funds have been used to invest in Palestinian assets, both internally and abroad. [15] (http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article1958.shtml)

In 2003 a team of American accountants — hired by Arafat's own finance ministry — began examining Arafat's finances. The team claimed that part of the Palestinian leader's wealth was in a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion — with investments in companies like a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, a Tunisian cell phone company and venture capital funds in the U.S. and the Cayman Islands. The head of the investigation stated that "although the money for the portfolio came from public funds like Palestinian taxes, virtually none of it was used for the Palestinian people; it was all controlled by Arafat. And none of these dealings were made public". Though Arafat has always lived modestly, Dennis Ross, former Middle East negotiator for Presidents Bush and Clinton, stated that Arafat's "walking-around money" financed a vast patronage system. According to Salam Fayyad, a former World Bank official who Arafat appointed finance minister in 2002, Arafat's commodity monopolies could accurately be seen as gouging his own people, "especially in Gaza which is poorer, which is something that is totally unacceptable and immoral." [16] (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/11/07/60minutes/main582487.shtml) According to Hanan Ashrawi, a former member of Arafat's cabinet "Getting Mr. Arafat to hand over the holdings was like pulling teeth. Mr. Arafat gave in to pressure from aid donors such as the European Union and from his finance minister, Salam Fayyad, the IMF's former representative in the territories. They demanded that Mr. Arafat turn over the investments as a condition of further aid." [17] (http://quote.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=nifea&&sid=ag2fQ5pMZXc8)

An investigation by the European Union into claims that EU funds were misused by the Palestinian Authority has found no evidence that funds were diverted to finance terrorist activities. The EU "remains convinced that deepening reform in the PA and improving its financial management and audit capacities is the best preventive strategy against the misuse of funds and corruption. The reform of the financial management of the PA is the objective of several key conditions attached to the EU financial assistance." [18] (http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/mepp/faq/index.htm#Allegations%20of%20misuse%20of%20EU%20funds)

Claims by unnamed sources in the PA Finance Ministry stated that Arafat's wife, Suha, receives a stipend of $100,000 each month from the PA budget. In an interview with the London-based newspaper Al Hayat, Mrs. Arafat accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of spreading rumors about money-laundering to distract media attention away from corruption allegations against himself.

In October 2003, French government prosecutors opened a money-laundering probe of Suha Arafat after Tracfin alerted the prosecutors to transfers of nearly $1.27 million each with some regularity from Switzerland to Mrs. Arafat's accounts in Paris.

Illness and death

First reports of Arafat's treatment by his doctors, for what his spokesman said was 'flu' came on October 25, 2004 after he vomited during a meeting. His condition deteriorated in the following days and he became unconscious for 10 minutes on October 27. Following visits by other doctors, including teams from Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt, and agreement by Israel not to block his return, Arafat was taken on October 29 aboard a French government jet to the Percy training hospital of the Armies near Paris. According to one of his doctors, Arafat was suffering from Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an immunologically-mediated decrease in the number of circulating platelets to abnormally low levels. On November 3 he lapsed into a gradually deepening coma. In the insuing days, Arafat's health was the subject of wild speculation. Various sources speculated that Arafat was comatose, in a "vegetative state", or dead. Palestinian authorities and Arafat's Jordanian doctor denied reports that Arafat was brain dead and had been kept on life support.

A controversy erupted between officials of the Palestinian Authority and Suha Arafat, Yasser Arafat's wife. On November 8, officials of the Palestinian Authority travelled to France to see Yasser Arafat. Suha Arafat stated "They are trying to bury Abu Ammar alive". Palestinian officials were reported to regret that the news about Yasser Arafat was "filtered" by his wife.[19] (http://www.courrierinternational.com/AFP/depeche.asp?obj_id=041109112713.50yc4qq0) French law forbids physicians from discussing the condition of their patients with anybody with the exception, in case of grave prognosis, of close relatives. (Code of Public Health, L1110-4 (http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/WAspad/UnArticleDeCode?commun=&code=CSANPUNL.rcv&art=L1110-4)) Accordingly, all communications concerning Yasser Arafat's health had to be authorized by Arafat's wife.

On November 9, at 10 AM, chief surgeon Estripeau of Percy reported that Arafat's condition had worsened, and that he had fallen into a deeper coma. On November 10, a "high religious dignitary" visited Arafat and declared that it was out of the question to disconnect Arafat from life support machines, since, according to him, such an action would be prohibited by Islam.

Arafat was pronounced dead at 02:30 UTC on November 11 at age 75. The exact cause of his illness is unknown and controversial. Sheikh Taissir Tamimi, who held a vigil at his bedside described the scene, "It was a very painful scene. There was blood everywhere on his face. The blood was coming from every possible place. My first reaction when I saw the scene was that I didn't understand what was going on. I closed my eyes, and I started reading from the Koran..." When his death was announced, the Palestinian people went into a state of mourning, with Qur'anic mourning prayers emitted from loudspeakers from mosques, and tires burning in the street as a sign of mourning.

Aftermath

Israel refused Arafat's wish to be buried in or near the Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem citing widespread security concerns. [20] (http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/11/7/113931.shtml)[21] (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0411120332nov12,1,3231913.story?ctrack=1&cset=true) Following a state funeral in Cairo, attended by many Arab leaders, Arafat was "temporarily" laid to rest on November 12 within his former headquarters in Ramallah in the West Bank watched by a large crowd.

On November 16, 2004, the Canard Enchan newspaper reported alleged leaks of information unnamed medical sources at Percy hospital having had access to Arafat and his medical file. According to the newspaper, the doctors at Percy hospital suspected, from Arafat's arrival, grave lesions of the liver responsible for an alteration of the composition of the blood, thus Arafat was placed in a hematology service. Leukemia was soundly ruled out. According to the same source, the reason why this diagnosis of cirrhosis could not be made public was that, in the mind of the general public, cirrhosis is generally associated with the consequences of alcohol abuse – even though the diagnosis was not of an alcoholic cirrhosis and Arafat did not consume any alcohol, there would have probably been rumors. The source then explained that Arafat's conditions of life during the last three years did not improve the situation: Arafat did not get health care appropriate to his state. Thus, according to the source, the probable causes of the disease are multiple; Arafat's coma was a consequence of the worsened cirrhosis. Finally, he had a brain haemorrhage. [22] (http://news.tf1.fr/news/monde/0,,3185912,00.html) The French newspaper Le Monde quoted doctors as saying that he suffered from "an unusual blood disease and a liver problem". [23] (http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=6841700)

Paris deputy Claude Goasguen asked for a parliamentary inquiry commission on the death of Arafat in an attempt to quell rumors. [24] (http://news.tf1.fr/news/monde/0,,3185912,00.html) On November 17, the French government insisted that there was no evidence Arafat had been poisoned, otherwise a criminal investigation would have necessarily been opened.

After Arafat's death, the French Ministry of Defense said that Arafat's medical file would only be transmitted to his next of kin. It was determined that Arafat's nephew, Nasser al-Kidwa, was a close enough relative, thus working around Suha Arafat's mutism on her husband's illness. On November 22, Nasser al-Kidwa was given a copy of Arafat's 558-page medical file by the French Ministry of Defense.[25] (http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=272727)

A controversy erupted around Arafat's death certificate, which listed Jerusalem as his birth place. This was the location specified by the official foreign documents that were shown to the French ministry of foreign affairs when Arafat's wife acquired French citizenship. [26] (http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/news/news-mideast-arafat-france.html)[27] (http://www.liberation.fr/page.php?Article=254483)[28] (http://www.primo-europe.org/documents.php?numdoc=Do-837641817) Israel asked French officials to provide proof that Arafat was born in Jerusalem,[29] (http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2004/11/29/arafat-certificate-france-israel-041129.html) and the Simon Wiesenthal Center called on France "to investigate the circumstances of the false and incomplete registration of Arafat's death certificate, to correct the erroneous details of his birthplace, adding the truth of his parentage and the cause of his death."[30] (http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/s/content.asp?c=fwLYKnN8LzH&b=253162&ct=294116) So far, no party to the controversy has brought the case to a court to ask for a rectification of the certificate (see French Civil Code, L99-101).

Upon Arafat's death, Speaker Rawhi Fattuh succeeded Arafat as interim President of the Palestinian Authority. PLO Secretary-General Mahmoud Abbas was selected Chairman of the PLO and Foreign Minister Farouk Kaddoumi became head of Fatah. Ahmed Qurei remained as Prime Minister and took additional security responsibilities. Abbas won the January 2005 presidential election by a comfortable margin, solidifying himself as the successor to Arafat as leader of the Palestinians.

Bibliography

  • Aburish, Said K., Arafat: From Defender to Dictator, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1582340498
  • Gowers, Andrew and Tony Walker, Arafat: The Biography, Virgin Books, 2005. ISBN 1852279249
  • Hart, Alan, Arafat, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1994. ISBN 0283062207
  • Rubin, Barry M. and Judith Colp Rubin, Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography, Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0195166892
  • Rubinstein, Danny and Dan Leon The Mystery of Arafat, Steerforth Press, 1995. ISBN 1883642108
  • Wallach, Janet and John Wallach, Arafat: In the Eyes of the Beholder, Carol Pub Group, 1990. ISBN 9993251305

External links

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Biographies and profiles

Directories

  • LookSmart - Yasser Arafat (http://search.looksmart.com/p/browse/us1/us317836/us552286/us526499/us526506/us527080/us10231562/us10006906) directory category
  • Open Directory Project - Yasser Arafat (http://dmoz.org/Regional/Middle_East/Palestinian_Territory/Society_and_Culture/Politics/Politicians/Yasser_Arafat/) directory category
  • Yahoo! - Yasser Arafat (http://dir.yahoo.com/Regional/Regions/Middle_East/Countries_and_Regions/Palestinian_Authority/Community/People/) directory category

Notes


Preceded by:
President of the Palestinian Authority
1996–2004
Succeeded by:
Rauhi Fattouh
(interim)

Template:End box

Template:Livedang:Yasser Arafat ar:ياسر عرفات be:Ясір Арафат bg:Ясер Арафат cs:Jsir Arafat cy:Yasser Arafat da:Yasser Arafat de:Jassir Arafat eo:Jaser ARAFAT es:Yasser Arafat fi:Jasser Arafat fr:Yasser Arafat ga:Iasar Arafat he:יאסר ערפאת hr:Yasser Arafat id:Yasser Arafat it:Yasser Arafat ja:ヤーセル・アラファート kn:ಯಾಸಿರ್ ಅರಾಫತ್ ko:야세르 아라파트 la:Iasser Arafat lb:Jassir Arafat lv:Jasirs Arafats ms:Yasser Arafat nb:Yasir Arafat nl:Yasser Arafat nn:Yasir Arafat no:Yasir Arafat pl:Jaser Arafat pt:Yasser Arafat ro:Yasser Arafat ru:Арафат, Ясир simple:Yasser Arafat sr:Јасер Арафат sv:Yassir Arafat zh:亚西尔·阿拉法特 zh-min-nan:Yasser Arafat

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