Yasser Arafat (Deceased)
Civil Engineer, Leader of the Palestinians
and Nobel Piece Prize Winner
Yasser Arafat (Deceased)
President of Palestinian Council
Yasser won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994
YASSER ARAFAT came before
the U.N. General Assembly in 1972 with an olive branch and a gun. The symbolic
juxtaposition of peace and violence defines Arafat’s political life.
Although he has remained true to his goal of reestablishing a Palestinian
homeland, his methods have softened with time.
Arafat was born in 1929 to a successful merchant father and a religiously devoted mother. His birth name was Mohammed, but he was quickly nicknamed Yasser, which means “easy.” Arafat’s mother died when he was 4, and his father sent him to live with a married uncle in Jerusalem. As a teenager in the 1940s, Arafat became involved in the Palestinian cause. Before the Arabs were defeated by Israel in 1948, Arafat was a leader in the Palestinian effort to smuggle arms into the territory.
“For our part, we
will honor our commitments. … [O]ur participation in the great peace
process means that we are betting everything on the future.”
Arafat, on the signing of an accord in September 1995 to extend Palestinian rule in the West Bank
After the war, Arafat studied civil engineering at the University of Cairo. He headed the Palestinian Students League and, by the time he graduated, was committed to forming a group that would free Palestine from Israeli occupation. In 1956 he founded Al Fatah, an underground terrorist organization. At first Al Fatah was ignored by larger Arab nations such as Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, which had formed their own group — the Palestine Liberation Organization. It wasn’t until the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, when the Arabs lost the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and West Bank, that Arab nations turned to Arafat. In 1968 he became the leader of the PLO.
“I don’t know
anyone who has as much civilian Jewish blood on his hands as Arafat since
the Nazis’ time.”
Former Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, October 1995
For two decades the PLO
launched bloody attacks on Israel, and Arafat gained a reputation as a ruthless
terrorist. But by 1988, when he told the United Nations that the PLO would
recognize Israel as a sovereign state, Arafat had warmed to diplomacy. Then
in 1993, the unthinkable happened. The terrorist leader, who had rarely been
seen without his signature ghutra and scruffy beard, met with his avowed enemies.
The secret peace talks in Norway led to the Oslo Peace Accords with Israeli
Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin. The agreement granted limited Palestinian self-rule
and earned Arafat, Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres the 1994
Nobel Peace Prize. In January 1996 Arafat was elected the first president
of the Palestinian Council governing the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Yasser Arafat was born in 1929 in Jerusalem. His full name is Mohammed Abad Arouf Arafat. He studied civil engineering at Cairo University.
In 1994 Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to create peace in the Middle East. He was elected chairman of the PLO in 1968 and in 1971 was appointed general commander of the Palestinian Revolution Forces. He addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 1974, on behalf of the PLO, and was the first representative of a non-governmental organisation to appear before it. In 1988 he recognised the State of Israel.