Sunday, March 9, 2008

Yasser Arafat

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s date and place of birth are disputed; while he claims to have been born August 4, 1929, in Jerusalem, some allege that a birth certificate gives the date as August 24, 1929, in Cairo, Egypt. One of seven children of a wealthy merchant, Arafat is related on his mother’s side to the Husseini family, a prominent Sunni Muslim family in Jerusalem. His mother died when Yasir, was five years old, and he was sent to live with his maternal uncle in Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine, then under British rule. Palestinians then were fighting against the occupying force “Britain”. He has revealed little about his childhood, but one of his earliest memories is of British soldiers breaking into his uncle's house after midnight, beating members of the family and smashing furniture.

But by 1946 aged only 16, he had become a Palestinian nationalist and was procuring weapons in Egypt to be smuggled into Palestine for the Arab cause.

In November 1947, the United Nations voted to end the British Mandate over Palestine by May 15, 1948, but also took a immoral step of dividing the land into two states one for the majority Palestinians and other for the minority Jews who had taken shelter from the forces of Hitler who had killed 6 million Jews out of 9.5 million, and also declared Palestinians capital Jerusalem as international city. The Palestinians were outraged as there Muslim home land for centuries was being divided by a border. The Jews were hilarious. As a result war between Arab nations and Israel broke out, during the war Arafat left his studies at the University of Faud I(later Cairo University) to fight against the Jews in the Gaza area. The defeat of the Arabs and the establishment of the state of Israel left him in such despair that he applied for a visa to study at the University of Texas. Recovering his spirits and retaining his dream of an independent Palestinian homeland, he returned to Cairo University to major in engineering, the young Arafat studied at Cairo University from 1952 to 1956, graduating with a degree in civil engineering. While attending college, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and was president of the Union of Palestinian Students. Commissioned into the Egyptian army, Arafat served in the Suez campaign of 1956. Shortly afterwards, he moved to Kuwait to work as an engineer and then later successfully running his own contracting firm.. He spent all his spare time in political activities, to which he contributed most of the earned 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, organizing successful 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

In 1967, Israel defeated the Arab states in a conflict known as the Six-Day War, and confiscated two major sections of Palestine, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the wake of the Arab defeat, 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.

The early years of Arafat’s career at the head of the PLO were marked by violence, beginning in “Black September” of 1970, when Jordan’s King Hussein, then at odds with the PLO, ordered his army to act against Palestinian guerrilla camps positioned along the border between Jordan and Israel, killing many Palestinians. Arafat sought to build a similar organisation in Lebanon, but this time was driven out by an Israeli military invasion of Lebannon. 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.

During this time Arafat’s 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.

Arafat directed his efforts with the PLO towards political rather than military persuasion and diplomacy. In the wake of the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, during which Egypt and Syria attempted to regain land from Israel, the United States began intervention efforts to negotiate a settlement in the area. The Palestine National Council (PNC), the governing body of the PLO, sought inclusion in the settlement, calling for the creation of a Palestinian national authority in the West Bank and Gaza. In November 1974, with the support of the Arab states, Arafat became the first representative of a non-governmental agency to address a plenary session of the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly.

For most of the 1970s, Arafat was based in Beirut, Lebanon, from which his guerrillas attacked Israel and where he oversaw an enormous bureaucracy that provided social welfare services to Palestinian refugees. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon to stop the PLO’s attacks. Arafat was forced to flee again, this time to Tunis, Tunisia. Following this defeat his power was deeply diminished, and many observers believed his leadership was in danger. Arafat, however, remained in power and shocked all Palestinians when in 1988 renounced military opposition to Israel and recognized Israel as a legitimate state. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and prompted the Persian Gulf War of 1991, Arafat publicly endorsed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, in part because Hussein likened Iraq’s “liberation” of Kuwait to the Palestinian goal of “liberating” Israel. Arafat’s endorsement enraged many of his financial backers, most of whom were Arabs from oil-rich countries who opposed Hussein’s invasion of oil-rich Kuwait.

Arafat regained international credibility when he moved toward peace with Israel shortly after the end of the Gulf War. After several months of negotiations, Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin witnessed the signing of a historic Oslo agreement. The Oslo Accord laid out the implementation of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a period of five years. Under the signed Declaration of Principles, Israel would begin its withdrawal from the disputed areas immediately; in exchange, the PLO agreed to accept the U.N. resolutions acknowledging the nation of Israel and to promote security and peace between Arabs and Israelis living in the conflicted areas.However a considerable number of Palestinians rejected it as it was promising a very small percentage of land for the Palestinians. For his participation in the peace efforts, Arafat shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Rabin and Shimon Peres, then Israel's foreign minister. He was later elected president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) which governed Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank and Gaza.

But the tables again turned With Israel Prime minister “Yitzhak Rabin” assassination by a Jewish extremist in 1996, same year Arafat was elected through voting as the head of Palestine, he continued the process of negotiating Palestinian self-rule with his successor, Benjamin Netanyahu, elected that year. But During this period, relations between Israel and the PLO worsened, as Netanyahu favored a slower transition to Palestinian self-rule and was sluggish about carrying out the conditions of the Oslo Accord, for its part, the PLO neglected to fulfill the proper measures to ensure peace, which included combating freedom fighters, confiscating illegal firearms, preventing hostile anti-Jewish propaganda, and limiting the number of Palestinian police. In early 1997, Arafat and Netanyahu signed the Hebron agreement, by which Israel would remove its troops from Hebron, the last occupied city in the West Bank. In return, Arafat promised again to carry out the peacemaking pledges made in Oslo.

But due to unwillingness of sides the agreement failed to be implemenyed. In the fall of 1998, after a 19-month deadlock, U.S. President Bill Clinton intervened, arranging a summit meeting at the Wye Plantation in Maryland. By the terms of the resulting Wye River Memorandum, Israel agreed to withdraw from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank and Gaza. As part of their side of the Wye agreement, members of the PLO finally voted in December 1998 to amend the section of the organization’s national charter that called for the destruction of Israel. This action was seen as a major step on the way to achieving peace. However weeks after in 1999 Netanyahu was ousted in Israeli elections and was replaced by Ehad Barak.

On September 5, 1999, Arafat and Barak signed a broad agreement for peace, overseen by U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright. The agreement set the date for the beginning of the transition of the West Bank to Palestinian self-rule as of September 13, 2000. The success of this transition, of course, will rest on whether or not the sensitive issues of boundaries and the status of Jerusalem can be resolved.

In the months leading up to that deadline, however, peace talks have stalled repeatedly, reflecting the highly charged nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The main issues at stake continue to be the border of the future Palestinian state, the status of refugees, and, most emotionally, the status of Jerusalem, a holy city for both Muslims and Jews. Fearful of making too many concessions to Israel and being seen as a traitor to his cause, Arafat has held fast to the Palestinian demand for the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including all of the mostly Arab-populated East Jerusalem and areas that now encompass the homes of 175,000 Israeli-Jewish settlers.

The PLO originally pledged to declare statehood on September 13, even if no final peace agreement with Israel had been reached. In return, Israel said it will formally annex parts of the West Bank. Under the watchful eyes of President Clinton and the world,a series of peace talks at Camp David deadlocked in late July 2000, leaving the issue of peace in the Middle East in a precarious position. As September 13 came and went, with the talks in a stalemate, the PLO bowed to international pressure and vowed to continue negotiations for a few more months.

The situation remained same and in 2001 Barak was removed from the Premiership and Arial Sharon became New prime minister of Israel .Arial Sharon is the the famous notorious Defence Minister who directed the 1982 Massacare of hundred of Palestinians in , in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut which was carried out by the Phalanges, a Lebanese-Christian militia headed by Sharon,he is a most wanted person in Belguim courts for the massacare . In 1987, Time Magazine published a story implying Sharon's direct responsibility for the massacres. Sharon responded by suing Time for libel in an American court but lost the case.

From that time till now due Sharons policy of Targeted assassination ,executions of small children,Destruction of Palestenean infrastucture belonging both to Palestinian Authority (including police and security buildings) and private civillians

Continued house demolitions ,Israeli Army incursions into Palestinian territory ,The confinement of Yasser Arafat in his headquarters that essentially amounts to a house arrest and Advocacy of settlement building in West Bank and Gaza strip has lead the situation to worsen. Sharon’s aims and targets can be summed up by his own famous words “Everyone there should move, should run, should grab more hills, expand the territory. Everything that's grabbed, will be in our hands. Everything we don't grab will be in their hands." — Ariel Sharon, as Israeli Foreign Minister, in comments broadcast on Israeli radio, November 15, 1998.

Mean While Yasser Arafat’s popularity has also fallen considerably due to his soft approach towards Israel and America, and according to some polls Hamas has surpassed PLO’s voter bank.


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