Yasser Arafat: Introduction to the Life of a Great Leader

For some people, Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat, better known as Yasser Arafat, was heading a terrorist organization, while for others, he was a great leader who was worth following.
Historyplex Staff
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
Yasser Arafat was born to a Palestinian textile merchant and his wife from an old Palestinian family in Jerusalem, on August 24, 1929, in Cairo. Yasser's mother died when he was a child of five years. There onwards, he was brought up by his maternal uncle, who lived in Jerusalem. There is very less information available about the childhood of Yasser Arafat, and there are many stories about where he spent his childhood. Some of the stories also depict Yasser Arafat as heir of the Husseini clan from Jerusalem, which came from his mother.
Further, Yasser attended Cairo University, which was better known as the 'University of King Fuad I', during that period. He was driven by the Arab-Israel conflict, and left university to take an active part in the fight against the anti-Arabic forces. From the very young age of around 15 years, he dreamed of having his own country for his people. But he was not allowed to take part in the war as he had not received proper war-training. He was forced to go back to university. But Yasser never gave up, and he participated in many Muslim organizations which were working hard to ignite spark against the anti-Arabic forces. He was selected as President of the Muslim Organization when he was 24 years of age. Along with completing his studies, he also kept trying to get into the army, and finally, he was selected as a lieutenant in the Egyptian army, when he was 27.
He further moved to Kuwait, where he developed his own business, as he was a civil engineer. As he had been in the army and was an active member of various Muslim organizations during his young age, he also helped Fatah to get established in Kuwait. Fatah was the organization that aimed at fighting for a separate land for Palestine. Fatah was seen as a terrorist organization that tried to target and blow up Israeli army and civil camps, water and food supply chains, etc. Slowly, Yasser was coming into picture as one of the moving forces of Fatah and other organizations. He was held for the being with those organizations, but was released soon after.
After 1964, Yasser's Fatah joined hands with the goals of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was created by the Arab League to achieve its goal of having a separate land of Palestine, and carry out its anti-Israel operations. The PLO achieved reputation and an image of one of the biggest terrorist organizations around. Fatah further planned some massive terrorist attacks on the Israeli forces, civilians, etc., to register its name in the list of anti-Israel forces. Fatah and PLO slowly started growing and spread their arms. Soon, the organizations started attracting young Muslims to join them in the anti-Israel war. Arafat was elected PLO's chairman in the year 1969. He soon started gathering power by bringing all the small or big terrorist organizations under one umbrella of the PLO.
During the next couple of months, Arafat kept trying to become mightier. Soon, around 1970, he declared himself Commander of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), which was the military arm of the PLO. The PLA also invaded Jordan, but was defeated by their army. Syria supported Arafat and its organization, and provided all possible help. The PLO assassinated 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games, which attracted worldwide attention.
During the period of so-called war against Israel, Yasser Arafat also kept trying to bring political pressure on Israel, and developed his identity in the international political circuit. He started using different tactics to achieve his goals. He made an appearance at the UN summit on November 13, 1974, bearing an olive branch and a pistol. Arafat said that, "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."
He kept fighting for his sole purpose of having a separate Palestinian state, and he tried his best to justify the PLO and its war against Israel. Along with this, he also tried to find out ways to politically put forward the demand of his people, which forced the world to think seriously on the Palestinian struggle for their land.
On September 13, 1993, Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles between Israel and Palestine, which ensured that Palestine steps towards peace in Washington. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his struggle for finding out peaceful solutions for the ongoing problem between Israel and Palestine. He was also awarded with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.
The Noble prize could never change Arafat's views and goals. He continued to lead the PLO for 35 straight years, with huge support from the Palestinian people, till the end of his life. The demands of the United States and Israel of replacing their leader and agreeing to democratic changes were blown away by Arafat's supporters, who said that they would rather keep fighting against Israel under their favorite leader Arafat, than accept those demands.
Arafat got popular with age, and was the only leader that the Palestinian people wanted to follow. He was the leader whom his people trusted the most. Even at the age of 80, he was able to make his presence felt in international community as a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for a separate homeland.
The great Palestinian leader passed away on November 11, 2004, at a French military hospital outside Paris. He was suffering from an illness for more than two weeks.