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biography of Yasser Arafat
Article added on February 13, 2001; updated on April 7, 2002 and on July 25, 2006.
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Biography of Yasser Arafat
(* in Cairo on August 27, 1929 - † near Paris on November 11, 2004)

According to the biography by Christophe Boltanski and Jihan El-Tahri (Les sept vies de Yasser Arafat, 1997; get it from Amazon.fr), Yasser Arafat was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1929 as Mohammed Abderrahman al-Qudwa (and not in Jerusalem as Mohammed Abdal Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husaini of the famous Husaini family). The son of a wealthy textile trader lived in Cairo until the age of 28. He fought for an Egyptian group against Israel in 1948-49 and subsequently served in the Egyptian military. In 1951, Arafat began to study civil engineering at the University of Cairo. He also became a bomb expert. From 1952 to 1956, he presided over the League of Palestinian Students. In 1956, he joined the Egyptian Army as the reserve officer in the war against France, Great Britain and Israel. From 1957 to 1965, Arafat lived in Kuwait, where he worked as a construction engineer. There, in 1959, he was a co-founder of the Palestinian movement Al Fatah, the Palestine liberation movement and, later, was declared its spokesman. In 1968, Arafat joined the PLO, founded in 1964, and was elected its chairman. He suffered a setback in 1970/71, when his attempt to overthrow Jordan's King Hussein failed. In 1973, Arafat became Commander in Chief of the forces of the Palestinian Revolution. Among the violent actions committed by Palestinian groups was the assassination of members of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich in 1972 by the newly founded organization "Black September". Other setbacks like the loss of his power base in Lebanon led Arafat in 1985 to try to make peace with Jordan's King Hussein, with the US as a mediator. But the attempts failed. Arafat was also involved in the terrorist attack on the luxury liner "Achille Lauro" which further undermined his credibility. In 1986, King Hussein ended the collaboration with the PLO and closed down all Al Fatah's offices in Jordan. At the end of 1987, the first Intifada began. In 1988, Arafat proclaimed in the name of the exiled Palestinian Parliament in Algiers the "State of Palestine". At the same time, the Palestinian National Council officially renounced terror as a means to pursue its objectives. At the end of 1988, Arafat announced the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. In 1993, the PLO and state of Israel mutually recognized each other officially. A few days later, Arafat signed the Palestinian-Israeli Declaration of Principles at the White House in Washington. In October 1993, Arafat was elected by the Central Council of the PLO to be the President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and President of Palestine Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (PECDAR). In October 1994, he received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with then Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (assassinated in 1995). On January 20, 1996, Arafat was elected President of the Palestinian National Authority in a general election. In October 1998, he signed the “Wye River” memorandum with the former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

A first report about Yasser Arafat's illness was released on October 25, 2004. Four days later, the French government flew him to a military hospital near Paris where, on November 3, 2004 he fell into a coma and was pronounced dead on November 11.
 
Check also the articles on Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres.

 

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