Yasser Arafat Biography

Yasser Arafat BiographyYasser Arafat was a leader of the state of Palestine and 1st President of the Palestinian National Authority. The leader is also known as the Chairman of the Palestine liberation Organization who founded the secular political party Fatah in 1959, stepping in as its leader. Mainly known for his anti-Israeli stance, Arafat pushed the country in to a long war with Israel in the name of self-determination. While he is portrayed as a martyr in his own country Palestine, Arafat is also condemned for his attacks on Israeli civilians. The tension between these countries finally began subsiding with the acceptation of UN Security Council resolution 242 in 1988, and he eventually succeeded in managing the uneasy balance between militancy and diplomacy in the Middle East. Arafat made the mistake of supporting Saddam Hussein during the Kuwait crisis of 1990 and paid the price of political isolation in the Gulf. In 1994, Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.


Yasser Arafat was born on August 24, 1929 in Cairo, the capital city of Egypt. His father Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini, a Gazan, was a spice, incense and grocery merchant. His original name was Mohammed Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini. Arafat was the fifth among the seven children born to Husseini His mother, Zahwa Abul Saud, was from Jerusalem and a religiously devoted woman. She died from a kidney ailment in 1933. Following the death of his mother, Arafat and his bother Faithi supposedly spent the next four years with his uncle in Jerusalem. Arafat had a deteriorating relationship with his father and when he died in 1952, Arafat did not even attend the funeral.

Revolutionary Activities

Arafat entered the Cairo University (then, University of King Faud I) in 1947 and studied of Judaism and Zionism. It was during his college years that Arafat adopted the name Yasser, which means “easygoing” in Arabic. At the same time, Arafat became an Arab nationalist involved in the Palestinian cause. He began to procure weapons into the territory. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Arafat left the University and, along with other Arabs, sought to enter Palestine to join Arab forces fighting against Israeli troops. Before the Arabs were defeated by Israel in 1948, Arafat was a leader in the Palestinian effort to smuggle arms into the territory. In 1949, when the situation was in favor of the Israel’s troops Arafat returned to Cairo.

After returning to University, Arafat studied civil engineering and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. In 1956, Arafat was called to duty to fight with Egyptian forces during the Suez Crisis. He served as a second lieutenant in the Egyptian Army during the crisis. After the Suez War, Arafat settled in Kuwait. He first employed in the department of public works and eventually set up his own contracting firm. There he developed friendships with two Palestinian nationals Abu Iyad and Abu Jihad. They were both official members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.


The policymakers in the United States recognized that agreement on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations wasn’t possible until the Arab states took steps toward peace with Israel. In 1991, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker persuaded Israel and her neighbors to attend a regional peace conference. During the 1991 Madrid Conference, for the first time ever, Israel conducted open negotiations with the PLO. But they did not reach any consensus.

Thereafter, Israelis and PLO began negotiating over the issue and ultimately reached an agreement to give the Palestinians self-rule in Gaza and Jericho, followed by autonomy in other parts of the territories. On September 13, 1993, officials of both Israel and Palestine signed the Declaration of Principles in Washington, D.C. In 1994, Yasser Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.

In 1994, Arafat moved to the PNA controlled Gaza City and became the President and Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority. In July 1994, the PNA was declared the official government of the Palestine. Yasser Arafat established an executive committee of twenty members and empowered himself with liberty to replace and assign mayors and city councils. Arafat appointed himself chairman of the Palestinian financial organization, created by the World Bank to control most aid money towards helping the new Palestinian entity. Arafat also formed Preventive Security Service, the police force of the state of Palestine.

Controversies and Last Days of life

In August 2003, the International Monetary Fund, in an audit claimed that Arafat had diverted $900 million in public funds to a special bank account controlled by Arafat and the PNA Chief Economic Financial adviser. Former Middle East negotiator for the United States of America, Dennis Ross, had once said that Arafat was “walking-around money”. A major controversy erupted between officials of the PNA and Suha, Arafat’s wife, when officials from the PNA traveled to France to see Yasser. Suha accused that they were trying to bury Yasser alive.

On October 25, 2004, Yasser Arafat was admitted to the hospital after he vomited during a meeting. His condition continued to decline and he was flown to a French hospital jet to in Clamart, Paris. On November 11, 2004, the doctors pronounced the death of Yasser Arafat. The exact cause of his illness is still unknown.