Arabic: محمد ياسر عبد الرحمن عبد الرؤوف عرفات القدوة الحسيني; 24 August 1929 – 11 November 2004), popularly known as Yasser Arafat (Arabic: ياسر عرفات) or by his kunya Abu Ammar (Arabic: أبو عمار, 'Abū `Ammār), was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO), President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and leader of the Fatah political party, which he founded in 1959. Arafat spent much of his life fighting against Israel in the name of Palestinianself-determination. Originally opposed to Israel's existence, he modified his position in 1988 when he accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242. Arafat and his movement operated from several Arab countries. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fatah faced off with Jordan in a brief civil war. Forced out of Jordan and into Lebanon, Arafat and Fatah were major targets of Israel's 1978 and 1982 invasions of that country.
Arafat remains a highly controversial figure whose legacy has been widely disputed. He was "revered by many Arabs," and the majority of the Palestinian people, regardless of political ideology or faction, viewed him as a freedom fighter who symbolized their national aspirations. However he was "reviled by many Israelis" who viewed him as a terrorist. Israel has also accused him of mass corruption, secretly amassing a personal wealth estimated to be USD $1.3 billion in 2002 despite the degrading economic conditions of the Palestinians.
Later in his career, Arafat engaged in a series of negotiations with the government of Israel to end the decades-long conflict between it and the PLO. These included the Madrid Conference of 1991, the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David Summit. His political rivals, including Islamists and several PLO leftists, often denounced him for being corrupt or too submissive in his concessions to the Israeli government. In 1994, Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, for the negotiations at Oslo. During this time, Hamas and other militant organizations rose to power and shook the foundations of the authority that Fatah under Arafat had established in the Palestinian territories.
In late 2004, after effectively being confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years by the Israeli army, Arafat became ill, fell into a coma and died on 11 November 2004 at the age of 75. While the exact cause of his death remains unknown and no autopsy was performed, his doctors spoke of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and cirrhosis.
Education and 1948 Arab–Israeli War
In 1944, Arafat enrolled in the University of King Fuad I and graduated in 1950. He later claimed to have sought a better understanding of Judaism and Zionism by engaging in discussions with Jews and reading publications by Theodor Herzl and other prominent Zionists. At the same time, he became an Arab nationalist and began procuring weapons to be smuggled into the former British Mandate of Palestine, for use by irregulars in the Arab Higher Committee and the Army of the Holy Warmilitias.
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. However, instead of joining the ranks of the Palestinian fedayeen, Arafat fought alongside the Muslim Brotherhood, although he did not join the organization. He took part in combat in the Gaza area (which was the main battleground of Egyptian forces during the conflict). In early 1949, the war was winding down in Israel's favor, and Arafat returned to Cairo from a lack of logistical support.
After returning to the University, Arafat studied civil engineering and served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) from 1952 to 1956. During his first year as president of the union, the University was renamed Cairo University after a coup was carried out by the Free Officers Movement overthrowing King Farouk I. By that time, Arafat had graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and was called to duty to fight with Egyptian forces during the Suez Crisis; however, he never actually fought on the battlefield. Later that year, at a conference in Prague, he donned a solid white keffiyeh–different from the checkered one he adopted later in Kuwait, which was to become his emblem.