YASSER ARAFAT : The Fedayeen of the rifle and the olive branch

HAVANA (10 November 2004) -- THE ill-fated news of the serious deterioration of health of Yasser Arafat, the beloved Palestinian leader and combative president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), has dismayed his people and members of the international community, who consider Arafat as one of the firmest, most prestigious and tireless fighters for the Arab cause, as well as a symbol of resistance against the oppressive regime of the Zionist state of Israel.

His heroic and self-sacrificing life has always been linked to the struggle for his country's liberation from the Israeli invaders, to the defense of the inalienable rights of his people and to the constitution of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state.

Born into a wealthy Palestinian family in the sacred city of Jerusalem on 4 August 1929, Muhammad "Abd ar-Raouf" Arafat Al-Qudwa al Husseine, the historic and unquestionable political leader of his people, early on adopted the war names Yasser Arafat and Abou Ammar by which he became internationally known.

Arafat spent his childhood in Cairo, Jerusalem and Gaza, where he was educated into the precepts of the Koran and was a member of Arab nationalist movements and the Palestinian resistance against Jewish colonization and terrorist Zionist organizations.

He enlisted in the Egyptian army and participated in the first Arab-Israeli war (1948-1949).

In 1952, the year in which the Nasser-led revolution overthrew the pro-imperialistic monarchy of Faruk in Egypt, Arafat joined the Palestine Student Federation (PSF) at Cairo University. He became its president until his expulsion in 1953, when he founded his own organization, the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS).

In 1958, one year after graduating as a civil engineer in Egypt, Arafat created the Al Fatah (Victory or Conquest) movement, with the collaboration of Jalil al Wazir and Salah Jalaf. Its primary aim was the liberation of Palestine.

A full-time member of the Al Fatah, Arafat led the Palestinian guerrilla armed action of 1 January 1965, considered the beginning of the armed struggle of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), founded the previous year.

In 1967, Arafat led the Al Fatah commands on the Syrian front, and 12 months later, participated in the Karameh battle against the Israeli invaders and aggressors. In 1968 he became the spokesperson of the PLO, and in 1969 was elected president of the Executive Committee of this organization.

In August 1970 he took part in the battle of Amman, and in 1971, was designated supreme chief of the armed forces of the Resistance. In the fourth Arab-Israeli war in 1973, he led over 20,000 Palestinian fighters to the battlefront.

During the aggression and invasion of Lebanon known as Operation Peace for Galilee, launched by Israel with the aim of annihilating the PLO and its leader who had settled in that country at the end of 1970, Arafat led the heroic Fedayeen to one of their most memorable battles against the Zionist army.

After that extraordinary deed, it gained international admiration even though they were forced to pull back to Tunis, after being besieged by a technically and numerically superior enemy.

In a letter written at that time to Yasser Arafat by President Fidel Castro, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, the latter observed:

"…The entire world has perceived with amazement and admiration the example of courage demonstrated by the Palestinian people in defending their inalienable rights under the accurate leadership of the PLO, their sole legitimate representative, and the invaluable encouragement of your presence in the front line…"

Over half a century of uncontested struggle characterizes the altruistic dedication of Arafat to the just cause of his people, from his early days as a soldier to date as the president of the Palestinian National Authority.

Abu Amar has not only been a man of action, but also a man of peace who has supported all initiatives to resolve the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict by peaceful means, without which the Middle East will never reach a just, honorable, global, and definitive peace.

The Madrid Conferences, the Oslo, Camp David, Wye Plantation and Sharm el Sheik Sharm Agreements, and the Road Map, among other attempts, have always won Arafat's approval and support, an attitude that was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize on October 14, 1994.

His memorable speech at the UN General Assembly on 13 November 1974 will go down in history:

"…I come with the rifle of the freedom fighter in one hand and the olive branch in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand…"

The legitimate leader of his people and their cause, Arafat was democratically re-elected president of the PNA in the first Palestinian elections in January 1996.

The premeditated provocation perpetrated by Ariel Sharon, the Sabra and Chatila butcher, at the Mosque of Al Aqsa in Jerusalem on 28 September 2000 as part of the Zionist-US plan for the region eliminated all possibilities of peace and prompted a new Palestinian Intifada.

Arafat's assassination became one of the main goals of Zionist plans, while the US government was conspiring to eliminate the president from the Arab political scene by falsely accusing him of harbouring terrorists.

The Israeli genocide of the Palestinian civilian population in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the assassination of its leaders confined Arafat to his Mukata station in Ramallah. Surrounded by Zionist troops and lacking proper medical attention, his serious health condition was aggravated, now maintaining him between life and death.

Cuba, a country that Arafat visited three times, feels a profound admiration and respect for this close friend of the Cuban Revolution, its people and leaders. Cuba always remembers him as the veteran combatant dressed in khaki and his traditional kufieh, and wearing a smile at the certain victory of his cause.

Special for Granma International-Havana, Cuba. Year 8 - Wednesday, November 10, 2004.

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