End of the Fêted Arafat!

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With skyrocketing grieve by tens of thousands of tearful and red-eyed Palestinians–”men, women and children–”over the cataclysmic news of their venerated and beloved leader of unique status and stature, the entire world dipped into a state of jerk and jolt by the tragedy, which made vanished a great and grand symbol of freedom-struggle–”Yasser Arafat, who took off for eternity in a French sickbay in the pre-dawn hours of Thursday, a sanctified date of the Islamic calendar–”being the 27th day of the holy month of Ramadan, brining an exceptional epoch to an end.

As the ambiguity on Arafat’s death would, prima facie, remain unveiled and has eventually got into the grave with the marvellous spirited soul, as the actual raison d’être of the tragic episode is still masked, except for an info that he went into a deep coma after brain-haemorrhage. Whereas the surgeons opted to stay mum and tight-lipped, the trio which dashed from Gaza to the hospital, in the outskirts of Paris continued to insist that Arafat was–”‘alive’.

The French military doctors who treated Yasser Arafat up to his death refused to say what the 75-year-old Palestinian leader died of, saying "it was private information meant for his family only."
"I have no declaration to make on that subject," a spokesman for the French military’s medical service, Christian Estripeau, said.

"It is not up to the defence forces’ health service to reveal information given to the family."
The doctors who tended to Arafat at the Percy military hospital on the outskirts of Paris since October-29 have given no public diagnosis of the Palestinian Authority President’s illness.
Arafat’s wife Suha, however, tightly restricted any information about her husband’s medical state.
Early Thursday, Estripeau read a short statement saying only: "Mr Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority, died at Percy military hospital at Clamart on November 11 at 3:30 am (02:30 GMT)."

Analysts are of the view that such a strategy might have been architected to access and over-come the Palestinians anger, anguish and agony–”yet it gave enormous time to Arafat’s arch foe–”Israel, a requisite time to fortify a siege–”along the West Bank and elsewhere to avert all types of risks and hazards, which Tel Aviv envisioned ‘might emerge–”as an upshot.’

Arafat’s elegant, resolute, loyal and gentle wife, Suha–”who is almost half of his age–”was at the bedside, when the great visionary of a sovereign Palestine was proclaimed dead by the chief doctor of the military hospital, which leaves Arafat’s dream, spanning over half-a-century, yet to be translated into a reality.

Fulfilling the legitimate requires of the French sanatorium, Suha Arafat took the body of her illustrious husband with sobbing eyes–”in audience of a lot of the aficionados of Arafat for a voyage to his ancestral home, Ramallah via the Egyptian capital–”Cairo, where his funeral took place before laying him to rest on the soils of Palestine.

Scores of Yasser Arafat supporters, weeping, singing or chanting, convened on a carpet of flowers and amid burning candles and draped flags outside the French military hospital where their veteran leader died a few hours earlier.

"For you, Yasser, my brother, my example, my heart is as sad as the grey weather of today," read one message hastily scrawled on a cardboard box.

"You leave us with great emptiness," they wrote. Mourners of different nationalities gathered outside the Percy military hospital near Paris where the Palestinian leader had been receiving treatment for a mystery illness for two weeks.

Dressed all in black, one of those in the crowd, Zina, crouched on the pavement about 50 metres from the entrance to the hospital at Clamart to pay her own personal tribute.

Contemplative and dignified, she pulled out from a plastic bag a green plant, a large box of matches and a roll of sticking tape. With a momentary appearance of the sun, she managed to light six small candles.

Then, on a piece of paper, she posted her message. "Abu Ammar Arafat, you will be as glorious as Che" she wrote in reference to the Argentine-born Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara.

Amid a heavy police presence and security barriers to contain the crowd, the supporters had observed a long silence.

Some then broke out into Palestinian nationalist song, while others chanted "With our soul and with our blood we will defend you Abu Ammar" calling Arafat by his nom de guerre, or "America enemy of the people" in Arabic.

Others shouted in French "We are all Palestinians". One banner read "Resistance is immortal". Also in the crowd was a group of anti-Zionist orthodox rabbis.

Women threw up their hands, wailing into the sky. Many were weeping, and most wore the legendary Keffiyeh, or headscarf that became Arafat’s style trademark.

Palestinian flags, portraits of the veteran leader and words of sympathy and tribute adorned the wall surrounding the hospital.

Arafat, long regarded his people as a freedom fighter, began the journey to his final resting place in the West Bank town that has been his virtual prison for almost three years.

The much-loved, greatly-admired, venerated leader of Palestine, Yasser Arafat was,at last proclaimed ‘Dead’ by before the sunrise of Thursday, November-11.

Despite his valiant verve, vigour and dynamism, the illustrious son of a holy land could not get through the battle for to survive–”to live-on for translating his magnificent dream of a sovereign Palestine–”into a reality, and thus leaving behind a big challenge for his aficionados–”to face with.
Arafat’s take off to eternity has made a gallant nation–”orphan, which is to fulfil the bona fide mission of its fêted leader, who, despite being a modest, yet spirited soul has won global admiration, as is manifested from the contents of the alluring messages–”disseminated by the leaders from all-over the world–”with an instant reaction on the sad story of his [Arafat’s] tragic demise.

Yasser Arafat, who died at the age of 75, in France on Thursday, was the standard-bearer of Palestinian nationalism for nearly half-a-century who could not see his dream of an independent state [of Palestine] become a reality.

The legendary figure was, by all perceptions, a unique symbol of the Palestinian national struggle. He devoted all of his lifetime to the cause for establishing a Palestinian statehood with Jerusalem as its capital, but failed to wait to see this dream become true.

Adored as the mountain that can never be moved by the wind, Arafat survived a plane crash in the Libyan Desert in 1992, numerous assassination attempts by Israeli intelligence agencies and a serious stroke.

Always dressed in Khaki uniform and with his trademark black and white Kaffiyeh wrapped around his head, he was deeply loved by the Palestinians for his extraordinary political courage, persistence and charisma.

A career that saw him graduate from guerrilla leader to the Nobel prize-winning President of the Palestinian Authority, fizzled out amid Israeli calls for his assassination and demands from his own people for drastic reform.

But his status as the 40-year icon of the Palestinians’ fight for their homeland was never challenged and he leaves a huge gap, difficult to fill.

His death also showed that time finally caught up with a man known as a survivor, who outlived nearly all his great rivals, even cheating death by walking away from a 1992 plane crash in the Libyan desert.

Yasser Arafat was born Mohammed Abdel-Rawf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Hussaini, on August-4 in 1929.
The official version of his life history records that he was born in Jerusalem. However, numerous biographers have established that he was in fact born in Cairo, where his father, from Gaza, owned a business. He spent his childhood shuttling between the Egyptian capital and Palestine.
By 17, he was running guns to Palestinian groups fighting the creation of a Jewish state as the British mandate in Palestine crumbled after the end of World War-II.

He fought in the 1948 war between Israel and its Arab neighbours that immediately followed the foundation of the Jewish state.

Shattered by Israel’s ‘victory’, he returned to Egypt and Cairo University where he studied engineering and became involved in Palestinian political circles.

Arafat left Cairo for Kuwait where he established an engineering business with fellow Palestinians.
Together with Khalil al-Wazir, Faruq Khaddumi, Salah Khalaf and Mahmud Abbas, he founded the Fatah movement in 1959 to fight against the Jewish state.

Arafat, who had taken the nom de guerre of Abu Ammar, was elected Chairman of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation [PLO] in February-1969 and stepped on to the world stage in his trademark Arab headdress, or Keffiyeh, and green fatigues.

Short, paunchy and usually sporting stubble, Arafat rose to leadership by the force of his fiery personality, his acute instinct for political survival and his total dedication to the legitimate cause.
With military options running out and the eruption of the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, in the West Bank and Gaza in 1987 he began to negotiate with Israel.

Arafat rejected violence in December-1988 and recognized Israel’s plea to exist, prompting the United States to end a 13-year ban on talks with the PLO.

A Palestinian delegation was included in the Jordanian team to the 1991 Madrid conference which launched a US and Russian-backed attempt to find a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.

As the Madrid talks dragged on, Israel and PLO representatives began direct talks in Norway.
The resulting first Oslo agreement, signed in Washington in September 1993, ushered in Palestinian autonomy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.

But the peace process was derailed when a Jewish extremist gunned down Rabin November-4, 1995, and it has never really recovered.

In December 2001, the Israeli army encircled Arafat in his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, known as the Muqataa, and troops destroyed his fleet of helicopters in Gaza.

Arafat, who chalked up a record number of visits to the White House in the Clinton years, never again left the West Bank except to die in a French military hospital.

Arafat was fond of saying that he looked forward to seeing the day "when a child flies the Palestinian flag on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem".

Arafat was born on Aug. 24, 1929 in Cairo to a textile merchant father, who was a Palestinian with Egyptian ancestry, and his mother from an old Palestinian family in Jerusalem.

He was named after Yasser, which was believed to honor an Arab victim during the British mandate in Palestine.

With his mother’s death when he was five years old, Arafat was sent to live with his maternal uncle in Jerusalem, then under the British rule.

After spending four years there, his father brought him back to Cairo, where an older sister took care of him and his siblings.

During the war between the Jews and the Arab states in 1948, 19-year-old Arafat broke off his studies at Faud I University (later Cairo University) to fight against the Jews in the Gaza area.

After the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, he managed to get a Visa to study at the University of Texas in the United States.

Recovering his spirits and retaining the dream of an independent Palestinian homeland, Arafat returned to Faud I University to majorin engineering, but spent most of his time as leader of the Palestinian students. In 1949, he formed Palestinian Students’ League.

In 1953, Arafat sent a three-word blood letter to an Egyptian leader, which simply read: "Don’t forget Palestine."

After getting a degree in 1956, Arafat worked briefly in Egypt, then resettled in Kuwait, where he was first employed in the public works department and then successfully running his own contracting firm.

Committed to armed struggle to reverse what Palestinians called the Nabka (Catastrophe), Arafat secretly founded the ‘Fatah’ movement in 1959 in Kuwait.

In late 1964, Arafat left Kuwait to become a full-time revolutionary, organizing Fatah raids into Israel from Jordan.

It was also in 1964 that the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] was created. After the Arab countries’ defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War, Fattah emerged from obscurity of an underground movement to a most powerful and best organized group among the PLO.

In 1969, Arafat became the PLO Chairman.

With higher profile came higher personal risk. Initially based in Jordan, Arafat and his fighters were expelled in 1970 and redeployed first in Lebanon, and later in Tunisia.

In November 1974, with the support of the Arab states, Arafat participated in a debate on the Middle East at the UN General Assembly.

His famous words there were: "I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter’s gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."

In June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon with declared aim of ousting PLO. The Israeli forces besieged Beirut where Arafat was holed up in bunker.

Israel halted bombardment in August in deal under which Arafat and some 10,000 PLO fighters left Lebanon.

Arafat then relocated PLO headquarters to distant Tunis, his formal base for next 12 years.
In 1987, Arafat’s troops launched an Intifada (uprising) in the West Bank, which strengthened his position by directing the world attention to the Palestinians’ plight.

In 1988 came a change of policy. In a speech at a special UN session in Geneva, Arafat declared that the PLO renounced violence and supported "the right of all parties concerned in the Middle East conflict to live in peace and security, including the state of Palestine, Israel and other neighbours".

After a setback when the PLO supported Iraq in the Gulf War of 1991, the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel began in earnest, leading to the Oslo Accords of 1993.
On May 12, 1994, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was established. In July, Arafat returned to Gaza after a 24-year-long exile.

On Dec. 10, 1994, Arafat won the Nobel Peace Prize together with Israel’s then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for their efforts in the Middle East peace process.
In early 1996, Arafat was elected Chairman of the PNA. He struggled to define his role and keep Israelis and his own countrymen committed to what he termed "the peace of the brave".

In July 2000, Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak were sequestered by US President Bill Clinton at Camp David. They left the summit with a "statement of intent" to end the violence, but neither side signed on it.

Since December 2001, Arafat had been besieged by the Israeli army in his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, known as Muqata.

On March 29, 2002, the Israeli cabinet declared Arafat–an enemy.

In response to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s offer of permanent exile, Arafat said on April-2, 2002 that he would rather die than leave the Palestinian territories.

On April-29, 2003, Mahmoud Abbas was appointed to be the first ever Palestinian prime minister. The move was pushed by Israel and the United States to sideline Arafat, who was accused by both sides of fomenting violence.

On Oct. 21, 2003, Arafat was diagnosed with gallstones.

On Oct. 27, 2004, Israel’s media quoted anonymous sources as saying that Arafat collapsed earlier and was briefly unconscious. Palestinian officials denied the reports but admitted that Arafat was very sick.

On Oct. 29, 2004, Arafat was flown to Percy Military Hospital outside Paris for treatment. He was accompanied by his wife and a team of medics and advisors.

"I will be back soon, God willing. I’ll see you soon," Arafat told his supporters during his stopover in Jordan.

On Nov. 11, Arafat was announced dead by the French hospital at 3:30 a.m. [02:30 GMT].
Before 2001, Arafat’s life was one of constant travel, moving from country to country to promote the cause for an independent Palestinian statehood.

He always kept his movements secret, as he did about his private-life, even his marriage to Suha Tawil, a Palestinian lady, who must be appointed or chosen as the heir apparent–”to take over the assignment, Arafat had envisioned for a free Palestine–as she has derived a great deal of dynamism from her cerebral husband, who has been a great source of unprecedented inspiration and strength vis-à-vis a zestful freedom struggle–”even if she is half of his age–”yet is blessed with a calibre and intellect par excellence.

Arafat got from Suha, a daughter Zahwa [9], who was named after Arafat’s mother.

May Allah Almighty, The Most Gracious and the Most Merciful, Bless Arafat’s soul in eternal peace in the Heavens. Amen.

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