PLO Leadership

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PLO Leadership

"Psychological profile: Arafat moved by money, not might"

News article

By: The World Tribune

Date: June 14, 2002

Source: "Psychological Profile: Arafat moved by money, not might" as published by the World

About the Author: The World Tribune is an American Internet newspaper dedicated to covering world political, cultural, and economic events.


Yassir (also spelled Yasser or Yasir) Arafat claimed to have been born in Jerusalem on August 4, 1929, although his registered birth certificate stated August 24, 1929 in Cairo, Egypt. His given name was Muhammad Abdel-Rahman Abdel-Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseine. The nickname Yassir loosely translates to mean easygoing. He was the co-founder and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 through his death in 2004, and the leader of the Palestine National Authority (PNA) from 1993 until 2004. In 1994, Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli leaders Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.

Yassir Arafat's life and lengthy political career was controversial. His loyal supporters viewed him as a hero, a tireless freedom fighter, and a man who best symbolized the aspirations of the Palestinian nation. His vehement opponents declared Arafat a lifelong terrorist who advocated violence throughout his career, even while employing the rhetoric of peace. Many others accused him of being apolitically corrupt, or of being a weak leader who made excessive concessions to the government of Israel during the era when efforts were being made to broker a peace settlement.

By the time he reached his teens, Arafat was aligned with the Palestinians. By 1946, he became a Palestinian nationalist who was engaged in the business of moving weapons procured in Egypt over the border to Palestine. Although he was not directly involved in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, it was during this time that Arafat was developing the political network that would allow him to emerge as a leader in the Palestinian movement.

In the mid–1950s, Arafat joined the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; he became the leader of the Palestine Student Union at the University of Cairo shortly thereafter. He graduated with a degree in civil engineering. By the late 1950s, he had moved to Kuwait. In 1959, he founded a local sect of Al Fatah (the name Fatah is used interchangeably with Al Fatah) there. Al Fatah (loosely translated as conquest) was a pseudonym for the Palestine National Liberation Movement. Fatah was dedicated to the complete destruction of Israel and Jordan, and to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in their stead. Arafat sough to ensure the financial security of Al Fatah by gaining ongoing and generous contributions from the highly paid Palestinian oil workers in Kuwait. Ultimately, Arafat's small, but well funded, splinter group would take control of the entire Palestinian liberation movement.


Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, termed as not completely stable, appears unimpressed with Israeli military might or U.S. diplomatic pressure, a new study says.

A psychological profile prepared for the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism says the Palestinian Authority chairman can be influenced by economic pressure, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Spectacular military operations—such as air strikes, massive fire directed at targets in the areas of the Palestinian Authority—have a limited effect on Arafat," the report said. "He knows the limitations of Israel's power and in situations of confrontation feels at his best, tends to take risks, and is willing to make sacrifices, more so than in normal circumstances."

The profile, authored by researchers Shaul Kimhi, Shmuel Even and Jerrold Post, said Arafat's behavior comprises limited emotional stability, rapid mood swings and a need to feel in complete control of his environment. The study said the PA chairman does not tolerate dissent or even constructive criticism.

"Arafat's interpersonal skills are characterized by problems with relationships, stemming from his need to manipulate people, bringing them closer or distancing them as needed," the report said. "He has neither intimate relationships nor any close friends, and apparently feels no need for them."

The profile said Arafat has no hobbies and does not engage in entertainment. The study dismisses reports in the 1970s that Arafat is a homosexual.

The profile recommended that Israel's military stage limited precision operations. The study said this would undermine Arafat's sense of control. Arafat, the study said, is also not affected by economic pressure on Palestinians. The report said measures such as cutting off water or electricity serve Arafat's aims of presenting Palestinian suffering to the international community.

In contrast, economic pressure on Arafat can reap gains. The report said withholding Israeli tax funds or ending international aid can be effective if it continues over a long period.

"Money is one of the means through which Arafat wields control," the report said. "These funds constitute the major bulk of the financial resources of the Palestinian Authority and are required to finance the work of administration and the security forces."

All three of the researchers have engaged in psychological profiles for either Israel or the United States. Kimhi, a member of the American Psychological Association and the International Society of Political Psychology, was an adviser to Israeli military intelligence.

Even is a reserve colonel who served in the intelligence corps. Post, a professor of psychiatry and political psychology, wrote psychological profiles of the late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

"It is very hard to predict his behavior, since it comes from a man whose manner of thought and behavior is completely different from that recognized and accepted in politics and business in the Western world, and, on the other hand, it is difficult to know what his intentions truly are," the report said.


Fatah's ideology and philosophy were centered on financing terrorism and fomenting violence as the primary means of achieving political and ideological goals. Arafat promoted guerilla-style training in Syria and Algeria for Al Fatah members. In December of 1964, they unsuccessfully attempted their first major act of violence, blowing up a major Israeli water pump station. Fatah continually attacked Israeli public transportation, as well as villages and individual homes.

Also in 1964, the PLO was created by the Arab League, with the intent of establishing it as a central force in the continual efforts to destroy Israel. Arafat and the Al Fatah initially saw the PLO as a rival political faction; however, over the next several years, Al Fatah became a more and more focal part of the organization. When the Palestinian National Council held its annual meeting in 1968, it voted to change its charter in order to adopt the PLO/Fatah dogma of using violence and war as the primary means of achieving Palestinian independence.

The PLO was located in Jordan until 1970, when it was driven out—causing a bloody civil war—by the armies of Jordan's King Hussein. As a show of force and retaliation, Fatah hijacked several Western airliners and blew one up on a Cairo runway on September 12, 1970. On September 16, 1970, Yassir Arafat assumed command of the PLA, the traditional military arm of the PLO. Although the PLO/PLA engaged the military support of Syria during the battle with Jordan, the Jordanian army (with the active support of the United States and of Israel) defeated the insurgents, who were driven from the country and fled to Lebanon by way of Syria.

In Lebanon, Al Fatah and the PLO again incited civil war. The PLO achieved worldwide infamy when an extremist cell called Black September kidnapped and murdered eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. In 1973, Arafat engaged the Khartoum faction of Al Fatah in a terrorist attack on the United States by abducting and murdering the United States Ambassador to Sudan, Cleo Noel, along with embassy aid, George Moore.

In the early 1990s, the PLO and Israel engaged in secret peace negotiations that formed the basis of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which called for the progressive development and implementation of Palestinian self-rule over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, occurring over a five year time span. As a result of these ground-breaking efforts, Yassir Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. The Oslo Accords held several conditions: Arafat signed two letters renouncing violence and terrorism and officially recognizing the state of Israel prior to signing the peace accords. Rabin, on behalf of Israel, officially recognized the PLO. A new entity, called the Palestinian Authority (PA), was created to preside over the territory to be controlled by Palestine. In 1994, Arafat moved the headquarters of the PLO from Tunisia to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in order to rule the new territories. This move enabled Arafat to continue to have virtually complete control over all Palestinian funds and political authority. In 1996, Yassir Arafat was duly elected president of the PA. His term of office was to end in 1999, with new elections. Arafat did not permit elections to be held and retained power until his death.

The first Oslo Accord failed amid escalating violence. PLO terrorism against Israeli civilian targets, characterized by more growing numbers of Palestinian suicide bombers and the inception of an Islamic martyrdom cult called Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade—were met with Israeli retaliatory strikes on suspected Palestinian extremist targets. Large sums of money were funneled by the PA into the Al-Aqsa, for the purposes of supporting escalating acts of terrorism against Israel, aimed at the destruction of the state in the service of a wholly Palestinian nation.

By 2002, the United States officially recognized the ongoing PA/Arafat financing and support of terrorism against Israel and called for Arafat's removal from political power. In order to achieve some degree of peace in the Middle East, the Israeli government, in 2003, acted to isolate Arafat in his Ramallah compound and to facilitate the election of a new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas. Arafat retained sufficient power as to be able to continuously undermine Abbas, who eventually resigned.

Throughout his career, Arafat achieved much of his political power by controlling the enormous financial resources funneled into Palestine by the PLO. His initial wealth came as a result of the financial backing achieved for the Fatah and early PLO; it was tremendously increased by the diversion of millions of dollars in international aid designed to ameliorate some of the destitution in war-ravaged Palestinian regions. In 2003, the PA's finance ministry retained a team of American accountants to assess Yassir Arafat's financial holdings. The results of the audit indicated that Arafat had created a personal investment portfolio estimated to be worth nearly one billion dollars. He had holdings in such diverse areas as a cell phone manufacturer in Tunisia, a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ramallah, and venture capital funds in the Cayman Islands. It was determined that few of the funds intended for use by the Palestinian populace had reached them, and were, instead, controlled by Arafat and the PLO.



Gowers, Andrew, and Walker, Tony. Arafat: The Biography. Virgin Books, 2005.

Rubin, Barry M., and Rubin, Judith Colp. Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography. Oxford University Press, 2003.

Web sites "Arafat's Billions November 9, 2003." <> (accessed July 11, 2005). Profiles: Yasser Arafat. "Yasser Arafat: Homeland a Dream for Palestinian Authority Chief." <> (accessed July 5, 2005).

The Electronic Intifada, Business and Economy. "IMF audit reveals Arafat diverted $900 million to account under his personal control. Report, IMF, 20 September 2003." <> (accessed July 2, 2005). "OutFront: Auditing Arafat." Nathan Vardi. 03.17.03. <> (accessed July 11, 2005) "MI chief: terrorist groups trying hard to pull of mega attack." (accessed July 5, 2005).