The enigma of Arafat

So Yasser is dead, and the obituaries come flooding in. Was he an incorrigible terrorist (the “father of modern terrorism” as one site has it) who could not be trusted, or the “father of the Palestinian nation,” an historic leader who led his people from nowhere to the center of the world stage? Haaretz reports on another Arafatian enigma: where, in fact, was he born?

“According to his official biography, Arafat was born in the Old City of Jerusalem. He himself said as much on many occasions, but sometimes also said he was born in Gaza. The truth is that Yasser Arafat was born in Cairo, Egypt. Arafat’s effort to move his place of birth to Jerusalem was apparently prompted by his notion that a national leader who purported to be “Mister Palestine” could not conceivably have been born outside the Palestinian homeland. Arafat attended elementary and high school in Cairo – as is very evident from the Egyptian accent that he never managed to get rid of to his dying day. Young Palestinians who joined Fatah during the period of the 1967 Six-Day War and first met Arafat were in fact taken by surprise: How was it that the leader of the Palestinian revolution talks like an Egyptian?”

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