Cover image for Arafat : from defender to dictator
Arafat : from defender to dictator
Aburish, Saïd K., 1935-2012.
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Bloomsbury, [1998]

Physical Description:
360 pages ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


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DS119.7.A6785 A28 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this meticulously researched and iconoclastic work, Said Aburish, the internationally respected Palestinian political analyst and writer, turns the popular western perception of Yasser Arafat upside-down. Far from being the benign heroic freedom fighter who has kept the hopes of his displaced people alive, Arafat is revealed as a narrow-minded operator, out of touch with reality, whose personal ambitions and lack of understanding of democratic principles have made him a deterrent to real peace in the Middle East.

Aburish exposes the unsound foundations of Arafat's leadership, and shows that his PLO has never been a revolutionary movement; rather Arafat and the PLO have always represented an elite group of Palestinian families who have grown ever more rich. Moreover, Aburish has discovered from hitherto silent but impeccable sources that since 1963, when Arafat first established contact with the CIA in Beirut, the PLO has conducted a secret dialogue with the US, amounting to a betrayal of its people- in effect an agreement to avoid military or economic confrontation with Israel.

Aburish goes on to demonstrate that, in his current role as President of the Palestinian Authority, Arafat has created one of the ugliest expressions of absolute dictatorship, even by Middle Eastern standards, in the world today. He concludes with a stimulating analysis of the likely future for Palestine and of the crucial world implications.

Author Notes

Said Aburish 's previous books include Children of Bethany, Cry Palestine, and The House of Saud . He holds an American passport, and lives in London, England.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Contrarian views of the Palestinian leader and the roots of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Journalist Aburish was born near Jerusalem but was educated in the U.S. and now lives in London. He gives Arafat credit for three key strategic decisions: creating and using "a Palestinian identity to face Israel"; resorting to armed struggle; and pursuing, from the early '70s, a peaceful settlement. But Aburish judges Arafat harshly for placing means before ends: Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization has always been more responsive, he argues, to Palestinian elites and conservative Arab governments than to its own people, and it betrayed Palestinians' interests through years of secret contacts with Israel and the West (most recently, the Oslo and Washington agreements). Aburish blames Arafat's poor organization skills for the fact that the Palestinian Authority he heads is at once deeply corrupt and utterly dictatorial. A solid summary of the Palestinian case against Arafat. Gee is senior information officer at the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. His title summarizes his thesis: over the past 50 years, Israelis and Palestinians have not been competing on a level playing field. Gee grants the importance of outside support for Israel but focuses on inequalities within the conflict: the relative modernity of the Zionists who built Israel versus the insular and largely preindustrial society they encountered in the territory both groups claimed. Both societies have changed significantly over the decades, but to achieve lasting peace based on respectful coexistence, Gee urges today's Palestinians "to ally with all that is enlightened in Israel against what is racist and repressive." Constructive (if controversial) analysis. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Aburish, a London-based journalist and American citizen who calls himself "a loyal Palestinian," has written a scathing political biography of Yasser Arafat. He characterizes Arafat as a masterful strategist who gained worldwide recognition of the existence of a Palestinian people and who, since the early 1970s, has sought a peaceful settlement with Israel. But Aburish charges that Arafat‘whom he views as a consummate opportunist, master of double talk and builder of a personality cult‘has become a dictator as president of the Palestinian National Authority. The author portrays Arafat as a traditional Arab tribal chief who surrounds himself with yes-men, bribes followers, threatens rivals and punishes dissent. Aburish blasts away at Arafat's self-mythologizing, including the fabrication that he became a self-sufficient millionaire by working as a civil engineer in Kuwait in the 1950s. Advancing his own agenda, Aburish, who considers the Oslo agreements as vehicles by which Israel can attain more territory as well as hegemony over the Palestinians, urges Arafat's ouster. He argues that Arafat should be replaced by a triumvirate of Palestinian leaders and an interim administration that would negotiate a better deal with Israel (the book was completed before the most recent agreements), and he calls for the replacement of Arafat's corrupt flunkies with technocrats. In the process, Aburish delivers an engrossing, if partisan, biography that is as interesting for what it says about Palestinian unhappiness with Arafat as for what it says about the man himself. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved