Yasser Arafat

Palestinian political leader (1929–2004)

Yasser Arafat (4 August 1929 or 24 August 1929 or 14 August 192911 November 2004) was co-founder and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (1969–2004), President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) (1993–2004), and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Today I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter's gun in the other.




  • We shall never stop until we can go back home and Israel is destroyed… The goal of our struggle is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromises or mediations… the goal of this violence is the elimination of Zionism from Palestine in all its political, economic and military aspects… We don’t want peace, we want victory. Peace for us means Israel’s destruction and nothing else.
    • Quoted in the Washington Post (29 March 1970)
  • all our moves are based on four general principles: continued use of the rifle, no waiving of historical rights, no peace, and no negotiations… Whatever form of government is established in the territory when the shadow of occupation passes away, whenever I address my fighters and revolutionaries, I shall say: ‘Let our rifles be aimed at the beloved land, the land of the homeland, the land of Palestine.
    • Statement from Wafa, Beirut (9 June 1974) as quoted in Journal of Palestine Studies (1974), p. 224.
  • I want to tell Carter and Begin that when the Arabs set off their volcano there will be only Arabs in this part of the world… Our people will continue to fuel the torch of the revolution with rivers of blood until the whole of the occupied homeland is liberated, the whole of the homeland is liberated, not just a part of it.
    • Quoted in the Associated Press (12 March 1979).

Speech to UN General Assembly (1974)

Speech to UN General Assembly, 13 November 1974.
  • Those who call us terrorists wish to prevent world public opinion from discovering the truth about us and from seeing the justice on our faces. They seek to bide the terrorism and tyranny of their acts, and our own posture of self-defence.
  • Today I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter's gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. I repeat, do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.


  • Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations… We shall not rest until the day when we return to our home, and until we destroy Israel.
    • Quoted in The Times, UK (5 August 1980).
  • Did you follow what [General Yehoshafat] Harkabi wrote? Formerly of the Israeli military intelligence service. Remember him? Did you follow what he wrote? He said that it was for the sake of the existence of Israel that we have to accept the rights of the Palestinians to have their independent state. I’m a man of history. My vision is guiding me, my clear vision. It is not by chance that the currents of peace are increasing daily inside Israel. Many of the Israelis begin to understand and discover the realities and the facts. They can’t demolish five million Palestinians. They can’t annihilate them. We are not the Red Indians.
    • In an interview published in "The New York Review of Books" (11 June 1987).


  • The Israelis are mistaken if they think we do not have an alternative to negotiations. By Allah I swear they are wrong. The Palestinian people are prepared to sacrifice until either the last boy and the last girl raise the Palestinian flag over the walls, the churches and the mosques of Jerusalem.
    • In a speech given on 6 August 1995, at a party to celebrate the birth of his daughter, reported in Haaretz (6 September 1995) and in The Jerusalem Post (7 September 1995).
  • The PLO will now concentrate on splitting Israel psychologically into two camps... We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. Jews will not want to live among Arabs. I have no use for Jews. They are and remain Jews. We now need all the help we can get from you in our battle for a united Palestine under Arab rule.
    • In a speech to Arab diplomats in Stockholm as quoted in the Jerusalem Post (23 February 1996).
  • We will not bend or fail until the blood of every last Jew from the youngest child to the oldest elder is spilt to redeem our land!
    • In his speech "The Impending Total Collapse of Israel" at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, January 30, 1996 as quoted in “The Legacy of Islamic AntiSemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History”, by Andrew Bostom, Prometheus Books, c.2008, pg. 682.


  • Amanpour: Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken to you, I understand. He has also spoken publicly. He called on you to rein in the violence. What do you make of that statement, and can you and will you rein in that violence?
    Arafat: Are you asking me while I am under complete siege? You are a wonderful journalist. You have to respect your profession.… No, you have to be accurately when you are speaking with General Yasser Arafat. Be quiet! … You are covering, with such questions, the terrorist activities of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli crimes. Take care not to make these fatal mistakes. Thank you. Bye, bye!
  • This child, who is grasping the stone, facing the tank, is it not the greatest message to the world when that hero becomes a martyr? We are proud of them.
    • On Palestinian Authority Television (15 January 2002).
  • I swear to God, I will see [the Palestinian state], whether as a martyr or alive. Please, God, give me the honor of becoming a martyr in the fight for Jerusalem.
    • As quoted at OneJerusalem.org (21 January 2002)
  • This is my homeland; no one can kick me out.
    • As quoted in The Daily Iowan (11 September 2003), Yasser Arafat's reply to Ariel Sharon's threat to expel him from the occupied territories.

Quotes about Arafat

  • [he] has a public appearance that is not very appealing,” she told The Toronto Star after their meeting. “But that quickly disappears. He is a good listener. Very quick. Humorous and gentle. He was a very worried man when I saw him.”
  • I find it shameful that many Italians and many Europeans have chosen as their standard-bearer the gentleman (or so it is polite to say) Arafat. This nonentity who thanks to the money of the Saudi Royal Family plays the Mussolini ad perpetuum and in his megalomania believes he will pass into History as the George Washington of Palestine. This ungrammatical wretch who when I interviewed him was unable even to put together a complete sentence, to make articulate conversation. So that to put it all together, write it, publish it, cost me a tremendous effort and I concluded that compared to him even Ghaddafi sounds like Leonardo da Vinci. This false warrior who always goes around in uniform like Pinochet, never putting on civilian garb, and yet despite this has never participated in a battle. War is something he sends, has always sent, others to do for him. That is, the poor souls who believe in him. This pompous incompetent who playing the part of Head of State caused the failure of the Camp David negotiations, Clinton’s mediation.
    No-no-I-want-Jerusalem-all-to-myself. This eternal liar who has a flash of sincerity only when (in private) he denies Israel’s right to exist, and who as I say in my book contradicts himself every five minutes. He always plays the double-cross, lies even if you ask him what time it is, so that you can never trust him. Never! With him you will always wind up systematically betrayed. This eternal terrorist who knows only how to be a terrorist (while keeping himself safe) and who during the Seventies, that is when I interviewed him, even trained the terrorists of Baader-Meinhof. With them, children ten years of age. Poor children. (Now he trains them to become suicide bombers. A hundred baby suicide bombers are in the works: a hundred!). This weathercock who keeps his wife at Paris, served and revered like a queen, and keeps his people down in the shit. He takes them out of the shit only to send them to die, to kill and to die, like the eighteen year old girls who in order to earn equality with men have to strap on explosives and disintegrate with their victims. And yet many Italians love him, yes. Just like they loved Mussolini. And many other Europeans do the same.
  • I do not support peace in the Middle East. And I do not support Arafat. He is a stupid, incompetent fool!... The stupid fool is a zealot, a warrior, and a clever one. But he doesn't accomplish anything.
    • Muammar Gaddafi, as quoted in Lt. General Ion Mihai Pacepa (1987) Red Horizons: Chronicles of a Communist Spy Chief (Regnery Gateway, p. 110), ISBN 0895265702.
  • Palestine continued to live in the collective consciousness of millions of Arabs, and Palestinian refugees now lived among them, in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, mostly in tented settlements and shantytowns. The Palestinians had had enough of these large Arab armies that kept losing precious land. The time had come to intensify guerrilla warfare. The man who had risen to lead them was Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian from Gaza, who had become chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1969. Armed Palestinian factions that had battled the Israelis alone and alongside the Arabs began to consolidate their grip on the refugee population in Jordan and Lebanon, filling their ranks with more fighters and launching attacks into Israel. The king of Jordan would have none of it—his army crushed the PLO ruthlessly in 1970. More Palestinian fighters, and more refugees, headed to Lebanon.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • He lied all the time. And he knew it. I'd say, 'Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat's war name], cut the crap. Let's talk serious.' And then he could either talk serious or not talk serious. He'd say nonsense.
    • Terje Roed Larsen, United Nations Special Coordinator for peace negotiations in the Middle East, Quoted in "In a Ruined Country". The Atlantic Monthly. 2005-07-29. 

Reactions to Yasser Arafat's Death

  • For nearly four decades, he expressed and symbolised in his person the national aspirations of the Palestinian people.
  • The stature of a leader is not simply determined by the size of his achievements, but also by the size of the obstacles he had to overcome. In this respect, Arafat has no competitor in the world: no leader of our generation has been called upon to face such cruel tests and to cope with such adversities as he.
    • Uri Avnery, Israeli Politician and Peace Activist response to Arafat's death [2]
  • I respected him as a Palestinian patriot, I admired him for his courage, I understood the constraints he was working under, I saw in him the partner for building a new future for our two peoples. I was his friend.
    • Uri Avnery, Israeli Politician and Peace Activist response to Arafat's death [3]
  • He was the father of the modern Palestinian nationalist movement. A powerful human symbol and forceful advocate, Palestinians united behind him in their pursuit of a homeland. While he provided indispensable leadership to a revolutionary movement and was instrumental in forging a peace agreement with Israel in 1993, he was excluded from the negotiating role in more recent years.
  • Eternal honor and glory to the unforgettable and heroic combatant Yasser Arafat. Nothing can erase your name from the history of those great fighters who have struggled for the freedom of the peoples.
  • With him disappears a man of courage and conviction who for 40 years incarnated the Palestinians' fight for recognition of their national rights. [...] I came to bow before President Yasser Arafat and pay him a final homage.
  • Yasser Arafat was one of the outstanding freedom fighters of this generation, one who gave his entire life to the cause of the Palestinian people.
    • Nelson Mandela, Former South African President and freedom fighter against Apartheid in South Africa [7].
  • A great political leader of international significance.
  • An outstanding leader of the Palestinian cause and... an outstanding politician. He was deeply respected and supported by the Palestinian people and enjoyed great prestige among the international community.
  • (It is) good that the world is rid of him... The sun is shining in the Middle East.
    • Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres [10].
  • Jassir Arafats Streben war zeit seines Lebens darauf gerichtet, die Palästinenser in die Unabhängigkeit zu führen und einen souveränen, lebensfähigen palästinensischen Staat zu errichten.
    • As long as he lived, Yasser Arafat directed his efforts towards leading the Palestinians to independence and founding a sovereign viable Palestinian state.
    • German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, letter of condolence to the then prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority Ahmed Qurei, 11 November 2004, quoted on zeit.de.
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