Arafat: From Defender to Dictator
Summary: 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.
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