Arafat museum opens in Ramallah, including keffiyehs

RAMALLAH, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES, Shatha Yaish- The Yasser Arafat Museum opened Wednesday in Ramallah, shedding light on the long-time Palestinian leader's life and offering a glimpse of history -- along with a number of his trademark black-and-white keffiyehs.
On display for the first time are a range of Arafat's possessions, including the famous sunglasses he wore when addressing the United Nations in 1974, a number of his iconic keffiyehs (scarfs), his gun and his Palestinian passport.

The museum also traces a century of Palestinian history, including the Nakba -- catastrophe, as Palestinians call the period leading up to and including the 1948 creation of Israel.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who succeeded Arafat after his death in 2004, cut the inaugural ribbon at the $7-million museum on Wednesday evening in the occupied West Bank.
It is built behind his mausoleum inside the headquarters of the Palestinian presidency in Ramallah.
Nabeel Kassis, head of the museum committee, said visitors would learn about the history of the Palestinians "from the beginning of the 20th century until the death of Arafat in 2004."
He added that the life of Arafat was intertwined with Palestinian history.
"Arafat was closely linked to the struggle of the Palestinian people."
The interactive museum spread over two floors also features videos and photographs of key moments in Palestinian history, some from Arafat's private collection.
The opening comes two days before Palestinians commemorate the 12th anniversary of his death in a hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004 from unknown causes at the age of 75.
- Towering figure -
The last exhibit guests visit is the small room where Arafat was holed up after Israeli tanks surrounded his headquarters in his final years during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
It is located in an adjacent building in the same compound, linked to the museum by a bridge.
Inside is the small bed where Arafat, at the time technically the internationally recognised Palestinian leader, spent many of his final days.
There is a picture drawn by his then-infant daughter and a cupboard containing his iconic military uniforms.
Elsewhere there is the room where he was treated before being transferred to Paris, as well as the Palestinian, Russian, French and Swiss medical reports on his death.
Images from his funerals in France, Egypt and Ramallah adorn screens on the walls.
A French prosecutor conducted an investigation into alleged poisoning at the request of Arafat's widow Suha, but concluded there was not enough evidence of wrongdoing.
Palestinians accuse Israel of poisoning Arafat, a claim the Israeli government has flatly rejected.
- Nobel prize -
Among other items on display is the Nobel Peace Prize which Arafat won in 1994 along with his Israeli negotiating partners Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres for the Oslo accords of the previous year.
It was reclaimed from Gaza, ran by the Hamas movement which rivals Arafat's Fatah, to be displayed in the museum.
Arafat rose to become the leader of the Palestinian movement after the creation of Israel in 1948, leading an armed struggle against it in which thousands died.
Decades later he disavowed violence and famously shook hands with Rabin on the White House lawn, though the peace the Oslo accords were supposed to bring never materialised.
More than a decade after his death, Arafat remains a towering figure in Palestinian culture, politics and society.
For many Israelis he remains a figure of hatred, despite his late conversion to more diplomatic methods.
Museum director Mohammad Halayqa said Arafat was a crucial figure in the Palestinian national movement for decades and so they wanted to highlight how his story intertwined with that of the Palestinian people.

Thursday, November 10th 2016
Shatha Yaish

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