Palestinians open museum dedicated to Yasser Arafat

The $7 million museum aims to shed light on the long-time Palestinian leader's life and offer visitors a glimpse of history.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The Yasser Arafat Museum also displays a number of the late Palestinian leader's trademark black-and-white keffiyehs.

Updated Nov 10, 2016

The opening ceremony of a museum dedicated to the late Yasser Arafat, including the room where the Palestinian leader spent most of his last years while under Israeli siege, was held in Ramallah.

Twelve years after his death in Paris at the age of 75, the Yasser Arafat Museum opened its doors, shedding light on the long-time Palestinian leader's life and offering a glimpse of history.

“People will get the chance to see Yasser Arafat’s legacy and history as a person and a political leader,” museum director Mohammad Halayqa said. He added that the project had been a long time in the making.

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 (scarves), 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 Mahmoud Abbas (C) cuts the ribbon with Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit (L) and former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa (R) during the opening ceremony of the Yasser Arafat museum. Ramallah, West Bank. November 9, 2016. Image: Reuters

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.

The museum is built behind Arafat's mausoleum inside the headquarters of the Palestinian presidency in Ramallah. 

The interactive museum also features videos and photographs of important moments in Palestinian history, some from Arafat’s private collection. Image: Reuters

The final exhibit in the museum is the room Arafat hid away in after Israeli tanks surrounded his headquarters during the second Palestinian uprising.

“They will also see the main events the Palestinian cause went through in the last 100 years,” Halayqa said.  

Head of the museum committee, Nabeel Kassis, said that the life of Arafat was intertwined with Palestinian history. "Arafat was closely linked to the struggle of the Palestinian people," he said.

Arafat led an armed struggle after rising to become the leader of the Palestinian movement against the creation of Israel in 1948.

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.

Palestinian politicians from across the political spectrum seek to present themselves as heirs to Arafat’s legacy.

Palestinians accuse Israel of poisoning Arafat, a claim the Israeli government has flatly rejected.


TRTWorld and agencies