Gaza: It has been five years since Mohammad Abdul Rahman Al Qudwa Al Hussaini, also known as Yasser Arafat or Abu Ammar, passed away.

Thousands of people have sacrificed many things and some even their lives for the Palestinian cause. Some have contributed to it financially and extended their moral support. Very few have sacrificed everything, but one who did is Yasser Arafat.

Arafat started his struggle early, even before the establishment of the Fatah movement when he first became president of the General Union of Palestinian Students in Cairo.

Later he started fighting in combat against Israel in the name of Palestinian self-determination, whether it was with the Egyptians in the 1956 Suez crisis; the battle of Al Karama in Jordan in 1968 or Lebanon in 1978 and 1982.
He also launched the first intifada in 1987 and Al Aqsa intifada in 1999. Because of these battles, Arafat was forced to move from one country to another many a time — from Jordan to Lebanon to Tunisia and finally to the Palestinian Territories. And the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was banned.

The man believed in centralisation of power because of the unique situation of the Palestinians.

That's the reason why he used to hold all the authority in his hands. Arafat was the chairman of the PLO, president of the Palestinian National Authority and leader of the Fatah political party which was founded in 1959.

As Arafat imposed himself as a strong player for the Palestinian cause, he received Arab support. But at the same time when there was a lot of interference, his relations with Arab countries got strained.

He was the only Palestinian leader who had both courage and power to fight or make peace depending on the situation. He was the first representative of a non-governmental organisation to address a plenary session of the UN General Assembly. He was also the first leader to address the UN wearing a holster.

"Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand," he said.

Change of direction

After decades of fighting against Israel there was a change in direction in 1988. Arafat accepted the UN Security Council Resolution 242, Israel's right "to exist in peace and security" and repudiated "terrorism in all its forms, including state terrorism."

Leading Fatah officials, Arafat engaged the Israeli government in a series of secret talks that led to the 1993 Oslo agreement, which guarantees Israel peace in exchange for autonomy on the Palestinian land which was occupied in the war of 1967.

Arafat moved on with the peace process despite disagreements from countries including Syria, Iraq and Iran and a total rejection from internal Palestinian parties such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad who continued their armed struggle against Israel.

This resulted in differences and clashes between Palestinian groups and the new Palestinian authority.

Although some believe that there is no way to end Palestinian conflicts, if he were alive, he would have found solutions to varied problems because of his wisdom and power.

Though Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, when he started to realise that the peace process was leading to a road block, he continued his support to the second intifada until his death.

He was the only president to have three funerals in three different countries — France, Egypt and Ramallah.

Arafat will be remembered as a freedom fighter who stood for truth and justice. He will also be remembered as a man who spent his life trying to reach his and every Palestinian's dream of an independent state, living on their soil with dignity.