Yasser Arafat’s nephew: PA ‘tearing up’ legacy institution

Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of the former PLO leader Yasser Arafat, said on Monday that the Palestinian Authority leadership is working to destroy his uncle's legacy and heritage.

A woman passes a poster depicting late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Shatila Palestinian refugee camp, Beirut (photo credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR / REUTERS)
A woman passes a poster depicting late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Shatila Palestinian refugee camp, Beirut
(photo credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR / REUTERS)

The Palestinian Authority leadership is working to destroy the legacy and heritage of Yasser Arafat, Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of the former PLO leader, said on Monday.

In a statement on the occasion of the 17th anniversary of Arafat’s death, Kidwa accused the PA leadership of illegally laying its hands on the Yasser Arafat Foundation, an organization founded in 2008 “to preserve the legacy of the late president and to perpetuate his memory among the Palestinian people and the Arab and friendly peoples.”

Arafat died in a French hospital on November 11, 2004.

In March, PA President Mahmoud Abbas decided to suspend funding to the Ramallah-based foundation. He also fired Kidwa as the foundation’s director despite the fact that it is a legally independent institution.

Abbas’s measures came shortly after he expelled Kidwa from the ruling Fatah faction because of the latter’s decision to form his own Fatah-affiliated list, called the National Democratic Assembly, ahead of the parliamentary elections that were supposed to take have taken place on May 22.

 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured), in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 25, 2021. (credit: ALEX BRANDON/POOL VIA REUTERS) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (not pictured), in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 25, 2021. (credit: ALEX BRANDON/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Abbas called off the elections on the pretext that Israel did not allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem.

Kidwa later merged his list with jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, producing the Freedom list. The move was seen by many Palestinians as a major challenge to Abbas and the veteran Fatah leadership by two of the faction’s most prominent figures.

In addition to the official list consisting of Abbas loyalists, another slate backed by Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled Fatah leader and archrival of Abbas, was also planning to run in the parliamentary election. Dahlan has been living in the United Arab Emirates since 2011, when he, too, was expelled from Fatah after a fallout with Abbas.

The latest accusations by Kidwa are yet another sign of ongoing tensions among senior officials of the ruling Fatah faction headed by Abbas.

Kidwa and other senior Fatah officials have called for major reforms in the Palestinian political system and criticized Abbas’s authoritarian rule over the PA.

Palestinians believe that Abbas decided to call off the elections mainly because of the split in Fatah, especially the alliance between Kidwa and Barghouti, the jailed Fatah leader serving five life terms in prison for his role in a series of terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada two decades ago.

Public opinion polls published by various institutions over the past few years have shown that Barghouti is the Palestinians’ favored candidate to replace Abbas as president of the PA.

Kidwa joined Fatah in 1969 and subsequently joined its Central Committee. He previously served as the PLO’s representative to the United Nations and as PA foreign minister.

In his statement, Kidwa said: “As we approach the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the martyrdom of the founding leader, the spirit of Abu Ammar (Arafat’s nom de guerre) appears to us full of sadness and sorrow for the state of affairs in the Palestinian arena in general and in his institution in particular.”

Kidwa accused the PA leadership of insisting on “tearing up” the foundation by seizing control of it and firing most of the workers.

“Unfortunately, the Yasser Arafat Foundation, which was built legally, no longer exists,” Kidwa charged. “What exists now is an idiotic sign attached to the Mukata [Abbas’s presidential compound]. In the end, it seems that the aim of all this is to undermine Yasser Arafat’s biography and diminish his legacy.”