Arafat and the Journey of the Palestinian Revolution: An Interview with Shafiq al-Hout

Shafiq al-Hout, founding member of the PLO and the Palestine National Council, former PLO spokesman, and longtime (1965–93) Palestinian representative in Lebanon known in recent years as an outspoken critic of Oslo and a passionate defender of the Palestinian right of return, died in Beirut on 2 August 2009 at the age of seventy-seven. To mark the passing of a figure known for his integrity and adherence to principle, JPS decided to translate a long interview al-Hout gave to our sister publication, Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya (MDF), a month after the death of Yasir Arafat. While the interview focuses on Arafat and his leadership, it also illuminates, through specific incidents witnessed over a long and complicated relationship, the roots of problems that continue to plague the Palestinian national movement to this day, including the fatal confusion/overlap between Fatah and the PLO and Arafat’s progressive monopolization of power. It also gives a sense of al-Hout’s personality, his characteristic honesty, clear-sightedness, and fairness, his humor and passion, and goes a long way toward explaining why this inveterate “independent,” who never belonged to any Palestinian organization, remained respected and admired by Palestinian leaders across the political spectrum.
The interview was conducted in Beirut on 12 December 2004 by Mahmoud Soueid, director of the Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut, and Ahmad Khalifeh, managing editor of MDF. The full interview was published in issues 60–61 (Autumn 2004–Winter 2005) of MDF.

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