Thousands of artifacts from former PLO terrorist leader Yasser Arafat's life are being gathered for a new $3.4 million museum in Ramallah. The facility, set to open within the year, is being built on to the Muqata – the compound where the PLO chairman spent the last two years of his life.
That section of the building, which now serves as the headquarters for his successor, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has been sealed since Arafat's death on November 11, 2004.
Arafat was helicoptered to a hospital in France two weeks before he died of a mysterious illness that has never been revealed by the doctors who attended him. Many in the PA believe that Israeli agents poisoned the PLO chairman, an accusation firmly denied by Raanan Gissin, aide to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who said Israel's policy was to isolate, not kill the terrorist leader. Other rumors were that he died of Aids.
The museum is being built by the Yasser Arafat Foundation, inaugurated in Cairo in February 2008 by a group that included PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and Arafat's nephew, Nasser al-Qidwa, who became chairman of the board.
Some $5 million was already in the foundation's coffers by the time the organization was officially launched. However, the source of the funding is not clear, and no information is publicly available.
Among the thousands of items in the collection being catalogued is one of the famous black and white cotton keffiyehs worn by Arafat, that eventually became the worldwide symbol of Palestinian terrorism, and later, the Palestinian Authority. Arafat would drape it over his shoulder and chest to resemble the entire state of Israel, making his goals clear in visual fashion.
“Arafat wasn't better than those in charge today because he brought us all those thieves of the PLO,” a Ramallah shopkeeper, Mohammed Sobeh, told the Associated Press. “But despite all that, I love Arafat because he died while he was resisting” Israel and the United States.