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ARAFAT A Political Biography \o7 by Alan Hart...

June 04, 1989|ELENA BRUNET


A Political Biography

by Alan Hart (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Ind.: $39.95, cloth; $18.95, paper) This biography, under the title "Arafat: Terrorist or Peacemaker?," was first published in Great Britain in 1984 but failed to attain an American publisher because, Alan Hart surmises, the leading publishing houses were unwilling to offend the Zionist lobby or the Jewish authors. Four years later, when a revised edition was prepared that included a new chapter on the uprising in the occupied territories, 18 American publishers expressed interest. Only one, Indiana University Press, actually followed through.

Although Hart dedicates this book to his "many Israeli and other Jewish friends," "Arafat: A Political Biography" will by its very existence continue to stir controversy. Hart depicts Yasser Arafat not as an unwashed, unshaven hoodlum as he is shown on television but as a charismatic leader who has been able to persuade the Palestine Liberation Organization to accept "the reality of Israel's existence and the need for compromise."

"To allow him to emerge as a peacemaker on his side, Arafat needed a matching political response from Israel in the form of Israel's acceptance, in principle at least, of Palestinian rights to self-determination," Hart writes. "But each time Arafat made a political move in the direction of compromise, the Israelis replied with bullets and bombs."

Hart, a British foreign correspondent and former commentator on BBC's "Panorama" program, intends to break the "conspiracy of silence" against Palestinian nationalists in order that dialogue or debate can take place.

Arafat still "holds the key to peace on the Arab side," writes Hart. "The question for the immediate future is whether the governments of the Western world . . . will be wise enough to help Arafat use that key before he is forced to throw it away."

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