a candid conversation with the p.l.o. chief about terrorism, israelis,
Palestinians and-for the first time-secret meetings with americans

For the past quarter century, through three Arab-Israeli wars and a parade
of kings, sheiks, prime ministers, presidents and war lords, the Middle East
leader who is perhaps best known, most widely reviled and, by some, most
esteemed is a man without a home or a country. Indeed, it sometimes seems as
if Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is
perceived by Israelis as a greater threat, and a bigger villain, than the
combined armed forces of the neighboring Arab states.
Arafat, whose scraggly stubble and checkered headdress have made him
instantly recognizable on television screens throughout the world, has been,
in power long enough to have met many of the world's leaders-and most of
their predecessors. He has been embraced not only by Muammar el-Qaddafi but
by Pope John Paul II, Deng Xiaoping, Mikhail Gorbachev and other European
At the same time, with unflagging hostility, Israeli leaders continue to
denounce Arafat-who used to call for Israel to be "driven" into the sea-as
the world's leading terrorist. It is a term he repudiates.
Arafat's principal trait is one that the Israelis would admire in another
man: He is a survivor For 30 years, he has led an organization whose goal is
to establish a Palestinian homeland in what is now Israel. Yet he has been
unable to gain, an inch of ground for his 5,000,000 people, most of whom
live in squalor in refugee camps scattered throughout the Middle East. He
has been the leader of a guerrilla army that has won few battles against its
principal foe, the Israelis. As the unruly P.L.O., whose factions range from
Islamic fundamentalists to atheistic Marxists, has split, shattered and come
together again, Arafat has been declared irrelevant any number of times.
Yet he endures, the chairman of a P.L.O. that is today, if anything, more
united and powerful in the Arab world than it has ever been. The P.L.O. has
offices in 90 countries and has observer status at the United Nations. To
the chagrin of the U.S. and Israel, Arafat, an empty holster strapped to his
waist, got a standing ovation at the UN podium in 1974 when he addressed a
session of the General Assembly.
As far as the Israelis are concerned, Arafat is no statesman but the leader
of a "terrorist gang," a "thug" they will never forgive-or negotiate with.
In the U.S., a politician's tentative support for Arafat can brand him a
radical; on the current scene, only Jesse Jackson has embraced Arafat, and
American Jews have not forgotten.
The Israeli indictment of Arafat stems from the years of random shelling and
cross-border raids from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon that killed hundreds of
Israeli civilians during the Sixties. Then during the Seventies, a series of
spectacular international terrorist incidents was attributed to the P.L.O.
by Israel. Although Arafat was not personally responsible for all the
incidents-indeed, some were carried out by his sworn enemies-the bloody
deeds were all done in the name of Palestinian "liberation." Arafat, of
course, is the very embodiment of that cause and received both the blame and
the credit. He is seen by some as having defended his people's right to a
homeland with no less brutal methods than did the pre-1948 Israelis, but his
international standing-as either an outlaw menace or a visionary national
leader-depends on one's point of view.
He was born Rahman Abdul Rauf Arafat-al-Qudwa al-Husseini in 1929 and picked
up the nickname Yasir as a boy. He was one of seven children of a well-off
Palestinian merchant. He grew up in Egypt and became active in the
Palestinian cause while an engineering student at Cairo University.
In 1948, British Palestine was partitioned by the UN to create the state of
Israel, though Arab Palestinians outnumbered Jews in the area by more than
two to one. War broke out immediately, and Arafat, who was living in Gaza at
the time, says he fought beside his Arab brothers against the Jewish
militia. In the end, the Israeli army defeated the combined forces of Egypt,
Jordan, Iraq and Syria, and Arafat returned to Cairo.
Arafat established Al Fatah (an Arab acronym originally denoting death, now
conquest) in the late Fifties, traveling to refugee camps to recruit
unemployed youths to his cause. In 1969, Al Fatah merged with the P.L.O. and
Arafat was named chairman.
With the help of millions of dollars from the oil states in the Persian
Gulf; Arafat's P.L.O. grew enormously and soon became a direct threat to the
Arab regimes that had originally sponsored it. In September 1970, Jordan's
King Hussein, the Hashimite monarch who rules a kingdom that is 50 percent
Palestinian, dispatched his fierce Bedouin troops to dislodge what had
become a rump Palestinian state within Jordan. In furious fighting, as many
as 10,000 Palestinian guerrillas were killed before the guerrilla army fled
to Syria and Lebanon. Arafat himself reportedly was smuggled out of jordan in
Arafat and his well-armed Palestinian fighters quickly re-established their
power in Lebanon, which made them a direct threat to Syria. When civil war
broke out in 1971, Syrian troops intervened on the side of Christian
militiamen to prevent their defeat at Arafat's hands. In 1982, Arafat and
his guerrillas were thrown out of southern Lebanon by an Israeli invasion,
and dispersed throughout the Middle East. But within a year, Arafat had
re-established himself in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, only to be attacked
again after Syria engineered a mutiny in his own Al Fatah ranks. His life
was saved when the great powers arranged a cease-fire and evacuation for
Arafat and his 4000 remaining fighters. But he and his P.L.O. were declared,
once and for all, a spent force. Said an editorial headline in The Wall
Street Journal: "YASIR WHO?"
But the pundits had again underestimated Arafat. From his new bases in
Tunis, Yemen and Baghdad, the wily survivor once more engineered a P.L.O.
revival. By 1985, his fighters were back in Lebanon in force. And although
the current rebellion in Israel's occupied territories was at first seen as
a minus for the P.L.O,-the young stone throwers known as the shabab
reportedly denounced the old leaders as ineffectual-Arafat quickly asserted
his authority the old-fashioned way. He paid for it.
With an annual budget estimated at $220,000,000 and world-wide assets
thought to be between two billion dollars and 14 billion dollars, Arafat
presides over a network of political and social programs that forms a firm
basis for his unflagging popularity among ordinary Palestinians. Although he
has not given them a homeland, he has given them hospitals and clinics,
schools and scholarships, unemployment benefits and pensions. The P.L.O.
doles out welfare payments to 60,000 families a month, spends $20,000,000 a
year on health care and millions more to finance overseas-university
scholarships, legal-defense funds and Palestinian newspapers.
Although he doesn't look the part of the government bureaucrat, Arafat's
ability to manage what amounts to a nation without borders is the secret of
his survival-that and his uncanny ability to play opponents off against one
another As Judith Miller wrote in The New York Times Magazine, "Arafat
remains something of an enigma-all things to all men terrorist, statesman,
dreamer, pragmatist, Jekyll, Hyde. Even friends describe him as a human
chameleon, a political operator who makes Machiavelli look like a straight
forward kind of guy."
Nevertheless, among his people, he is well loved. Among close associates, he
is affectionately called the old man, though at 59, he is younger than some
of them. To his admirers in the Palestinian camps and villages, he is known
by his nom de guerre, Abu Ammar. Despite his access to vast sums of money,
Arafat lives a simple life. He is unmarried ("I am married to Al Fatah," he
has been quoted as saying. "Al Fatah is my woman, my family, my life"). He
neither smokes nor drinks, and his principal indulgence is an excess of
honey in his tea. His residence changes often, and in secret to avoid the
recent fate of his longtime friend and principal deputy, Khalil Al-Wazir
also Known as Abu Jihad-who was assassinated by a hit squad assumed to have
bean organized by Israel.
To discover more about the man and his P.L.O., Playboy sent Morgan Strong to
talk with Arafat. Strong, a journalist who has taught Middle East studies,
interviewed Lebanese warlord Walid Jumblatt for Playboy in 1984. Strong's
"My first attempt to meet Yasir Arafat was in June 1982 in Beirut.
Unfortunately, Israel picked that week to invade Lebanon, and our get-
together was postponed indefinitely. In late 1987, I tried again. Finally,
we arranged a meeting at his offices in Tunis.
"I waited for a week upon arrival and spent my nights listening for the
phone and my days strolling the streets of Tunis. True to form, the call I
was expecting came at midnight. Someone would be right there to take me to
dinner with the chairman. Also true to form, the driver arrived two hours
later, and we sped off through a darkened city devoid of deadly cars, which
was a great comfort. After a circuitous drive, we arrived at a tree-lined
street in the suburbs. Several cars were parked in front of Arafat's house,
and a group of men lounged against them. As we approached and entered the
house, I heard the unmistakable click of weapons being nervously shifted.
"I was ushered down, a short hall into a rather large room furnished with a
corner desk and several chairs. The P.L.O. flag stood to one side of the
desk. Arafat stood up and rushed across the room to greet me. He wore a
small pistol on his hip. He grasped my hands in his and welcomed me. Dinner
was Spartan, consisting of pita bread and hummous, the Middle East's
favorite food. There were also fried eggs, raw vegetables and fruit juice.
"Arafat insisted that I have the first choice of dishes. Later, in Baghdad,
he would insist that I eat fruit after one of our meals, saying it was
essential to my health.
"We talked at length, but I wanted more. To get it, I went on an odyssey
that was to take me from Tunis to Amsterdam to New York, back to Tunis, to
Paris, to Tunis again, France again, then to Baghdad via Belgrade. If I had
joined a frequent-fliers club, it would have had to give me my own 747.
"We finished our interview in Baghdad, a city in which virtually every
public facility is named after President Saddam Hussein. Just one Iranian
Silkworm missile whooshed into town during my stay, and, happily, it did not
come down in my vicinity. But I felt its impact.
"The ritual for the interview sessions was by then familiar: late-night
calls to the residence provided for Arafat by Hussein-Saddam Government
Guest House Complex One, just off Saddam Boulevard. A tardy car to take me
there. During those sessions, I spent time with Bassam Abu Sharif, Arafat's
senior advisor, translator and chief P.L.O. spokesman-seen by American
television audiences on ABC's 'Nightline'-who was crucial in arranging my
meetings with Arafat. Bassam also provided me with the interview's most
startling disclosure.
"Finally, after several days, I left Baghdad, but not without incident. At
the last of three security checks at Saddam International Airport, a customs
agent discovered my tapes of the interview-I had not been able to send
duplicates to my Playboy editor- I was told that they could not be taken on
the plane. The guard then casually tossed one of the cassettes into a large
garbage container. Six months, hundreds of thousands of miles, and here was
this idiot gathering up all the tapes for a final toss into the ash bin. I
raised my voice in protest and a loud argument ensued, luckily in English.
At last, one agent said he would take the tapes to his superior for a final
judgment. He was gone for perhaps 20 minutes. When he returned, he
reluctantly gave me the tapes but refused to retrieve the one in the
garbage. What follows, then, is in no small measure courtesy of that Iraqi
airport guard whose name I don't know and am not about to go back to find

PLAYBOY: During these past months, the uprising in the West Bank and Gaza
-and the Israeli reaction to it-has produced a dramatic change in the way
people perceive the Palestinian cause. Despite that, do you think the P.L.O.
will ever succeed in shedding its terrorist label?
ARAFAT: Everyone has now discovered who is the real terrorist organization:
It is the Israeli military junta who are killing women and children,
smashing their bones, killing pregnant women. You just have to look at
television to see this. So now it is clear and obvious who the terrorists

PLAYBOY: Do you, as head of the P.L.O., claim responsibility for the
uprising? Are you directing it?
ARAFAT: I think that this is clear to the whole world: The masses have been
demonstrating now for six months, raising the flag of the P.L.O., shouting
the slogans of the P.L.O.

PLAYBOY: But it has been widely considered a spontaneous uprising,
internally directed, without sponsorship.
ARAFAT: What is going on right now in the West Bank and Gaza is not just the
creation of the moment. It's the result of long-term accumulation of
resentment and opposition to oppression, resentment and opposition to
occupation. All generations, all levels of the people have participated. And
it is our decision, by the way, that the demonstrations should continue in a
democratic, civilized way. We are confronting the sophisticated weapons and
fascist means of the Israelis with stones and sticks, even shouting, until
they withdraw.

PLAYBOY: How have you managed to plan and direct the uprising, since you are
some distance from the territories?
ARAFAT: Plan and direct the uprising? The P.L.O.? How did we do this?

PLAYBOY: Yes. We realize you may be reluctant to discuss tactics. But, for
instance, we began this interview in Tunis, we are now in Baghdad-and in
between, you've been in Syria and the Soviet Union. It makes hands-on
management of the uprising rather difficult, doesn't it?
ARAFAT: Over a period of time, the P.L.O. has managed to establish
committees all over through the support of the Palestinian people. There are
people's committees in every quarter, in every camp, in every village, in
every university. There are committees that really take care of the uprising
and the resistance to occupation. But they also take care of the
requirements of the daily life of the people.

PLAYBOY: If that is so apparent, why has there been so much speculation
about who is really directing the Palestinians?
ARAFAT: The Israeli propaganda, and some media that support them with closed
eyes, say this. The Israelis tried to blur what was happening in the West
Bank and Gaza. In the beginning, they claimed it was the creation of Islamic
groups, pro-Khomeini groups. But it was soon clear how widespread the
support is. For example, during Christmas, Christian Palestinians canceled
all Christmas activities to support Moslem Sabbath activities already
canceled. So that showed the big lie of the Israelis.

PLAYBOY: It's ironic, isn't it, that after all these years of armed conflict
with the Israelis, the main reason world opinion toward the Palestinian
cause has changed is the sight of unarmed young men and women throwing
stones? How do you feel about that, considering your varied methods through
the years?
ARAFAt: I am very proud of the young men and women. Don't forget that they
have graduated from the school of revolution year after year. They have gone
from the school of resistance to occupation. These children have been
taught, day after day, not to forget their homeland. They will not accept
slavery; they will fight to be free human beings and to defend their rights
as free human beings. Someday to live in the same way that other children of
the world are living, peacefully.

PLAYBOY: Despite your assertions, many people believe that the P.L.O. no
longer represents the Palestinian people-that the uprising is self-contained
and is really a result of P.L.O. inertia. True?
ARAFAT: I find that question being answered every day in the occupied
territories. [Angrily] You don't need to direct this question to me! You can
go to the West Bank and Gaza, or even watch television, or listen to the
cries of our people. You will understand that the overwhelming majority of
the Palestinian people regard the P.L.O. as their sole and legitimate
representative, And they don't accept any kind of alternative proposed by
this international force or the other, or alternatives supported by the

PLAYBOY: When you say "international force," do you mean the United States?
ARAFAT: If the American Administration, or any country, wants to play a
constructive role in seeking peace, they should not hide from facts. They
should deal with the facts directly by realizing that there is no other way
than to deal with the two parties in the conflict: Israel and the P.L.O.
They can never have a role by dealing only with the occupiers-the Israelis.

PLAYBOY; Has anyone from the Reagan Administration contacted you directly
about the uprising?

PLAYBOY: How do you feel about Secretary of State George Shultz's efforts to
solve the West Bank crisis?
ARAFAt: Shultz has carried certain ideas, old ideas, that are not adequate
for the new situation. If the Reagan Administration stops hiding the sun
with its little finger, and deals with the rights of 5,000,000 Palestinians,
we will be on the right road for peace. If not, it is the United States who
will be responsible for the misery and bloodshed in the region.

PLAYBOY: You have not yet commented publicly on the assassination this past
spring of Abu Jihad, your close friend and advisor, in his villa near Tunis.
Will you do so now?
ARAFAT: What the Israelis have committed is a great crime. It shows to the
whole world that this state, this government, this junta ruling Israel at
the present moment is conducting state-organized terrorism. They are defying
the whole world and penetrating the sovereignty of countries and
assassinating hundreds of miles away from Israel.
By this, Israel has proved once more to the world that the Cairo declaration
[in which the P.L.O. renounced "operations" outside the occupied
territories] means nothing to them. Because before this crime, they did
several other crimes. I think any objective person in the world should see
the source of organized state terrorism as Israel, not those who are

PLAYBOY: Before this interview began, you told us that you had indirectly
received a letter from the American Government assuring you that the U.S.
had had no involvement in the assassination of Abu Jihad. But you said that
letter also stated that the U.S. "has knowledge" that you personally
approved attacks against American targets in retaliation and warned you that
if such attempts were made, the U.S. would deal with them severely. Did you
personally approve such attacks?

ARAFAT: [Angrily] Of course not! We did receive a letter stamped SECRET that
was passed to an Arab country to be passed on to us. And it is true, I
received an official message from the American Administration accusing me of
approving attacks against United States citizens to avenge Abu Jihad. They
are holding us responsible for anything that happens. The letter is proof
that the United States is planning to carry out attacks against the P.L.O.
and its leadership. They are basing this on supposed attacks against
Americans which I may have approved. May have approved!
There is an old Arab proverb that says, "The suspect is saying,'Take me in,
I am guilty!' "-and that is the United States, of course. Before testifying
against us before Congress, Ambassador [Richard] Murphy should have checked
the files at his own State Department to see how many times the P.L.O. has
protected American citizens rather than attacked them.

PLAYBOY: And you believe that it's an excuse to attack you and the P.L.O.
ARAFAT: Yes. We know that the United States supplied Israel with sensitive
information, satellite photographs of our headquarters in Tunis, before they
bombed it in 1985. Robert McFarlane did this.

PLAYBOY: The same McFarlane who was, at the time, using the Israelis as
intermediaries in the Iran/Contra deal?
ARAFAT: Yes. We know it is true. The United States is trying to intimidate
me by direct threats on my life. We expect other assassinations of our

PLAYBOY: You say that the PL.O. has protected U.S. citizens in the past.
ARAFAT: I will give you an example. During the beginning of the civil war in
Beirut, in 1976 and later in 1977, you know we twice helped thousands of
Americans to evacuate. The first time through the hills and the second time
by the seashore.

PLAYBOY: Was that ever acknowledged by the U.S.?
ARAFAT: I have a letter from Henry Kissinger, an official letter, thanking
the P.L.O. and the Palestinian troops for the sacrifices they offered to
save the lives of the Americans.

PLAYBOY: A letter of thanks from Kissinger? Wasn't Andrew Young, during the
Carter Administration, forced to resign as U.S. Ambassador to the UN for
having had a brief conversation with your permanent observer there, Zehdi

PLAYBOY: But Kissinger is currently no supporter of yours. Didn't he
recently suggest that TV cameras should be barred from the West Bank and
Gaza, and that the Palestinian uprising should be "brutally suppressed"?
ARAFAT: Yes, and how shameful are his words. [Angrily, gesticulating] "No to
the P.L.O.!"-how shameful. We never harmed the Americans, never. We helped
the Americans elsewhere, too. And in spite of this, look at what has

PLAYBOY: On what other occasions have you helped Americans?
ARAFAT: During the hostage taking in Iran. We released the first hostages
from the embassy. The first 13 embassy personnel. They were released
according to my personal efforts.

PLAYBOY: We're not sure we understand. You mean that Carter forced Young to
resign but then went to you for help in releasing the hostages from Iran?
It has been a long-standing policy that there be no direct contact between
any member of the U.S. Government and the P.L.O.
ARAFAT: There was a special and permanent contact between me and President
Carter. I have written documents from President Carter himself. And I dealt
with Ambassador [Landrum] Belling. You can discuss this with President
Carter and his former Ambassador in Beirut.

PLAYBOY: If you have been of such help, why has this never been
ARAFAT: This is the shameful treatment of us by the American
Administrations, I am sorry to say. Even now, they-not only the Americans
but others-are asking me for help to free their hostages in Beirut. I am
trying to do my best. For me, it is a matter of principle. And many have
been released according to my efforts.

PLAYBOY: Do you claim that there were other instances, as well?
ARAFAT: Yes. Do you remember the military operation to attempt to free the
hostages from Iran?

PLAYBOY: Yes. The failed helicopter raid known as Desert One.
ARAFAT: It was me who sent Archbishop Capucci to arrange for the return of
the bodies of the soldiers killed in the desert. [Hilarion Capucci, the
Greek Catholic archbishop of East Jerusalem, was convicted in 1974 of
smuggling arms into the Holy City for the Palestinians. He served three
years in an Israeli prison and was released after a personal appeal by Pope
Paul to Israeli authorities.-Ed.] We have the documents to prove this, and
the pictures.

PLAYBOY: Anything else?
ARAFAT: In 1976, Kissinger also contacted the Egyptians with an official
State Department request to provide the American embassy with protection.
And there was direct contact between the American Ambassador and the late
Colonel Saed Sayel, our chief of staff, and Colonel Abu Homeid. They asked
for protection of the embassy by our fighters.

PLAYBOY: If all of that is true, why haven't you made it public earlier-if
only to demonstrate U.S. hypocrisy in its dealings with you?
ARAFAT: Some of it has been reported in our region. You in America do not
have all this information because there is a complete blackout against the
Palestinians. This is the dirty role of the Israeli lobby and their
activities in the American mass media.

PLAYBOY: Do you really believe that the Israeli lobby is strong enough to
block press coverage of that kind?
ARAFAT: According to what Kissinger is saying, they are strong; according to
what Shultz is saying, they are strong. I'm sure, however, not only that it
is the Israeli lobby in the United States but that a decision has been made
in the American Administration. Let me give you an example: During the civil
war in Lebanon by Israel, I personally guaranteed the safety of the Jews
living in west Beirut. Lebanese Jews-I gave them my personal guards'
protection. And where was it acknowledged? Not by the Israelis.

PLAYBOY: They may claim that your guards held those Lebanese Jews hostage.
ARAFAT: No, not even the Israelis would say that! That would be a fatal
mistake and they know it. I have papers and correspondence to prove that
they were free to go anywhere. Some left and some stayed. We have very
important statements from the rabbis thanking us for our help. This has
been published in our area but not in the American media, which even now,
despite recent sympathy for the Palestinians, are under pressure from the
Israeli lobby.

PLAYBOY: You've mentioned past American Administrations with which you had
secret dealings. What about the Reagan Administration? Any direct contacts?
ARAFAT: [UN Ambassador Vernon] Waiters met in Morocco with two members of
our Central Committee. Before the uprising.


[During follow-up queries in May 1988 to ensure accuracy of dates and to
correct any possible errors in transcription, the following conversation,
took place between Playboy and P.L.O. representative Bassam Abu Sharif,
Chairman Arafat's chief advisor, interpreter for this interview and P.L.O.

PLAYBOY: We were struck by Chairman Arafat's assertion that Vernon Walters
met with the P.L.O. in Morocco, especially since the Reagan Administration
has been so vocal about avoiding any contacts with your group. Were there
any other contacts in the past between the Reagan Administration and the
ABU SHARIF: During the first campaign, the Reagan people contacted me.

PLAYBOY: During the 1980 campaign, when he was running against Carter?
ABU SHARIF: Yes. One of Reagan's closest friends-I will not name him now-and
a major financial contributor to the campaign. He was on Reagan's campaign

PLAYBOY: You personally spoke with him?
ABU SHARIF: Yes. He was close to Reagan; he kept referring to him as Ronnie
during the meeting.

PLAYBOY: You met with him?
ABU SHARIF: Yes, we met in Beirut. He said he wanted the P.L.O. to use its
influence to delay the release of the American hostages from the embassy in
Teheran until after the election.

PLAYBOY: That is difficult to believe. If true, the implications are
disturbing. Can you substantiate that?
ABU SHARIF: It is true, there is no question. They asked that I contact the
chairman and make the request. We have the proof if it is denied. And they
said they would deny it if it ever became public. I hope it does, because I
would like to drop the bombshell on them.

PLAYBOY: What kind of evidence do you have?
ABU SHARIF: Real evidence. And I personally assure you that if the Reagan
Administration denies what I have said, we will turn this evidence over to

PLAYBOY: Let's make sure we have this clear: During the 1980 campaign, there
were rumors that President Carter might have an October surprise-the release
of the hostages-in store. You're saying that around that time, someone from
the Reagan camp actually asked Arafat to do what he could to make sure the
hostages were not set free until after the election?

PLAYBOY: What was Arafat's response?
ABU SHARIF: I told the chairman of the request. He didn't comment, he didn't
say anything.

PLAYBOY: Did you do anything further?
ABU SHARIF: I passed on the request and that was the end of my part.

PLAYBOY: What promises were made to the P.L.O. by this Reagan representative
if hostages were held beyond the election?
ABU SHARIF: We were told that if the hostages were held, the PL.O. would be
given recognition as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people
and the White House door would be open for us.

PLAYBOY: The hostages were released minutes after Reagan took office in
1980. You say you don't know what became of the request, but if anything was
done, obviously no promise regarding recognition of the P.L.O. was kept.
ABU SHARIF: Throughout our history, the American Government has always been
hypocritical. They always promise us the same thing for our help and they
never fulfill the promise.

[The interview with Arafat resumes.]


PLAYBOY: Mr. Chairman, during this uprising in the West Bank, have the
Israelis attempted any direct contact with you?
ARAFAT: No. The current Israeli administration is racist. It follows a
policy that is not only harmful to the Palestinians, it is also harmful to
the Israelis themselves. Our offers for peace are genuine. And we are
offering real chances for a lasting settlement in the region. This junta
that rules Israel at the present moment is actually pushing the whole region
into a blood bath, and no one can tell where it will end.
We repeat our offer here, through this interview, in your magazine:
Let's work for peace, a just peace, a balanced peace, so that we can achieve
security for all in the region. So that we can build for our children a
future that can be called a guaranteed and secure one.

PLAYBOY: Would you then recognize Israel's right to exist?
ARAFAT: We are ready to recognize Israel only within international

PLAYBOY: You mean within the resolutions of the United Nations? In
particular, resolution 242, which, in effect, recognizes the state of Israel
but requires that it withdraw from territories occupied during the wars?
ARAFAT: Ask the Israelis if they are ready to withdraw from occupied
territories according to 242. Syria has accepted resolution 242. Has Israel
withdrawn from the Golan Heights? Jordan has accepted 242. Has Israel
withdrawn from the West Bank or Gaza? [Excitedly gesturing] The Egyptians
signed the Camp David agreements, and in spite of this, Israel did not
withdraw from areas that were under Egyptian supervision in Gaza!

PLAYBOY: Unfortunately, that doesn't answer the question. Why won't you just
recognize that Israel has a right to exist, instead of qualifying it with
legalities that make the point moot?
ARAFAT: When I say international legality, I mean the legality of the United
Nations' resolutions. The United Nations is the international body. These
various UN resolutions dealing with Palestine cannot be taken separately.
They cannot be divided. We accept the resolutions in total-we accept what we
like and even what we don't like. When it comes to resolution 181, which
created the state of Israel, we do take that resolution and accept it as a
unit. Not only item B-which calls for the creation of a Jewish state-but
also item A, which calls for an establishment of a Palestinian state. The
Israelis choose to accept only parts of these resolutions. They choose the
parts they will accept.

PLAYBOY: The occupied territories give Israel its primary bargaining
position. How could it be expected to forfeit that?
ARAFAT: That is the crux of it, that is the whole idea. The whole dilemma
with the other side.

PLAYBOY: You mean no one is willing to go first?
ARAFAT: We are willing to negotiate; we've just said so.

[The following portion of the interview was conducted in a more relaxed
setting in Baghdad. The mood was more personal, with Abu Sharif serving as
interpreter and occasional commentator]

PLAYBOY: For years, people around the world have seen and heard you
represent the P.L.O. position on television. You're probably one of the most
recognizable men in the world.
ARAFAT: You think so?

PLAYBOY: Your face and your Palestinian headdress are instantly
recognizable. If someday people forget what Jimmy Carter or even Ronald
Reagan looked like, they probably won't forget what you looked like.
ARAFAT: [Smiling broadly] Thank you. It's a good idea, no?

PLAYBOY: To be so recognizable? Perhaps not. You live surrounded by armed
guards. Here in Baghdad and earlier in Tunis, the security precautions were
extraordinary. You can't go anywhere, can you, just to take a solitary walk?
ARAFAT: Yes, that's true. It's not easy. Once, I visited many countries all
over the world-China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh,
Pakistan, Canada, the Soviet Union and the United States. And more than
that, actually. Most of Europe, the oldest socialist countries. But I never
saw much.

PLAYBOY: Yes, that's the point. Whisked from the airport to the hotel, or
wherever, in a convoy.
ARAFAT: Believe me, I saw not more than the airport, the residence where I
stayed and the meeting rooms.
ABU SHARIF: But there were mass rallies.
ARAFAT: Yes, sometimes I would speak before mass rallies. But I would just
see one room and the next most of the time. I might have the opportunity to
see the TV.

PLAYBOY: Have you ever wished that you could just slip out and walk downtown
in the places you've visited, just to look around?
ARAFAT: Very few times. Before I became the representative of the P.L.O., I
visited a lot of places on vacations.

PLAYBOY: As a tourist?
ARAFAT: Yes, as a tourist. Not as a terrorist, now [laughing loudly], as a

PLAYBOY: Your personal background is not very well known. When did you
travel as a tourist?
ARAFAT: I was once very rich. I used to go to Europe. I visited Greece,
Italy, France, Switzerland, Austria.

PLAYBOY: That is surprising-Yasir Arafat, a high roller?
[Abu Sharif translates this several times for Arafat.]
ARAFAT: No, I never gambled.

PLAYBOY: We didn't mean gambling. Just that you were once well off and
rather free with your money-touring the night spots, that sort of thing.
ARAFAT: Yes, yes, yes. I had a pocketful of money, like any tourist
[laughs], and I enjoyed myself.

PLAYBOY: When was that?
ARAFAt: The last vacation I had was in 1963. I went to Venice. As I said, I
was very rich.
ABU SHARIF: He was a millionaire.
ARAFAT: Yes, I was well on the way to being a millionaire. I used to go
through Lebanon, then to Europe. Lebanon was just a stop on the way then.
[Smiles ruefully] I used to go there to shop.

PLAYBOY: That was truly a long time ago. We'll return to Lebanon, but how
did you happen to become rich?
ARAFAT: After I received my degree in civil engineering from Cairo
University, I worked for two years in Egypt. Then I went to Kuwait. I was
there for about eight years. I worked for the Kuwaiti government for a year,
and then I started my own company with some partners.

PLAYBOY: What sort of company-engineering consultants?
ARAFAT: No! I was a contractor. We built roads, highways, bridges. Large
construction projects.

PLAYBOY: You were a capitalist, then?
ARAFAT: During that period, yes. I had four cars. Nobody believes that, but
I did. [Smiling] I had Chevrolets, and I had a Thunderbird and a Volkswagen.
But I gave them all away when I left Kuwait to rejoin our struggle. All but
one-the Volkswagen. I kept that to drive to Lebanon when I rejoined the

PLAYBOY: Somehow, it's difficult to imagine Yasir Arafat jumping into a
Volkswagen to drive across the desert to Lebanon.
ARAFAT: [Laughs] It's true. I gave all my wealth to the revolution, The cars
I gave to my partners, except, as I said, the Volkswagen. I used it to drive
between Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. And later on, to Egypt.

PLAYBOY: Why have you talked so little about your past?
ARAFAT: I don't like to talk about my personal life. I never talk about it.

PLAYBOY: That, perhaps, is why so little is known about you. But give us
just a little background. Where were you born?
ARAFAT: I was born in Gaza. My mother died when I was four, and I was sent
to live with my uncle in Jerusalem. I grew up there, in the old city. The
house was beside the Wailing Wall. The Israelis blew up the house-demolished
it in 1967, when they captured the city.

PLAYBOY: Living so close to the Wailing Wall, did you have much contact with
ARAFAT: No, not much. It wasn't easy to have contact, because even then, the
clashes between Arab and Jew had started.

PLAYBOY: So you've never had any extended contact with Jews?
ARAFAT: At Cairo University, I had some opportunities; some of the students
were Egyptian Jews.

PLAYBOY: Was there animosity between you?
ARAFAt: No, not much.

PLAYBOY: You attended elementary school in Jerusalem, had rather a normal
childhood, in the Thirties and early Forties. How did you get to Cairo
ARAFAT: I went to live with my father, who had moved to Cairo, and began my
courses in civil engineering. It was difficult, very tough. Thirteen to 15
courses a year.

PLAYBOY: What did your father do?
ARAFAT: He was a merchant, a successful merchant. I lost my father in 1952.

PLAYBOY: How did you become involved in the Palestinian movement?
ARAFAT: In 1947, I went to fight as a volunteer to defend the Arab lands
from the British and the Jewish occupation. I was one of the volunteers.

PLAYBOY: You actually fought, carried a weapon?
ARAFAT: Oh, yes. I was a young chap. I fought in Jerusalem, in the south of
Jerusalem and in Gaza. When the fighting was over, in 1948, I returned to
Cairo and continued my studies. It was during this period that I met Gamal
Abdel Nasser. I had become a reserve officer in the Egyptian army and
managed to become acquainted with Nasser and his group.

PLAYBOY: Then you knew Nasser and the group of officers who managed to
overthrow King Farouk in 1952.
ARAFAT: Yes. After I came back to continue my studies, during this period
when I was in the army, too, I met Nasser. I had a very strong relationship
with Nasser.

PLAYBOY: Nasser modeled himself after Mohammed Mossadegh of Iran, the leader
of the first successful nationalist movement in the Middle East. Did you
ever get to know Mossadegh?
ARAFAT: Yes, I knew him. Not well, but it was during this period, when I was
close to Nasser, that I became involved in the Palestinian national
movement. I was one of the leaders of the movement.

PLAYBOY: It was Nasser, then, who stimulated your interest again?
ARAFAT: No. The tragedy of my people never disappeared from my eyes, the
tragedy of the refugees. But for a short period of time, I felt hopeless,

PLAYBOY: You were ready to call it quits?
ARAFAT: Yes, I was very discouraged, despairing. After the tragedy, after
1948, especially. After we all became refugees. During that period, I was
going to leave, leave the area entirely and continue my studies someplace

PLAYBOY: Where were you going to go?
ARAFAT: The United States.

PLAYBOY: The U.S.? That might have changed history a bit.
ARAFAT: Yes. I was accepted into the University of Texas-I think it was the
University of Texas. Anyway, I didn't go.

PLAYBOY: If you had, you might have become an American citizen.
ARAFAT: [Smiling] Yes. Because many of my fellow students, friends of mine,
went to Texas. The majority of them now have American citizenship.

PLAYBOY: Why didn't you go?
ARAFAT: I don't know why. Maybe because when I received the acceptance from
the university, it was just too late. I was already at Cairo University. I
also found myself to be involved completely against the British troops
occupying Egypt.
ABU SHARIF: The resistance.
ARAFAT: Yes, the resistance. Before the Nasser revolution.

PLAYBOY: You've been a revolutionary for a long time.
ARAFAT: Yes, yes. Before the Nasser revolution, there was an active Egyptian
resistance against the British occupation of the Suez Canal. I was one of
the leaders of this movement. These activities pushed me back from despair.

PLAYBOY: There's some ambiguity. You don't know what compelled you to engage
in revolutionary activity, yet you never missed an opportunity.
ARAFAT: Yes, I was always involved. But during that period, there were a lot
of uprisings in the Arab lands. There were various groups-Nasserites,
Communists, the Moslem Brotherhood. All of them were trying to recover Arab
lands, and the first target, of course, was Palestine. When Nasser succeeded
in his revolution, I was already close to him. I had the opportunity to meet
the first group of Palestinian students who began the Palestinian Union for

PLAYBOY: And you joined them?
ARAFAT: Yes. They elected me chairman.

PLAYBOY: A title you've held for some time. Why did they elect you chairman?
ARAFAT: They found someone who was willing to work 24 hours a day. [Laughs]
Because of my personal contacts with the Egyptians, we were given approval
to form the unit. We called it the Union for Liberation, because it was for
Palestinians all over, not just in Egypt. For the refugees everywhere. I was
involved with that group for five years.

PLAYBOY: But then you left for Kuwait.
ARAFAT: Yes, after two years of working in Egypt, I went to Kuwait. I was
still in despair that our cause would succeed. So I went to Kuwait.

PLAYBOY: But you returned in your Volkswagen. What compelled you?
ARAFAT: It was not easy. I liked my work, I liked engineering. To speak
frankly, when I decided to leave my work, my successful work, my successful
companies, I hesitated for some months. Then I made the decision and left. I
was still discouraged, but something was still ... I felt always that
something was drawing me back.

PLAYBOY: It's been 40 years, and you still haven't figured out your
ARAFAT: [Laughs] No!

PLAYBOY: Automobiles aside, you presumably gave up a lot of your life to
this cause.
ARAFAT: Yes, since my youth. From when I was 17 years old, when I joined the
resistance. But I am a strong believer, and I believe this is my destiny.

PLAYBOY: Your destiny-what is it?
ARAFAT: To continue my life for the sake of my people.

PLAYBOY: It is a life without much normalcy, isn't it? No family, constantly
on the alert against assassination, constantly moving.
ARAFAT: Yes, and for this reason, no girl wanted to marry me. [Laughs] I
work sometimes 24 hours a day. During the battles, I never slept. I usually
work 18 hours a day. During the early days, I only slept an hour or two,
sometimes a half hour a day. But I cannot be comfortable, cannot live in a
comfortable house. You saw my house in Tunis and here in Baghdad; I can't
live in a comfortable house while I have this job to do for my people.
But I have my family: The Palestinian children are my children. I have a
very good relationship with all the small kids. After the liberation, I will
have a family.

PLAYBOY: Did you think when you began that the struggle might take this
ARAFAT: Yes, we had a slogan from the beginning: "It is not a picnic. It is
a long, hard struggle." The Vietnamese took 35 years of continuous war. The
Algerians, 150; the Rhodesians, about 100; the Saudis, 500. But from the
beginning, we believed that sooner or later, we would achieve our goals,
because we are with the tide of history, while Israel is against it.

PLAYBOY: When did you form Al Fatah, which eventually became the largest
group the P,L.O. comprised?
ARAFAT: In 1956, we established Al Fatah. I was one of the founders. In
1969, I became chairman of the P.L.O. There was no P.L.O. in that early
period. I moved between Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

PLAYBOY: But when you began, no one paid much attention to your
ARAFAT: Nobody took it seriously. But we expected this.

PLAYBOY: The movement was simply ignored?
ARAFAT: In the beginning, yes. But not now.

PLAYBOY: Perhaps because it became known in the West as a terrorist
ARAFAT: Terrorist! You see, that is the big lie, the big lie from this
Israeli military junta, Now everyone can see who the terrorists are-them!
George Washington was called a terrorist by the British. De Gaulle was
called a terrorist by the Nazis. The Algerians were terrorists to the French
occupiers. The Viet Gong were terrorists to the Americans. Robert Mugabe was
called a terrorist by the Rhodesians. Now he is not only president of
Zimbabwe but the chairman of the Members of the Nonaligned Countries.

PLAYBOY: There is, of course, a change in the perception of a group or an
individual after they're successful.
ARAFAT: I am a freedom fighter. And you see, it is not I who is calling me
the freedom fighter. Ninety-five percent of the United Nations say so. A
majority of the people-including a big part of the Israelis and the American
people-are saying that Arafat is a freedom fighter.

PLAYBOY: How do you conclude that?
ARAFAT: One hundred forty-eight member states of the UN have concluded that.
ABU SHARIF: The highest number of votes in the life of the United Nations.
ARAFAT: Yes, the highest. It has never happened in the history of the United
Nations. There was a vote on a resolution to consider the PL.O. as freedom
[A UN spokesman says 145 nations voted against a U.S. Congressional proposal
to close the P.L.O. mission under a new U.S. antiterrorist statute. The vote
was not a record.-Ed.]

PLAYBOY: Then, after all these years of being labeled a terrorist, how does
it make you feel to be called a freedom fighter-by nations other than the
ARAFAT: Maybe you don't know that in some circles, I am considered more than
a freedom fighter. By some, I am considered a symbol of resistance. It was
only in some circles that I was called a terrorist. My enemies who were
repeating the big lie. For your information, I am the permanent deputy of
the Organization of the Islamic Conference chairmanship. The co-chairman
changes every three years-but I am the permanent chairman. And I am the
permanent vice-president of the Nonaligned Countries movement. Just for your

PLAYBOY: Let's take this moment to look back at the conflict through your
eyes. It's a difficult history for Westerners to follow. What do you make of
the argument that, when all is said and done, you are demanding the return
of something that never was-a Palestinian homeland? For instance, don't some
people say that the Palestinians were not driven from their land in 1948 but
left voluntarily?
ARAFAT: Voluntary what?

PLAYBOY: Left the land, left Palestine to escape the conflict between the
Jews and the Arabs in the 1948 war.
ARAFAT: All right. You have to remember what was being done, exactly, in
those days by these Zionist groups. They were fanatic groups-the Stern gang
and the Irgun, terrorist groups whose members still rule. [The Irgun Tsvai
Leumi army was commanded by former prime minister Menachem Begin. The Stern,
or LEHI group, was commanded by present prime minister Yitzhak Shamir. Both
groups carried out extensive terrorist activities against both the British
military and the Arab population.-Ed.] They were responsible for many
massacres, not only against. us, the Palestinians, but against the British,
like the famous explosion in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946. They
killed many British soldiers. They captured and hanged some. And many
Palestinians were killed through savage massacres.

PLAYBOY: What specific terrorist activities do you say the Israelis
conducted against the Palestinians at that time?
ARAFAT: In Haifa. And in 1948, they completely demolished a village, Deir
Yassin, and they killed everyone. [Two hundred inhabitants of the village
were killed in the attack by the Irgun and LEHI. The operation by the
irregular forces was condemned by the Haganah, the regular army of Israel.

PLAYBOY: But isn't it true that at that time, the Arab armies were
attempting to wipe out the Israelis, rather than join them to throw off the
ARAFAT: The British were supporting the Israelis. Their Balfour Declaration
gave the country to the Israelis. [On November 2, 1917, the British
government said it supported the establishment of a "national home for the
Jewish people," but only as long as nothing prejudiced the "civil or
religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."-Ed.] They
did this even though the Jews were only five to seven percent of the
population in 1917. Nevertheless, the Balfour Declaration gave all the
country to the Jews. Not only that but a Jewish regiment in the British army
was released with all their weapons after World War Two. It was strong, well
equipped, had up-to-date weapons.

PLAYBOY: And you say the British deliberately allowed the Jewish troops to
return and take over Palestine?
ARAFAT: Yes. They had fought in Italy with the British. Then they went to
Egypt, then from Egypt to Palestine.

PLAYBOY: Then you think that the Israelis forcibly removed the population?
ARAFAT: Yes, it was not only the massacres but the kicking out by force. And
even after the establishment of the state, they continued kicking out the
Palestinians by force. It is a permanent policy. They continued doing the
same thing after the 1967 war. They kicked out more than 250,000
Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank to Jordan. And now [industry and
trade minister and former general Ariel] Sharon is repeating the same
threats to get rid of this uprising.

PLAYBOY: Then you believe that the Israelis have been opposed to any notion
of a Palestinian state from the start?
ARAFAT: Yes, because they don't want it. Look at the slogans they use: that
the land of Israel is from the Euphrates to the Nile. This was written for
many years over the entrance to the Knesset, the parliament. It shows their
national ambition-they want to advance to the Jordan River. One Israel for
them, what's left for us....
Do you know what the meaning of the Israeli flag is?

ARAFAT: It is white with two blue lines. The two lines represent two rivers,
and in between is Israel. The rivers are the Nile and the Euphrates.

PLAYBOY: Your point is that that takes in quite a bit of territory?
ARAFAT: Israel is the only state in the United Nations that hasn't an
official map for their border.

PLAYBOY: And you think Israel wanted all this land from its earliest days?
ARAFAT: Not just Israel. From the beginning, Israel had the unlimited
support of the Europeans and the Americans, We are not fighting Israel. It
was always a very important strategic theory that there had to be a
spearhead in the Middle East. You see, before this dirty conspiracy, there
was a conspiracy begun by the British occupation, after World War One. From
that period on, we were facing not only the Jews but the big powers. If we
had been facing just Israelis, it would have been different.

PLAYBOY: What are you saying? That you and the Israelis might have settled
your differences on your own-either by negotiation or by force?
ARAFAT: Yes. For instance, in 1968, during the beginning of our march, we
had an important victory in Karamah, a village in the Jordan Valley. It was
the first victory over the Israelis since their defeat of the Arab armies in
1967. It was the first direct Palestinian-Israeli confrontation.

PLAYBOY: You mean a face-to-face battle?
ARAFAt: Face to face, alone. And we won the battle. And it was the turning
point. But that was not the only victory. In the south of Lebanon, we won a
major battle against them in 1969. And there are many, many landmarks. We
are the only forces to defeat the Israelis. The only forces not defeated by

PLAYBOY: You and your men were expelled from Beirut following the Israeli
invasion in 1982, were you not?
ARAFAT: No, they failed to defeat us; that is why we had an agreement
through which we left Beirut. The Israelis failed to conquer Beirut while we
were there! For 88 days, they could not, so we handed the city over to the
international forces-the U.S., the French, the Italian-and left. And these
forces then betrayed us and allowed the Israelis permission to enter and
invade Beirut. That is when the Israelis committed the dirty crime of the
massacres in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Thousands of innocent
women and children massacred! [In 1982, Israeli troops under General Ariel
Sharon allowed Lebanese Christian militiamen to enter the surrounded camps,
where the militiamen committed the massacre.-Ed.]

PLAYBOY: But overall, Beirut was a major defeat for the Palestinians, was it
ARAFAt: The invasion of 1982 was a field experiment for new weapons that the
Americans had given to the Israelis. The victims of that experiment were
Palestinian men, women and children.

PLAYBOY: A field experiment-do you really believe that?
ARAFAT: Yes! Yes, they tried out the more sophisticated weapons on us. If
you recall, peace had been declared during this period, but Israel invaded
anyway. And after, Mr. [Caspar] Weinberger offered an official thanks to the
Israeli government, because they had been given a chance to see how well the
new weapons worked.

PLAYBOY: What sort of weapons?
ARAFAT: The concussion bomb. The phosphorus bomb, The gas bomb.

PLAYBOY: You're claiming that the Israelis used gas weapons on the
ARAFAT: Yes, gas bombs. The fuel bomb. The cluster bomb. The cluster bomb,
on our people! Unbelievable! And many other bombs.

PLAYBOY: And you're saying that this gas is made in the United States?
ARAFAT: Yes. In this present uprising, the Israelis are using gas from the
United States. Made in the U.S.A., 1988.
Why? We have the right to ask! Why does the U.S. support Israel in this way,
turning our people into an experiment for new weapons? We did not harm
[A UN official's charge that Israeli tear gas was responsible for
Palestinian miscarriages and deaths has been denied by Israel. The U.S.
manufacturer has stopped shipments.-Ed.]

PLAYBOY: Before, you were saying there were moments when your people and the
Israelis might have resolved this conflict without interference by the big
ARAFAT: Yes. Historically, before this, there was no trouble between us and
the Jews. Judaism is a part of our heritage and tradition. It is not our
nation that harmed the Jews-not the Palestinians. We were living together
once. Both peoples were persecuted in Spain, during the Spanish Inquisition.
Both peoples were driven from that region. Both. The Jews participated in
our civilization, in our life, and they were a part of us and we were a part
of them as a nation. And throughout our history, there are the names of
famous Jews-they are Arabs, actually, from the same stock!

PLAYBOY: The same ethnic background?
ARAFAT: Yes. In Europe and America, they call them Semites. We are Semites;
they are our cousins.

PLAYBOY: Then when you hear the charge that you are essentially an
ARAFAT: [Laughs] Me? An anti-Semite? No, no, no. I cannot be against myself!
But you know, there are people, Jews, who live in Israel and even today
refuse to call themselves Israelis.

PLAYBOY: You mean the orthodox Jews?
ARAFAT: Yes, the Hasidim. They are refusing to be Israelis. They are saying,
"We are still Palestinian." And still they are dealing with me.

ARAFAT: Very recently, one of the rabbis visited with me in Tunis.

PLAYBOY: He can't be popular in Israel.
ARAFAT: Yes, but many of them I deal with. The Samarians in Nablus also
refuse to be called Israelis.

PLAYBOY: Mr. Chairman, what would you do if tomorrow the Israelis suddenly
said, "Let's call this off; come back, have your state"? What would your
state be like?
ARAFAT: From the beginning of our revolution, we were looking to have a
democratic state. We wanted a state where Jews, Christians and Moslems could
live together on an equal footing and with equal rights. In 1969, we said
this in the international parliamentary conference in Cairo. We made seven
points to this effect, which would provide rights for all.

PLAYBOY: And if such a state were ever realized, would you expect to be its
ARAFAT: In a matter of time, we will have a state. If I were to head it,
that would mean I would impose upon my people what I was thinking; that
would mean it would not be a democracy. Maybe they would not elect me, as
the British did not with Churchill after World War Two.

PLAYBOY: You say you believe in a democratic state. But one thing that is
noticeable is how split the Palestinian movement seems to be, with all the
radical groups at cross-purposes-some have called it anarchy. It doesn't
suggest a very stable leadership on the part of the P.L.O.
ARAFAT: We are proud of our democracy in the P.L.O., because it is a real
democracy. We have implemented democracy in the jungle of guns. The P.L.O.
has a strong democracy on all levels. The P.L.O. is, in essence, a fusion of
all the political currents of the Palestinian people. Our National Congress,
our parliament, is where all these currents are represented. After
democratic discussions of any resolution brought before the congress, we all
abide by the decision of the majority. What you call splits, or divisions,
are actually minute movements that have been influenced by regimes in this
country or the other. The vast majority of us are still intact.

PLAYBOY: Then why have the Palestinians been dealt with so harshly by other
Arab governments? Why do you have such difficulty among those who would
seemingly be most supportive?
ARAFAT: Because the American Administrations, and the Israelis, exert so
much pressure in so many forms on certain Arab governments. These pressures
make our presence in certain countries-as Palestinians or as P.L.O.-a
difficult situation for these Arab governments.
Some regimes conclude that the aims of the Palestinian people-the building
of an independent state-might be hazardous for their own regimes. But we are
sure that all Arab people, regardless of whether their governments deal
harshly with us or not, all the Arab masses, do support the Palestinian
people, do support the P.L.O. in its struggle for freedom for Palestinians.

PLAYBOY: But, as you say, that is, far from true among certain Arab heads of
state. King Hussein, for instance, who expelled the P.L.O. from Jordan;
President Assad, of Syria, who once attempted to suppress the P.L.O.
ARAFAT: We have had difficulties several times with certain heads of state.
But it has always been difficulties in the family which could be solved.
These difficulties should not for a single moment blur the image of the real
contradiction, the dilemma we share. That is, with the Israeli occupation.
The enemy of the Palestinian people and the peace-loving peoples of the
world are the Zionists. It is they who insist on keeping their occupation
and using terrorist campaigns against unarmed citizens in the West Bank and

PLAYBOY: As we in America prepare for a new election, we wonder if Chairman
Arafat has an endorsement to make among the Presidential candidates-Bush,
Jackson, Dukakis?
ARAFAT: [Smiling] The American people will make the choice. We do not
interfere in the internal affairs of the American people or the United
States. But we really hope that the American people will elect a President
who will serve genuinely and truthfully the concerns of the American people,
following the historical principles of the American Revolution, which called
for the support of justice, human rights and freedom to people all over the

PLAYBOY: If you won't say what future President you favor, what about past
ones? Which American Administration do you think was the most effective in
dealing with the issues from your point of view?
ARAFAT: The American public will see that we suffer from the policies of
consecutive American Administrations. Every American Administration so far
has taken an antagonistic attitude toward our people.

PLAYBOY: Without exception? Surely, some were less antagonistic than others.
ARAFAT: It is ironic that certain of your Presidents dare to express their
views that give a certain justice to our cause only after they are out of
office. When they have left the White House, and not before.

PLAYBOY: We can think of only Carter.
ARAFAT: Yes, he was one.

PLAYBOY: Then you expect this predisposition by U.S. Presidents to continue
ARAFAT: We hope that the next Administration will realize that peace can
come to the Middle East only through justice for the Palestinians. And that
there has to be some relief given to the 5,000,000 Palestinians!

PLAYBOY: And you remain convinced in your life and in the lives of those you
affect that this struggle for a state, the agony of the Palestinians, is
worth the price?
ARAFAT: It is our destiny to live free or to die as slaves. The Americans
fought for many years against British occupation. The Indians in Mexico
fought bravely for many centuries against Spanish occupation. We will fight
until our people have a place to live freely and peacefully under the sun.


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