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Arafat's legend lives on for Ramallah youth

Eight years after his death, Yasser Arafat remains a hero for most Palestinians. FRANCE 24's reporters look at his legacy in the city of Ramallah, where the former Palestinian leader was - twice - laid to rest.

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Eight years have gone by since the death in a Paris hospital of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. For the pupils of Ramallah’s Al Ahlyia College in the West Bank, many of whom scarcely remember life under Arafat, the founder of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) remains a figure of legend. 

“He raised the name of Palestine on the international stage and let the world know that its people are under occupation," said Jocelyn Shahin, an 11th grade student.

While some pupils, like Shahin, remembered Arafat as the leader who chose to resist “not with weapons but with the olive branch”, others praised his lifelong defiance, comparing the PLO’s founder with his milder successor, Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas.

“Yasser Arafat used resistance more than Mahmoud Abbas, who chooses peaceful means like going to the United Nations to advance our cause because he sees that his people cannot resist against a powerful country like Israel,” said Moayed Walid Obeidallah, referring to Abbas’s bid for recognition of Palestine as a non-member state at the UN.

‘The last Palestinian giant’

Portraits of Arafat, whose remains were exhumed and promptly reburied on Tuesday as part of a French-led investigation into the causes of his death, are still ubiquitous on the school’s walls - as in most public buildings across the West Bank.

At the nearby compound which houses the Palestinian presidency, those who knew the former strongman personally and served under him say he is irreplaceable.

For Mazen Ez Aldin, a former general of the Palestinian Presidential Guard, Arafat was “the last giant that the Palestinian people produced this century”.

While many here expect the investigation to conclude that Arafat was murdered, all are adamant his legacy will live on - at least until a worthy successor is found.

As Ez Aldin concluded, "Arafat will remain immortal in the minds of the Palestinian people until the day when one of its children will raise the flag of Palestine on the mosques and churches of Jerusalem.”

 

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