A Palestinian political leader’s memoir published in Israel on Thursday drew praise from ex-security personnel and Palestinian leaders and was hailed by rights groups for its frankness.
Tens of thousands of copies of Fatah leader Yasser Arafat’s memoir, “A New Era,” have been printed and sold in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, with a few hundred copies distributed in Israel.
The Israeli edition was published on Thursday by the Arab Press Agency, which is part of the PA’s political wing.
In the book, Arafat recounted his time in the Israeli military’s elite Shin Bet security service and describes his friendship with Israel’s then-prime minister, Menachem Begin, who served as prime minister from 1979 to 1982.
Arafat, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in 2000, said he saw Begin “in a way that was never seen before,” the memoir said.
Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister who was assassinated in 2005, called the memoir “an extraordinary document that opens a new era for Palestinian politics, and the political future of the Palestinian people.”
“Today, we can talk about a political future and a new political movement,” Sharon told the newspaper.
“I can say with confidence that this book is a work of art,” Sharon said.
“I have seen Arafat in his glory years in his old age, when he was one of the most powerful figures in the Palestinian resistance.
He saw Begin and Sharon in the last years of their lives and said they had never met.””
This is a book that speaks for itself,” Sharon added.
“It is an extraordinary document, that I will be reading with my children and grandchildren for generations to come.”
The memoir was published in Hebrew and English and was signed by the authors.
“The most important thing is the book’s courage and the courage of its author, who never hid the fact that he was a terrorist,” a Palestinian Authority spokesperson said.
“This book is an important contribution to the fight against terror, and I am proud that it has been published in our country,” she said.
Rights groups praised the book for its openness and candor, saying that while Arafat did not directly refer to Israel in the book he was speaking of “the Israeli occupation and the military occupation of Palestine,” which included the 1967 Middle East war.
“What’s amazing about this book,” said Shai Kanaan, a senior Palestinian human rights activist.
“The book is not just about Arafat and his relationship with Begin.
It’s about the Israeli occupation of the West bank and Gaza, as well as the illegal settlements, which are illegal under international law and that are the main obstacle to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Kanaan called for a boycott of Arafat, but he said he hoped his book would “promote peace.”
“The only way to end this occupation is to end the occupation, which has caused more suffering than the deaths of the martyrs,” Kanaantan said.
He also called for the Palestinian Authority to end its support for Israel and for the “immediate end” of the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Gaza Strip.
“There is no way out of this occupation and no way to liberate Palestine,” Kanoan said in a statement.
“We will not accept anything that is not a true Palestinian state, but we will fight against any attempt to divide the land in the region.”
Araafal’s memoir was released in March.
It comes as Israel has announced plans to increase the number of soldiers stationed at the West Wall in the wake of recent protests over the planned demolition of a mosque.