Alan Hart, Arafat: Terrorist or Peacemaker? (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1984).
Alan Hart, a former BBC correspondent, has written an informative and lively account of Yasser Arafat’s life. Hart provides some personal background on Arafat as well as the origins of the Palestinian movement. He shows how the future leaders of the PLO, scattered throughout the Arab world and beyond, concluded that theirs had to be a liberation movement independent of the Arab regimes. He also shows that despite Palestinian determination to maintain independent decision making, the realities of Arab politics imposed restrictions on Arafat and his comrades. Arafat’s creativity in balancing accounts with the different Arab regimes marked him as a statesman, but the PLO’s involvement in inter-Arab politics, however necessary, has sapped the organization’s strength and complicated its struggle. Unfortunately, Hart’s sympathetic portrait lacks a sense of critical distance. Hart relies almost exclusively on his interviews with Palestinian officials, and makes little effort to substantiate some of their claims. At some points, Arafat reads more like a spy novel than a serious biography. Hart could have strengthened his argument by editing out at least some of the many alleged “conspiracies against the Palestinian people.”