Arafat museum recovers Nobel prize from Hamas

Ramallah: A new museum dedicated to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat will display his 1994 Nobel Peace Prize now that the Hamas militant group has returned the medal to the rival Palestinian government in the West Bank.

Nasser al-Qidwa, Arafat’s nephew and president of the new Arafat Institute, told reporters today that the medal will be among dozens of Arafat’s belongings displayed at the museum, which is scheduled to open in Ramallah on November 9.

Arafat shared the prize with then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres for their work in reaching the 1993 Oslo interim peace accord.

The prize was meant to usher in a final peace accord, but those dreams were never realized. Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an ultranationalist Jew opposed to peace making.

In 2000, a Palestinian uprising erupted and Arafat spent the final years of his life living under siege at his West Bank headquarters before dying in France in 2004. Peres died last month.

Arafat’s Nobel Prize was kept at his Gaza headquarters. But when Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 from forces loyal to Arafat’s successor, President Mahmoud Abbas, the building was looted. Since then, Abbas has governed autonomous areas in the West Bank, while Hamas has retained control of Gaza.

Al-Qidwa did not say when Hamas returned the medal to the Palestinian Authority, but said it was the only item to be recovered from the building. He said most are believed to have disappeared, and some have even been spotted in Gaza marketplaces.

“Lots of belongings were lost in Arafat’s long exodus from Beirut to Tunis to Gaza and Ramallah,” al-Qidweh said. The USD 7 million, 2,600-square-meter (28,000 square-foot) museum will include a part of the West Bank headquarters where he was confined by Israel, dozens of small notebooks, his famous khaki military uniform, a kaffiyeh, or headdress, and a pistol.

“People will see the humble place where their leader lived and worked,” said Nabil Qissees, head of the board of the Arafat Institute.