Haydar 'abd al-Shafi: RIP
The sad news from Gaza this morning was the passing of the great Haydar 'abd al-Shafi after a two-year battle with stomach cancer. My friend had this to say about him:
A few hours ago, Dr. Haydar 'Abd al-Shafi passed away at his home in Gaza
City. He was 88 years old.
For those who may not have known, Dr. 'Abd al-Shafi was a leading independent Palestinian political figure. He led medical and relief efforts during the 1948 and 1967 wars, was a founding member of the PLO (later serving on the executive committee), and was founder and director of the Gaza Red Crescent Society. Dr. 'Abd al-Shafi endured imprisonment and exile at the
hands of the Israeli military.
Dr. 'Abd al-Shafi will be best remembered for leading the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Madrid peace conference and the subsequent talks in Washington. His eloquence and calm passion helped communicate the aspirations and arguments of the Palestinian Intifada to a global audience. But his insistence that any good-faith peace efforts required a halt to Zionist colonization in the 1967 territories led Israel to stonewall the talks and Yasir 'Arafat to circumvent them, thus producing
the Oslo Accords. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Dr. 'Abd al-Shafi's strenuous criticism of the Oslo regime's perpetuation of the occupation confirmed his status as a leading independent voice in Palestinian politics. During the 1996 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, he won more votes than any other candidate; he later resigned from the PLC after concluding that it had no power to improve the situation.
If you have a moment, it may be worth glancing at Dr. 'Abd al-Shafi's famous speech from the Madrid talks. It may serve as a reminder of more hopeful times.