Issam Sartawi

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Dr. Issam Sartawi (1935-1983) was a senior member of the PLO. He was assassinated after he had called for talks to begin with Israel even as the fighting continued. He tried to meet Shimon Peres at a conference in Lisbon moments before he was murdered.

Sartawi earned a B.A. in Baghdad and later studied medicine there before specializing in cardiology and obtaining an M.D. in the United States. Sartawi turned his interests toward politics in 1967 when he left the United States to fight with FATAH. He also helped establish the Palestine Red Crescent Society. In 1968, he left Fatah and established a short-lived Nasirist commando movement, the Action Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (AOLP). The AOLP was soon absorbed back into Fatah in 1971. Sartawi thereafter rose to become an adviser on Europe and North America to Yasir Arafat, head of both Fatah and the PLO, as well as a member of Fatah's revolutionary committee. He became an articulate PLO moderate who made contact with leftist, peace-oriented Israelis beginning with his meetings with Arie Eliav and other members of the Council for Israel-Palestine Peace in 1976-77. In 1979, Sartawi received the Austrian Kreisky Prize along with Eliav for his efforts in exploring a peaceful end to the conflict, including the recognition of Israel by the PLO. Faced with criticism by Palestinian hard-liners, Sartawi tried to resign from the Palestine National Council on several occasions. Arafat refused to accept his resignation each time and defended him. Sartawi was eventually shot and killed in Portugal at a meeting of the Socialist International, allegedly by the hard-line Fatah Revolutionary Council organization (the Abu Nidal group).

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Henri Curiel   • Nadia Sartawi   • Action Organization for the Liberation of Palestine

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