In memoria di Haidar Addel Shafi.

 Dr. Haidar Abdel Shafi just passed away , he lost his last battle against cancer
With his death the Palestinian people has lost one of the last Palestinians who never gave up or gave in.
My condolences go out to his family , friends and the Palestinian people.
Enrique, joining Yousef  and Raja, who have alerted me of this great loss for the camp of peace  and justice for the Palestinian people.
See below his biography, and the most recent interview during the Gaza events before the summer._
Follows below_._,_.___



Here is his biography, as last updated in 2004. I’d like to add that Haidar Abdel Shafi, the last living PLO  founder, was also along with Edward Said and Mustapha Barghouti the founder of the Palestinian Alternative (al-Mubadara), he was nominated to the Nobel Peace Price along with ICAHD’s Jeff Halper, and finally, when Fatah and Hamas were fighting for Gaza’s control, he bitterly denounced the fratricidal strife, and as reported in the Italian newspaper l’Unità in the interview below following his bio, he stated: " Hamas wins the Gaza war, but their victory is on the ruins of the Palestinian cause. Hamas has won over the keys of an open-sky prison, as Gaza has been for a long time". He also denounced the boycot against the Palestinian Unity Government:

Haidar Abdel Shafi



Dr. Haidar Abdel Shafi (Haydar ‘Abd al-Shafi): Physician; leading secular Palestinian nationalist leader in the Gaza Strip. Highly respected non-partisan figure, though with links to the Palestinian People’s Party (formerly the Pal. Communist Party). Regularly commands 5-10% popular support in JMCC public opinion polls. Physician; head of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip; Commissioner-General of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen’s Rights. A founding member of the Palestinian National Initiative, launched June 2002; also a member of the Birzeit University Board of Trustees.

Born in Gaza in 1919, just at the end of the Ottoman occupation of Palestine. One of six children of Sheikh Muheiddin Abdul Shafi, head of the Higher Islamic Council (Waqf – the authority which administered the affairs of the Muslims in Palestine) and custodian of the holy places in Gaza and (from 1925-27) Hebron.


Attended primary school in Gaza; secondary education as a boarder at the Arab College in Jerusalem, graduated 1936. Left for Beirut, to study medicine at the American University, where he joined the Arab Nationalist Movement (dedicated to Arab nationalism and the founding of a Palestinian state). Graduated 1943, went to work at the British mandate government’s Municipal Hospital (Mustashfa Al-Baladiya) in Jaffa.


In 1944 joined the Jaysh al-Badiah (desert army) of the British Jordanian Army, then part of a new British Ninth Army intended to open a second front – which never materialized – in the Balkans. Spent the war instead in various locations in Palestine: Al-Azraq, Ashona, Jericho, Gaza. Resigned his commission at war’s end; returned to Gaza and entered private practice. Co-founded a branch of the Palestine Medical Society (1945), and participated in the first Palestine Medical Congress in 1946.


Provided medical support to Palestinian guerillas in the clashes between Jews and Arabs following the UN partition resolution in 1947. Ran a medical clearing station in Gaza the first Arab-Israeli war (1948), when Gaza was flooded with 200,000 refugees. Worked closely with the Quakers, who provided humanitarian relief for Gaza Palestinians until UNRWA was established in 1951. Left Gaza for the US, where he studied surgery at the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. Returned to Gaza – now Egyptian-ruled – in 1954, worked as a surgeon for the Egyptians at the Tal Zahur Hospital.


Israel invaded and temporarily occupied Gaza in 1956, installing a municipal council with Abdel Shafi as one of its 10 members. Gained a reputation as troublemaker by comparing Israeli rule unfavourably to Egyptian control, and refusing to serve on council.


In 1957, married Hoda Khalidi, daughter of a prominent Jerusalem family, refugees in Alexandria since the 1948 war. Appointed by the Egyptians as head of medical services in the Gaza Strip, 1957-60; during this period, became a strong admirer and personal friend of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Returned to private practice 1960.


Served as chairman of the first Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza (1962-4). Also a delegate to the first all-Palestinian conference (Palestinian National Congress) which convened in Jerusalem in 1964 and established the PLO (under Ahmed Shukeiry). Served as a member of the first PLO-Executive Committee (1964-5). Developed a constituency and political base through the Gaza clinic system, and by 1966 was the leading PLO figure in the Gaza Strip.

Worked as a volunteer at the Shifa hospital in Gaza during the 1967, in which Israel again occupied Gaza, this time for the long-term. Temporarily detained by Israel at war’s end, suspected of support for the military activities of George Habash’s PFLP, an offshoot of the Arab Nationalist Movement. (Abdel Shafi denies membership, but expresses sympathy for its goals). Upon release, he refused all co-operation with Israel’s plans to tie Gaza to Israel through the development of a common infrastructure,
as punishment Moshe Dayan expelled him for three months to the isolated Sinai village of Nahal in 1969. Deported again on 12 Sept 1970, this time to Lebanon for two months, along with 5 other prominent members of the Gazan leadership, in retaliation for a PFLP hijacking.


Founder and Director of Palestinian Red Crescent Society in the Gaza Strip from 1972, providing free medical care and a forum for cultural activities. Distanced himself from Egypt after the Camp David Accord of Sept 1978, which he saw as an Egyptian sell-out of the Palestinians to get back Sinai. After vocal opposition to the Accord, Israel confined him to Gaza, and threatened the Gaza Red Crescent with closure.


In May 1988, during the first intifada, he was one of three Palestinians ( Saeb Erekat and Hanan Ashrawi were the others) to participate in ABC Nightline’s Town Hall meeting from Jerusalem. First time that Palestinians had directly addressed an Israeli (and Western) audience. Turning point in Western perception of the PLO. Led the Palestinian element of the Pal-Jordanian delegation to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, and subsequently led the Palestinian negotiation team for 22 months in the Washington talks (1992-3).





Left – Abdel Shafi at the Madrid Conference with his Deputy, Saeb Erekat.


Centre – Greeting the Israeli delegation at the Madrid Peace Conference, 1991.

Read Abdel Shafi’s opening address to the Conference here.


Right – Returning from the Madrid Conference to a hero’s welcome in Jericho, Nov 91.

Read Hanan Ashrawi’s impressions of Abdel Shafi here.



Resigned from delegation in April 1993 (over settlements). Resumed position under pressure – only to urge the suspension of Palestinian participation in the talks in May 1993: "From the beginning when we started negotiations in Washington, we insisted that Israel should stop the settlement process, because it is a contradiction with the terms of reference. When Israel refused to stop, and the American sponsor did not compel Israel to abide by the terms of reference, the negotiation process then lost its credibility." Eventually made final break with the Palestinian negotiating team over Oslo. Abdel Shafi was one of the first to predict that the Oslo process would collapse, because it failed to tackle the issue of settlements.


Elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1996 as member for Gaza, gaining highest number of votes of any member. Ran for speakership of the PLC, but lost to Ahmed Qurai’ (Abu Alaa) by 57-31 votes; instead took up leadership of the PLC’s political committee. Walked out of April 96 Palestine National Congress meeting, arguing that Arafat should not amend PN Charter to recognize Israel until Israel gives reciprocal recognition. (Though he does support the Two-State solution: "There is no problem of coexistence. The Jewish presence is a reality to be acknowledged".) Announced intention to resign from PLC in October 1997 (effective from 30 March 1998) on the grounds that it did not have any real power to change the Palestinians’ situation; also called for more democracy within the PNA, and a national unity leadership.


A long-time proponent of a less PA-centric (and less Arafat-centric) Palestinian leadership. In April 1998 initiated unity talks for all factions in Gaza, to include Fatah, Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and the left-wing PFLP and DFLP. Describes the Al-Aqsa intifada as a spontaneous rejection of ten years of fruitless negotiations which Israel has used to create facts on the ground; supports the right of the Palestinians to fight, but opposes suicide bombings and is critical of the disorganized nature of the resistance. Urged the PA to organize the intifada, rather than distance itself from it, and to widen its democratic base by forming a government of national unity, even if this means that PNA would be allied with groups unacceptable to Western public opinion, like HAMAS and Islamic Jihad: "You see it is our right; it is not the business of the US nor of the European community how we manage our own affairs, to establish a national unity authority is our private concern" .


Calls for a Pal unity govt to show the world the essentially defensive nature of Palestinian resistance by fighting only in the Occupied Territories and only against Israeli settlement activity, and its associated activities such as home demolitions and farmland expropriations: "I think we should face the world with this position. I think that we should make this very clear to the American sponsor and to the Israelis. We should say we are not interested in killing Jews, but we will actually fight wherever Israel continues to establish settlements, or when they see it necessary to demolish a home or farm or trees, then we should fight. We must focus our fire on the illegal settlements – particularly new settlements. This is where we can stop the expansion of the Zionists, and where we are completely in our rights by international law, by the frame of reference, and supported by world public opinion" .


Lukewarm over the Road Map, believes ending settlement activity should occupy all the energies of Pal resistance, and only thence move step by step to a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders. Any negotiating activity while settlements continue to expand would be pointless and a waste of Palestinian energies.



Sources :


Biographical information –


o        This Side of Peace by Hanan Ashrawi, pub Simon & Schuster (1995), ISBN 0-684-82342-X

o        Still Small Voices by John and Janet Wallach, pub Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch (1989), ISBN 0-15-184970-6

o        The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme ( G.C.M.H.P.).

o        Glen Rangwala’s Middle East Reference.

o        The Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs ( PASSIA ).

o        Al-Ahram Weekly, 28 May 1998.



Political views –








Return to Palestinian Biographies Home Page.



Last Update: 27 July 2004


Haidar Abdel Shafi biography Haydar ‘Abd al-Shafi biography Haidar Abdul Shafi biography



Haider Abdel Shafi: «Muore la speranza di uno Stato palestinese»
Umberto De Giovannangeli

Fonte: L’Unità (
14 giugno 2007
«A Gaza stanno uccidendo l´ultima speranza di uno Stato di Palestina. Ciò che sta avvenendo è terribile, terribile…». La voce è fioca, la telefonata si interrompe più volte. Quella di Haider Abdel Shafi, il «grande vecchio di Gaza», l´unico tra i fondatori dell´Olp ancora in vita, è la testimonianza drammatica, in presa diretta del suicidio di una nazione: «La gente è terrorizzata – racconta colui che fu il primo capo della delegazione palestinese ai colloqui di Washington – l´odio sembra aver accecato ogni barlume di ragionevolezza. Hamas sta imponendosi con la forza, ma quella che sta conquistando è una prigione a cielo aperto, isolata dal mondo». Shafi denuncia anche l´atteggiamento della Comunità internazionale: «Mantenendo il boicottaggio – afferma – non ha solo reso ancora più terribili le condizioni di vita della popolazione civile, ma ha finito per affossare anche il governo di unità nazionale. Il risultato è sotto gli occhi di tutti. E tutti dovrebbero vergognarsi perché la tragedia di Gaza, la tragedia di un popolo era ampiamente annunciata».

Dottor Shafi, qual è in questo momento la situazione a Gaza City dove lei vive?
«La gente è terrorizzata, chiusa in casa. I generi alimentari scarseggiano, mentre si combatte in ogni strada…».

Hamas ha lanciato un ultimatum alle milizie di Al Fatah…
«Hamas sta vincendo la guerra di Gaza, ma la sua è una vittoria sulle rovine della causa palestinese. Hamas ha conquistato le chiavi di una prigione a cielo aperto, perché questo è ormai da tempo Gaza…».

Da Ramallah, il presidente Abu Mazen parla di «pazzia» e lancia l´ennesimo appello alla tregua?
«Abu Mazen è stato colpevolmente abbandonato da tutti coloro che pure si erano riempiti la bocca lodandone la moderazione: oggi è un rais senza potere…».

Ad Abu Mazen guarda ancora Ehud Olmert.
«Israele ha responsabilità pesantissime per la guerra civile in atto a Gaza. Perché Israele ha fatto di tutto per delegittimare qualsiasi controparte, perché ha strangolato Gaza con un assedio che dura da un anno, perché ha puntato sulla guerra interpalestinese, ma il caos armato finirà per avere effetti destabilizzanti per l´intero Medio Oriente. Nella prigione di Gaza Israele sta allevando un esercito di shahid (terroristi suicidi, ndr.)».

È ancora possibile evitare il disastro?
«È difficile, molto difficile…Si è aspettato troppo tempo per rendersi conto della tragedia che si stava consumando. Se c´è ancora una possibilità, questa è legata ai comportamenti dei Paesi arabi e dell´Europa: occorre predisporre un piano straordinario di aiuti alla popolazione civile supportato da una presenza sul campo di una forza di pace. Una forza che per essere accettata deve però essere garante della fine dell´assedio di Gaza. Il tempo degli appelli è scaduto da tempo. L´Europa agisca se non vuole essere complice dell´annientamento di un popolo».



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