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April 10: Issam Sartawi

April 10, 2013

Issam-3PLO leader Issam Sartawi, a moderate who was among the first to meet with Israelis to discuss peace in the 1970s and the first to call for recognition of Israel by the Palestinian movement, was assassinated on this date in 1983, presumably by members of the Abu Nidal terrorist group. Sartawi, 48, was a cardiologist, trained in Iraq and the United States, and a founder of the Palestine Red Crescent Society. He and Lova Eliav of the Israel-Palestine Peace Council jointly received the Austrian Kreisky prize in 1979 for the meetings they organized between PLO and Israeli activists, which were detailed in the book My Friend, the Enemy by Uri Avnery. A close adviser to Yassir Arafat and a member of the Palestine National Council, Sartawi was highly critical of Palestinian rejectionism and doubtful about advancing the struggle through arms: "Another 'victory' like this," he said of the PLO's defeat in Lebanon in 1982, "and the PLO will find itself in the Fiji Islands." He was shot down in a hotel while representing the PLO as an observer at the Socialist International in Portugal, where members of the Israeli Labor Party were to be present. The Dr. Issam Sartawi Center for the Advancement of Peace and Democracy is hosted at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.

"Sartawi was not only the chief Palestinian official in charge of these contacts, but also a consistent and outspoken proponent of the PLO peace line. A man of incredible courage, he took over from Said Hamami, who started these contacts in 1974, and who was assassinated by the same terrorist group." —The Other Israel, newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, July, 1983, issue #1