Yasser Arafat
President of the Palestinian Authority

© Arnold Holtzman, Ph.D. (June 2001)

Elected President of the Palestinian Authority (January 20, 1996) which controls territories in Gaza and the West Bank of the Jordan River. In 1947 he fought with the troops loyal to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem against the Jews, and identified with the latter's political ambitions. The Grand Mufti (Haj Amin Al-Husseini) sided with Hitler and the Axis forces, met with Hitler in Berlin, and participated in the plans for the destruction of European Jewry (figure 1).

During the 60's and 70's he identified with terrorism and was responsible for a number of terrorist actions. In the 90's the international community found reason to consider him a pragmatic moderate with a sincere interest in terminating the Israel-Arab conflicts. However he rejected all peace proposals offered by Israel including such as gave the Palestinian Authority statehood and over 90% control over the West Bank lands. He is presently pursuing a policy of civil unrest and armed confrontations with Israeli forces. His terrorist program today includes mortar attacks on civilian communities and suicide bombings in heavily populated city centers and shopping malls. His forces introduce children to the use of firearms (figure 2). Use is also made of children who would be brought to areas where there was fighting (and news coverage of that fighting).

Born in Cairo, Egypt, on August 24, 1929.
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994


reud's Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality introduced the concept of instincts which has been the subject of much debate over the years. He identified and distinguished between two kinds of excitation - one that is evoked by external perceptual stimuli, and another that arises from stimuli originating within the organism. In this framework of mental and biological responses to provocative stimuli he identified three orders of instincts which he labeled Life, Sex and Death.

The Death Instinct has always been explained in psychoanalytic literature as somehow associated with a drive to destruction. The perception most accepted was offered originally by Carl Menninger who saw the manifest expression of the Death Instinct in the drive to personal ruin. Ruin could come about by chronic drinking, gambling, or any other practice which the surrender to excess will ultimately effect. Menninger explained this gravitation to what amounts to self destruction as inherent in the mechanism of the Death Instinct.

Psychodiagnostic Chirology (PDC) identifies that area in the hand which is the seat of these instincts, but explains their roles and psychical chemistries rather differently. All the instincts are seen as having but one common purpose. This would be to bring the individual from the very moment of birth to be alert to anything which may threaten that individual with the termination of being. Each instinct, in line with its singular chemistry, would organize a specific reflexive response aimed at neutralizing the threat to being. Securing the continued physical existence of the organism would be central to all activity associated with instincts and promote what may be described as instinctual behaviors.

What the Death Instinct contributes to every human being is essentially the sense of being vulnerable. It would be the mechanism of the Death Instinct which would sensitize the individual to the possible repercussion of his, or her, behavior. The awareness of one's essential vulnerability promises considered actions... considered behaviors. The individual may now behave in a manner which may effect a desired reality but without exposing himself, or herself, to harm. There is the famous experiment of Gibson and Walk which they called the Visual Cliff. 32 infants were set on a thick plate of glass set atop two boxes. They were to crawl from the top of one box across the "cliff" to the top of the other box where their mothers were waiting for them with extended arms. Though none of those infants had ever experienced a fall 30 of those 32 infants refused to make the crossing. Evidently the sense of being vulnerable had been the central determining agent of their behavior at this time. It could only have been an instinctual reflex which held them back from the cliff as the danger of falling could not yet have been learned.

Constructions in the Hand of Yasser Arafat

1: The Sense of Being Vulnerable
The seat of the Death Instinct in the hand is in the area show as "A" in the inset, and as seen in the line drawing. This is the lowest third of the hypothenar eminence (the Mount of Moon). In Arafat's hand this area is particularly heavy. In itself this development would not be the subject of critical discussion. However, what makes this feature virtually central to the design of Yasser Arafat's profile of personality is the line, defined in red (in the inset), and to which the arrow points.

The line, or crease mark that we find here serves as a channel whereby information from this remote and entirely subconscious quarter of the psyche would be delivered to dimensions of mental awareness. The lines, in general, in effect describe the paths along which information moves from one station to another. Very roughly, the vertical lines would describe paths leading from areas in the Body (biological/organic) dimension to the Mind. Again very roughly, the horizontal lines would describe paths between areas of consciousness and areas of subconsciousness.

This specific line taps the resources of the Death Instinct, which is the sensitization to vulnerability, and delivers the temper of this psychical environment to the faculties of Mind. This gives rise to a condition which would have Yasser Arafat find himself overtaken by heightened feelings of vulnerability whenever having to manage new possibilities in his life, and having to make decisions with regard to those possibilities. It is as though, in distinctly paranoid fashion, in any adjustment to his reality he would search to uncover whatever is likely to harm him. And again, in distinctly paranoid fashion, whatever he searches for he is likely to find.

This may explain why in the meeting with President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak when Barak offered Israel's freeze of settlements on the West Bank and the removal of some, and permitting the Palestinian Authority control over 90% of the West Bank of Jordan territory, Arafat said "no". Arafat would have had to commit the Palestinians to a permanent peace agreement with Israel. Questions pertaining to the return of refugees and control of the Temple Mount were enlisted as the reasons for his negative response. Nevertheless, the Israeli offer was such as gave Arafat and the Palestinian Authority recognition as an independent and autonomous state, when the outstanding questions could be resolved in future negotiations. What we would understand is that this offer would have so heightened his sense of vulnerability as to make its acceptance virtually impossible. Preferring the familiar to the unfamiliar he subsequently resorted to his terrorist/military identity (in all the years he never once appeared in civilian clothes) and enlisted the children and young teens in the territories to initiate his "Intifada".

2: The Gravitation to Obsessions
Here we take note of the bulbous development of the tip phalange in the medus, or middle, finger. It is encircled in red in the inset and clearly seen in the original as well. This construction defines a tendency in the individual to become rigidly committed to conceptions, perceptions and currents of thought which, for whatever reason or reasons, overtake the mind and become invested with considerable emotional content. Very often there develops a discernable gravitation to obsessive attitudes and obsessive concerns - now without the capacity for "letting go", as it were. (In hands where this feature is matched with very prominent knuckles we would speak of obsessive-compulsive currents in personality).

Yasser Arafat's original involvement with the Arab-Israeli issue was his total identification with the military and political ambitions of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, who, at the time, was the most virulent anti-Jewish leader in the Arab world. Here was Yasser Arafat's most important mentor. The rigid and unforgiving commitment which Arafat demonstrated to his mentor led to the terrorist campaigns he conducted against Israel from the early 60's. There was nothing to differentiate between the two. There were neither differences in their ambitions nor in the tactics they thought legitimate to employ against Israel.

From the 90's there seemed to be a degree of moderation in his references to Arab-Israel relations and the Western nations were hopeful that he might be a central figure in a conciliation between the two peoples. They supported his ambitions for an independent Palestinian state, accepted Palestinian representation in the UN, and applauded his being awarded Norway's Nobel Prize for Peace in 1994. Yet, with one final bridge to cross, that being the termination of all manner of war against Israel, his long standing, deeply engrained and obsessive loyalty to his original mind and original mentor surfaced abruptly and without disguise. Nothing would change.

3: Molestation in Early Personal History
The tip phalange of the little finger (encircled in red) shows a sharp angular kink toward the ring finger. This always bespeaks an early history of either mental (emotional) or physical abuse or both. This construction would have us understand that the experiences which Arafat endured which gave rise to this morphological development had him identify with shame and guilt, and had him suffer serious question as to his inherent worth. However, extending directly from this same history of experiences would be very deep feelings of anger and rage. As a child Arafat would have assumed responsibility for the experiences which had violated him. This is because the molestation was suffered at the hands of his parents (either, or both), or surrogate parents, at a time when they would be visualized by him as idealized images. Jean Piaget (Swiss psychologist, renown for his contributions to developmental psychology) called this "magical thinking".

The anger and rage which ensued thus had no access to their natural targets. But as energy factors they remained as powerful references which Arafat would carry with him in his future external world involvements. It would be in the context of this development that we may explain much of Arafat's later attitudes and behavior - essentially the displacement of these aggressive and confrontational energies. It would appear that the rise of the State of Israel had become powerfully equated with the trauma of his personal molestation in childhood. Here was now a legitimate target upon which the anger and rage may be focused. The distance from here to the troops of Haj Amin Al-Husseini and to his own terrorist organizations was very short. We have chosen to illustrate this perspective of Arafat's past loyalties and present values in the photographs shown below.

Figure 1
Yasser Arafat's first and most important mentor was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, seen here in Berlin with Hitler. Arafat served in the troops loyal to the Mufti. The Grand Mufti had sided with Hitler and openly identified with Hitler's ambitions regarding the destruction of European Jewry.

Figure 2
Arafat's "Intifada", or uprising included the participation of children. This photo shows children identified with the Hamas terrorist group in the West Bank town of Nablus.
© Nasser Ishtayeh/ The Associated Press

4: Other Features
The photograph of Arafat's hand which accompanies this article does not permit a fully comprehensive analysis of personality. The fingers, for example, are held at a forward angle so that we cannot be sure of the lengths of the fingers relative to each other. But we may point to the relatively heavy base phalange of the index finger which lends a certain need to domineer. There is also the lack of fullness in the thenar area (the ball of the thumb) but this may reflect on his present health circumstances. The upper and lower transverse lines (the lines of Heart and Head) are relatively close and running almost parallel to each other. This often points to a cold, analytic, almost business practicality, with a "what's-in-it-for-me" capacity for selfish personal regard. Finally, the tip phalange of the thumb which tends to bend backward would suggest a mind that learns quickly and is capable of improvisation.

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© copyright of Yasser Arafat with raised hand belongs to Reuters/Ahmed Jadallah

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