ʿArafāt’s speech at the United Nations (1974): A Perelmanian reading of the text rhetoric

  • Paola Comelli University of Bergamo


On November 22nd, 1974, the United Nations General Assembly promulgated resolutions No. 3236 and No. 3237, recognizing the political, cultural, and socio-economic rights of the Palestinian people, and formalizing the PLO’s participation in the General Assembly as an observer. These important resolutions were issued following the historic speech given by the President of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Yāsir ʿArafāt, on November 13th, 1974, before the United Nations General Assembly. This paper consists in the rhetorical and linguistic analysis of the main argumentative strategies employed by the Palestinian leader in his speech to achieve his perlocutionary goals. Specifically, the analysis is carried out on the basis of the methodological tools developed by Perelman and Olbrecths-Tyteca in The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argumentation (1969). The Perelmanian tools are applied to ʿArafāt’s Arabic speech in order to determine the rhetorical techniques employed to build the audience’s agreement and to persuade them about the necessity to accommodate his people’s requests. From this research emerges the in-depth knowledge that the speaker has of his audience, addressing, from time to time, a particular or a universal audience, in an attempt to reach an agreement that is as broad as possible. For this reason, the speaker carefully chooses the language through which to convey his message, excluding the Islamic formulas and lexicon, which usually characterize his speeches. Furthermore, the agreement with the public is established through the repeated reference to universal values, which allow him to place the Palestinian question in a framework shared by the audience. Finally, the present study illustrates the copious argumentative strategies that ʿArafāt employs to generate a change of perspective on the Palestinian question, facilitating the process of persuasion.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Paola Comelli, University of Bergamo

Paola Comelli received her bachelor’s degree in Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures and her Postgraduate degree in Modern Languages ​​for International Communication and Cooperation at the University of Bergamo. Her languages of specialization are Arabic and English. She currently teaches English at High School. Her main research interests are political discourse analysis and linguistic politeness.

She can be reached at: paolacomelli.zaira@gmail.com