He is held up as an example of resistance who refused to crack under Israeli pressure, and as the man who thrust the Palestinian quest for statehood onto the international stage.
"Arafat led the Palestinian people for 40 years, and he has earned a place in history as the father of the Palestinian nation," said Palestinian Housing Minister Mohammed Ishtayeh. "Like de Gaulle, Churchill, Kennedy and Castro, he is one of the few world leaders who people know and whose name and image they recognize."
Israel stopped regarding Arafat as a partner after Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in late 2000 and a second Palestinian uprising erupted. President Bush also shunned him.
Arafat's nephew, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, rejected Israeli and U.S. claims that Arafat was an impediment to peace. His uncle, he said, refused offers of a truncated state.
"Arafat wasn't an obstacle for the peace process," Al-Kidwa told The Associated Press. "He was an obstacle to plans that were unacceptable to the Palestinians."
Although a year has passed since Arafat died, there is still no clear-cut explanation of what killed him. The Percy Military Hospital that treated him has not clarified matters, and its medical records on Arafat, recently leaked to reporters, have proven inconclusive.
Rumors persist that Arafat died of AIDS or was poisoned by Israel, a charge Israel denies.
Al-Kidwa said he is convinced his uncle did not die of natural causes, and that Israel killed him. But he acknowledged he did not have tangible evidence and said his impression did not reflect an official position.
Elsewhere in the West Bank on Friday, 300 masked men, some carrying assault rifles and other weapons, marched in tribute to Arafat through the village of Dura near Hebron, waving Arafat posters and Palestinian flags.