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Bassam Shakaa is a member of one of the wealthiest and most distinguished families in Nablus. He became a member of the Jordanese Regional Branch of the Ba'ath Party in the early 1950s and as a consequence was wanted by Jordanian authorities, forcing him to flee to Syria. He was one of the fierce critics of Syria's independence from the United Arab Republic and after being jailed by the Syrian authorities following his resignation from the Ba'ath Party because of the 1966 split within the Ba'ath movement. Following his release, he moved to Egypt until amnesty from the Jordanian government when he moved back to his home-town Nablus. In 1976 he was elected mayor of Nablus, a position he held until 1982, when all Palestinian mayors were replaced with Israeli local rulers. Shakaa had been a Palestine Liberation Organisation supporter and outspoken critic of the Camp David accords, and was subsequently issued with an expulsion order in 1979. Felicia Langer successfully defended him from the charges in the court, which was accompanied with large scale popular actions consisting of big demonstrations and the collective resignation of all West Bank mayors.
On June 2, 1980 he became the victim of a bomb placed in his car by members of the Jewish Underground. They also planted bombs in the cars of Ibrahim Tawil, the mayor of El-Bireh, and Karim Khalaf, the mayor of Ramallah. Khalaf lost one leg, while Shakaa had to have both legs amputated. Moshe Zer, one of the first Israeli settlers in the northern West Bank, was the person who led the Jewish underground "hit team" that tried to assassinate Shakaa. Zer was convicted for causing serious injury and belonging to a terror group, but was sentenced to only four months in prison, the time he was in jail waiting for his trial, because of the state of his health and the fact that he was badly injured in an attempt of a Palestinian to murder him. The bomb was planted merely months after Ezer Weizman, Israeli defence minister at the time, threatened him with "physical harm" if he carried on with his resistance.
Following his mayorship, Shakaa remained a strong supporter of the PLO and continued his resistance against self governance under occupation. The Oslo Accords were a blow to the resistance Shakaa and his contemporaries put up against self governance during their time in mayorship and he has been as outspoken against Oslo and the PA as he was against Camp David. He remains a supporter of resistance, both violent and non-violent, against Israeli occupation and maintains his anti-normalisation position, opposing negotiations with the occupation. In 1999, the Palestinian Authority put him under house arrest following "The 20 Declaration", which was signed by twenty well-respected anti-PA figures, criticising the line the PA was going down and calling for an end to the Oslo Accords. In September 2011, he signed a petition of several Palestinian figures criticising PA president Mahmoud Abbas' move to seek recognition of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders at the United Nations as a distraction from the resistance that the Palestinian people must carry out and a move that could put Palestinian rights in danger. He is former President of the pan-Arabist Party in Palestine (al-Tayyar al-Arabi al-Qawmi fi Falasteen).
- Marion Woolfson: Bassam Shaka, portrait of a Palestinian London: Third World Centre, 1981, ISBN 0-86199-009-9
- "Two Teeth for a Tooth!" Monday, Jun. 16, 1980 Time Magazine
- Donald Neff: Jewish Terrorists Try to Assassinate Three Palestinian Mayors Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 1999, pages 87–88
- Palestinians arrested for criticicing self-rule authority BBC 28 November 1999
- The Absence of National Unity: An Interview with Bassam Shaka Arjan El Fassed, The Electronic Intifada, 29 August 2005
- Fighting words / Far from the madding crowd by Danny Rubinstein in Haaretz, 15 July 2005 (retrieved 30 Oct. 2006)
- Bassam Shaka biography