Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 29th, 2011

What is this French Academy? Who is Amine Maaluf?

The French Academy (L’ Academie Francaise) for the illustrious literary individuals who wrote in French (regardless of origin, genders, or religious affiliation) was instituted by the Cardinal Richelieu who was the Prime Minister of the monarch Louis 13 in the 16th century.

Among the  pantheon of the literary figures you find, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Poincare, Alexander Dumas the Son (of African descent), Leopold Cedar Segor (Senegal), Asia Jabbar (Algeria)…Amine Maaluf (Lebanon) was inducted a member two week ago. (He will officially deliver his speech and get the chair, exactly a year later)

Amine Maaluf joined the Lebanese daily Al Nahar at the age of 22 in the foreign section.  He used to bring a book to work and read it hidden under the desk.

Amine undertook trips to Vietnam, Ethiopia, Haiti…to cover events.

You cannot be a successful journalist if you fail to read books everyday!  For example, how could we comprehend the Napoleonic war against Russia if we fail to read “War and Peace” of Tolstoy, or about France if we failed to read Balzac, or about Italy without Luigi Bazetti...?

Amine Maaluf was born in a small village of Lebanon (Ain Kabo) and immigrated to France in 1976, as the civil war in Lebanon set in.  He wrote many books about Lebanon, Iran, the Crusaders, his Origin…

How can we feel the feudal system in Lebanon without “The Boulder of Tanios“, or the century of Omar Khayyam in Iran, or how the Arab viewed the Crusaders at the time, or how the Lebanese immigrated and prospered overseas…

Maaluf earned the French Goncour Prize for “The Boulder of Tanios” (Sakhrat Tanios) and the Spanish Literary Prize.

His productions were translated in over 20 languages.  I read all his books in the original French language (about a dozen books) and reviewed extensively many of them in English, in my blog under “Book Review” category.

Many Lebanese authors wrote in foreign languages and were famous.  For example, Jubran Khalil Jubran “The Prophet” (the highest read in the USA after the Bible), Amine Rihani who corresponded with the New York Times in the 20’s and wrote “Khaled” and many other books, Andre Chedid, George Shehadeh, Salah Stitieh

Note 1: This article was inspired by the article of the Lebanese journalist Samir Attallah, published in the daily Al Nahar (June 29, 2011)

Note 2: This Nov. 10, 2013, Amine presented his latest book during the exhibition of French book production in BIEL (convention place in Beirut), and the President of Lebanon offered him the Medal of Honor during a reception.

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Any news of Soha Tawil Arafat?  Wife of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat?

This article describes the life of Soha Arafat from the day she met Yasser Arafat to the day she entered Gaza, in company of her husband Yasser.  You may read of Soha Tawil Arafat upbringing in the link attached to the note.

In 1987, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip started the first Intifada, known as the “The war of stones” against Israel occupation forces.  This summer, the entire family of Tawil are in vacation in Amman (Jordan) and pay a visit to Arafat:  Diana, the eldest sister, is the wife of the PLO representative Ibrahim Souss in Paris.

The PLO had moved from Beirut and Lebanon to Tunisia as Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 and surrounded Beirut.  After the Palestinian militias vacated Beirut, Israel forces entered Beirut and committed the genocide in the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila for three nights and two days on unarmed civilians.

Soha meets Arafat again in Algeria in November 1988 during the National Palestinian Council (parliament), a critical assembly because Arafat has to defend his status against many opposition factions.  Arafat speech satisfies the pre-requisites of the US and European States for starting a dialogue to the establishment of a Palestinian State.

Consequently, Arafat is on official visit in Paris, in May 1989, to discuss procedures with President Mitterrand.  The PLO bureau designate Soha to be Arafat translator and host, taking care of all protocol details. Arafat falls in love with Soha, and it is reciprocated.  When Arafat opens his eyes in the morning he demands: “Where is Soha?” and wanted to meet with her immediately.

Soha is aware that her closeness with Arafat as “economic advisor” will force Israel to denies her visits to her family in Jerusalem. Soha visits to Tunisia were frequent and Arafat allocated her a small house, one among many that belonged to Arafat on Tozeur Street in El Menzah.  Arafat barely visited that house, but when he did for occasional dinners, it was a horrible security undertaking.. Soha was 24 of age and accompanied Arafat to Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Belgrade…

One day, Arafat was taking a second look at the preparation for an official visit when he popped up the question: “Soha, I want to marry you. My intentions are pure and honest.”  Soha, 27 of age, accepted, but Arafat warned her: “Our wedding must remain a secret for a while.”  “What about my parents?’ replied Soha.  “In due time.  With the Intifada going and the Israeli repressions, the Palestinians will not swallow a happy event.”  Thus, Soha was married in secrecy on July 17, 1990 in Tunisia in the presence of two witnesses and an Imam:  She had to keep the role and image of advisor to the outside world.

Soha, a Christian Greek Orthodox converted to Islam, but kept going to church.  Arafat was the only Arabic leader to decree Christmas an official holiday, as well as January 7, because it is Christmas for the Greek Orthodox.

The irony was that, while married, many important Arabic and African leaders and personalities would approach Arafat to demand his approval for the hand of Soha.  When the airplane of Arafat vanished from the screen as he was returning from Sudan to Tunisia, the Palestinian leaders kept Soha in the dark, with no feedback on his whereabouts.  The two pilots sacrificed their lives by deciding to dive, so that Arafat, sitting in the back of the plane with his bodyguards, might have a chance to survive.  Arafat survived with serious concussion that requited urgent surgery a month later.

It is September 1993 and Soha is readying to leave with her husband to Washington DC for the signing of the “peace treaty”.

A Palestinian minister, at the headquarters of the Palestinian Resistance Movement (PLO) in Tunisia, summons Soha to his office: Arafat insisted that Soha was to join him, but the jealous Palestinian leaders, especially Mahmoud Abbas (current Palestinian President), refused to validate their visas at the US embassy until Soha desist from joining the team.

Soha has to bow down this first time and agrees to call off her invitation to the First lady Hillary Clinton.  Reporters flocked to Tunisia to interview Soha, and she watched the ceremony on TV.

Arafat will never forgive his ministers for the slap and will take Soha everywhere he goes on State visits from then on.

It is July 1994 in Gaza.  A small building of two floors, on the coast by Gaza City, was selected in July 1994 to be Yasser Arafat’s headquarter as he is expected to return to Palestine after the Oslo Agreement.  The building was an old Israeli military post attached to the navy.

The upper level is for the private use of Arafat and his new wife Soha.  The lower floor is for receiving the stream of people for requests, recommendations, and checks signed by Arafat.  In a few hours, Arafat is to fly to Norway and receive the Nobel Award for peace, along with Rabin (Israel PM) and Peres (Foreign affairs minister).

In this July 1994, Soha is pregnant, and Arafat already has this piece of intelligence from the physician Tibi, before Soha breaks in the news.  Arafat is generally one step ahead of most Arab State leaders in receiving pieces of intelligence. The couple rides a Mercedes at 5 am heading to the airport of Al Arish in Egypt.  It is a two-hours drive in bad roads to the border post of Rafah (by Egypt, and barely a 50-kilometers from Gaza City), passing by angry Israeli colonies, and the accompanying security vehicles are moving full speed: Arafat had skipped an attempt to his life a few weeks ago.

Eleven hours later, the couple lands in Oslo and are welcomed by a committee of the Nobel Institute, along with a sworm of journalists and photographers. Arafat jokes to Soha: “You are attracting the photographers and eclipsing me.”  The Institute is composed of 9 academics, including two women. The first official dinner was served at the 12th floor of the hotel. Soha is allocated a place facing Lea Rabin, while Arafat is on the right side of Lea.

“Lea is suggesting that I give birth at Hachomer hospital in Tel Aviv.  I swore that my first priority was to create a quality clinic in Gaza for pregnant Palestinian women.”  During the official ceremony, Rabin and Peres deliver true propaganda speeches, talking of the Jewish character of Jerusalem… Arafat reads a poetic speech, written by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwich.  Arafat speech focused on the zeal that Norway foreign minister Holst spent during the hard negotiation, and Arafat received a long ovation from the audience.

When Sharon PM of Israel prevented Arafat from getting out of his headquarter in Ramallah, Palestinian personalities started a wave of rumors that Soha is leading the great life in Paris and spending plenty of money…Do you have any news of Soha? What are her occupations and interests?

Note 1: In a previous article I wrote about Raymonda Hawa Tawil, the mother of Soha Arafat, and provided an overview of Soha’s upbringing https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/fighting-from-the-inside-who-is-raymonda-hawa-tawil-the-pasionaria-of-nablus/

Note 2: I just read in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar that Suha (this Tuesday Nov. 1) is living in the island of Malta since 2007.  The Tunisian government wants to prosecute Soha for establishing a university in Tunisia with the help of the wife of former dictator Ben Ali.  Suha replied that she had sold all her shares in 2007  to the daughter of the dictator’s wife Trabulsi.

Demography explains hope in future: How Empires decline?

In general, history stories are recounted Hollywood-style, packed with actions, heroes, traitors, smart generals, and farsighted leaders and monarchs.  Empires decline due to steady decrease in demography rate.

The Moslem Ibn Khaldoun, in 15th century North Africa and considered to be the first sociologist and ethnographer, wrote that as people lose hope for a better future to their descendants, they decrease the procreation rate; conversely, in periods of high hope, population increases.”

If you revisite history stories, you can link, with high positive correlation, between periods of luxury and fast and increase in procreation. It is basically a mass perception of predicting the short-term evolution for survival.

For example, France was the most populous nation in Europe in the 18th century, until people started reducing procreation, which affected the process of holding on to colonies.  The Napoleonic wars exacerbated this perception of instability and insecurity. It was useless giving birth so that children are sent to wars for no return in profit or hope of a better future.

You might offer a counterpoint: “How come after 70 years of slow and steady holocaust process, inflicted by the Zionist movement (Israel State) on the Palestinian people, this strategy did not slow the increased procreation of the Palestinians?”  My conjecture is that most Palestinians live in camps: Camp life would be too depressing if devoid of kids playing, laughing, and cheering up the camp.  The more kids are playing around the more hope is sustained.

Camp life creates community supports and discrepancies among classes are not noticeable to prevent sharing the little that families have, and to caring for kids of neighboring families.

Another example relates to demography in South Lebanon.

Even during the French mandate to Lebanon (1919-1943) the Zionist movement planned and schemed to extend the northern borders of the future State of Israel (recognized in 1948) to the Litany River.  The successive Lebanese governments, since Lebanon Independence in 1943, ruled as if South Lebanon was of no concern to them: no funds and no budgets were allocated to infrastructures, schools, hospitals or any kinds of development.

Then, in 1969, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and headed by Yasser Arafat, and with the support of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser forced Lebanon to allocate a portion of South Lebanon (Al Arkoub) an autonomous status to the PLO.  Israel was pleased with this new situation and bombed the villages in the south on pretense of reacting to the presence of the PLO.

The “inhabitants” in south Lebanon started to vacate their villages and flocked to the suburbs of Beirut (Al Dahiah). With the civil war that started in 1975, the PLO was ruling as the de facto State in South Lebanon. Regular mass immigrations to Africa and elsewhere set in. South Lebanon was in the steady process of depleting of its inhabitants, which should have satisfied Israel’s great dream.

Then, Israel decided on the worst strategic blunder ever: Israel of Begin PM and Sharon invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Israeli army entered Beirut, and the military wings of the PLO were chased out to Tunisia, and thus freeing south Lebanon from the hold of the PLO.  Israel resumed its blunder and decided to occupy south Lebanon for 25 years.

That is how a purely Lebanese Resistance to occupation, constituted from many political parties started in full fledge. The regime of Khomeini in Iran extended new religious zeal, an ideology, organization, training and arms to a Shiia splintered faction of AMAL named Hezbollah.  The tide had turned.  Israel was forced to vacate south Lebanon unilaterally in 2000.  The Lebanese returned to their villages with greater hope in the future.

Israel tried another attempt in 2006 to chase out Lebanese from the south during an intensive and savage 33 days war.  Israel covered the land with over 3 millions cluster bombs imported from Tony Blair of England.  The purpose was to scare people off from returning to the south.

The day the UN declared cease-fire, people returned the same day to the south and didn’t wait from the government declaring the trip safe.  Makeshift bridges were erected (Israel had bombed out all bridges and highways) and where cars and trucks could not cross then walking was as good.

Currently, the border villages in Lebanon are witnessing boom in tourism and tourist facilities, yards away from Israeli tanks and border patrols.  The tide has turned. Israel may launch another savage and devastating pre-emptive war in Lebanon, but the game is over: hope in south Lebanon is high for a better future while Israel is experiencing the worst period in lost hope for a stable Israeli State.

Israeli is reverting to its ghetto mentality and holding on to biblical archaic myths and laws.

Note: TheSChiaa population in Lebanon is over 60%, and increasing at a higher rate than the other 17 other religious sects.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

June 2011
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