Adonis Diaries

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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.


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