Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Raymonda Hawa Tawil

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

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.

Fighting from the inside: Who is Raymonda Hawa Tawil? Pasionaria of Nablus?

Raymonda Hawa Tawil is the mother of Soha Arafat, wife of Yasser Arafat (the late leader of the Palestinian Resistance Movement).  The grand, grand father of Raymonda owned the citadel of Montfort in the coastal city of Akka (Palestine); the citadel is currently reverted to a museum.  Raymonda lived among the Jews and the Israelis till the age of 17 between the cities of Akka, Nazareth, and Haifa.

In 1948, the year Israel was recognized by the UN as a State by a majority of only one vote, Raymonda has 8 years.  Christmas, the mother of Raymonda, was born in the USA from a Palestinian immigrant family at the dawn of the 20th century.  Christmas returned to Kfar Yassif (Palestine) the town of her father.  Christina divorced but had to leave her daughter Raymonda and the other two sons (George and Youssef) at the care of the father, according to the Ottoman civil laws.  Christina had to wait till 1948 to see her daughter again.

According to the UN partition of Palestine in 1948, the region of Galilee was to belong to the Palestinian State.  Galilee was mostly populated by Greek Orthodox and was the bastion of Palestinian nationalism. The Israelis attacked Nazareth, and Raymonda (8 year-old) had to hide in the cave of a Catholic women religious monastery, where her father has left her to acquire education. Since Christina was believed to be dead, Raymonda was assigned in the orphans section.

Christina joined the Red Cross and landed in Akka to search for her daughter. Christina knocked at the door of the monastery in Nazareth and reclaimed her daughter, against the total reluctance of the “sisters”. Raymonda was relocated to another Christian religious institution in Haifa with majority of Jewish students. The father of Raymonda had fled to Lebanon and then returned to fetch his daughter, who was now in the custody of Christina.

The educational environment was far more liberal and freer from old customs than in Nazareth.  Raymonda learns Hebrew, read the Journal of Anne Frank, and her best friend was the Jew Drora.

Drora invited Raymonda to have lunch at her house.  Raymonda discovered that the family of Drora was living in her aunt’s house, who had fled to Lebanon 5 years ago.  The mother of Drora explained to Raymonda that the house was allocated by the Israeli government, and when her aunt will be permitted to return to Haifa the family will vacate the premises.  The mother of Drora is Polish, lived in the Warsow ghetto, and was incarcerated in Auschwitz.

Raymonda is relocated to St. Joseph school in the Israeli section of Jerusalem in 1954.  The brothers of Raymonda live in the West Bank section of Jerusalem, a few hundred yards away, where they study in a missionary school.

In 1957, Raymonda decided to live in the Palestinian West Bank: Her parents accompanied her to the demarcation line of Jerusalem, the “Mandelbaum Door” (the door of the ruined shop belonging to a certain Mandelbaum still remained).

Raymonda was very engaged in the struggle against Israel occupation of the Palestinian lands. In 1967, Israel invaded the town of Nablus in Galilee.  Soha was 5 year-old and lived in a beautiful house in the Rafidya quarter.  The family constituted of the father Daoud, mother Raymonda, the daughters Diana, Leila, Soha, Hala, and Gaby were confined in their domicile: “Stay in your houses. We shoot at sight after curfiew” was what the Israeli loudspeakers emitted frequently.  Raymonda was considered as the “Pasionaria of Nablus“.

Raymonda waged two struggles simultaneously: One front was against Israel occupation, and the second front was resisting the archaic customs of the Orient reserved to women.

Nablus was a hotbed for the emerging Feddayins sneaking in to Palestine and the resisting inhabitants within Nablus.  From April 1962 to Juin 1967, around 2, 635 Palestinian houses were demolished by Israel because one member of the family cooperated with the Palestinian Resistance Movement that started in 1962.

In 1968, the first stricly women demonstration took to the street demanding the release of 30 girls of age less than 20:  Most of these Palestinian girls were violently beaten and tortured.  Haja Andalib el-Amad was behind the march. Raymonda cotacted the Israeli press who were surprised to see these veiled detained girls exhibiting the injuries and contusions in their legs in front of cameras.  In the afternoon, another women demonstration was dispersed by the Israeli soldiers, but this time around, images of brutality were transmitted live around the world

Raymonda was the only Palestinian person in Nablus to converse in Hebrew and also the only woman to driving a car.  She braved the orders of the Israel military governor and organized peaceful marches and inviting the foreign press to her house.

The house of Raymonda received Nahum Goldman (President of World Jewish Congress), Uri Avneri (then deputy of the Israeli daily Haolam Hazeb), Eliezer Berri, Naomi Gal, Mario Soares (later President of Portugal), Herbert Marcuse, Eric de Rothschild (a counselor to president Mitterrand , Jean-Paul Sartre  Simone de Beauvoir, Lord Carradon (who wrote the UN resolution 242)…

Raymonda was under house arrest for 4 months.  Later, Raymonda experience jail life when Shimon Peres was Defense minister.

The first Palestinian Intifada that started around 1987 and lasted for 7 years: Palestinian kids threw stones at Israeli soldiers who were hiding behind tanks. Raymonda’s house and her press agency in Jerusalem were the focal points for foreign journalists and political players.  When Israel closed down her press agency in Jerusalem, Raymonda moved her activities to Paris:  She had a vast network of informants in the occupied territories and stories from Israeli peace activists.  Raymonda sent Arafat the latest news dispatched from inside Palestine.

In 1981, Soha flies to Paris to continue her education. Within 3 months, Soha feels the urge to return to the West Bank.  Raymonda tells Soha: “Don’t move. I am joining you in Paris.” But Soha had made up her mind:  She planned to resume her study at Bir Zeit university in Ramallah. Raymonda encouraged Hala

Hala, the younger daughter of Raymonda is engaged politically, and never misses a demonstration against the Israeli occupation.  Hala and her brother Gaby used to tour the schools to encite for demonstrations on particular occasions.  The “sisters” of the institution phoned the father of Hala to come and impress upon his daughter to desists.

Instead, Daoud made a speech to the students on Palestine history and conditions of occupation.  The other time was for Raymonda to confront the school administration.  The school had decided to eject Hala and raymonda said: “You have two alternatives: Either you retain Hala or I tranfer my two daughters Soha and Hala.”  Thus, Soha was transfered from the Rosary Sisterhood school to St. Joseph institute

Raymonda encouraged Hala to join Soha to studying in Paris in 1982.  Soha and Hala joined demonstrations in Paris for the oppressed people in Chili, South Africa… They plastered the photos of their leader Yasser Arafat in the university walls:  An extremist Jewish group, the Betar,  used to tear the photos down, only to be replaced the next day.

Note 1: Information gathered from the French book “Soha Arafat, child of Palestine” by Gerard Sebag

Note 2: The father of Soha had packed all the members of his family in his Hambar and traveled to Jaffa in order to see his birth place.  The house and the vast garden was occupied by an Israeli family.  Nothing had changed in the place, except that the garden was not tended and cared for.

Daoud had left the house in 1940 when he was transferred by the Ottoman Bank to Amman.  Daoud family joined him in Amman in 1948 as the Israeli invaded the city.  Daoud recalled that even in the 30’s the Palestinian kids threw stones at the new Jewish immigrants and blew their car tires as the Jews drove from Tel Aviv to Jaffa.

In April 1948, the military arms of the Irgoun and Haganah attacked Jaffa. The confrontation lasted 15 days. When the Israelis entered, only 5,000 of the 70,000 Palestinians remained in the city.  The other inhabitants had fled to Gaza, thinking that they would return within a week!




November 2022

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