SIXTH COLUMN

"History is philosophy teaching by example." (Lord Bolingbroke)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Woman Behind the Chairman

With the power of life and death over her husband, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, Suha Arafat holds the future of the Arab-Israeli conflict and hence the Middle East and international politics.

The daughter of a quiet banker from prominent Palestinian Catholic family in Ramallah, and a famous Palestinian woman, Suha has become controversial in her own right. Her mother,Raymonda Tawil, before her, was an outspoken writer who criticized just about everyone but became an effective propagandist for the Palestinian cause after Israel captured the West Bank.

Suha met Yasir in 1985 and they were secretly married in 1990. The Palestinian leader was 53 and she was much younger. No one has explained why they married; perhaps it was to fend criticism of an unmarried man in the Arab world. As a Christian she was not considered a safe choice, and, in spite of her conversion to Islam, she says for political reasons, she was still viewed with suspicion. Perhaps it was because she was "shy and submissive," but when a plane crash almost killed Yasir in 1992, she was treated very badly by his associates, "dumped, in her words, abandoned, already like a widow."

They spent little time together after that and she decided to take her daughter to Paris where she allegedly received a monthly allowance of $100,000, living in luxury and appears to be in business while her husband lives a spartan existence. Returning to Palestine on rare state occasions such as a visit from First Lady Hillary Clinton and at which time she told Mrs. Clinton that Israelis were "using poison gas that gave Palestinians cancer," Suha preferred to remain in Europe, spending large amounts of Western-donated money that was intended to help poor Palestinians.

The daughter of a quiet banker from prominent Palestinian Catholic family in Ramallah, and a famous Palestinian woman, Suha has become controversial in her own right. Her mother,Raymonda Tawil, before her, was an outspoken writer who criticized just about everyone but became an effective propagandist for the Palestinian cause after Israel captured the West Bank.

Suha met Yasir in 1985 and they were secretly married in 1990. The Palestinian leader was 53 and she was much younger. No one has explained why they married; perhaps it was to fend criticism of an unmarried man in the Arab world. As a Christian she was not considered a safe choice, and, in spite of her conversion to Islam, she says for political reasons, she was still viewed with suspicion. Perhaps it was because she was "shy and submissive," but when a plane crash almost killed Yasir in 1992, she was treated very badly by his associates, "dumped, in her words, abandoned, already like a widow."

They spent little time together after that and she decided to take her daughter to Paris where she allegedly received a monthly allowance of $100,000, living in luxury and appears to be in business while her husband lives a spartan existence. Returning to Palestine on rare state occasions such as a visit from First Lady Hillary Clinton and at which time she told Mrs. Clinton that Israelis were "using poison gas that gave Palestinians cancer," Suha preferred to remain in Europe, spending large amounts of Western-donated money that was intended to help poor Palestinians.

The drama becomes more bizarre with each passing hour as Suha and the Palestinian leadership squabble among themselves. It appears that the charismatic Yasir made no provision for either being incapacitated or his death. No one knows exactly what to do OR, perhaps just as important, where all that money has been stashed.

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