Suha Arafat, the widow of Yasser Arafat, has come out in favor of the Israel / UAE peace deal. Her dear, deceased husband, champion of anti-Israel vitriol and the creator and first leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA), must be rolling in his grave.
But Suha does not seem to care.
Mrs. Arafat also apologized to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the disrespect Palestinians have shown the UAE, UAE leaders, and UAE symbols.
A widow for over 15 years, Suha Arafat is now coming into her own and forging her own position in the Arab and Palestinian world.
She is fearless and undaunted even when taunted and threatened.
Suha did not mention any names, but she did say that while she has received threats from many Palestinians because of her pro-peace deal comments, she has not been threatened by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
On her Instagram account, Suha Arafat posted the following, “In the name of all the noble Palestinians, I am apologizing for the UAE people and leadership for the profanation [sic] and burning of their flag in Jerusalem and Palestine and for insulting the symbols of the beloved UAE.”
Suha is not by any stretch of the imagination a lover of Israel.
In fact, she has a long history of attacking Israel.
But this treaty between UAE and Israel, called the Abraham Accord, is a watershed — for her and for forward thinking members of the Arab world.
And she is not afraid to acknowledge that time has moved on and the Mideast is not the same region today as it was during her husband’s lifetime and tenure as Palestinian leader.
I was present in the room in Ramallah, less than ten feet away from Suha Arafat, when the first lady of the PA told the first lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton, that the Israelis were poisoning Palestinian youth. She went on record saying that Israel was poisoning their well water and other drinking water.
With those statements, Suha Arafat resurrected the Medieval canard that Jews took vials of poison and poured them into water sources, especially into the wells of non-Jews. An obvious untruth, the canard was responsible for centuries of tremendous Jew Hatred.
It was as untrue then as it was when Suha invoked the image in 1999.
The first, first lady of Palestine was born in Jerusalem in 1963 and then lived in the cities of Nablus and Ramallah. Her parents were both very prominent Palestinians, her mother was one of the most famous early Palestinian activists.
The family is Roman Catholic and Suha converted to Sunni Islam only to marry Yasser.
The marriage between Yasser and Suha was unconventional in many ways.
Certainly, there was the Muslim / Christian divide. There was also the age divide.
At the time of their marriage, which was at first kept secret from the globe, the bride was twenty-seven years old. The groom was 61.
The relationship began as a business arrangement. Suha was Arafat’s translator and organizer in Paris and then, in Tunisia, Suha followed and served as his private secretary.
The two had one child, a daughter name Zahwa.
After Arafat’s death Palestinian leadership believed that Suha was privy to the locations and bank accounts of the billions of dollars her husband had hidden away, money intended for public Palestinian coffers that made their way into his personal pockets.
Arafat’s political heirs promised his widow large sums of money in the form of a monthly stipend to help them find the hidden stash.
When it became clear that Suha, too, had no idea of where to find the money Palestinian leadership abandoned their promise of money and Suha, now irrelevant, was relegated to the sidelines.
She and her daughter moved to Tunisia then Paris. They are now living in Malta.
With the announcement of the Abraham Accord, Suha saw an opportunity to leap from the shadows and jump back into the limelight. She recognized a game changer and spoke her mind advocating for that change on both Egyptian TV and Israeli TV.
Advocating for the peace accord between the UAE and Israel demonstrates a true understanding of the region and the roles occupied by both Israel and the Palestinians in today’s Mideast. Suha is of the belief that more Gulf nations will jump on the peace train.
And as I write this, the White House is announcing that Bahrain has also decided to recognize Israel.
Arafat’s wife learned more from her mother than she did from her husband. There was no love lost between Suha’s mother, Raymonda Tawil, and Arafat. Tawil unabashedly challenged Yasser Arafat and the direction in which he was leading Palestinians.
She thought he was misdirected in his political and foreign policy thinking.
Some historians have attributed that public disagreement for the marriage between Suha and Yasser, contending that it was a political rather than a romantic move. Arafat coopted a vocal challenger whose daughter denied both her family and their political leanings by converting and marrying her mother’s nemesis.
Suha Arafat came forward for a reason and good for her. She is taking a stand and is not afraid of the ramifications. It’s too early to tell, but at the age of 57, Suha Arafat may be making a play for real leadership in the world of Palestinian politics.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded “The Micah Report” and hosts “Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern” a weekly TV program and “My Chopp” a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern’s Reports — More Here.
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