“Fridge bomber” named special adviser to Arafat

June 18, 2003

CONTENTS

1. "'Fridge bomber' named special adviser to Arafat" (By Khaled Abu Toameh, The Jerusalem Post)
2. "Israel freed the longest-held Palestinian prisoner" (Jordan Times, June 4, 2003)
3. "Palestinian detainee released after 27 years of captivity. Abu Sukar heads for Arafat's HQ soon after release" (Palestine Media Center, June 4, 2003)
4. "A lease of life for Fatah's inside man. Unrepentant Palestinian bomber Ahmed Jubarah gives his first interview after 28 years in Israeli jails" (By Conal Urquhart, Guardian, June 9, 2003)


“FRIDGE BOMBER” GIVEN A HERO’S WELCOME AND OFFERED A SENIOR POST IN THE PA

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach four articles relating to the "Fridge bomber", from the Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian and British media, with summaries first:

1. "'Fridge bomber' named special adviser to Arafat" (By Khaled Abu Toameh, The Jerusalem Post). "Ahmed Jbarra, the Palestinian prisoner who was released two weeks ago after planting a booby-trapped refrigerator at Jerusalem's Kikar Zion in 1975 which killed 13 people [and also killed someone else separately], has been named a special adviser to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Senior PA officials said the decision to appoint Jbarra to the new post was a "natural" one, taking into consideration his "great contribution to the Palestinian cause." Jbarra, who is a member of Fatah, was also this week appointed a member of its revolutionary council. Jbarra was released by Ariel Sharon as a goodwill gesture on the eve of the Aqaba summit. Both Arafat and Abbas (Abu Mazen) have endorsed Jbarra by giving him a hero's welcome and offering him senior posts in the PA. Last week, Jbarra was present at a press conference organized by Abbas in Ramallah. He is also a frequent visitor to Arafat's office, where he is now expected to serve as the PA chairman's special adviser."

2. Jordan Times, June 4, 2003: "Israel freed the longest-held Palestinian prisoner, a white-haired activist dubbed the 'fridge-bomber', and nearly 100 other detainees on Tuesday, a day before a US-led Israel-Palestinian summit in Aqaba. Jbarah, known by nom de guerre of Abu Al Sukkar, spent almost three decades behind bars for his conviction for detonating an explosives-laden refrigerator in Jerusalem in 1975, killing 13 people. He had been sentenced to serve 75 years for the attack and victims' relatives expressed outrage at his early release."

3. "Palestinian detainee released after 27 years of captivity. Abu Sukar heads for Arafat's HQ soon after release" (Palestine Media Center, June 4, 2003).

4. "A lease of life for Fatah's inside man. Unrepentant Palestinian bomber Ahmed Jubarah gives his first interview after 28 years in Israeli jails" (By Conal Urquhart in Ramallah, The Guardian, June 9, 2003). "He is the latest Palestinian celebrity: a 67-year-old man with flowing grey hair who has swapped an Israeli prison for the Park Hotel, the closest Ramallah has to the Ritz. As he sits in the lobby, young men and woman come to greet him and kiss him on both cheeks. They are members of the youth section of Fatah, Yasser Arafat's political organisation, who happen to have a meeting in the hotel. He is Ahmed Jubarah, a member of Fatah who has just finished a 28-year prison sentence for a bombing that killed 13 and injured 70 ... As a young man he travelled and worked all over Central and South America, and owned a supermarket in Chicago. He divorced his Colombian wife with whom he had three children, remarried and had another three children. He refused to talk about the bombing for which he was jailed, saying only, "I was in Jordan", and neither apologising nor showing remorse. ... He has little idea what he wants to do in future, but his eyes light up at the mention of travel. "I wish I could go to America. I want to visit friends in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Texas, my sister in Florida. I hope they let me enter the country." ... He has kept abreast of political changes, and since his release he has had several conversations with the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas."



FULL ARTICLES

JBARRA HAS BECOME KNOWN AS THE “PALESTINIAN NELSON MANDELA”

'Fridge bomber' named special adviser to Arafat
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post

Ahmed Jbarra, the Palestinian prisoner who was released last week after serving 28 years of a life sentence in an Israeli prison for planting a booby-trapped refrigerator at Jerusalem's Kikar Zion in 1975 and murdering 14 people, has been named a special adviser to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Senior PA officials told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to appoint Jbarra to the new post was a "natural" one, taking into consideration his "great contribution to the Palestinian cause."

Jbarra, 69, who is better known by his nom de guerre Abu al-Sukkar, was released as a goodwill gesture on the eve of the Aqaba summit, which brought together Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, and US President George W. Bush.

The officials said Arafat decided to appoint Jbarra as his special adviser for prisoners' affairs. Jbarra, who is a member of Fatah, was also appointed a member of its revolutionary council, the officials added.

Since his release from prison, Jbarra has become known as the "Palestinian Nelson Mandela," because he was the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner. Both Arafat and Abbas have endorsed Jbarra by giving him a hero's welcome and offering him senior posts in the PA.

Last week, Jbarra was present at a press conference organized by Abbas in Ramallah. He is also a frequent visitor to Arafat's office, where he is now expected to serve as the PA chairman's special adviser.

A source close to Arafat refused to say whether the appointment of Jbarra was coordinated with Abbas, who is in Jordan for eye surgery.

The PA has a Ministry for Prisoners' Affairs led by Hisham Abdel Razek, a former security prisoner from the Gaza Strip. It is not clear at this stage whether Jbarra will work under the minister or report directly to Arafat.

 

ISRAEL FREED THE LONGEST-HELD PALESTINIAN PRISONER

Israel freed the longest-held Palestinian prisoner
Jordan Times
June 4, 2003

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (R) - Israel freed the longest-held Palestinian prisoner, a white-haired activist dubbed the "fridge-bomber", and nearly 100 other detainees on Tuesday, a day before a US-led Israel-Palestinian summit in Aqaba.

Defence officials said most had been on the brink of release or were in ill health.

The prisoner release was a goodwill gesture timed to coincide with landmark talks between US President George W. Bush and Arab leaders in Egypt to promote a US-backed peace "roadmap."

The flurry of high-level diplomacy has lifted hopes for ending 32 months of bloodshed, but doubts remain over each side's commitment to implementing the peace plan.

Responding to US pressure for conciliatory moves, Israel freed dozens of prisoners in time for Bush's summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas in Aqaba on Wednesday.

Among those released was Ahmad Jbarah, at 67 the oldest Palestinian prisoner held in Israeli jails.

Jbarah, known by nom de guerre of Abu Al Sukkar, spent almost three decades behind bars for his conviction for detonating an explosives-laden refrigerator in Jerusalem in 1975, killing 13 people.

He had been sentenced to serve 75 years for the attack and victims' relatives expressed outrage at his early release.

"We are not murderers, we are not criminals, we are peace seekers," Jbarah said as he was greeted by friends and family at an army checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Detainees flashed V-for-victory signs as they were left prison in buses, and some kissed the ground when they walked free in the West Bank.

DISMISSED AS “COSMETIC MOVE”

Palestinian cabinet member Ziyad Abu Amr dismissed the prisoner release as a "cosmetic" move by Israel on the eve of Bush's meeting with Sharon and Abbas.

"We demand the release of all prisoners," he said, referring to several thousand Palestinians arrested and held without trial since the start of an uprising for independence in September 2000. Many were arrested in sweeps for suspected activists blamed for attacks on Israelis.

 

“WE ARE NOT MURDERERS, WE ARE NOT CRIMINALS, WE ARE PEACE SEEKERS”

Palestinian detainee released after 27 years of captivity
Abu Sukar heads for Arafat's HQ soon after release
PMC (Palestine Media Center)
June 4, 2003

After 27 years of incarceration, Israel released Ahmad Jbara, better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Sukar, who was welcomed by his family and a small but jubilant crowd at Kalandia roadblock, just outside of Ramallah.

The longest-serving Palestinian prisoner was freed along with 90 others held under administrative detention at a time when talks were being held between the US President and Arab leaders in Egypt to promote an internationally endorsed "roadmap" to peace.

Israel freed the Palestinian detainees a day before George W. Bush was to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon in the Red Sea Port of Aqaba.

Unlike the other released detainees, who were imprisoned without charge or trial, Abu Sukar now a 68-year-old white-haired man was convicted for detonating an explosives-ridden refrigerator in Jerusalem in 1975, rendering 13 people dead.

He spent three decades behind bars, moving to at least three Israeli prisons in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel proper.

"We are not murderers, we are not criminals, we are peace seekers," wires quoted Jbara as saying as he was greeted by friends and family at Kalandia.

Many of the freed detainees were seen flashing victory signs as they were leaving their prisons in buses and kissing the ground as soon as the were in the West Bank.

Immediately after his release, Abu Sukar met with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat at his battered Ramallah compound, where he pledged his support for the peace process.

However, he did voice sorrow for having left behind many of his prison inmates with whom he spent more time with than his own family.

"Without liberating all 10,000 prisoners there cannot be peace. I feel my freedom is incomplete because I left 10,000 people behind me in prison," he told AFP afterwards.

However, the Minister of Culture, Ziad Abu Amr, dismissed the move as "cosmetic", and demanded the release of all prisoners, referring to the more than 7,000 Palestinian lingering in Israeli prisons and military detention camps, including more than 1,000 without trial.

Israeli military sources admitted that those who were freed were already on the brink of release or were in ill health.

Nevertheless, Palestinian Minister for Prisoners Affairs said the step was "positive".

"It is a very positive step which creates a good climate for negotiations," Hisham Abdel Raziq told AFP.

"As far as I know, there are 1,700 to 2,000 members of the security branches in Israeli prisons. It is important to release them, but we are working for the release of all Palestinian prisoners," Abdel Raziq added.

Israel had released on Monday Tayseer Khaled, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee, who was arrested by Israeli occupation troops in the northern West Bank town of Nablus six months ago.

 

THE LATEST PALESTINIAN CELEBRITY

A lease of life for Fatah's inside man
Unrepentant Palestinian bomber Ahmed Jubarah gives his first interview after 28 years in Israeli jails
By Conal Urquhart in Ramallah
The Guardian
June 9, 2003

He is the latest Palestinian celebrity: a 67-year-old man with flowing grey hair who has swapped an Israeli prison for the Park Hotel, the closest Ramallah has to the Ritz. As he sits in the lobby, young men and woman come to greet him and kiss him on both cheeks. They are members of the youth section of Fatah, Yasser Arafat's political organisation, who happen to have a meeting in the hotel. He is Ahmed Jubarah, a member of Fatah who has just finished a 28-year prison sentence for a bombing that killed 13 and injured 70.

He is reluctant to relish his freedom. "I am still not free. I left Ramallah 28 years ago and I have come back and it's still under occupation. I cannot be joyous, I have left many friends in prison. Some of them have served almost as much time as me. Until they are free I will not be free."

He was found guilty of planting a bomb in a refrigerator that was then dumped in Zion Square in Jerusalem. While many of his contemporaries were freed in amnesties he became the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner, until he was released as a gesture of goodwill by the Israeli government on Tuesday.

As a young man he travelled and worked all over Central and South America, and owned a supermarket in Chicago. "But all the time I wanted to get home to Turmus Ayya," he said a village 15 miles north of Ramallah.

He divorced his Colombian wife with whom he had three children, remarried and had another three children. But returning to the West Bank meant a return to politics and the struggle against the Israeli occupation. "I have always been involved in the Palestinian struggle. I saw what happened in 1948 and later I was involved in a few things before I was arrested," he said.

He refused to talk about the bombing for which he was jailed, saying only, "I was in Jordan", and neither apologising nor showing remorse. "Have the Israelis apologised for bombing our refugee camps and cities? They never think about us. Every day they are still killing people in spite of the discussions that are going on.

"When there is peace and they say sorry for killing Palestinians, then I will apologise. When you are at war you fight and when you are at peace you support the peace. Now I just want to stop the fighting. My message to the world is: Stop this madness, let there be no more victims."

Despite being a Palestinian icon it is unlikely that Mr Jubarah is in much of a position to influence events. In the 1970s he was a Fatah footsoldier and he has been elevated by the time he has spent in prison. His call for peace, like that of most Palestinians, is equivocal. He still believes that while there is Israeli occupation there should be Palestinian resistance.

He served his sentence in seven prisons, worked-out for two to three hours every day, and studied for a school leaving certificate. He learned Hebrew and improved his command of English, Spanish and Portuguese.

He has little idea what he wants to do in future, but his eyes light up at the mention of travel. "I wish I could go to America. I want to visit friends in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Texas, my sister in Florida. I hope they let me enter the country."

For the moment his home is the Park Hotel as he gets to grips with a world that has changed enormously in 28 years.

Looking out the window at Ramallah's urban sprawl, he said: "This place has grown five times since I left. Now there are buildings with 12 floors." His eyes move to the lobby where the young activists are milling around in jeans and T-shirts. "The young people have more liberty. It is more democratic. I have seen women smoking the narghile [water pipe]. I have never seen that before. I don't know if it is a good or a bad thing."

He has kept abreast of political changes, and since his release he has had several conversations with the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

"I hope that he can get what the Palestinians need and succeed where everyone else has failed. He is a gentleman, he talks with everyone." Reluctant to divulge the nature of their conversations, he relented and said: "I told him that the most important thing was to maintain Palestinian unity. He agreed."


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.