Suha Arafat “remarries” (& anti-Hizbullah comment starts W. Bank wedding riot)

August 20, 2006


1. West Bank wedding riot after guest calls Nasrallah “a dog”
2. Suha Arafat “remarries”
3. Palestinian babies being named after Hizbullah
4. Syria continues to arm Hizbullah
5. War cost Israel $5.1 billion
6. Iranian cleric: We’ll hit Tel Aviv over “iota” of Israeli aggression
7. Iran launches exhibition of cartoons mocking the Holocaust
8. “Essay by intellectual spurs debate on Hezbollah leaders” (By Rana Fil, Aug. 14, 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]


Two Palestinian families attacked each other with knives and clubs at a wedding last week after one guest cursed the leader of Lebanon’s Hizbullah terrorist group. Seven people were seriously wounded, according to Palestinian security officials.

It took Palestinian police three hours to break up the brawl that erupted in the village of Aqada near the West Bank town of Jenin after a critic called Sheik Hassan Nasrallah “a dog,” they said.


According to rumors sweeping the Middle East, Yasser Arafat’s widow Suha has married the Tunisian president’s brother-in-law, Belhassen al-Trabulsi. Al-Trabulsi had been due to marry Suha’s sister, but instead is said to have chosen Suha because of her large fortune.

The rumors started after a Tunisian website reported on August 16 that Suha Arafat secretly married al-Trabulsi, a brother-in-law of Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, a number of days ago. Arab commentators have noted that it is fitting that the widow of the former Palestinian Authority dictator married someone close to power.

Two years ago, after Arafat’s death, Suha was personally promised an annual stipend of $22 million to cover her lifestyle and household expenses by PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ staff.

Senior Palestinian figures say they were forced to come to a deal with Suha, after she instructed her lawyers to use French law to prevent PA members from visiting Arafat as he lay dying, or to take decisions on disconnecting his life support machine, until she received a financial commitment from them.

The money given to Suha comes from the “secret fortune” of the PA, managed personally by the PA president. The fortune is widely believed to be worth over $4 billion, and is kept in bank accounts in London and Zurich. (For more, see Suha Arafat, TVs for the World Cup, and Gaza’s so-called “humanitarian crisis” June 13, 2006.)

Suha, who was awarded citizenship by France, has denied Arab press reports that she married al-Trabulsi. She divides her time between Paris and Tunis.

Arafat died in Paris at the age of 75 in 2004. (For more, see Yasser Arafat, ‘the stuff of legends’.)


The Associated Press reports that many Palestinians are naming their newly born babies “Hizbullah” after the Lebanese militia group. Nahed Ghurani, a wealthy Gaza merchant, said he was proud that his new son would be called Hizbullah Ghurani. “My wife wanted to call the baby Nasrallah, but I wanted Hizbullah to commemorate the entire resistance not only its leader,” he said.

At least five other babies born in recent days at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital have been called Hizbullah, which means “Party of Allah.”

Other babies are being named after the Hizbullah leader. In Shifa Hospital, at least six Palestinian women have named their babies Hassan, Nasrallah, or Hassan Nasrallah, according to maternity records since the fighting began last month.

In Gaza, as in many parts of the Arab and Muslim world, Nasrallah has seen his popularity rise dramatically by “defeating” Israel.

Ghurani said he also tried to change his 6-year-old son’s name from Islam to Nasrallah, but “couldn’t find the right papers.”

“The next son we’ll call him Ahmadinejad,” Ghurani said, in honor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the complete annihilation of Israel.

During the Gulf war, many Palestinians named their children Saddam.

More than 120 babies born during the war have been named after Nasrallah in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, according to the official registrar there.


Israel is failing to prevent Syria from rearming Hizbullah, according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. The paper cites a senior Israeli army source as saying that while it has had some success in stopping arms shipments, supply convoys have managed to bring armaments from Syria into Lebanon. These include anti-tank missiles and rockets of the kind that the group used to kill Israeli civilians.


While many western media continue to report on the cost of the recent war to Lebanon, few have reported on the cost of the conflict to the party that was attacked first, Israel.

The Israeli financial newspaper, The Marker (which is published by Ha’aretz) reports that the war in Lebanon will cost Israel $5.1 billion. This includes the cost of fighting, of rebuilding, and of reimbursing businesses and residents for damage suffered, and an anticipated 1.5% drop in the gross domestic product.

In addition to loss of life and hundreds of severe injuries sustained by Israeli civilians, many residential and commercial buildings were badly damaged in the Hizbullah attacks across northern Israel.

In Kiryat Shmona, the walls of some buildings and homes remain riddled with pockmarks from the thousands of metal ball bearings that exploded from the warheads of Katyusha rockets, and chunks of roads and sidewalks have been torn away. There has also been significant crop damage and tourism to Israel fell 25 percent in July.

Over 500,000 Israeli civilians were displaced or affected directly by the war. Over 4,000 Hizbullah rockets landed in Israel. 158 Israelis, including several children, were killed, and over 5,000 Israelis injured, some severely. Many more are still being treated for shock and distress.

Israel moved its civilians out of danger quickly and efficiently, thereby preventing much higher loss of life from the Hizbullah rocket attacks. This contrasts greatly with southern Lebanon, where civilians were used as human shields by Hizbullah, and in some cases even physically prevented from fleeing at gunpoint.


A hard-line Iranian cleric, citing Hizbullah’s success in firing rockets against Israel during the month-long war, warned Israel on Tuesday that Iran’s 2,000-kilometer missiles would land in Tel Aviv if Israel “makes an iota of aggression against Iran,” state-run Iranian television reported.

Ahmad Khatami, a Friday prayer leader in Teheran and a member of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical panel that has the power to choose or dismiss Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran would “turn Israel into a country of ghosts.”

This morning (Sunday) Iran test-fired a surface-to-surface short-range missile while a military training plane crashed outside the capital Teheran after catching fire, Iranian television reported.

Iran said its new military exercises launched yesterday are being held in 14 of the country’s 30 provinces and could last as long as five weeks.

Arms experts say Iran’s Shahab-3 missiles have a maximum range of around 2,000 km (1,240 miles), meaning they are capable of hitting Israel as well as U.S. military bases in the Gulf.


An exhibition of 204 cartoons mocking the Holocaust opened in Teheran last week.

The display was strongly influenced by the views of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly called the Holocaust a “myth.”

The entries on display came from several countries other than Iran, including the United States, Indonesia and Turkey. One cartoon by Indonesian Tony Thomdean shows the Statue of Liberty holding a book on the Holocaust in its left hand, and giving a Nazi-style salute with the other.

The exhibition was sponsored by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri, and Holocaust experts noted its similarity to the anti-Semitic cartoons published in German and Austrian papers in the run-up to World War Two.

The exhibition runs until September 13, and the winner will receive $12,000. The exhibition hall is next to the Palestinian Authority’s embassy, which was Israel’s diplomatic site in Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

I attach one article below.

-- Tom Gross



Essay by intellectual spurs debate on Hezbollah leaders
By Rana Fil,
Boston Globe
August 14, 2006

When Mona Fayad saw Lebanon engulfed in violence, she couldn’t keep silent. The psychology professor at Lebanese University did something almost no Shi’ite intellectual dares to do in Beirut, at least in public: criticize Hezbollah.

In a scathing essay titled “To be a Shi’ite now,” Fayad attacked fellow Shi’ites who, she says, blindly follow the leadership of Hezbollah on a path she described as “no different from suicide.”

Her bold and unusual stance has sparked debate in the daily newspaper An-Nahar, where it was published, and it has made Fayad something of a celebrity.

“What does it mean to be a Shi’ite for the majority of Shi’ites now, at this critical period?” Fayad wrote. “It means entrusting your fate to the wise and infallible leadership without daring to ask any question.”

To be a Shi’ite now “is to block your mind” and let Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, “command you, drive you, decide for you what he wants from the weapons of Hezbollah, and force on you a victory that is no different from suicide,” Fayad wrote. “To be a Shi’ite and dare such writing and such thinking means that you are a collaborator and a traitor.”

Since then, Fayad has been inundated with calls and e-mails from friends and strangers . “People thank me, encourage me, and ask me if I am scared,” Fayad said. “But I am not scared because I live in a country where a bomb can fall on my head at any time, so I want to express my opinion.”

Fayad’s essay gave vent to some of the frustration and anger that have built up among many Shi’ites. Although largely symbolic when measured against the widespread Shi’ite embrace of Hezbollah, the piece offers a glimpse of the debate taking place among intellectuals.

An-Nahar’s opinion page editor, Jihad al-Zein, who published the essay, said the piece has prompted a passionate reaction. “People are calling me from places as far away as the United States or the Gulf countries to comment,” Zein said. “There is vitality in the debate.”

Zein, a Shi’ite intellectual, had stirred passions a few weeks ago when he wrote an open letter to Khamenei in which he questioned Iran’s use of Shi’ite groups in the Middle East to advance Tehran’s political interests without regard to the consequences for local Shi’ites.

Zein is being flooded with responses to Fayad’s piece, so he publishes them to keep the debate alive.

“I, the Lebanese citizen from the south, a Shi’ite displaced in my country for calculations and adventures forced on me, I declare supporting Fayad,” Ismail Sharafeddine, a Shi’ite intellectual, wrote. “And I will say more: To be a Shi’ite is to demand accountability from those who took this adventure that led to the displacement of a million people.”

But not everyone has appreciated Fayad’s writing. In a toughly worded response, Nayef Krayyem, another Shi’ite intellectual, wrote that for Fayad, the Shi’ite is supposed to prevent Hezbollah “from building a force capable of maintaining the dignity of opinion if Israel thinks of stealing from us the dignity of life.”

“It is forbidden to be strong near Israel and if you dare, you have to pay a price you never paid before and to suffer in a way you never suffered before,” Krayyem wrote.

Fayad’s article has broken a longstanding taboo in the Shi’ite community. “People have been lying to themselves, afraid of Hezbollah because it is loaded with weapons but it is time to stand up and ask why,” Fayad said.

“We’ve been forced to shut up for decades because we are at war but we have to speak in critical periods so that the leaders know who are with them and who are not,” Fayad said. “The future of Lebanon is at stake.”

Fayad is not discouraged by the criticism. “If I get to the point where I can’t write what I believe in, life has no meaning.”

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