Zuheir Mohsen

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Zuheir Mohsen
Native name زهير محسن
Born 1936
Tulkarm, Mandatory Palestine
Died 25 July 1979
Cannes, France
Cause of death Assassinated
Nationality Palestinian
Occupation Leader of the pro-Syria as-Sa'iqa faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
Political party Ba'ath party

Zuheir Mohsen (Arabic: زهير محسن‎; 1936 – 25 July 1979) was a Palestinian leader of the pro-Syria as-Sa'iqa faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) between 1971 and 1979. Previously active as a refugee in the Jordanian wing of the Ba'ath Party, he was chosen for this position after defense minister Hafez al-Assad's 1969–70 takeover in Syria, which he had supported against the previously dominant government of Salah Jadid. Mohsen was also a member of the National Command of the Ba'ath Party.[1]

Early life

Mohsen was born in Tulkarm, Mandatory Palestine, now in the northern West Bank, where his father was the mukhtar (head of the town).[2] He became involved in political activity at a young age, joining the Ba'ath party at the age of 17.[3] Mohsen trained as a teacher but lost his job in 1957 after being arrested for "subversive activity". He subsequently spent time in Qatar, from where he was eventually deported as a result of his political activity, before making his way to Damascus where he helped form as-Sa'iqa.[3]

Mohsen rose to the position of heading as-Sa'iqa thanks to his close links to Assad, who after taking power in Syria purged the movement of its leftist elements (bringing it ideologically closer to Fatah) and appointed Mohsen as its General Secretary.[4]

Political views

Mohsen essentially followed the line of as-Sa'iqa's Syrian Ba'athist ideology (Mohsen himself being al-Saiqa's leader under the control of the Ba'athist government of Syria under Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad), which interpreted the Palestinian question through a perspective of pan-Arab nationalism - despite the fact that in some respects this contravened the PLO charter, which affirms the existence of a Palestinian people with national rights, corresponding with this it is noted that hostility existed between the main Fatah faction of the PLO under Yasser Arafat and the Syrian Ba'ath party of Hafez al-Assad (which in turn supported Palestinians like Zuheir Mohsen and the Ba'athist al-Saiqa faction of the PLO) on this issue. Mohsen himself was in fact both a leader of the Syrian Ba'ath party controlled al-Saiqa faction of the PLO and a Palestinian member of the Syrian Ba'ath party's own National Command in the present day nation of Syria itself. Making Zuheir Mohsen uniquely both a PLO leader and an official in the ideologically Pan-Arabist Syrian Ba'ath party at the same time. As such, he stated that there were "no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese", though Palestinian identity would be emphasised for political reasons. This originated in a March 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw:[5] “ Between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese there are no differences. We are all part of ONE people, the Arab nation. Look, I have family members with Palestinian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Syrian citizenship. We are ONE people. Just for political reasons we carefully underwrite our Palestinian identity. Because it is of national interest for the Arabs to advocate the existence of Palestinians to balance Zionism. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel and for Arab unity.

A separate Palestinian entity needs to fight for the national interest in the then remaining occupied territories. The Jordanian government cannot speak for Palestinians in Israel, Lebanon or Syria. Jordan is a state with specific borders. It cannot lay claim on - for instance - Haifa or Jaffa, while I AM entitled to Haifa, Jaffa, Jerusalem and Beersheba. Jordan can only speak for Jordanians and the Palestinians in Jordan. The Palestinian state would be entitled to represent all Palestinians in the Arab world en elsewhere. Once we have accomplished all of our rights in all of Palestine, we shouldn't postpone the unification of Jordan and Palestine for one second. ”

The journalist Robert Fisk was to claim that al-Saiqa, under Mohsen, was to employ its energies "almost exclusively against their brother Palestinians",[6] stating that in June 1976 he saw "the PLO in open combat within West Beirut against al-Saiqa, who had attacked Arafat's forces on orders from Damascus."[7] Mohsen's militia has also been accused of being amongst the main perpetrators of the January 1976 Damour massacre, while some Lebanese Christian sources have suggested Mohsen led the attack on the town.

Assassination

Mohsen was killed by gunshots to his head as he left a casino in Cannes on 27 July 1979 and walk towards the apartment. Although the attack was blamed by various sources on Mossad, Palestinians and possibly Egypt, the gunmen were never identified.[5]

Notes

  1. ^ Brecher, Michael. Studies in Crisis Behavior. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1979. p. 257
  2. ^ Rayyis and Nahas, Guerrillas for Palestine, Taylor & Francis, p.145
  3. ^ a b Rayyis and Nahas, p.144
  4. ^ Hiro, D. Inside the Middle East, Routledge, 1982, p.153
  5. ^ West, Nigel (15 August 2017). Encyclopedia of Political Assassinations. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 168. ISBN 978-1-538-10239-8. 

References

  1. ^ Thomas L. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (HarperCollins Publishers, 1998, 2nd ed.), p. 118

External links

  • 1973 interview with Mohsen (including photograph)
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