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)
Years active 8 years
Political party
Syrian Ba'ath party

Zuheir Mohsen (Arabic: زهير محسن‎, also transcribed Zuhayr Muħsin or Zahir Muhsein; 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 Hafed al-Assad's 1969–70 takeover in Syria, which he had supported against the previously dominant regime of Salah Jadid. Mohsen was also a member of the National Command of the Syrian Ba'ath Party.[1]

Early life[edit]

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[edit]

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]

Statements like this demonstrate a conception of a pan-Arabist identity (advocated by some) that seeks a united Arab world (seeking one, large united Arab state spanning today's Fertile Crescent and Middle East region), in particular a recreation of a Greater Syria (Syria al-Kubra in Arabic). Doctrines like this are most clearly explained and stated by Arab political groups like the Ba'ath party (that rules Syria and once ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein) and the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) that operates in today's modern nations of Syria and Lebanon (with the support of the official Syrian government in Damascus).

Also regarding pan-Arabist views and statements, like those cited from Zuheir Mohsen, the following should be noted. Many groups within the PLO held more of a pan-Arab view than Fatah, and Fatah itself has never clearly renounced Arab nationalism in favour of a strictly Palestinian nationalist ideology. Still, the PLO has with few exceptions remained fully committed to the cause of Palestine, with even its most fervently pan-Arabist members justifying this by claiming that the Palestinian struggle must be the spearhead of a wider, pan-Arab movement. This was true, for example, in the case of the Marxist PFLP, which not only viewed the "Palestinian revolution" as the first step to Arab unity, but also as inseparable from a global anti-imperialist struggle.

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.

Mohsen is very well for known for making the following statement as well.

The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.


[8]

Notes[edit]

  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. ^ James Dorsey, Wij zijn alleen Palestijn om politieke reden, Trouw, 31 March 1977
  6. ^ Fisk, R. Pity the Nation, OUP, 2001, p.75
  7. ^ Fisk, pp.80-81
  8. ^ James Dorsey, "Wij zijn alleen Palestijn om politieke reden", Trouw, 31 March 1977.

References[edit]

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

External links[edit]