August 6, 1999 Special Dispatch No. 43

Arafat's Striptease and the Syrian Defense Minister's Peccadillos.

August 6, 1999
Syria, Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 43

Relations between Syria and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have been tense, particularly since the unilateral Palestinian signing of the Oslo Accords. The PLO-Israel peace process de-prioritized the Syrian track. Recently, tensions escalated due to Palestinian fears that the Israeli re-prioritization under Barak will focus on Syria and slow progress on the Palestinian track. The following exchange is highly unusual, and while the present tensions have contributed, it is defined by the personalities involved.

Syrian anti-Arafat Rhetoric

On August 2nd, Syrian Defense Minister, Mustafa Tlass, in a speech to a military audience at Ba'albek, Lebanon, attacked PA Chairman, Yasser Arafat: "Oh, son of sixty thousand whores, you should not have chickened out at the White House. You should have stated that Jerusalem is the united capital of the future Palestinian state. But you stood there like a black cat, not daring to utter a single word about Palestine and Jerusalem."

"Yasser Arafat, in his concessions [to Israel]" added Tlass, "is like a striptease dancer who takes off another piece of clothing each time she gets on the stage. The only difference between Arafat and the striptease dancer is that whenever she takes off her clothes her beauty shows, while whenever Arafat takes off his clothes - his ugliness shows."[1]

Tlass has a long history of eccentric behavior including: rewarding a Syrian soldier for 'eating limbs of a dead Israeli soldier' in 1974; and claiming to have proven through his own research and writing a book about the 1840 Damascus blood libel.

Official Palestinian Response

PA officials demanded that Syrian President Assad fire Tlass.[2] PA Justice Minister, Freih Abu Medein stated that he would not stoop to the Syrian Defense Minister's level and immediately did, claiming that Tlass had attempted to rape the Finnish Foreign Minister [a woman] in his car.[3] A communique by the PA Information Ministry called Tlass a "monstrous dwarf."[4]

PA Cabinet General Secretary, Ahmad 'Abd Al-Rahman, stated, "Such a person is not worthy of leading the Syrian army" and "his statements are a mark of Cain on the Syrian army." He added that Tlass has done nothing "except wear medals without ever being in war, and write bad poetry for the world's beauties."[5]

West Bank General Intelligence Head, Tawfiq Al-Tirawi, wrote in a column that Tlass belongs to "a gang of pot-smokers" that surrounds President Assad and "jeopardizes Syria."[6]

PA Minister, Hassan 'Asfur accused Tlass of operating on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Barak.[7] 'Asfur called on "Palestinians in Syria" to "protect their political honor."[8]

Popular Response

A communique by the Fatah movement states: "Tlass is a blood-sucking mouse... who spends his life in the arms of singers and whores... He's a condom that the Zionists chucked away after having used it for violating the sacredness of our Arab nation and our Holy Land. Our people announce that the blood of this lowly spy is permitted and [he] should be executed."[9]

In a Ramallah demonstration supporting Arafat, protesters held posters depicting Tlass in a bikini and inside of a shoe and called him a pig.[10]

Tlass and Gina Lolobrigida

A Palestinian columnist recollects in an article entitled "When The General Brayed" some of the women for whom Tlass had declared his admiration. The list includes movie stars Gina Lolobrigida and Marilyn Monroe, the singer Madonna, and "possibly" the Italian Porn-star Chichulina.[11]

Muhammad Jabr of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, investigated Tlass' admiration of Gina Lolabrigida. Jabr cited a 1998 interview Tlass gave to the UAE daily Al-Bayan. Tlass told Al-Bayan: "When UNIFIL deployed in Lebanon I gathered the leaders of the Lebanese national resistance [Hizbullah] and told them: 'You can do whatever you want with the American and British soldiers, but I don't want a single Italian soldier to be hurt, because I don't want a single tear coming out of Gina Lolobrigida's eyes.'"

"I love beautiful women and I am in love with Gina Lolobrigida. I have been in love with her ever since I was young. I used to collect her pictures and send her letters from the frontline or from any other place in the world. After hundreds of letters, she answered me, once, when I became Syria's Chief of Staff in 1968. Then she agreed to visit me. I organized a welcome party at my home in Damascus in 1984. She was 58 at the time. Everybody was amazed by the fact that she was at my house, even my wife. She behaved as if it was her own house and as if she was part of the family."

Jabr then cites an interview with Lolabrigida in the London Telegraph where she stated: "He has been in love with me for a long time. Whenever an Italian president visited Syria, or even a commercial delegation or a TV crew, he would talk about me. He wrote a book with paragraphs about me. He sent me lots of letters and expensive presents, including diamonds. I agreed to visit the general when the people at the Augusta helicopter company told me that they would get the contract if I did…"[12]

[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi, August 3, 1999 and Israeli Television Channel 1, August 3, 1999.

[2] Al-Quds, Al-Ayyam, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, August 5, 1999.

[3] Al-Quds, August 4, 1999.

[4] Al-Quds, August 4, 1999.

[5] Al-Ayyam, August 3, 1999.

[6] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, August 4, 1999.

[7] Al-Ayyam, August 3, 1999.

[8] Al-Ayyam, August 3, 1999.

[9] Al-Ayyam, Aug. 5, 1999.

[10] Ma'ariv, Aug. 5, 1999

[11] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, August 3, 1999.

[12] Muhammad Jabr, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, August 5, 1999.

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