Palestine: Remembering Shafiq Al Hout

On 2 August, founder member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Shafiq Al Hout died. He was born and raised in Jaffa, but his family were forced to leave Palestine in 1948, and went to Lebanon. Al Hout helped found the PLO in 1964, was appointed PLO representative in Lebanon, and survived ten Israeli assassination attempts during the Lebanese Civil War. He was twice a member of the PLO Executive Committee, but left because of the Oslo accords. Shafiq Al Hout was also an accomplished writer. Arab bloggers have been paying tribute.

At his blog Jafra, Palestinian political activist, writer and artist Marwan Abdelal says:

منذ أن تفتّحت عيوننا على السياسة كان فيها اسم شفيق الحوت قبل أن نعرفه عن قرب ومنذ أن بدأنا نلاحق أخبار القضية في الصحافة كان قلمه. لم أحاوره عن قرب إلا وهو خارج المناصب القيادية، الممثل السابق لمكتب منظمة التحرير والعضو المستقيل من لجنتها التنفيذية، وهو يردّد لقد استقلت من الوظيفة ولكن ليس من القضية، القضية ليست وظيفة هي قدر الفلسطيني. ولا يستطيع الاستقالة منها.
From the time that our eyes were opened to politics, the name of Shafiq Al Hout was there, before we knew him from close up. Since we began to follow the news of the Palestinian issue in the newspapers, his pen was there. I only conversed with him when he was outside the leadership, the former representative of the PLO office and a future member of its executive committee. He kept saying, “I have resigned from the job but not from the [Palestinian] issue; the issue is not a job, it is the destiny of the Palestinians, and one cannot resign from it.”

At his blog Nostalgia, Gazan blogger The Exile writes:

قال فيه ادوارد سعيد رحمه الله
“هذا الرجل يصعب افساده” فقال شفيق الحوت رحمه الله ضاحكاً “ارأيت الى اي حضيض وصلنا.صرنا في زمن يُمدح فيه المرء اذا لم يكن فاسداً”
Edward Said (may he rest in peace) said of him, “This man is difficult to corrupt.”
And Shafiq Al Hout (may he rest in peace) said, laughing, “Have you seen what a low point we’ve reached; we’re in an era that a person is praised if he is not corrupt.”

At The Angry Arab News Service, Lebanese blogger As'ad AbuKhalil writes about Al Hout:

He used to say that he was a communist when everybody else was an Arab nationalist (like in the 40s and 50s), and that he became an Arab nationalist when everybody else was a communist (in the 60s and 70s). […] He was blunt and truthful, when lying was a job description in Arafat's apparatus. […] Something about him I liked: not only the politics but the personality. He was interesting and sharp and was a great conversationalist and writer. […] He resigned from the Executive Committee of the PLO as soon as Oslo was reached, and unlike Mahmud Darwish, he took a consistently categorical stand against Oslo. […] This Palestinian had more impact on Lebanon than most Lebanese. For me, he was both Lebanon (or the best about Lebanon) and Palestine.

At The Electronic Intifada, Mayssoun Sukarieh posts an interview she did with Shafiq Al Hout in 1999 as part of an oral history project:

My five siblings were born in my grandfather's house, while I was born in my parents’ small, humble house. […] Characteristically, the entrance to our home was like most of Jaffa's houses. It had a well and a palm tree under which we indulged playing for hours on end. It also had a backyard planted with fragrant flowers and juicy vegetables. Not very far from my house was a sandy playground where we played football with our neighbors. The window of my room overlooked the street below, thus providing me with a panoramic view. I remember being very happy in Ramadan, since during that time of the year I could see Abu Hussein, the musahharati who used to bang the drum and wake people up for suhur — the early morning last meal the faithful are allowed to have before daybreak, when actual fasting starts. […] April 1948 is a month I can never forget. During this month, [Palestinian resistance leader] Abdel Qader al-Husseini was martyred and sadness overshadowed Jaffa and the entire country of Palestine. In this month as well, my rebel brother Jamal attained martyrdom, which added to the sorrow I inherited as a result of being a citizen of an usurped country, the personal sorrow of now losing a very dear spiritual brother. After al-Husseini died, signs of defeat started to become apparent. We in Jaffa used to hear news about Palestinian villages falling into Jewish hands as well as massacres committed by the Jews. […] News about the Deir Yassin massacre reached Jaffa, causing a wave of anger and fright in the city. Meanwhile, a spontaneous decision was taken to evacuate the children, the women and the elderly from the city until the Arab troops would enter it and until things went back to normal. Under these disturbing circumstances my family decided to leave the country for Beirut as we had some roots there. […] I can still remember the fright stamped on people's faces in the port of Jaffa. Thousands from Jaffa were elbowing their way through the crowd trying to escape death.

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