Sunday, March 19, 2006

Zuhdi Labib Tarazi dies in US

As many of you have already knew that the former Ambassador of Palestine tothe UN, Zuhdi Labib Al-Tarazi, had passed away on first of March in Amman,Jordan. However, according to his wish, he will be buried next to his latewife Widad in NJ. His children Karima and Kamil are there to accompany thecoffin. His body, if cleared, will be flown to NY on Sunday and the burialwill take place sometime next week.My deepest sympathy to his children and to the Palestinian people.

Here is an article written about him by Ian Williams


Zehdi Terzi first PLO representative to the UN
The Independent (London). [Commentary].
Ian Williams 03/07/2006.

The many journalists and diplomats who consulted with him over the yearsremember Zehdi Terzi fondly. It would be difficult to demonise as a fundamentalist terrorist someone whom the Patriarch of Jerusalem had dubbed a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, or whom his daughter Karimah remembers as a feminist who admonished her, "BSc, MSc, PhD - and only thenMrs." None the less, for 16 straight years, he was America's most unwantedif you judged him by the New York tabloids and the Congressional Register.Terzi was an almost archetypal Palestinian figure.

Born in an ancient Greek Orthodox family in Jerusalem under the British Mandate, he had hopedto end his days in the city, but, he wistfully pointed out to a radio interviewer in 1988, "I can't go back home."

Friendly, courteous and dignified, he was firm in his nationalist principles. When after long anddiscreet negotiations Israel finally offered to let him back to join hisbrothers and sisters in East Jerusalem, he could not bring himself to apply to those he considered illegal occupiers for a visa, so he died, ashe had lived for three decades, in exile.

Under the British Mandate he had studied at Terra Sancta College and graduated from law school in 1948, the year of the partition of Jerusalemand Palestine. In Beirut in late 1959 he met Widad Awad, a Chilean descendant of an earlier generation of Arab refugees, from the Ottomans.They married within months, on his birthday in 1960. She died in his arms, in New York, in 1987.

An early associate of Yasser Arafat, within months of the foundation ofthe Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1964 Terzi became its emissary toBrazil. He was part of the delegation that in November 1974 accompaniedArafat to the United Nations in New York and secured recognition there, ofsorts, for the PLO. The General Assembly affirmed the Palestinians' right to self-determination and independence, and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and property, and recognised the PLO as their representative. The resolution gave the PLO almost all the attributes of statehood except a vote.

When Terzi arrived as the first Palestinian "Permanent Observer" to the UN in 1975, he was soon reminded that the US had vigorously opposed the resolution. For the US and Israel, the PLO was a terrorist organisation.

Although the mission was covered by the UN Headquarters agreement, grandstanding American politicians kept trying to close it down. The pressure was continuous throughout his time at the UN. In 1986, forexample, the State Department refused him permission to travel to Harvard Law School to debate with Professor Alan Dershowitz, provoking a lawsuitthat went all the way to the US Court of Appeals.

Perhaps the strangest ofthe court battles that put Terzi in the headlines was in 1982, when a NewYork judge overturned the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Fred Sparks's bequest of $30,000 to the PLO. That Sparks was himself Jewish added anextra piquancy to the case.

However the most notorious collateral damage of these cases was a former Congressman who had, in his own words, "a 100 per cent voting record insupport of Israel". Andrew Young, the former civil rights leader, Congressman and then US Ambassador to the UN, met Terzi "accidentally on purpose" at a lunch at the Kuwaiti Ambassador's residence in 1979.

Young claims that the State Department and the Israeli foreign ministry both knew in advance about the meeting, but, once it was leaked, President Jimmy Carter fired him. The New York Daily Post headline had been "JewsDemand Firing Young", and the incident did much to damage relations between the black and Jewish communities.

Towards the end of Terzi's UN career, as the intifada raged on, he helpedformulate the strategy that may annoy Israel even more: the use of UN resolutions and international law to establish Palestinian rights. It wasa strategy he encouraged when he left New York in the hands of his deputy,Nasser el-Kidwa, currently Palestinian Foreign Minister, to become specialadviser on international and UN affairs to Arafat in Tunis, where he wasto spend the remainder of his days, until going to Jordan for (unsuccessful) medical treatment. Travel to New York is only marginally less difficult for dead than livingPalestinian diplomats.

Terzi's children are struggling to get clearance totake his remains to the plot in New Jersey where he can join his wife.

Zehdi Labib Terzi, diplomat: born Jerusalem 20 February 1924' PLO Permanent Observer to the UN 1974-91' married 1960 Widad Awad (died 1987'one son, one daughter)' died Amman 1 March 2006.