Arafat's in-law starts a storm

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The Independent Online
YASSER ARAFAT'S mother-in-law threatened to leave the Palestinian- ruled West Bank for Paris yesterday after a dispute with the Palestinian leader over the right of the Arabic media to criticise his ministers.

Raymonda Taweel spent six months under Israeli house arrest in the Seventies for campaigning against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She took refuge in France after her car was set on fire, but returned when her son-in-law established the Palestinian Authority in 1994.

The quarrel erupted earlier this month after Mrs Taweel criticised the Palestinian Finance Minister, Mohammed Nashashibi, in al-Awda, a magazine she edits in East Jerusalem. Mr Nashashibi had withheld a subsidy, worth about pounds 10,000 a month, from the magazine. He dismissed al-Awda and other East Jerusalem publications as a waste of money.

Mrs Taweel and her co-editor, Ibrahim Kara'een, reminded their readers that the minister had lived abroad in comfort while they were suffering under occupation. They condemned him for lodging in a luxury hotel since his return from exile and building himself a mansion in Jordan.

According to her, the minister's daughter left a message on her answering machine promising to teach her a lesson she would not forget. Mrs Taweel took the tape to Mr Arafat and demanded that he call his minister to order. Instead, he accused her of declaring war on his ministers. Mrs Taweel claimed she was defending democracy. Mr Arafat, she says, shouted back: "I can prevent you writing about my ministers."

Now, she is thinking of going back to Paris. "There is no democracy," she told The Independent. "I came back to be with my people. There are a lot of things going on, and I want to speak out, but Arafat told me to close my mouth. So, I prefer not to stay ... I am very depressed, very frustrated."