Jaweed al-Ghussein: PLO treasurer kidnapped by Arafat

Jaweed al-Ghussein was for 12 years the treasurer of the Palestine National Fund (PNF), the financial arm of the PLO, but later had a dramatic falling out with Yasser Arafat that led to his kidnapping and a high-profile international campaign to secure his release.

He was born in Gaza in 1930, the son of Yacoub al-Ghussein, a wealthy landowner and president of the Palestine National Party. Jaweed attended the Friends School in Ramallah before the family became refugees in Egypt as a result of the 1948 war. He read economics at the American University in Cairo, where he met Arafat in the Palestinian students' union and the two became friends.

After graduation, Jaweed al-Ghussein became a civil servant in Kuwait, and in 1955 he married Khalida Nusibeh, who came from an old and prominent Jerusalem family. He left for Abu Dhabi in the 1960s, where he set up Cordoba, a construction firm. Within a few years, the business was succeeding and Ghussein started to contribute money to the Fatah movement. "It was essential to have financial security before joining the struggle," he once told me.

In 1984 Ghussein was elected by the Palestinian National Council (PNC) to head the PNF, which guaranteed him a seat on the PLO Executive Committee. Under his leadership the PNF financed several projects to help families of "martyrs", and to educate refugees, as well as funding Palestinian media organs, including a London-based Arabic daily.

However, Ghussein fell out with Arafat over the latter's lack of transparency about donations received, and over Arafat's support of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait (Fatah had received unlimited Kuwaiti support while the movement was being set up in the 1960s). In 1983, during a visit to Baghdad, Ghussein criticised Saddam's aggression towards Iran, prompting a row with Arafat, who had received two donations of $50m each from Saddam without informing Ghussein. "Billions of dollars of Arab donations never appearing on the records of PNF", in Ghussein's words, were what led him to resign in 1996.

In April 2001, while attending a wedding in Abu Dhabi, he was kidnapped by PLO henchmen and flown to Gaza in Arafat's private jet where he was detained for several months. He was not given insulin for his diabetes, and finally pressure from the Middle East Quartet (the UN, EU, Russia and USA) forced Arafat to allow him to go to Cairo for treatment in November 2001.

Three months later, while still in Cairo undergoing treatment for cancer, Ghussein was snatched from hospital and once again taken to Gaza. A high-profile campaign by his daughter, the London socialite Mona Bauwens, led to his rescue. Ms Bauwens persuaded Palestinian doctors to defy Arafat by releasing her father's medical reports, and pressed the Palestinian leader by addressing him as "Amu" Yasser ("uncle" in Arabic). Months of covert moves by British, Jordanian, Israeli, American and Belgian secret services culminated in a section of the Palestinian security, disillusioned by Arafat's increasingly autocratic ways, being persuaded to secure Ghussein's release from Gaza to Israel in a convoy of guarded European diplomatic vehicles.

Ghussein was uncomfortable with violence and always saw armed struggle as a temporary phase. His preferred method of solving disputes was through dialogue and mutual understanding. In 1987, during afternoon tea in the garden of his Hampstead home, he and his guest Claude Morris (the journalist and writer, who died in 2000), came up with the idea of the Next Century Foundation for Peace (NCFP), an independent think-tank promoting peace and dialogue among adversaries. The NCFP hosted dialogues and meetings between Middle East opponents at a time when appearing at the same event with an Israeli journalist, let alone an official, was taboo for most Arab diplomats. The foundation was met with resistance from Arabs, but received great support from King Hussein of Jordan and the older generation of British diplomats known in the Foreign Office as the "camel corps".

Ghussein was a philanthropist and benefactor of many Palestinian causes. He personally funded the education of many Palestinians and supported many others, ensuring they had health care and hope for the future. Until his death, he remained committed to the creation of a Palestinian state through peaceful means. A gentleman of the old school, he belonged to a vanishing generation of leaders who learnt the art of politics during the fading light of the British Empire's friendship with the warriors and statesmen of Arabia.

Adel Darwish

Jaweed Yacoub Al-Ghussein, politician, philanthropist and businessman: born Gaza 18 July 1930; married 1955 Khalida Nusibeh (one son, one daughter); died London 1 July 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor