From the First Office to the First Palestine State Embassy in Argentine Republic
A Document For History
by: Ambassador Suhail Hani Daher Akel
was a commitment of blood and roots. Blood from Jerusalem and Palestinian
roots. It was a commitment to my principles of dignity for the Palestinian
people, to my Master and our Nation’s Father, Yasser Arafat, and to my own
exile of over half a century.
I will be critical and
assertive. The objective was highly noble. To establish an office for the
Palestine Liberation Organization-PLO in Argentina that would safeguard a
legitimate right of the Palestinian people-such was the purpose.
It was a formidable
challenge. The first step was to establish our diplomatic relationships with
the Argentine Government. The second, a lifetime dream, was to open the first
Palestine Embassy in Buenos Aires.
Boycotts, conspiracies and
threats were the order of the day. It was not pleasant, and it was even more
painful knowing that the same Palestinian internal front, a group of plotters
blinded by personal ambition, went far beyond the objectives of our own
people. All of this was the high price to pay. The decision had already been
made. There was no stopping the silent scheme. Each blow made me stronger and
encouraged me to go ahead.
I will, on principle,
spare certain details-the very heart of the strategy, the lobby, the contacts
and the commitments made to different renowned people in order to succeed.
The projection bore fruit.
In 1985, on a low-key profile, I opened the First Palestinian Office in
Rosario City, Argentina, the second major city in the country. It was an
old-looking house located at Avenue Carlos Pellegrini 1618.
mixed feelings of frustration and achievement, our voice began to make its way
through Buenos Aires, the Argentine provinces, and abroad by way of the first
Palestine Information Office. It also reached our Palestinian highest
authorities. This hard yet very neat work very much impressed
Commander-in-Chief Yasser Arafat and filled others with concern. It certainly
went down in history suhailakeljerusalem.com
The relentless militancy
had its results. In 1990, I was ready for the next challenge www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/pidenabrir.htm.
On my return from Tunisia, and with Commander-in-Chief Arafat’s support, I
opened the first Delegation for the PLO in Argentina. It was a modern
three-storey building located at Yerbal 1020, in the neighborhood of Caballito
in Buenos Aires. It was a major, yet risky, move. Although we had no official
recognition from the Argentine Government, it raised no objections.
The Palestinian presence
was critical to eliminate the defamatory myths surrounding the PLO and the
just liberation fight. The highly accommodating premises fulfilled our
expectations. I purchased the furniture without any funding from my
Government. The PLO temporarily paid the rent.
Then, the unexpected
happened. Following the 1991 Gulf War, pressures brought about the PLO’s
economic downfall and a long-lasting reduction in budgetary allocations for
external offices. A lack of financial resources, together with general
indifference and the indifference of those next to me, forced me to leave the
building in 1995. It was a very traumatic and humiliating episode. I absorbed
the high financial cost, and was left with the bitter taste of loss and fear
that I might not be able to achieve my objective.
The lack of a place, the
severe budgetary crisis, the war climate in the Arabic Gulf (1991), the two
terrorist attacks suffered by Argentina first on the Israeli Embassy (1992)
and then on the Jewish institution AMIA (1994 )—causing accusatory looks on
the PLO—, together with a lack of diplomatic recognition by Argentina and
the strong pressure by Israel against recognition of the PLO, all left me
walking on the razor’s edge.
I doubled my efforts. True
to a Palestinian proverb (“the blow that does not break your back pushes you
forward”), I continued my work on the media and my clarification activities.
I overcame difficulties, indifference and pressure, while looking, with no
money to spend, for a rented place to reopen the office and seeking the
recognition of the PLO’s diplomatic status by the Argentine Government www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/camara.htm.
Persistence lit the light
of hope. In 1995, the Argentine Government informed me of its desire to
officially recognize the PLO. That same year, I put an end to my exile and
returned to my country. There, I broke the news to President Arafat (who had
returned in 1994) and received Argentinean Chancellor José Mario Guido Di
Tella in Gaza www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/witharafatditella.htm.
Back in Buenos Aires, and already an accredited Ambassador by a decree of our
President Yasser Arafat, I submitted my credentials and developed a diplomatic
My wish was fulfilled. In
1996, I signed the first agreement of our bilateral relations and the
acceptance of the official opening of our Palestinian Mission www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/relations.htm.
I knew that those relations would at first be low-key and only of a
representative nature. They would also be fraught with difficulty and Israeli
pressure. With time and perseverance, after lobbying contacts on a highly
personal basis and holding several meetings with the Foreign Ministry, I
received from Argentina, between the years 2000 and 2004, the document
recognizing the office of Ambassador and its precedence, immunities and the
diplomatic upgrade repositioning our Mission, which would no longer be an
international organization, into the diplomatic corps along with the rest of
the embassies. We were almost granted State recognition. The process of
reestablishing diplomatic relations was extremely complex.
My Palestinian heart was
filled with happiness. In 1996, I rented and opened a new representation
office, the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority-PNA having already been
granted recognition by Argentina. The office was in a sober apartment located
at Mendoza 1821, 8th floor, in the neighborhood of Belgrano, in the
Federal Capital suhailakeljerusalem.com/statuspalesrtinian.htm. I
thank my fellow Brother Mr. Horacio Munir Haddad, of Argentine and Lebanese
descent, for being so generous in renting the new office. However, the
financial crisis was not over yet.
I perceived that, in spite
of the significant progress made, the fragile economic situation jeopardized
the continuity of our Palestinian presence with rented offices. We needed our
own piece of property for the Palestinian people which would assure permanence
This is a separate
chapter altogether. How can I explain it or write about it? There was a great
deal of coming and going, lobbying and counter lobbying, difficulties,
maneuvers, disappointments and oppression. Once the existing pressure was
removed, diplomacy prevailed.
The strategy set the dream
in motion. In late 1996, the Argentine Government granted me the assignment of
a piece of property for our Embassy along with the possibility of choosing
from several buildings. I selected one that posed the most challenges, but
which was best suited for my Palestinian people. It was an imposing hundred
plus year old construction right smack in the middle neighborhood of Norte a
four-storey building located at Riobamba 981, Buenos Aires www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/unedificio.htm.
It was in deplorable condition and its interior was in ruin. Restoring it was
another challenge. I knew that I could not obtain financial resources from my
Government or a local subsidy, and the Argentine Government was my only hope.
Mr. President Arafat thanked Argentina’s gesture in writing.
The expectation was obtained. The efforts made were decent, and backstage stories were thorny and
passionate. Renovation works on the building began in 1997 as part of a public
bidding process conducted by the Argentine Government. The initial budget did
not fulfill expectations. The building covered 1,800 square meters, and I
wanted to recover all of its beauty and splendor. The works lasted almost
three years. There was a great deal of difficulty; however, I persevered to
the last detail.
* I wanted to keep its French style as a
historic monument for the city. The beauty of its interior was restored with
imported wallpaper, golden arrangements, marble and carpets. There was a large
Residence and Office for the Ambassador. There were also several offices;
reception rooms, including a Meeting Room: “Jerusalem”, a Conference Room:
“Martyrs”, a Flag Room: “Yasser Arafat”, and a Library: “Dalal Al
Mogharabi”; servants’ quarters; two apartments for guests and an apartment
for the Consulate; a covered barbecue area; a paddle court; eleven bathrooms;
four kitchens; automatic gates; two elevators; and a set of fine arrangements
that enhanced the beauty of the building, with completely restored gardens and
terraces. All of those who saw the property before and after the changes were
and are still amazed at such large-scale restoration efforts. It was something
to be proud of www.suhailakeljerusalem.com/building.htm.
reconstruction, I realized that the gardens and terraces lacked plants and
that the furniture I had brought from the other offices was not enough.
Without any money from my Government, I forced myself to plan the new
challenge. After I made several contacts, the city Mayor donated beautiful
palm trees and nice-looking interior and exterior plants. Another interesting
story was that of the furniture. Having received no money from my Government,
and after much searching and dealing with attitudes of indifference, I
received a donation of some office furniture from the Argentine Government (in
accordance with Article 53 on unused furniture). Although it was in very poor
condition, with efforts I restored.
1999, Palestine already had due diplomatic Representation in Argentina, with a
important palace worth over $ 9 million dollars. Fortunately, my Palestinian
Government had to make no investment. The Embassy is, undoubtedly, the best
Palestinian Embassy in the world and can compete with the best foreign
embassies in Buenos Aires. A big thanks to my Family for their sacrifice and
support. I am very thankful to Argentina and the Argentinean people, thank Mr.
Carlos Saul Menem, former President of Nation and also to Mr. Fernando de la Rúa,
the then mayor of the City of Buenos Aires.
me through good times and bad times, I give my thanks... To those who
were disloyal, who conspired and betrayed, I offer my understanding.
were the sensations of happiness and tears. My eyes were able to clearly see
an old dream come true. On November 15, 1999, our Independence Day, I held our
Palestinian National Flag up in my own hands in the front yard of the building
and Inaugurated the first Palestinian Embassy with a reception that had no
precedent in the Argentine diplomatic history. More than 1,800 people
attended, including diplomats; sectors of the national, provincial and local
government; intellectuals; the clergy; etc., all crowding the street and the
building. At 8:35 PM, the then Mr. President of Argentina, Carlos Saul Menem,
cut the Palestinian and Argentine ribbons, thereby renewing Palestinian hopes
and aspirations suhailakeljerusalem.com./pictures.htm.
The Palestinian continuity and presence had been assured.
During the inauguration, I
planted an “Olive Tree as a symbol of Peace” in the Embassy’s gardens. I
called for dignity, peace and coexistence. I urged and pushed for the opening
of the Argentine Representation in Palestine. In 2005, Mr. President
Nestor Kirchner signed a decree to open an Argentine Representation
Office in Palestine. Mr. President Abu Mazen thanked the gesture.
The efforts and sacrifices
were not in vain. My heroic and martyred Palestinian people deserved it and
was proud to see our national flag wave in the very heart of Buenos Aires.
President Yasser Arafat was moved when I showed him the picture of his
Embassy. We were both filled with emotion.
During my mandate, the
Embassy was a basis for Palestine’s diplomatic relations with Argentina and
the embassies of fellow countries. To read about the beginning of bilateral
relations between Palestine and the Republic of Paraguay, see suhailakeljerusalem.com/paraguayrecognition.htm; to
read about the frequent contacts with the Republic of Uruguay to establish our
diplomatic relations, see suhailakeljerusalem.com/vazquezanalyses.htm. Our Embassy was a home for every Palestinian and
descendant in exile, for Arabs and men who love dignity. It served as a place
for book presentations, the exhibition of works of art and pictures,
conferences on Palestine and in general, for receptions and meetings attended
by renowned figures. It was the space for dialogue and peace; for
intellectual, religious, social and political gatherings. Apart from the
extensive diplomatic and cultural programs, annual receptions were held on
occasion of the Palestine National Day, with the presence of over 1,500
celebrated figures. Our Embassy is to be remembered as the one with the most
convening power in the diplomatic and institutional arena. -All of the above
is sufficiently supported by official Documentation-.
the end of my mission in May of 2006, I said goodbye with a reception in the
Embassy, which was attended by more than 1,700 personalities. I left the office with a clear
conscience of having, in the last two decades through diplomatic and
intellectual efforts, restored bilateral relations and opened the first
Palestinian Office previous to the Embassy of Palestine State with a building
of its own, and of being the first PLO Representative and the first
Palestinian Ambassador in Argentina, and Ambassador of the Martyr President
Yasser Arafat. A tear rolled down
my cheek when I kissed for the last time the oil painting of the Virgin
Mariam, our Lady of Palestine, enthroned in the Embassy in 2003. Strengthened,
I sensed Palestine’s triumph in the words of our Nation’s Father and
Martyr Yasser Arafat: “Mountains cannot and will never be moved by the
Ambassador Suhail Hani Daher Akel / 2009
Copyright, Suhail Hani Daher Akel. Publication or distribution of this
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