The Arab Mayor who Helped Jews Celebrate Passover in Hebron

Fahd Kawasme rented the Park Hotel to Jewish settlers, became mayor, and was later assassinated by Jihadists.

12.8.21, 21:52
Fahd Kawasme was the owner of the Park Hotel in Hebron who in 1968 allowed the original Jewish settlers to host a Passover Seder there, thus launching the return to Judea and Samaria.
He became mayor of Hebron and was later assassinated by Arab terrorists in 1984.
Alternatively spellings of his last name in English include Qawasmi, Qawasameh, Kawasmeh, Kuassma, and other variations.
Born in Hebron in the 1930s to a wealthy and well-connected family, his father had been an active supporter of Egypt and opposed the long-time leadership of Hebron mayor Sheik Mohammed Ali Jabari.

The family moved to Cairo, Egypt where he completed high school. He attended the Cairo University and earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in agricultural engineering.

The family returned to Hebron and Kawasme managed the Park Hotel, one of the many properties the family owned. Hebron was not a thriving economy during the Jordanian period of 1948 – 1967 and when the Kawasme family was approached by a group of Israeli tourists ready to pay up-front, they were welcomed.

It was in the spring of 1968, less than a year after the dramatic Six Day War which liberated Hebron and the rest of Judea and Samaria. Kawasme rented out the hotel for a large sum of money to Rabbi Moshe and Miriam Levinger for a Passover seder. The mass holiday meal was the first step in the renewal of Jewish communities throughout the region.
The Levingers and their friends stayed at the hotel for as long as possible until the Israeli government moved them to different quarters, and eventually to the newly built Kiryat Arba.

In 1976, the youthful Kawasme, representing the nationalist bloc, became mayor of Hebron succeeding the elderly Sheik Mohammed Ali Jabari, who had been in power for almost 40 years and declined to run for reelection. During this time, he cultivated connections with the Palestine Liberation Organization and other violent militant groups.

Considered a moderate at the time, Kawasme met with King Hussein of Jordan and other Arab leaders.

He was vehemently opposed to the Jewish neighborhoods of Hebron being repopulated and organized rallies against Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. He was a PLO supporter and advocated for a Palestinian state.

In January 1980, Jesper Jehosua Sloma an immigrant from Denmark was shot in the back while walking the streets of Hebron. Mayor Kawasme expressed “sadness” over the killing, according to the JTA.

In March 1980, Kawasme advocated a strike of Arab workers to protest Jews living in Hebron. He called upon Arab workers not to work for Jewish employers in Kiryat Arba. At a mass meeting in Hebron, he called for civil revolt against Israel.

The JTA quoted him as stating in his speech, "this is the end of the period of protests, rallies and petitions. We shall now have to use all available means." He also called for the downfall of “the Zionist empire." He added, "personally, I find it easier to be deported from my homeland than to accept the settlement of Jews in Hebron."

In May 1980, a team of Fatah terrorists attacked a group of Jewish worshipers praying outside Beit Hadassah in Hebron. Watching from the rooftops across the street, the four terrorists shot at the worshipers and threw grenades, killing six and wounding dozens.

In response to the attack and because of Mayor Kawasme's past statements, the Israeli government deported him along with Hebron leader Sheikh Rejeb Buyud Tamimi and Mayor Mohammed Hassan Milhim of nearby Halhoul.

After deportation, Kawasme travelled the Arab world and visited the United States advocating for the PLO, becoming close to its leader Yasser Arafat.

In 1984 he was elected to the PLO Executive Committee.

In December 1984, he was assassinated in Amman, Jordan. It was the latest in a series of internecine killings of rival Palestinian Arab groups. Initially Black September, the group behind the Munich Olympics massacre, claimed responsibility. The PLO later said their internal investigation showed that dissident Fatah guerilla leader Abu Khaled Al-Amleh was responsible. Arafat denounced the assassins as "traitors."
QAWASMI, FAHD - Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs
The Three Deported Arab Leaders - JTA May 5, 1980
* Here to Stay Park Hotel story - Washington Post
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