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  • Writer's pictureDavid L. Thompson

Q&A re. Mustafa Suleyman (Caliphate Trilogy)

Last week I spoke about Mustafa Suleyman - one of the main characters in the Caliphate Trilogy. I mentioned that this character's arc was similar to that of two real historical figures and challenged the readers of that blog entry to identify who those two men were.

Given that the Caliphate Trilogy deals in large part with events in the Middle East, it may not be surprising that the men I was thinking of played significant roles in shaping that part of the world. And just as Mustafa Suleyman began his journey as a terrorist (to some, a freedom fighter), so did both of these real figures. Mustafa eventually transitioned into the role of statesman and so did both of these real men. So who were they?

The two men I had in mind when writing the character arc for Mustafa Suleyman were Yasser Arafat and Menachem Begin.

Yasser Arafat was a founding member of Fatah (1959) which gained international notoriety as a paramilitary organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel. In 1969 he was also elected as the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO was implicated in numerous high-profile terrorist attacks including the kidnapping and murder of Jewish athletes at the Munich Olympic games (1972). In 1988 however, Arafat officially recognized Israel's right to exist and tried to negotiate a two-state solution to the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. In other words, he had moved from being a violent extremist to embracing diplomacy. He even received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

Menachem Begin was born (1913) in modern day Belarus. He eventually relocated to Warsaw, Poland where he was living at the outbreak of World War II (1939). He managed to escape the Nazis as they quickly crushed Polish resistance, but Begin was later captured and imprisoned by the Soviets (who were allied with the Nazis at the start of WWII) in Vilnius, Lithuania. After the Nazis turned on the Soviets (1941), Begin was released from prison and joined the Free Polish Army, ending up in Palestine to fight the Germans located in the Middle East. Eventually he left the army and joined the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary organization which attacked the British during their mandate in Palestine. One such attack was directed against the King David Hotel (1946) where 91 people were killed. However, Menachem Begin eventually changed tactics and in 1977 he became Israel's 6th Prime Minister. In 1978 he went to Camp David where he and the Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, met with US President, Jimmy Carter, and negotiated the Camp David Accords which resulted in a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Again - a man who had embraced violence as a means to an end eventually embraced diplomacy as the best way to bring lasting change to the region.

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