The Passionate Attachment

America's entanglement with Israel

Harman’s Daily Beast depicts Jill Kelley’s family as refugees from Muslim persecution

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By Maidhc Ó Cathail
The Passionate Attachment
November 14, 2012

In a report entitled “Jill Kelley’s Campaign to Befriend Petraeus, Allen, and Other Top Brass,” The Daily Beast describes the solicitous “unpaid social liaison” to the U.S. military as “the daughter of a couple who had been outcasts in their native Lebanon for being Catholics in an overwhelmingly Muslim land.” The article goes on to assert without any further evidence that, “The persecution had finally driven John and Marcelle Khawam to emigrate to America in the 1970s.” But with Muslims currently comprising no more than 59.7% of the population, Lebanon could hardly be described as “an overwhelmingly Muslim land.” Moreover, the Khawam family emigrated from the one part of the country where they were least likely to have been persecuted as “outcasts” for their faith:

Jounieh (Arabic جونيه, or Junia, جونية) is a coastal city about 16 km (10 mi) north of Beirut, Lebanon. Jounieh is known for its seaside resorts and bustling nightlife, as well as its old stone souk, ferry port, and cablecar (le télphérique), which takes passengers up the mountain to the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa. Above Jounieh, and on the way to Harissa, a small hill named Bkerké (Arabicبكركي, or Bkerki), overlooking the Jounieh bay, is the seat of the Patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church. Residents of Jounieh and the surrounding towns are overwhelmingly Christian Maronites. Consequently, Jounieh is considered to be the largest Christian Maronite city in the world.

If the Khawams were not driven from their overwhelmingly Christian hometown by an intolerant Muslim minority, was there some other reason they left the Levant? Economic necessity hardly explains their flight either. As a Christmas 1988 review of their restaurant in the Philadelphia Inquirer noted:

John Khawam is a musician and was considered one of the leading organists in Lebanon. Marcelle was an accomplished cook who spent a good deal of her time entertaining people involved in the arts and politics.

Whatever brought the Khawams to America, it’s clear that their twin daughters inherited Marcelle’s penchant for entertaining high-profile figures.

As for The Daily Beast’s dubious Islamophobic explanation, it may not be a coincidence that one of the website’s owners is being touted as a likely replacement for the disgraced Director of Central Intelligence — notwithstanding her apparent willingness to come to the aid of Israel lobbyists indicted for espionage against the United States. It is hardly a coincidence either that the woman who precipitated Petraeus’ fall from grace comes from an ethno-religious group that has provided the Jewish state with many a willing collaborator against its Muslim neighbors.

Update: Interestingly, The Daily Beast has removed the claims about Muslim persecution cited above, which now describes Kelley as:

the daughter of John and Marcelle Khawam, a Catholic couple who had emigrated from Lebanon in the 1970’s with little more than a determination to do better.

The article continues unchanged as follows:

John had been a noted organist at home and went to work playing in a Philadelphia restaurant, the Middle East. It was owned by Jimmy Tayoun, a Philadelphia politician who replaced a city councilman who was convicted of taking bribes—and then was himself convicted of the same. Tayoun served almost three years, but remained an eminence on the Philadelphia political scene. He was happy when the Khawams opened a series of restaurants of their own, all called Sahara.

“They’re an American dream,” Tayoun says.

The Khawams had four children, including identical twins, Jill and Natalie, who became renowned for their beauty as they grew older.

“They were twins to die for. You know what I mean?” Tayoun says.

He reports that they had sometimes sought his counsel as they operated a small auto insurance company for their father.

“They used to come to me with headaches,” Tayoun says. “I knew everybody in town. I know where to go, what to do.”

A 1982 NBC News report entitled “PHILADELPHIA COUNCILMAN JIMMY TAYOUN DABBLES IN FOREIGN AFFAIRS” bears the following intriguing description:

PHILADELPHIA COUNCILMAN JIM TAYOUN WALKS THROUGH CITY HALL CORRIDOR & SPEAKS ON TELEPHONE IN OFFICE. STILL OF TAYOUN WITH ISRAELS PM BEGIN SEEN. TAYOUN SAYS HE THINKS BEGIN IS FANTASTIC. AT CITY HALL HEARING TAYOUN DECLARES HE DOES NOT BELIEVE IN THE NUCLEAR FREEZE & CONTENDS RUSSIA WOULD STRIKE FIRST. EXTERIORS OF PHILADELPHIA FIRST WARD HEADQUARTERS SEEN. TAYOUN SPEAKS WITH RESIDENTS. BELLY DANCER PERFORMS IN A PHILADELPHIA MIDDLE EAST RESTAURANT. TAYOUN SAYS HE REMEMBERS LEBANON AS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE. TAYOUN OPERATES PRINTING MACHINE IN RESTAURANT BASEMENT & JOKES HE’S FOREIGN AGENT FOR LEBANON; CONTENDS ISRAELI PRESENCE IN LEBANON MEANS ASSURANCE THAT GOV’T WILL BE RETURNED TO LEBANESE. TAYOUN CONCLUDES HE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE ELECTED TO CONGRESS TO DABBLE IN FOREIGN POLICY.

So, we now know that the Khawams were taken care of in America by a corrupt local politican who praised the Israeli Prime Minister, whom he apparently knew, that ordered a devastating invasion of their homeland. And as The Daily Beast has suddenly dropped the implausible Muslim persecution narrative, might the family have been forced to leave the country for collaborating with the foreign invader? At any rate, is it not likely that Jill Kelley shares the family friend’s extremely positive attitude toward the Jewish state?

Maidhc Ó Cathail is an investigative journalist and Middle East analyst. He is also the creator and editor of The Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

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Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

November 14, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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