The recent death, aged 91, of Princess Dina Abdel Hamid has been noted by some media sources but we have yet to see the comprehensive coverage which usually follows the passing of a personage of world-ranking importance. She was an exceptional person with remarkable gifts.
Dina Abdel Hamid told a very personal story in Duet for Freedom, which Quartet published in 1988, with an introduction by John Le Carré. As a member of the Hashemite dynasty, Princess Dina had been briefly married to King Hussein of Jordan, but her book gave an epic account of events following the capture of her second husband, Salah Ta’amari, a spokesman for the PLO, during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. By an extraordinary chance, her attempts to contact Salah and free him from the hidden labyrinth of the notorious prison camp of Ansar, opened up the chance of negotiating with the Israelis for the release of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese in exchange for six captured Israeli soldiers. Duet for Freedom was a true love story with many wider implications. Princess Dina was honorary godmother to my son Ramsay – honorary because of our religious differences, she being of Islamic descent while we belong to the Greek Catholic church.
In his Introduction, John Le Carré ended with the hope that ‘if there is ever to be a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it will be found not in acts of violent suppression and expulsion, nor in acts of violent retaliation, but in the deliberations of two people who have done so many awful things to one another that they have finally scared themselves sufficiently to give up heroics and talk like men. If that ever happens, they might do worse than have Salah along, with Dina at his side.’
That was written nearly forty years ago and yet its message is still as potent now as it was then. Princess Dina worked ceaselessly for peace and reconciliation. She deserves a proper recognition of her place in history.