15 FEBRUARY 2011


"Yes. I am the biological father of Apple CEO Steve Jobs. But I did not raise him. He was adopted. I was studying at the University of Wisconsin and my girlfriend's father refused to marry her to me. She decided to offer him for adoption. The first interested couple backed away because they were really looking to adopt a girl. The second couple had not yet finished their college education. As a condition for adopting Steve, his mother insisted that he should get the best university education. We later got married and had a daughter, Mona, who is a creative writer. Steve has a brilliant mind. Though he dropped out of college, he would have succeeded anyhow, anywhere. I do not have a close relationship with him. I send him a birthday card once a year. But neither of us took the initiative to approach the other. I always think that if he wanted to spend time with me, he knows where I am and would contact me."

His name is Abdel Fattah Jandali. He was born 80 years ago in the town of Homs, Syria, to a wealthy, though illiterate father who was very keen on giving him the best education. At 18, he was sent to the American University of Beirut, the region's symbol of superb academia at the time. He did not join any political party but got involved in students political activity including street demonstrations like those supporting independence of Algeria and the need for Arab unity.

Samir Sanbar, who went to the same University at the time, recalls a dynamic young leader with a flair for drawing attention. His main interest seemed to be more into politics rather than business.

After graduation, he joined Columbia University in New York where a relative, Najmuddin Al-Rifai, was for a brief while a senior member of the Syrian Permanent mission then joined the U.N. Secretariat to become Assistant Secretary General in Decolonization Affairs.

After one year in New York, he won a scholarship at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned Masters and Doctorate degrees in the philosophy and analysis of law, mainly international law and economies. It was there that he met Joanne Carole Schieble. She got pregnant while both were still students. Her father refused to allow their marriage. The newborn boy, Steve, was put for adoption. Eventually Abdel Fattah added "John" to his first name for ease of reference and married his former girlfriend. Though a new baby girl, Mona, brightened their life, A.F. decided to go back to Syria in the hope of joining its diplomatic service. It didn't work -- and his wife divorced him. He spent a year running an oil refinery in his hometown of Homs. Frustrated by the general political situation, he returned to the United States, first to teach at the Universities of Michigan and Nevada.

In Las Vegas, he decided to leave academia and open a restaurant and several business ventures. He told Al Hayat daily that he decided to focus on financial profit. After two difficult years, he added, things improved because "when I decide to do something I prepare completely for it." He dreads retirement and feels very fit and able to manage and deliver. If he had to do it all over again, he said, he would have stayed home to try his luck fully and completely there. He is flattered when someone mentions that the genius of his biological son, Steve Jobs, is actually in the genes. He briefly responds that Steve will accomplish outstanding success whatever was the task or assignment. Yet he seems aloof when it comes to the distance between him and his actual son. Now in his late seventies, he longs for family ties and re-connecting with old friends. He is too proud to admit that he really loves his only son whose brilliance is an international household phenomenon.

On spotting a recent front page photo reporting the illness of Steve Jobs, Samir Sanbar thought it resembled very closely his father in his younger days. Sanbar added "Perhaps the two similarly stubborn proud individuals will now realize their human frailty (one getting older and the other feeling seriously ill), recognize their human bond, and get close to enjoy their remaining years together. Maybe Mona, a creative writer, could initiate the family link. After all, she's a creative author. She could add an accomplishment in real life to her other work of fiction."