(page 3 of 5)
At Daoud’s behest, Udi was planning a trip to Athens, to meet a PLO operative. Udi’s new girlfiend, Leah Leshem, a kibbutznik without a radical background whom he had met at university, was suspicious. “Are you going to meet with Black September?” she asked, anxious.
“I’ll send you a postcard,” Udi replied.
In athens, Udi was met by a short, heavy man in his late forties who called himself Abu Kammal. Daoud had been vague about Abu Kammal’s organizational affiliation. Udi assumed he was an operative for one of the PLO’s factions, hopefully Hawatmeh’s.
Abu Kammal kept his real identity hidden: he was an Arab Israeli from the Galilee named Habib Kawaji, who had been exiled for leading a pro-Nasserist movement. These days, Kawaji was working for Syrian intelligence, and Daoud’s underground was being run by Syria’s Ba’athist regime, but Kawaji didn’t tell Udi that either. If Udi needed to believe that Kawaji was an independent PLO operative, what was the harm?
Kawaji spoke decent English. He didn’t let on that he also spoke fluent Hebrew. In struggling English, Udi explained that his reason for supporting the PLO was to encourage a socialist revolution in the Middle East.
Yes, agreed Kawaji, revolution against corrupt Arab regimes was his goal too.
Kawaji revealed their final destination: We’re going to Damascus.
Finally, thought Udi. No more games — Udi posed for passport photos, and Kawaji took those to the Syrian Embassy. Udi’s Syrian passport was issued under the name of George Houri, a Syrian-born expatriate, Kawaji explained, who spoke no Arabic because his family had moved to Argentina when he was a child. Udi was uneasy. “What’s with you and Syria?” he asked. Was Kawaji working for the Syrian government rather than the PLO? The moral distinction, which would have been lost on most of his fellow Israelis, was crucial to Udi. The PLO was a revolutionary movement, the Syrian Ba’athist government reactionary and nationalist.
Kawaji reassured him. “We have friends in the Syrian regime,” he said.
On the brief flight from Athens to Beirut, Udi felt afraid for the first time. There was no turning back. Beirut was the capital of Palestinian terrorism.
Just recently an Israeli commando team had landed in Beirut and assassinated Palestinian terrorist leaders; one of the commandos killed in the operation was the son of a leader of Hashomer Hatzair whom Udi knew.
Udi approached passport control. “What do I say?” he anxiously asked Kawaji. “Why don’t I speak Arabic?”