The World: Most Probably We'll All Die

  • Share
  • Read Later

"Aren't you tired of fighting? Doesn't the road seem long when you take small steps?" Mohammed Yusuf Najjar, better known as Abu Yusuf, faced these questions two months ago in an interview with L'Orient-Le Jour, the influential Beirut newspaper. Abu Yusuf, 44, replied that he did not expect his generation of Palestinians to defeat the Israelis. "We plant the seeds, and the others will reap the harvest," he said. "Most probably we'll all die, killed because we are confronting a fierce enemy. But the youth will replace us."

Last week Abu Yusuf himself was killed, the highest-ranking victim of the Israeli raids against Palestinians in Lebanon. A founder of Al-Fatah, the most important of the five major groups within the Palestine Liberation Organization, Abu Yusuf was the top deputy of Fatah Chief Yasser Arafat and was the only Fatah member on the P.L.O.'s executive committee. A onetime lawyer, Abu Yusuf acted as a kind of Foreign Minister for the P.L.O., representing it skillfully in negotiations with Arab governments. The Israelis regarded him as also a leader of the shadowy Palestinian terrorist group, Black September. Abu Daoud, the Al-Fatah leader imprisoned in Jordan, seemed to support this belief in a recent "confession" about the inner workings of Fatah, but other Palestinians contend that his statement was made under duress and was untrue.

Kamal Adwan, 38, was the youngest of the three P.L.O. officials assassinated by the Israelis. A former petroleum engineer who had worked with Arafat on the Persian Gulf, he was also influential in Fatah affairs, though he shunned publicity. He established one of the original Palestinian resistance cells and, at his death, was responsible for P.L.O. intelligence in Israeli-occupied territories. To the Israelis, this meant that he was in charge of terrorist acts within these areas.

Kamal Nasser, 48, the third P.L.O. victim, was mourned by Palestinians last week as the "revolutionary butterfly." He was a colorful and esteemed poet and the official spokesman for the entire P.L.O. A Christian, he did not seem tied to any one group within the organization, though the Israelis regarded him as a representative of Fatah and thus, in their view, of Black September. Nasser always refused to carry a gun, despite warnings that his life might be in danger. A graduate in political science from the American University of Beirut and a former member of the Jordanian Parliament, he was perhaps the Palestinians' most eloquent champion.

In an interview with two French journalists a week before he was killed, Nasser insisted that Black September was "not an organization within the frame of the P.L.O." It was, he said, a phenomenon that had grown out of some Palestinians' frustration at the world's refusal "to see their just cause and understand their problem." Nasser added, in what may have been his final words on the subject: "As a Palestinian leader, I do not encourage such phenomena. We have our own strategy, and I believe that the Black September movement will never dominate the resistance. But I wonder if we can stop it from growing if the whole world is going to continue turning its back on the Palestinians."