Apr 13, 2009

In memoriam

(Background track –James Taylor, You’ve got a friend)

Mahmoud Darwish
Jean Genet
Faris Glubb
George Habbash
Kurt Vonnegut

Mahmoud Darwish – top Palestinian poet

Jean Genet – Pronounced “A saint of existentialism” by Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and the rest of the existentialist ruling authorities around the late 1940s on the publication of “Our Lady of the Flowers,” an account of his life in prison and the imaginary lovers who entertained him there. “To ask why I am homosexual is like asking why my eyes are green,” he said. Served for many years in the French Foreign Legion, mostly in Syria, an unswerving supporter of the Palestinians.

Faris Glubb – son of Glubb Pasha who created and commanded the Jordanian Desert Legion

George Habbash – (“The conscience of Palestine”) a medical doctor in Amman, Jordan in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s who came to prominence when he searched all Amman for months for a winter coat made in the Arab world and failed to find one.

He decided to abandon family life and devote himself to doing something for the Arabs, particularly the Palestinians, and founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – not to be confused with the PFLP GC (General Command) of Ahmed Gibreel – as commander of which he pulled off the first and most spectacular hijacking of aircraft, bringing two full western passenger planes down into the empty desert outside Amman, a location called “Dawson’s Field” or “Revolution Airport” depending on which side you were on.

(Leila Khaled took part in a hijacking around the same time “Slowhand” put out “Leila and other love songs” by Derek and the Dominoes. Serendipity.

No one said that the sword of God (the literal translation of the title Saif’Ullah) had to be a visible one. Ask Bear Stearns. Several billion of the world’s finest hedge fund securities – here, try a nibble, they’re delicious – POUF! A pile of dust and a forlorn moth fluttering out.)

Holding the passengers and the two planes in the desert went on for some time, the hijackers offer to blow up both planes if a rescue attempt was made being entirely successful. Everyone ran around screaming and waving their arms for weeks. The UN, the Pope, and all western governments became involved in relief supplies to the passengers, including a consignment of chemical toilets flown in from Switzerland.

A poem of the time hidden so successfully I can’t find a copy now, went, at least the bits I can remember:

“They’re flying in the toilets,
Yes I heard it on the news,
(And special toilet paper
In different shades of blues?)

The Pope has cast his arms abroad
For agony and loss
For those who fly in airplanes
Go in shadow of the cross

And the UN has not failed
To condemn the rule of might
For dad a dad a dad a dad a
Dad a something if you’re white.”

Any way, (sorry I can’t remember all of it!) the hijackers eventually put their hostages into a number of lorries, or trucks, and took them to Amman Airport. According to the street, the hijackers stood around the captives in the truck to protect them against any gunfire there might be, delivered them safely, went back and blew up the planes, and disappeared into the woodwork.

What it established was not only the use of hijacking (none of the hundreds of passengers suffered so much as a scratch) but in the minds of the locals, the real peculiarities of whites. Not only Bedouins, but anyone caught short in the desert, will soon do their business and scrub their butt with sand if they have two brain cells to rub together. (They’re flying in chemical toilets from Switzerland??????????)

Whether it came from some communist roots in his past, or was a personal conviction, George Habbash maintained an old style Soviet dislike of religion as the opiate of the masses, and that made most Arabs turn rather to Yasser Arafat for leadership. This kept the PFLP out of the circle of the leaders and gave it freedom of maneuver.

Kurt Vonnegut – Aaagh! Kurt Vonnegut! Slaughterhouse Five. Aagh. “Who will worry about the stupid people now? Raise your glasses, please...”

So it goes.

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