Jillian Becker, The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984).

Welcome to the weird world of Ms. Jillian Becker—a world in which the PLO wreaks senseless vengeance on the hapless Palestinian people, PLO prison officers decorate their offices with blood-daubed Stars of David (pp. 146-47), generally elusive victims of PLO violence have their genitals or breasts cut off, or are ripped mercilessly limb from limb, etc. This is a universe where, in the author’s words, “dynamic ‘First World’ cultures come up against and clash with stagnant ‘Third World’ cultures.” (p.5)

Where has this lady been? She has no previous credentials as an expert on things Middle Eastern. Those in Washington who watch the Middle East first encountered her at the conference here sponsored by the Israeli-backed Jonathan Institute in late 1984. The rabidity of her anti-PLO pronouncements reportedly caused some embarrassment even to many long-time members of the hard-line Washington counter-terror gang. This dust-jacket tells us only that Ms. Becker “took herself into the midst of war to write this book. She journeyed for many days on roads known to be mined and ambushed, spent nights in rooms with glassless windows while shells exploded on all sides…” Many days, indeed.

The author previously made some mark with a book called Hitler’s Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang. Her “first three books were novels,” we are told. Only those? The present book describes a fantasy world in which logic is stood on its head at will, and sweet reason enters not. Every journalist or researcher who works in an area of high conflict knows well that both sides to the conflict will make the most outrageous allegations against the other. One rapidly learns to develop some system for checking and double-checking those which seem to have some basis in reality. Ms. Becker bothers with none of these tasks, accepting at face value whatever unnamed “members of Lebanese Forces Intelligence” or “Israeli academics” tell her. There is something particularly repugnant about the way that she rode around occupied Lebanon, presumably with an Israeli-supplied interpreter, in order to hear such horrendous allegations against the PLO as her sponsors felt she should be hearing. Just how much honest, independent research can one conduct under such circumstances? And yet, this slovenly little book found a New York publisher readily enough, and is probably destined for the reference shelves and quotation mills of Israel’s American friends, alongside Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial.

How to cite this article:

Helena Cobban "Becker, The PLO," Middle East Report 133 (June 1985).

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