Document Type: 
Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): 
Release Decision: 
Original Classification: 
Document Page Count: 
Document Creation Date: 
December 20, 2016
Document Release Date: 
January 30, 2008
Sequence Number: 
Case Number: 
Publication Date: 
January 1, 1983
Content Type: 
PDF icon CIA-RDP85T00153R000300020015-1.pdf327.52 KB
Approved For Release 2008/01/30: CIA-RDP85TO0153R000300020015-1 OFFICE OF THE DIRECTUK Date: 6 Jan. 1983 TO: DCI FROM: PLO Terrorism of Journalists SUBJECT: in Beirut REMARKS: article reports, in 1? This how for years the detail, operating considerable ou specially PLO has terrorized j offers e in Beirut. The article terrorist activity graphic accounts of such during the recent Israeli campaign- offers If accurate, this article that 2. PLO terroristced. project It is a evidence of a has gone, unnotiolicy would pnotij project ul nOwhose impact on US 9 r be significant. Approved For Release 2008/01/30: CIA-RDP85TO0153R000300020015-1 STAT Approved For Release 2008/01/30: CIA-RDP85TO0153R000300020015-1 wn ~lqy / g~ Observations How the PLO Terrorized Journalists in Beirut Kenneth R. Timmerman M UCH was made during the Is- raeli campaign in Lebanon this past summer of attempts by Israel to muzzle the international press. The French daily Le Monde, in an article entitled "War against the Press?," reported on July 8, 1982 that a photographer for the Sygma agency was held up for sever- al hours at Tel Aviv airport, and that after interrogation his film was temporarily seized. As for the Amer- ican public, the climax was perhaps reached when, at the end of June, CBS broadcast a 30-second segment completely whited out, bearing the stamp of the Israeli censor. In order to get around Israeli military censorship, which they feared would delete their best foot- age, the American television net- works chartered a high-speed yacht to make the trip from Junieh to Cy- prus, carrying their video cassettes of the bombardments of West Beirut. By the end of the siege, ten tele- vision companies from several coun- tries were sharing this service, since the direct-transmission station in the mountains surrounding Beirut had been knocked out at the very beginning of the war ... by Syrian shells. The price demanded by the Athenian millionaire who owned the yacht was $80,000 per month. By contrast with the allegedly re- stricted situation in Israel, corre- spondents in West Beirut constant- ly affirmed their freedom to report what they saw as they saw it, unin- fluenced by the PLO which con- KENNETH R. TiMMERMAN, a new con- tributor, is a young American novelist and free-lance journalist who makes his home in Paris. He has written a book on the war in Lebanon and his experience in the prisons of the PLO. trolled that part of the city. Marc Kravetz, in the French daily Le Matin (August 2), attacked Israel for charging that he and other jour- nalists were biased in their reports. "Throughout this war, the press was able to evaluate the difference be- tween a country without censorship and its neighbor," Kravetz wrote. "Most journalists working from the Israeli lines were at least theoretical- ly supposed to submit their dis- patches to a regime of censorship which we could not even imagine existing in West Beirut." Yet the idyll Kravetz paints is false. The risks journalists incurred while working in Beirut did not come solely or even mostly from Is- raeli bombs. As an independent journalist who spent three weeks in a PLO jail this past summer (July 14-August 6), I can testify that when it came to muzzling the press, the PLO had things worked out to a fine science. THERE were two centers for the for- eign press crews in Beirut, the Com- modore Hotel in the West and the Alexander in the East. Most of the television coverage of the siege was filmed ? from the rooftops of one of these two hotels, both of which, despite an occasional shell, were the safest place to be while still within reasonable view of the fight- ing. ? Both hotels spent enormous sums to keep their telexes and interna- tional telephones in operation. Is- raeli soldiers often came to the bar of the Alexander for a drink, while the Palestinian Press Agency, WAFA, according toN Kravetz's own description, would arrive at the Commodore the day after bombard- ments to show selected journalists the damage caused by the enemy." The information supplied by WAFA on the number of victims and their category--civilian or mili- tary-provided the basis for the dis- patches leaving West Beirut, in the absence of other sources. The "Le- banese police" so often quoted in this context had ceased to function in West Beirut early in the siege. With deadlines to meet and under the risk of falling bombs, most jour- nalists were content with what they got. This, then, was one source of the wild exaggeration in the figures of civilian dead reported throughout the war and especially during the siege of Beirut. But this aspect of the story has been well documented, and is a staple of almost every military con- flict. Much more important were the direct means employed by the PLO to control the journalists pres- ent in West Beirut, and the indi- rect means used to intimidate them. First there was the press pass is- sued by WAFA with the bearer's photograph, a duplicate of which remained in WAFA's offices. With- out this pass, no journalist could hope to circulate in West Beirut; caught photographing, or taking notes, he would be immediately arrested if not shot on sight. No newspaper or other medium would commit the error of sending in to West Beirut someone who had adversely reported in the past on the activities of the PLO or the Syrians, for fear of his simply dis- appearing. Thus a first "selection" of journalists was made by the PLO: there simply were no unfriendly journalists operating in the besieged sector of the city. (Needless to say, no similar selection was made by the Israel Press Office. Western cor- respondents reporting fromTel Aviv freely criticized the Begin govern- ment's handling of the war.) ? The Alexander received several direct artillery hits from Palestinian positions on July 12, and was damaged by a car bomb in early August, while the Com modore was hit by a single Israeli bouih on August 4, the day of the hcavicst fight ing of the entire siege. Approved For Release 2008/01/30: CIA-RDP85TO0153R000300020015-1 Approved For Release 2008/01/30: CIA-RDP85TO0153R000300020015-1 zV.aT-IONS/49 The list of journalists who over the years have been murdered, shot, kidnapped, imprisoned, or otherwise intimidated in Beirut for their "in- discretions" is a long one: ten deaths from 1976 to 1981 alone, not count- ing those of this past summer. The ten slain journalists include two ABC television correspondents, Lar- ry Buchman and Sean Toolan; Edouard Saab, the editor of Orient le Jour, the largest French-language daily in the entire region; Salim Laouzi, editor of the periodical Al Hawadess; and Robert Pfeffer, from the West German magazine Stern. Sean Toolan was shot dead in the street in July 1980, after having completed an ABC film on Pales- tinian terrorism. Robert Pfeffer was shot dead in front of his Beirut apartment short- ly after he published a book on the use of PLO terrorist-training bases in Lebanon by the Baader-Meinhof gang. Edouard Saab had been critical of Palestinian military activities in Le- banon since 1970. In September 1976, as he was leaving Beirut, his car was stopped at an Al Fatah checkpoint where he was killed by a machine-gun burst in the fore- head. The horribly mutilated corpse of Salim Laouzi was found by a shep- herd near the village of Aramoun, on the outskirts of Beirut, on March 4, 1980. Threats against his life be- gan in 1975. That summer a bomb- ing totally destroyed the Beirut headquarters of his weekly magazine Al Hawadess, forcing him to move editorial offices to London, where Laouzi (a Lebanese Muslim) con- tinued to fight against Palestinian and Syrian occupation of his coun- try. On a return trip to Beirut to see his family, his car was stopped at a Syrian army roadblock, and Laouzi was abducted by militiamen from the pro-Syrian Saiqa group of the PLO. His body was not discov- ered until ten days after his dis- appearance. In June 1980, Bernard Debuss- man, Beirut bureau chief for Reu- ters, was shot in the back with a pistol equipped with a silencer, upon leaving the home of a col- league in Beirut. He had been re- peatedly threatened by the pro- Syrian faction of the PLO for his articles on events inside Syria. The other Western newsmen who wit- nessed' the shooting were hastily withdrawn from their posts. Debuss- man, after a long stay in the hospi- tal, survived. Peter Meyer-Ranke, Middle East correspondent for the Springer newspaper chain in West Germany, wrote in February 1982 that "Beirut is no place for an honest journalist to work." Referring to coverage of the heavy fighting between Syrian troops and Phalangists in 1978, Meyer-Ranke said that he had fre- quently observed "self-censorship, self-restrictions, and silence" from his Western colleagues in Palestin- ian and Syrian-controlled areas. "More important for them is the press card from the PLO and the Syrian government." THINGS got no better during the siege of Beirut this past summer. For journalists West Beirut was the place to be. But to be in West Bei- rut, they had to play by the rules of the PLO. Thus did the PLO campaign of intimidation and direct elimination over the past six years pay off. No one needed to be reminded of it. Nor would anyone try to "infiltrate" West Beirut unbeknownst to the PLO: armed Palestinian and Syrian guardposts covered every street, and Europeans stuck out like sore thumbs. It was impossible to cir- culate incognito. If you wanted to cover West Beirut, the press pass was a must. There were other means of PLO control. For the journalist who was truly recalcitrant, foolhardy, or curious, there was the PLO prison system. Each of the 15 organizations comprising the Palestine Liberation Organization had its own prison in West Beirut. The primary aim of these prisons was to keep the Leb- anese and other Arab inhabitants from fleeing the city during the siege; most of the inmates had been arrested at various PLO checkpoints on their way out. The "Arab tele- phone" communicated the news of this practice to all the inhabitants of the city, who, as a result, mostly remained behind as hostages and propaganda decoys, preferring the risk of Israeli bombardment to the certain terror of the PLO prisons. The Western press corps failed completely to report on the exis- tence of the prisons, despite the fact that many journalists were aware of them. When I was released after being held underground for 24 days during the bombings, I approached a well-known wire service with news of the prisons. I was coldly received, and dismissed with the assurance that they would report nothing. They still had people in West Bei- rut, and could not put them in jeopardy. This is exactly what it means to say that the PLO is a' terrorist or- ganization. The efficient terrorist strikes in such a way as to make his potential victims feel vulnerable on every front, at every moment. That is his equivalent of the "deterrent" so often evoked in discussions of nuclear war, and it operated very effectively in the case of the news service I tried to interest in the story of the PLO prisons. ON July 30, during my imprison- ment, I met two American journal- ists who were terrorized in this sense. This was in the subcellars of a modern building in Fakhani, one of the military headquarters of the PLO and thus a prime Israeli tar- get. They were a couple, brought down to the shelter during a bom- bardment. Bit by bit they realized that off in the dark around them were not "conveniences" for soldiers wishing to recoup their energies during the raids but cells to hold Arab and Western prisoners, includ- ing myself. The couple broke down. "When we get back to the States we'll tell everyone how brave you are," said the girl to her "guardians." "We'll tell them how well you treated us." The two never published a word on their brief and unwitting tour of the PLO prisons; it is extremely doubtful they will ever do so. Ter- ror is not knowing when you will be struck down. As such it has been the most successful weapon of the PLO in its campaign to influence the Western news media. A journalist who has actually been arrested or threatened by the PLO for some "indiscretion" be- comes subject to the tacit under- standing on the part of all con- cerned that such incidents will be Approved For Release 2008/01/30: CIA-RDP85TO0153R000300020015-1 Approved For Release 2008/01/30: CIA-RDP85TO0153R000300020015-1 50/COMMENTARY JANUARY 1983 covered up for fear of further re- prisals against associates and parent organizations. One American jour- nalist I talked to denied reports that he had received Syrian threats, despite the fact that these had been confirmed by other sources. The jo+trnalist in question has since been relieved of'duty on Middle Eastern affairs and been given an assign- ment elsewhere. This has happened time and time again, as it did with those who witnessed the gunning of Bernard Debussman. The New York Times, the Wash- ington Post, the Associated Press, News-week, and others have been cited by Israeli authorities as having deliberately covered up incidents of arrest, mistreatment, and overt threats against their correspondents in Beirut at the hands of the PLO. According to the Jerusalem Post, "a condition for their release was that their media not mention their ab- duction." Several French newsmen were held captive by the PLO during the siege of Beirut for periods rang- ing from six to twenty-four hours. Their film was examined, they were personally threatened and in several cases beaten and physically intimi- dated to insure their silence. In my own case, French consular authori- ties arranged a trade for my release. Since returning to France I have learned from sources in contact with the PLO that I have been written off as one who will never speak. During my 31 weeks of constant, direct intimidation, I was supposed to have "learned." Terror, intimidation, and the law of silence: these are the basic tools used by the Palestine Liberation Organization to manipulate the in- ternational press. Most of the sins committed by Western newsmen under PLO constraint were sins of omission: showing bombed build- ings but not the arms stockpiled in their basements; describing bombed hospitals but not the PLO fighters whose bases of operations were in- side; and so forth. The list is in- finite, but the effect unmistakable: the reversal of international opinion on the moral equation of the Mid- dle East conflict. Anti-Nuclear Fantasies Patrick Glynn T HE anti-nuclear movement has typically expressed itself in broad, emotional gestures of public protest-marches and rallies, the- atrical demonstrations of the horri- ble effects of nuclear bombs, popu- lar referenda for some sort of "freeze" on the arms race. But along with this popular protest, a special- ized literature has been forming-a growing corpus of "anti-nuclear books" that attempt to provide more specific theoretical underpin- nings for the movement. The best known of these books is Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth. Two major new additions to the genre are Indefensible Weapons and Be- yond the Cold War-the former a PATRICK GLYNN, a' new contributor, is senior editor of the Journal of Con- temporary Studies. collaborative effort by two activist American professors, Robert Jay Lifton and Richard Falk, the latter a collection of polemical essays by E.P. Thompson, the well-known British Marxist historian and spokesman for the European disarmament cam- paign.? In Indefensible Weapons, Robert Jay Lifton and Richard Falk direct our attention to a phenomenon called "nuclearism," which they de- fine as the "psychological, political, and military dependence on nuclear weapons, the embrace of the wea- pons as a solution to a wide variety of human dilemmas, most ironically that of 'security.' " At different points in the text, nuclearism is characterized as a "disease," a fun- darnentalist "religion," and an "ad- diction." The book consists of two long essays, one by each author, with a jointly written introduction and conclusion. In the first essay, called "Imagining the Real," Lifton, who teaches psychiatry at Yale, argues that the sheer presence of nuclear arms and the dangers they pose are responsible for a wide variety of psychic ills in modern societies; that governments have tended to cope with the nuclear peril by taking refuge in the neurotic "illusion" that stockpiling the weapons can provide security; and that the cure for our problem lies in rejecting such illusions-in "casting off our ? Indefensible Weapons: The Political and Psychological Case Against Nuclear. isrn, by Robert Jay Lifton and Richard Falk, Basic Book3, 301 pp., $15.50. Beyond the Cold War: A New Approach to the Arms Race and Nuclear Annihi:ation, by E.P. Thompson, Panthcon, 198 pp., $15 00. Approved For Release 2008/01/30: CIA-RDP85TO0153R000300020015-1