The PLO — The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organisation by Jillian Becker. (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, £12.50).
THE WAR in Lebanon in 1982 bctween Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation is the subject of much controversy but it had two indisputable results.
The first is that the PLO fighters were forced to leave Beirut; the second is that their departure made it possibie for investigators to dig into the organisation's activities.
Much was already known — for instance, that the PLO was created by President Nasser of Egypt as a political tool and that it was the foundation on which modern terrorism worldwide was built.
When it left Beirut it abandoned vast amounts of documents, a rich mine for analysis. Also, people who for years had been intimidated were no longer afraid to talk about the PLO and its actions.
Jillian Becker has made good use of both sources in dissecting what is to her the corpse of the PLO after its "demise."
She is direct in her judgments. The business of the PLO, she says, was "to keep the Palestinians in misery, generation after generation." To reach this conclusion in 1983 she gees back to world war one and explains Arab hopes for the great Arab kingdoms created by the British and French; Transjordan, now Jordan, was one such creation.
This earlier history is necessary if the later JewishArab conflict is to be understood, for the British fostered the unrealistic idea of a united Arab world.
Relentlessly but dispassionately, Becker shows how the Palestinians, some of who had been displaced by war, were exploited first by the Egyptians and then by the Syrians; both wanted to dominate the "unified Arab nation."
Simultaneously, Syria was promoting terrorist raids on Israel from Jordan while President Nasser was using the PLO to subvert the Jordanian government.
Struggling to escape Nasser's traps, King Hussain claimed, in May 1965, that "Palestine has become Jordan • and Jordan Palestine." It was a logical view of a state whose population is predominantly Palestinian.
Becker explains how terrorist groups took over the PLO, thus making the Arab states victims of their own creation.
In 1970 Jordan became the principal victim when it had to fight a war against the PLO to ensure its survival. Driven out of Jordan, the PLO created a state within a state in Lebanon.
Despite the obvious dangers the Arab League, which included Lebanon, increased the PLO's power by recognising it as the "sole representative of the Palestinian people." The Palestinians were never consulted.
The book has several strands; the author shows the effects of the PLO's activities on the Arab world, on the world community, anti on Israel, which it sought to destroy.
She describes appalling atrocities which PLO terrorists inflicted upon many people in no way involved in their war against Israel; to her credit she has not relied on hearsay but has gone to surviving victims and to eyewitnesses.
She concludes: "If hope lay anywhere (for the Palestinians) it was in the very dissolution of the PLO."
The book is meticulously documented with three appendices and 40 pages of reference notes which are as interesting as the book itself.
I believe that Jillian Becker is mistaken in her assumption that after August 1982 "Arafat's PLO had its existence only on his own lips," and that the organisation has suffered a demise.
Uninformed world opinion has given the PLO a momentum that is still carrying it forward. Also, the various groups which comprise the now splintered PLO are useful as political tools for the Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians and Russians, among others.
But Ms Becker has at least proved that the PLO was never an honest political organisation and that for everybody's sake it should be dead.