Monday, September 04, 2006

Meeting The PLO

I had many odd experiences when I traveled to Europe in 1980. One of the oddest and most memorable was when I met a member of the PLO.

I had heard of the organization of course and formed an opinion that they were a terrorist group rather than liberators or warriors. So it was odd to meet a member in person and go for tea.

I had recently arrived in Oslo, Norway and made my second pilgrimage to Frogner Park to see the Vigeland Sculptures. I had always been fascinated by them and wanted to see them at night.

The sculptures, especially the central obelisk, affirm human life in all it's stages. It was here that I encountered a member of a group that destroyed life as part of it's mandate against Israel.

I noticed an Arab man watching me take photos. He was around my age (22) and wasn't threatening in any way. We began to talk and he said he worked for the political arm of the PLO in it's Oslo office. He said he wanted to practice his English and invited me for tea. I accepted.

We sat drinking tea and made small talk. I don't think he was trying to pick me up but just wanted someone to talk to. He seemed wary of introducing topics in case I was offended. I had many questions for him but could not ask them. I wanted to ask how he and the PLO justified the Munich Massacre but I felt that would be rude since he had been a nice host.

I tried to think of other things to talk about but always came back to Munich. That episode has burned itself in my memory for years and would not leave me that night. We finished our tea and I said goodbye and left.

I have thought about this meeting off and on over the years. I still see a pleasant young man sipping tea and wonder if he is still alive. Did he participate in the Intifada? Did he die as a suicide bomber somewhere? I don't know. I know that his life involved a different world than mine. One which tries to solve things with bombs as well as politics and negotiation.

The episode was short but it has stayed in my memory.

1 comment:

Joel said...

Wow. That's a very intense memory. No wonder you never forgot about it.