First of all, I appreciate the fact that you reject bourgeois moralism and obedience to international law. These have been the cause of our tragedy. Now, I would like to answer your questions. I want to talk in general about this kind of operation. I have always said that we don’t hijack planes because we love Boeing 707s. We do it for specific reasons, at a specific time and against a specific enemy. It would be ridiculous to hijack planes at the present moment and land them in Cairo, for example, or in Jordan. It would have no meaning now. But you have to analyse the political situation in which we carried out these operations, and the aims we wanted to achieve. Let us recall the situation. On July 23rd Nasser accepted the Rogers plan, and a week later the Jordanian government did so too. Once again the Palestinians were put on the shelf. If you read the Arab and international press between July 23rd and September 6th, you will see that the Palestinian people were again being treated exactly as they were between 1948 and 1967. The Arab papers started writing about how ‘heroic’ the Palestinians are, but also how ‘paralysed’ they were, and how there was no hope for these ‘brave heroes’. The morale of our people in Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza was extremely low. On top of that a delegation from the leadership of the Palestinian resistance movement, the plo
The Egyptian régime was one step removed from direct participation in this liquidation, since it had no direct contact with the Palestinians; it was in a safer position. The only way the Egyptian régime could help Hussein was by keeping silent: and that it did, to the extent that it could resist the pressure of the Arab masses. For the first three days of the fighting in September the Egyptian government, and all the other Arab governments, were silent, because they thought that the resistance movement could not survive for more than three days. Then they were forced to move, because the people in the streets of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon were angry at the massacre; but the first five thousand Palestinian victims fell in Amman in silence, and no-one complained.
The Rogers plan presupposed the liquidation of our movement, and this was now approaching in an atmosphere of Palestinian submissiveness. Therefore, something had to be done; first of all, to tell the world that we were not going to be put on the shelf for the second time, and secondly to tell the world that the days when the us and reactionary Arabs could dictate to our people were over. Moreover there was the question of the morale, the fighting ability, of our own people. We could not let things remain like that when a massacre was on the way, even if we had sat down quietly on the steps of His Majesty’s palace, and kissed his hand.
Absolutely not. This is complete rubbish. It is true that there are still parts of the resistance movement who think it is possible to ‘neutralize’ the Jordanian régime; but this is nonsense. As for the argument that the hijackings provoked and accelerated Hussein’s attack, the short answer to this is that the Jordanian régime had already stopped guerrilla actions south of the Dead Sea, blocked forces moving towards Eilat, and prevented our units attacking the Naharin dam in the North of the West Bank. At the same time the Jordanian army put mines at most of the points where guerrillas crossed the Jordan river,
Thus the real clash was taking place all the time: they were forbidding us to practise our raison d’être. They were preventing us making raids against Israel, and suppressing our political activities in the cities. So our own actions, including the planes, were not provocations; they were the movement of a revolution trying to escape from a circle in which it was trapped.
All our activities were an attempt to get out of our situation. For example, we held demonstrations in Amman shouting ‘Down with Nasser’ and ‘Down with Egypt’; perhaps they were a mistake, but they were one of the many ways in which we tried to break out of the circle.
You mustn’t isolate the hijackings from the total political context. For example, al-Fatah sent rocket-launchers to Ghor-Safi below the Dead Sea, and blew up the potassium factories. We were all trying to break out, to give the Palestinian masses more hope, and to say that the battle was going on. We wanted to put pressure on the Jordanian government to postpone its attack on us. Our relationship with the Jordanian government is not based on common convictions, only on pressure; we have no common ground with them. It was a question of a balance of power. All our actions, from the great error of going to the Arab League to the hijackings themselves (which were the highest form of pressure) were forms of pressure. Some of them were miscalculated negatively, and some positively. On the other hand, there certainly were individuals and organizations within the resistance who did believe there was a possibility of overthrowing the king. They were in error.