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02 February 2009


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Leila Abu-Saba

I have no reason to believe Israeli intelligence is all that terrific, but I do understand that they rely on informants. Anybody can be found to tattle, for a price. This doesn't work so well for Hizbullah however.

Last October a Palestinian friend in Lebanon was showing me photos from the 70s. In one pic he was dancing close with a handsome dark-haired woman who looked a lot like... me in my younger days. LIght skin, features that could be Black Irish, or northern Italian, or half-Lebanese, or...

Who was that? I asked. "Coco," he said, dimpling. This guy lives in Mieh-Mieh camp and of course hung out in Ain el Helweh too.

Who was Coco?
Oh, she was POlish, he said. (In fact I had heard rumors back in the day that he was living with a foreign woman in the camp.)

I didn't quiz further, but I thought ... Polish???? What was a Polish woman doing living in Ain-el-Helweh in the 70s, cavorting with young Palestinian swains?

However if the guy tells me she's Polish, that doesn't mean he or anybody else believed she was Polish. Everybody who turns up from the outside is automatically assumed to be a spy.

Middle Eastern rules: suspicion all around. Hospitality of course.

One last story - during the school year of 1970-71, in Illinois, my parents took in a college student who was the friend of a friend, and needed lodging. He lived in our basement. He was a hippie - he had long hair. After graduating he took off for Europe and toured around on the cheap. He found himself in Turkey and decided to go to Lebanon because he'd been hearing about it from my dad. Once in Lebanon he took a cab to Sidon, another cab to my village, and asked in the square for my father's parents. He was taken to my grandparents' home and they welcomed him. They put him up, fed him, washed his clothes - for a week. My grandmother scolded him for the state of his undergarments and mended much as well as bleached. He attended my cousin's wedding - there are photographs.

The next summer when we arrived for a vacation, my uncle asked my father if he really knew this fellow. My uncle and all the rest of them believed he was a spy - an American turning up, asking for my father? They treated him royally anyway.

The gentleman was no spy - he became a punk rock DJ on the radio in Boston. But it's an interesting way to treat a suspected spy - wine and dine him and darn his underclothes?

That's your Arab hospitality for you.

Duncan Kinder

so, you are really wrong in thinking that the Israelis have any sort of special knowledge or understanding of the Arabs, Iranians, etc. they live lives separated from those peoples and the knowledge that arrives with immigrants dies out quickly as the newcomers rapidly assimilate into Israeli culture.

A serious shortcoming in the MidEast is the absence of any Romeo / Juliet type stories about the Israeli girl and the Palestinian boy.


A serious shortcoming in the MidEast is the absence of any Romeo / Juliet type stories about the Israeli girl and the Palestinian boy.

The ending would more closely resemble Titus Andronicus than R&J.

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