KAMAL by D. W. Arathorn


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The education--and radical disillusionment--of a Palestinian terrorist. He is Kamal Jibral, who seems at first an unlikely prototype: blond, New York-born-and-raised, a banker's son. But this banker-father conceived Kamal in Jerusalem before fleeing the victorious Israelis in 1948. So, though Kamal has put in his political dues as a terrorist in Uruguay for two years, he feels his rage belongs to Palestine. He travels to Paris, casts clumsily around for Palestinian connections, is eventually contacted by them. By this time, however, Kamal has already been betrayed to French security by the Trotskyite woman whom he's been living with. And, after this, it's one appallingly ingenuous misadventure after another. Because he's American, carrying a US passport, Kamal is sent to Jerusalem on a futile photographic-reconnaissance mission: he's immediately trailed, detained, and sent packing by Israeli intelligence. Once back in Paris, thinking that he'd been betrayed before going to Israel, he promptly kills the ex-lover (Trotskyite, Jewish) of his girlfriend. Back into the fray, then--but now his Palestinian mentor in Paris is blown up in a car, leading Kamal to realize that all along he's been a sort of trace element that leads French and Israeli intelligence to bigger fish. So he hies off to a mountain guerrilla camp in Syria, where, speaking no Arabic, he nonetheless develops a reputation with the teenage commandos as ""Bu Q'asadi""--Butch Cassidy; and he's promptly sent back into Israel to (successfully) assassinate someone marked for death by the ascetic camp leader, Abu Ahmet. Still, as all this comes together fight before the Yom Kippur war of 1973, Kamal realizes day by day what a small pawn he is in a much larger, very cynical game: he finally winds up at a hell-on-earth Damascus refugee camp (whose occupants exist solely on myth), with the knowledge that the guerrillas are mostly just exploited, purposely kept barely effective by the other Arab states (who would lose their work forces were there ever to be a Palestinian state). The fadeout here, unfortunately, is a rather unconvincing, quasi-inspirational one: Kamal rejects violence but looks forward to a non-violent triumph of the Palestinian cause. And Arathorn's interior-monologue style--which does succeed in keeping Kamal always a deadly step behind full knowledge--is too nervous, prickly, and occasionally wearisome to sustain interest throughout. But a book wholly launched off the Palestinian, anti-Israel viewpoint is a rare, dangerous-feeling, and often fascinating proposition--so a good many readers should find this provocative, unusual reading.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harper & Row