A hostage recalls his three-week ordeal in the Jordanian desert as Western diplomacy struggled with a new kind of terrorism.
In the wake of the cataclysmic attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, many have forgotten the grim drama that took place three decades earlier, when Palestinian guerillas hijacked three commercial airliners on a single September day in 1970. Raab, now a healthcare executive, was then a 17-year-old returning from a summer in Israel, heading home to New Jersey aboard a TWA 707 jet that had departed Frankfurt for New York. Raab relates in detail how his plane, later joined by two other hijacked airliners from different points of origin, was taken over and landed at dusk in the Jordanian desert. The guerillas emptied one plane and blew it up, threatening to do the same to the jets with kidnapped passengers aboard if their nations of origin did not cooperate and induce Israel to release a list of Palestinians detained for prior terrorist acts. This all happened against the background of an armed movement by Palestinians living in Jordan to overthrow the regime of King Hussein in the wake of his joining Egypt and Israel in a cease-fire and peace talks. The successful conclusion of negotiations for the release of all hostages from the hijacked airliners coincided with the Jordanian Army’s ultimate victory (with Israel’s sub rosa assistance) against the guerillas. But it was a grim three weeks for Raab and the nine other American men taken from their plane to a refugee compound in Amman, where they were held by a rogue element among the hijackers who thought their leaders’ negotiating stance was too conciliatory. The author cuts between the diplomatic maneuvers and the hostages sweating it out in captivity.
Retrospectively instructive on the Middle East, but emotionally flat as a personal narrative.