“Carlos the Movie: the Palestinian Cause through Zionist Eyes
by As`ad AbuKhalil
Lebanon celebrated the movie “Carlos.” The movie’s director, Oliver Assayas, visited Lebanon. A number of Lebanese participated in the movie including ex-leftist Ahmad Qa’bour. Many parts of “Carlos” were shot in Lebanon and state institutions contributed to its production as indicated by the announcement at the end of the movie. The freak of a homeland is hospitable though it has received humiliation since its establishment.
While “Carlos” was intended for television, it was also played in cinemas. The theatre was overcrowded during the last days it played in San Francisco.
The audience didn’t appear bored throughout six continuous hours, which included two breaks. However, the director’s intent was clear: to harm not only Wadie Haddad but the Palestinian struggle overall even when it didn’t involve “foreign operations.” The first scene was indicative: the Mossad assassinated Muhammad Boudia (Abu Dhiya’) in Paris (the movie failed to mention that Boudia, who had participated in the liberation of Algeria, was the one who introduced “Carlos” to the Palestinian cause at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow). That was preceded by a love scene between Boudia and a French woman. The director wanted to present a classical colonial depiction of the colonized man as a sexual danger that threatens the white man’s women. The Arab man appears as a terrorist and a threat to European women. And this was just the opening scene.
Assayas came to Lebanon and was received warmly.
What else would you expect from the land of worship of the white man? Moreover, when a small group of activists (including Anis Naqqash, who was demonized in the movie) expressed their objection to the movie, the velvet society, which sees itself as sophisticated because it strives to mimic and appease the white man, was annoyed. On her show “The House of Saud’s Studio,” Gizelle Khouri was irritated by objections to the movie. The white man is never wrong. Some Lebanese participated in the movie, which was no surprise. Since when has Lebanon seen objection to demonization of Arabs in western culture? On the contrary, both ecclesiastic and non-ecclesiastic sectors have contributed to hostility towards Arabs and Islam in the west. (Israel, not Amin Al-Gemayyel, selected Antoine Fattal, author of a fundamental French orientalist book on Islam’s racism, to lead the May 17 negotiation team).
It is important to note that an American journalist, whose background is unclear, did the movie’s research. He worked as “Steven Smith” while covering the African continent for Le Monde and Liberation newspapers. He wrote a number of books on Africa. To prove the white man’s racism towards the continent’s people, it suffices to point to Senegalese writer Boubacar Boris Diop’s book “Négrophobie” in which he exposes “Smith’s” racism especially in his book “Negrology.” Meaning, Assayas selected a writer who: 1) has a racist history towards Blacks; and 2) has no connection whatsoever to Middle Eastern and Arab causes. Today “Smith is a visiting professor of African Studies at Duke University.
I have emailed him asking if he could answer some questions but he never responded. The film’s producer is Daniel Loucont, who is known for his staunch support for neoconservative causes and Israel’s interests as well as his hostility to Arabs in his documentaries and movies. I should have expected the movie would be horrible when the New York Times Magazine, which opposes Arabs and their causes except for those of Muhammad Dahlan, Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas (if they can be considered Arabs), enthusiastically praised the director and the movie’s research.
This is important because I found the movie’s political feel, purely American in a racist and Zionist sense (according to the dominant American culture, so as not to generalize about the American people). The movie exaggerates “Carlos’” importance in the Palestinian revolution’s contemporary history and even in Wadie Haddad’s history of organizing. The man was only a footnote in the Palestinian people’s struggle as was “Lawrence of Arabia” a footnote in the lesser “Arab Revolution.”
Assayas needed to exaggerate his role in order to market the movie: there are hundreds of revolutionaries with Arab names but nobody has heard of them. In other words, that “Carlos” was famous and Annis Naqqash unknown, indicates the skillfulness of the latter, not the former. Haddad didn’t want to create celebrities; he wanted to create revolutionaries. The revolutionary’s usefulness diminishes with fame and/or its pursuit. Old revolutionaries who lived the Jordan phase (before and after the September massacres) remember “Carlos.” In his first military courses he was notably brave, physically resilient and extremely enthusiastic.
Those who trained with him in Jordan know he felt restrained by standing in line and training (it appears that Palestinian groups’ trainings were influenced by that of armies. This is a result of lack of experience in guerilla warfare. See Yazid Sayigh’s book “Armed Struggle and Search for a State” in spite of its right-wing leaning). Carlos used to object and demand more rigorous training. He was also skillful at shooting. This brought him attention as a fighter, not as a revolutionary leader as the movie portrayed.
Here is where the movie’s fiction starts. “Carlos” becomes a Palestinian leader and peer to Wadie Haddad himself. You see him at a meeting of Palestinian groups’ leaders called by Yuri Androbov. “Carlos’” story overshadows the negative aspects of the Palestinian revolution’s experience of attracting people of all backgrounds without exception. Opportunists, hooligans, criminals and intelligence agents joined the revolution.
The revolution didn’t examine their backgrounds. A Palestinian entered a training camp in Al-Burj and saw a man training. He angrily asked the political supervisor: what is this man doing here?
He was told that he was a comrade from the American University of Beirut. “Comrade?” he exclaimed. “I’ve known him since childhood and he’s an old Phalangist.” He refused to participate in the training (that “comrade’s” colleagues noticed that he completely disappeared after 1982 without trace). The revolution should have scrutinized the backgrounds of those who suddenly appeared in training camps and organization offices and asked to join. Of course, there were sincere internationalists militants but there were opportunists and criminals also.
Who decides “Carlos’” reality? It’s a relative matter. I consider him more of a rash rebel who turned to opportunism after the Vienna operation, if not before. It suffices that his name is connected to the distortion of the Palestinian revolution’s name internationally. The movie tried to depict Palestinian struggle as an opportunist, criminal and terrorist endeavor. There is no mistake that this is the movie’s message. The best proof of the movie’s Zionism is the complete absence of Israel from the plot.
Israel is completely absent from criminal and terrorist operations in Europe although Israel had started terrorism in Europe by sending explosives to embassies in the forties (the otherwise serious Economist magazine erred in a recent article as it failed to mention Israel’s pioneering role in sending letter bombs). The movie showed no concern for victims among the Palestinian people and other Arab civilians in Europe or thousands of victims in the Arab world. But it wanted to emphasize for the viewer foreign victims of Arab violence (such as the scene of shooting a pregnant French woman in Beirut.
One doesn’t know if this actually occurred or if it was one of the many lies the movie fabricated). During a seventies’ recording of Bassam Abu Sharif explaining the attack on the Zionist Marks and Spencer’s owner in London, the director should have informed the viewer, at least cursorily, that the reason behind burns and wounds on Abu Sharif’s face was the Zionist letter bomb from Israel, which is dear to Assayas and his crew.
Haddad targeted the owner of Marks and Spencer for funding “Herut” party and Zionist causes. The movie wanted to depict the Arab revolutionary as hostile to Jews as Jews (only one German objected to hostility to Jews while in reality the matter was debated among the ranks of the leadership and membership, but the director deliberately mis-portrayed Palestinian organizations and characterized them as fascist and dictatorial. Not all leaders of Palestinian groups were like Yasir Arafat, and even he was questioned by his cohorts especially in the early years).
The movie never touched the reality behind Wadie Haddad’s mystery. Ahmad Qa’bour acted well but didn’t convey Wadie Haddad’s personality. Haddad wasn’t like Ibrahim Qalilat or “Abu Al-Abbas” and didn’t play with a gun during his free or threat time. The director wanted to present all Arab militants as hooligans and criminals. It is true that a number of hooligans and criminals infiltrated the ranks of the Palestinian revolution but those either belonged to the Syrian regime’s (was Al-Sa’iqa organization anything but a group of hooligans, thieves and murderers?) and the Iraqi regime’s intelligence apparatuses and Yasir Arafat’s many shops.
Ideological groups such as the Communist Party, the Communist Action Organization, the Arab Socialist Action Party-Lebanon, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Syrian Nationalist Party and Wadie Haddad’s secret organization used to expel hooligans and criminals from among their ranks. I can assert that comrade “Zuhair” of the Communist Action Organization’s military leadership, used to expel those types without hesitation and never accepted them to his organization. This was also true of Haddad’s organization. Ideological parties’ fighters were not hooligans like Yusif Bazzi (the “journalist” in the Hariri family’s daily publication) as he describes himself in his hideous book “Yasir Arafat looked at me and smiled.”
As usual, in movies like this about the Middle East, especially those contaminated with Zionist American hands, are filled with errors and lies. The movie seemed to think that Saddam Hussein assumed presidency from Ahmad Hasan Al-Bakr in the mid-seventies. It repeatedly confuses between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the secret organization that Haddad organized outside the Front’s framework.
The movie didn’t bother with the long, early debate that the Popular Front’s leadership had (since, if not before, the central committee’s 1971 meeting), meaning that violence, especially outside the struggle’s main arena, was not a transient matter for Palestinian leaders and revolutionaries. As usual, the movie conflated the Popular Front (the external operations branch, which spin off under Haddad’s leadership) and the “Black September” organization.
The director didn’t understand Wadie Haddad’s methods of organization and militarization: one of the leading members of Wadie Haddad’s organization spoke with me this summer about how they selected individuals to execute operations. He would plan the operation and send to Beirut the candidate’s required profile (for example, I want a trained fighter from a camp, short, blond hair etc.) The director didn’t know that Anis Naqqash never met Wadie Haddad or that he was “sent” by Abu Jihad to examine Haddad’s organization from within.
The movie also confuses Ali Al-Eisawi (who has no relation to “Carlos”) with his borther Salim There is no evidence that “Carlos” was involved in an attempt to assassinate Asim Al-Jundi, as Al-Jundi himself admitted that “Carlos” was innocent. The movie failed to mention that Lebanese authorities (before and until the Taif Accord), which collaborated with foreign intelligence apparatuses, had allowed a French “security official” who was an expert on “counter-terrorism” to reside in Lebanon in order to spy on and sabotage the Palestinian revolution’s organizations.
The depiction of Arab characters has no connection to reality. Anyone who has met Anis Naqqash knows that he has no relationship with the nervous, reckless young man presented in the movie. The movie’s characters are built on traditional stereotypes of Palestinian revolutionaries. It is clear that Assayas never met any of those who worked with Wadie Haddad and didn’t try to really know his personality.
The director had no concept of how Haddad had unequivocally expelled “Carlos” after he disobeyed orders for the Vienna operation. Haddad didn’t view “Carlos” the way the movie presented it. When Muhamamad Boudia was assassinated in France, “Carlos’” name was not suggested as his replacement except in “Carlos’” imagination. (“Carlos” contradicted several points from the movie in his letter to Al-Akhbar).
However, there is another instance of racism in the movie: the Latin American revolutionaries appeared driven by political principles. The same was true for German elements (which the movie exaggerated perhaps due to German funding). But Arab revolutionaries were hooligans and cared only for money and executing Arab intelligence’s orders.
There is something suspicious about the movie: There is a March 14 whiff in the narration. It appears the director must have met with ex-leftists among the Hariri crowd because the movie focused on “Carlos’” relationship with Syrian intelligence particularly although Libyan and Iraqi intelligence were closer to “Carlos” than Wadie Haddad.
Why didn’t the movie make any mention whatsoever about “Carlos’” relationship with Saudi intelligence and his performing operations on their behalf? Khalid Khadr Agha, who had a solid relationship with King Faisal and the Saudi intelligence, pointed to a chair in his house in Beirut and said: “Carlos” sat on this chair and drank bottles of Johnny Walker as he looked into serving the Saudi intelligence. According to Khadr Agha’s account, “Carlos” assassinated a Saudi dissident and received a money transfer for “Mrs. Tutu” in Romania. The movie neglected to mention this.
Why this focus on Saddam Hussein even when he was unknown? Isn’t this to influence the viewer with what is known today about his oppression? Why did the director undermine eastern European intelligence and their relationship to “Carlos”? A prominent leader in the Popular Front mentions how Haddad complained to him in the seventies about the KGB’s control of his organization. Why did the director neglect to cover the long discussions that in the circles of Wadie Haddad’s organization about the importance of avoiding harm to civilians (without denying that harm had befallen civilians as a result of operations Wadie Haddad oversaw?
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine noted this during the long discussion that resulted in severance of working relations between Haddad and the great late George Habash). This doesn’t negate that “external” operations helped to place the name of Palestine on the global map.
There’s the issue of “Michael Mukarbal.” It is important to note that Lebanese authorities arrested Mukarbal and handed him to French authorities after torturing him. He had done no activity whatsoever in Lebanon: all his activity occurred in Europe. But Lebanese authorities, until Amin Al-Gemayyel, opposed all Arab interests. Its security, military and intelligence apparatuses depended completely on foreign intelligence that worked with Israel.
Lebanese authorities used to monitor everyone who resisted Israel even if they were outside Lebanon. Joel Bustani (and later Johnny Abdu) should be known to all people in Lebanon and outside Lebanon. “Carlos” insisted that Mukarbal was suspicious, and peddled that at every opportunity. Israeli sources confirmed “Carlos’” suspicions when it discussed Mukarbal’s role in accessing Boudia. The movie depicts Mukarbal as helpless, but the reality is misrepresented. It wasn’t in the Popular Front’s interest to acknowledge the truthfulness of Carlos’ suspicions in this regard.
Next is the question of assessing “Carlos’” work. No doubt, the revolution attracted meddlers, adventurers, criminals, opportunists and daredevils, as it also attracted true revolutionaries. “Carlos” last activity was a statement in which he saluted Bin Ladin and described him as a revolutionary. Who says that “Carlos” gets to decide the Arab revolution’s issues? We have no obligation to support those who support our causes when in fact they harm them.
This movie summarizes Zionist propaganda. Arabs have to investigate every scenario before participating. I remember during my first year in Washington a director was looking for young Arab men to appear in the movie “Protocol” starring Goldie Hawn. The daily compensation was about a hundred dollars. Many young Arabs came to the casting and met the production team. Those selected were later contacted. The casting director called me to tell me I was selected. I told her I wanted to read the script first to make sure it doesn’t demonize Arabs. She laughed and said: do you think you’re going to be an actual actor in the movie?
We just want you as extras. I insisted, so she laughed and ended the call. Morocco has gained expertise in hostility towards Arabs and Muslims, in movies such as “Indiana Jones.” Lebanon, as usual, distances itself from Arab sensibilities. On the contrary, some in Lebanon pride themselves on the cooperation between Lebanese police and Israeli interests (in the seventies). But it’s just a movie. Arab rejection of Israel’s existence is undeniable truth. Write that down, o Assayas.”