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Drumming up support for Yasser Arafat


Yasser Arafat is smuggled out of Beirut
Uri Avnery Social activist
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קודם כל צריכים להזכיר שהיינו בבירות כאשר אנשי אש"ף עם ערפאת בראש עזבו את ביירות לטוניס. אנחנו שכבנו על הגג של אחד המחסנים בנמל, נמל ביירות, וראינו את כוחות אש"ף במשאיות עם דגלים מתנופפים נוסעים לנמל, ובאחד מהם מוסתר היטב היה ערפאת, שלא ראינו אותו, ואז הם הפליגו. אז אמרנו שראינו מהגג את אנשי אש"ף הלוחמים יוצאים עם דגלים מתנופפים, על נשקם, והם ראו בזה ניצחון גדול, מפני שישראל לא הייתה מעוניינת לתת להם לצאת אבל האמריקאים כפו את זה על ישראל. באותה הזדמנות עשינו סיור, או טיול, מסביב לביירות, מחוף אל חוף. הרי ביירות בנויה על מין בליטה כזאת בין הים לבין המפרץ, כמו חיפה בערך, ונסענו מחוף אל חוף, דהיינו מנמל התעופה שהוא על החוף המערבי, חוף הים התיכון, מסביב אל הנמל שהוא כבר בתוך המפרץ כמו חיפה, מאוד דומה לחיפה. נסענו מעמדה לעמדה. בין השאר ביקרנו במוזיאון ביירות, מוזיאון חשוב של עתיקות, וקיבלו אותנו בשמחה גדולה. כולם היו סקרנים איך נראה ערפאת באמת ומה הוא אמר וכו', ושתינו קפה אתם. כשירדנו היה שלט גדול: "אבנרי הביתה" שאחד החיילים שם. והכל היה ככה ברוח טובה, הייתה אווירה של שמחה. ערפאת עבר לטוניס וסרטאווי, עדיין היה בפאריז. אולי אני אגיד מילה על סרטאווי. סרטאווי כל המלחמה היה בפאריז והוא היה אני חושב הקשר היחידי בין ערפאת במצור בביירות עם כל העולם. הכל הלך דרך המשרד של סרטאווי.‏

First of all, we should mention that we were in Beirut when the PLO people, with Arafat at their head, left Beirut for Tunis. We were lying on the rooftop of one of the warehouses in the port, the port of Beirut, and we saw PLO forces in trucks, with flags flying, driving to the port. In one of them, well hidden, was Arafat. We did not see him, and then they sailed.

So as I said we saw from the rooftop the PLO fighters come out with flags flying, with their weapons, and to them this was a great victory, because Israel didn't want to let them leave, but the Americans forced Israel to do it. On that occasion we made a tour or a trip around Beirut, from coast to coast. Beirut is built on a kind of a bulge between the sea and the bay, sort of like Haifa, and we travelled from coast to coast, from the airport which is on the west coast, the Mediterranean coast, around to the port which is already in the Gulf, as is Haifa, very similar to Haifa. We went from one place to another. Among other things, we visited the National Museum of Beirut, an important museum of antiquities, and they received us very enthusiastically. Everyone was curious about what Arafat actually looked like and what he said and so on, and we drank coffee with them. And when we descended there was a big sign saying 'Avnery go home', that one of the soldiers had brought. Everything was done in good spirits, there was a happy atmosphere. Arafat went to Tunis and Sartawi was still in Paris. Maybe I'll say a word about Sartawi. Sartawi was in Paris during the whole war and I think that was the only link between Arafat, under siege in Beirut, with the whole world. Everything went through Sartawi's office.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Beirut, Tunis, Haifa, Issam Sartawi, Yasser Arafat

Duration: 3 minutes, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017