Bidding Farwell to a Man who Didn’t Exist…
Bidding Farwell to a Man who Didn’t Exist…
Defining Mr. Ahmad Jibril, who passed away a few days ago, is a difficult task. He fits better in the category of “was not” than “was.” His name, of course, wasn’t linked to launching the Palestinian nationalism of Yasser Arafat or his first comrades. He wasn’t part of the “resistance’s left” like George Habash or Nayef Hawatmeh. He couldn’t, through the kidnappings he carried out, take the torch from Wadih Haddad or Carlos. His compliance with Syrian decisions didn’t stem from a doctrinal or partisan position like that Zuheir Mohsen had occupied at his Baathist beginnings. He didn’t compete with Sabri al-Banna (Abou Nidal) in exemplifying killing for killing’s sake. And he certainly wasn’t an Islamist leader like Ahmad Yassin or Khaled Meshaal.
His Front is also difficult to define. Is there really such a thing as the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command”? This Front’s presence “among the masses” is certainly almost non-existent, and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it is totally non-existent, but he has been its general secretary since its establishment in 1968.
With that, Jibril, who was not a crystalized person, was a crystalized function. Rather, he is a name for a job. On top of that, his loyalty to this job was absolute, and it left him, in contrast with Sabri al-Banna, in the service of one unchanging faction: the Assad family. The only exception was his link with Moammar al-Gaddafi, but that was an extension of the Libyan leader’s alliance with Damascus.
If one can speak of ideology, the ideology that shaped Jibril’s behavior and consciousness was drawn from the Syrian army, from the ranks of which he emerged as an officer. The priority, for a bloodthirsty army like the Syrian one, is winning the war, with no concern whatsoever for winning over the masses, in contrast to everything taught by resistance theories, though it is not necessarily complied with.
The principle applied in the case of the Syrian army, which Jibril was an apprentice of, says: the “masses” and “our people” are the foremost targets of our violence. The manifestations of this culture, before and after the 1982 Hama massacre, are too many to count.
For this reason, whenever Jibril goes to see “his people,” visiting a major Palestinian bloc in this or that camp, many receive him with a mix of disgust and apprehension. Many others from the country concerned feel the same sentiment. Thus, someone often emerges to say: “there is a picture of Ahmad Jibril visiting Beirut in the press,” only for another to reply: “May God protect us. Expect the worst.”
Some have set the mid-sixties, when the Baathists took over Syria, as the date in which the Jibrilist function began. This leader made in the intelligence apparatuses emerged then. In 1966, when Yusuf Arabi was murdered, for obscure reasons, Jibril was present; this was followed by Arafat and Khalil al-Wazir’s detention in Damascus. Ten years later, when the Syrian army and the Palestinian fighters clashed in Lebanon, Jibril sided with the former.
Those who objected to this policy broke away from his organization and established the Palestine Liberation Front, but in the summer of 1977, this Front’s headquarters in the Al-Fakhani area in Beirut was blown up, killing nearly 200 people. In 1984, with the renewal of the conflict between Assad and Arafat, the “General Command” withdrew from the Palestine Liberation Organization, and they joined the Syrian forces and their allies in imposing the siege on Tripoli, then fought alongside the Amal Movement in the War of the Camps in Lebanon, which, in terms of the costs and pain it inflicted, as well its duration, exceeded all the affliction the Palestinians had endured since 1967. As for its role after the Syrian revolution, the “General Command” was instrumental to the imposition of the siege on the Yarmouk camp and starving its people; indeed, it is told that Jibril’s men would bombard children as they tried to find a loaf of bread. They also took part in bombarding the Al-Rammal camp in Latakia.
Jibril also committed crimes against Syrians, taking part in besieging and killing them in areas scattered across the country after their revolution. Before that, he wreaked havoc in Lebanon: there is no attack on a Christian village during the Two Years War (1975-6) that the Jibrilists did not take part in. These attacks culminated in the Damour Massacre of 1976. His gift to the Lebanese people was a military base he had dug under the homes of the Lebanese village of Nehme’s residents.
His resistance operations against Israel deserve nothing but the resistance’s embarrassment and dwindling its credit, which is not very large to begin with. They culminated in bombing the Swiss Air commercial flight, which killed 38 passengers. That same year solidified the Front’s image as a faction that conducts small operations and does not distinguish between young and old. The Lebanese-Israeli border was the scene for some of them. Subsequent years were brimming with similar actions that entrenched his and his Front’s reputation further. In 1989, after the accident that saw the Pan Am plane crash over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people, it was said that Jibril and his Front had passed through there.
Did Jibril believe in a cause? The simple answer is no. The more complex answer is yes. This is his cause. This is his function. Jibril the person, who passed away recently, has been dead since he was chosen leader in the mid-sixties.