204. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Conversation with PLO Representative

PARTICIPANTS

  • Jamal Saad, Washington Representative, Arab Information Office
  • Usamah Naqib, Representative, Palestine Liberation Organization
  • NECurtis F. Jones

Mr. Saad hosted luncheon at the International Club to introduce Mr. Naqib. The following subjects arose during the conversation:

Biographical Note on Naqib

Born in Safad, Naqib went to Syria in 1948 and attended Washington State University from 1951 to 1956. He obtained a license as a medical laboratory technician in the United States and then returned to Syria where he established in partnership with a General Saba a medical laboratory which is still in operation. Naqib is married to a girl from Haifa. They expect a child in May. Naqib is a serious type in [Page 436]his late 30’s, bespectacled and balding, who speaks English quite well and conveys an impression of combined reasonableness and determination.

Naqib’s Mission in the U.S.

Saad said that, in accordance with what he understood to be the preference of the State Department, the PLO would not attempt to open an office in Washington. However, it was contemplated that he would assign office space and secretarial assistance to Naqib and the two would work closely together—the primary difference being that Saad represented the 13 members of the Arab League while Naqib represented the 14th unofficial member of the League, Palestine. Neither was a registered lobbyist and their purpose would be through press, radio, TV, and public speeches to get their message across to the American people. They were not here to cultivate officials or members of Congress. Mr. Jones stated that the Department of State was unable to maintain formal relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. On the legal side, it did not represent a sovereign entity. On the practical side, it was widely regarded in the United States as an organization dedicated to terminating the existence of a state that we recognized. Naqib suggested that the Department view the PLO as an organization dedicated to promoting the rights of the Palestinians. Mr. Jones said that on that basis he would be pleased to provide any personal assistance to Mr. Naqib.2

The Arab-Israel Dispute

Mr. Jones stated the Department’s conviction that there is no military solution to the Palestine problem. We hope eventually that the military and political situation would evolve to the point of making war obsolete, but for the foreseeable future the possibility of a military solution was negated by the American commitment to oppose aggression from any quarter. Therefore, the resolution of the Arab-Israel dispute would have to come about gradually in accordance with basic political, economic and social forces which we hoped would eventually promote the acceptance of the people of Israel by the Near Eastern community. Saad and Naqib listened to this statement without comment.

Arab Unity

When this subject came up, Jones stated the Department’s position, adding his own personal belief that, since Arab disunity appeared to breed instability, any trend toward unification would appear to be in [Page 437]the American interest. He had no idea how such a trend might be established, whether collectively or by accretion, but in any event it was a matter to be dealt with by the people of the area themselves without any intervention from the United States or any other foreign country. Naqib remarked that history offered no examples of unity that had not been achieved by military action. In reply to a question about the background of the Unionist insurrection in Damascus in July 1963, Naqib said that it had been staged by Jasim ‘Ulwan and apparently was easily suppressed because it had been penetrated by the Baath. The regime had used this coup as a pretext to arrest several Unionist leaders who had had no connection with the plot whatsoever. Among those were Muhammad Jarrah, Ra’if Ma’arri, Muhammad Sufi, and Naqib himself, who spent nearly a year in Mezze. Jones commented that the failure of the regime to prosecute Jarrah had given rise to the story that he had been a double agent. Naqib denied this report categorically, saying that the report of early release was false, that Jarrah was with him in Mezze, and that in any event Jarrah could not have been a double agent since he had known nothing about the plot.

“Let My People Go”

During a discussion of the problem of getting the Arab message across to the American people, Jones attempted to make a distinction between defense of the rights of the Palestinian refugees and defense of the need of the Jewish people for a refuge from persecution. He cited the MetroMedia production “Let My People Go” as a very effective presentation of the latter thesis—a thesis to which the vast majority of Americans firmly subscribe. Those Arabs who advocated blacklisting Xerox for having sponsored this film would make the mistake of confusing these two issues, thereby doing disservice to their cause. In the absence of offers by other countries to accept the Jewish refugees in Germany during the war, it was difficult to blame the Jews for trying to reach Israel. In fact, perhaps the Arab states could blur Israel’s unique position as the Jewish national home if they should offer to hold their borders open in perpetuity to the Jewish refugees and their descendants. Naqib’s reaction to this observation was stony, but Saad noted that in past centuries the Arab world had played just such a role for Jewish refugees from European persecution and that as late as World War II the Sultan of Morocco had resisted Vichy directives to discriminate against his Jewish subjects.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 3 PAL ENTITY. Confidential. Drafted by Jones.
  2. No record of any further contact with Naqib during the period covered by this volume has been found.