Thursday, July 28, 2005

I took a cab in Beirut to go to a downtown cafe. The cab driver started talking to me about something I had said on TV, and he then started to express his political opinions and his agreement with my revulsion at developments in Lebanon. He then revealed to me his political past: he was, it turned out, a member of the now defunct ultra-secretive organization named The Arab Communist Organization, and did not think that I would know of it. This organization was founded by `Ali Al-Ghadban (nicknamed Che) who hailed from the village of Qana near Tyre and split from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Al-Ghadban first joined the splinter organization Revolutionary Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (headed by Abu Shihab). Al-Ghadban then split off from the Revolutionary Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to form the New Resistance in 1973. Al-Ghadban then split off from the New Resistance and formed the Arab Communists, which later transformed into Arab Communist Organization (adhering to Trotskiest communism). They were very much like the Red Brigades in Italy in style and organization. In 1974, the organization started its activities in Lebanon and Syria. They staged a number of armed robberies that remained unresolved. In one failed attack on the Bank of America in Beirut in the same year, an upper class member of the group (Yumna Shahruri who attended the same French school as my sister) was apprehended. With some torture, she revealed enough information to lead the authorities to the rest of the group. Al-Ghadban, who maintained a day job as a civil servant, was then arrested. He was surrendered to the Syrian government, which quickly executed him. The rest served prison sentences, but the chaos of the civil war brought about their release. The cab driver was one of those who served time in jail. He described to me unspeakable torture that he was subjected to while in jail. It displeased him that most people do not know of this little known organization.