In recent years, autobiographies have become dark confessions full of incest, rape and infidelity. Now you can add terrorism to that list. Abu Daoud, once a leading member of Black September, the Palestinian terrorist organization responsible for the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, has written "Palestine, From Jerusalem to Munich." In the book, which will be published in France in the coming weeks by Anne Carriere Editions, Daoud takes "full responsibility for organizing and preparing the attack against the Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympic Games."
Arcade Books plans to bring out the American edition, "Memoirs of a Palestinian Terrorist," in August 2000. And when it does, the small New York firm, a Francophile house that publishes many books in translation (notably Andrei Makine's "Dreams of My Russian Summers"), will almost certainly find itself in the middle of a controversy. But according to Arcade publisher Richard Seaver, Daoud's role in the atrocity has been oversimplified. "In the end, he comes off as a simpatico person," Seaver told Salon Books. "For us, it shows another side of history." Seaver admits that at first he was uneasy about handling Daoud's work: "When we received the book, there certainly was some internal discussion about publishing it. But the more I read it, the less uncomfortable I felt."
Seaver was supposed to meet Daoud -- who is now a member of the Palestinian National Council -- in Paris last week but had to postpone his trip when French border authorities turned Daoud away and sent him back to Tunisia. According to the French interior ministry, Daoud had been expelled from the country in 1977 for his role in the Munich massacre and was still on an undesirables list. A spokeswoman for Anne Carriere Editions, however, claims that internal Palestinian politics were at play. According to her, local Palestinian officials did not want Daoud to visit; she did not explain how they persuaded the French government to bar him.
Another Carriere spokeswoman acknowledged that the firm is publishing the book as a profit-making venture. While the notion of profiting from criminal activity raises ethical (and, conceivably, legal) questions, Seaver seems to regard them as more or less moot in connection with Daoud's book. "If it makes money," he said, "it'll be news to Arcade."