Terrorist tell-all backfires

Terrorist tell-all backfires

Published July 6, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

In May, Salon Books reported that the small New York literary house Arcade Books was set to publish the controversial memoirs of former terrorist Abu Daoud, "Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich." Even though the title doesn't have a U.S. publication date yet, it has already stirred up a lot of trouble.

A source close to the project told Salon Books that Arcade's principals, Richard and Jeanette Seaver -- publisher and associate publisher, respectively -- have felt some discomfort about "Palestine." Our source added that a recent trip to Israel did little to put them at ease: "They said they were being followed." Apparently the firm (which also published former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres' "The Imaginary Voyage") receives a few emotional letters and phone calls about the book each day. In the memoir, which came out in France last month, Daoud admits to having masterminded the kidnapping of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics -- an act that led to the deaths of the unarmed athletes, a German policeman and five of eight terrorists. (Daoud claims in the book that the German police, not the Palestinian guerrillas, were responsible for the athletes' deaths.)

"This is a book about peace, not about war," Arcade's Jeanette Seaver says. (Daoud now supports the peace negotiations -- he is a member of the Palestinian National Council -- and has renounced terrorism.) But the book has made Daoud's own life anything but peaceful. Early in June, Germany issued an arrest warrant for him on the basis of the book's confessions. "It was a violent hostage taking. That's a very legitimate reason to seek his arrest," Werner Schmidt, a spokesman for the German consulate in New York, told Salon Books.

A week later, on June 13, Israel barred Daoud from returning to his West Bank home in Ramallah. Two weeks ago, U.S. representative Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio delivered a letter to President Clinton calling on him to demand that Daoud, now in Jordan, be turned over to Germany for prosecution. And that isn't all. Seaver reports that "60 Minutes II" has already sent a crew to interview Daoud. (A spokeswoman for the show claimed no knowledge of such a crew.)

According to Seaver, Daoud was not paid for the U.S. publishing rights; his share of any profit reverts to his coauthor, Gilles Du Jonchay. "This is a book that should be read as you would read Napoleon's notebooks: It is militarily and strategically interesting," Seaver told Salon Books. "We are not censors or judges. We are publishers."

By Craig Offman

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

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