In 1975, I lived and worked in Beirut, in a small office just off Rue Verdun in Hamra. Opposite was a small vacant lot, and then an office building, that I knew as a Palestinian archive and library.
At about 10am one morning, there was a huge explosion, and the front of that building was blown out, right there, in front of my eyes.
But I was a 'businessman' and had to go 'prioritize' an important desgn meeting over on the Corniche. I mentioned at the meeting that there had been a large explosion just in front of me, a few minutes before. At that very moment, there was a similar explosion just down the street from us, that reinforced the punchline of my story.
Only later did I learn the full story. Some gentlemen from Sayeret Matkal, the Israeli extra-territorial commando force', disguised as South African tourists, merely hired a car to carry out two rocket attacks; one on the Institute for Palestine Studies, and one on the PLO HQ itself.
Only half a dozen old scholars were killed in the library, and, so far as I know, the incidents were never reported in the West; just another minor happening in the long, terrible war of attrition by the Isaelis against the Palestinians.
They were frequent occurrences; I mentioned the air attacks in my last post, but, only a few years earlier, another Sayeret Matkal group had assassinated Palestine's leading poet, Ghassan Kanafani with a car bomb just up the same street.
His 1967 thesis, Race and Religion in Zionist Literature, formed the basis for his 1967 study "On Zionist Literature". In those days, the ignorant, and I count myself very much amongst them, had no idea quite how racist, terrible, and having so much in common with their Nazi mentors the Zionists really were.
I know now.
Happily, The library and archive have been rebuilt, at:
The Institute for Palestine Studies
Anis Nsouli Street-Verdun
P.O. Box : 11-7164
Postal Code: 1107 2230
Tel : 00961-1-868387
Director: Mr. Mahmoud Soueid
The Israelis haven't targetted it again, but I'm sure they'll take the opportunity next time they devastate Lebanon on a whim.