"The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the State of Palestine, Sameeh Abdul Fattah, requests the pleasure of the company of Mr. Daniel Pipes at dinner on January 24 at 6 p.m. R.S.V.P."
While slightly worried about placing myself in the clutches of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the opportunity seemed irresistible. So, I went to dinner with the "ambassador" - and a very tasty Middle Eastern dinner he served up, too.
The invitation came to me while visiting Prague in January. I had delivered a talk on the latest Persian Gulf crisis. Quite a few Arab ambassadors turned up, but not the Palestinian pretend one. The organizers of the talk did all they could to induce him to come, but he still refused. Instead, he counter-offered with a dinner after the talk.
A PLO martini.
We were soon joined by the Egyptian ambassador, a lady who had spent years studying in the United States. Curiously, in the discussions that followed, she two-thirds of the time agreed with the Palestinian and one-third with me. (After we'd finished discussing the weather, Mr. Abdul Fattah and I, as you might surmise, agreed on little else.) When it came to the Middle East, she echoed the Palestinian; but when it came to the United States, she took my side. For example, she understood that America's victory in the cold war inspires us now not to attain world hegemony but to introspection and the cultivation of our own garden.
The liveliest discussion of the evening came between the soup and the main course, when Mr. Abdul Fattah asked my views of the Arab-Israeli negotiations in Washington. I replied that they are going well, then asked his permission to give some background on my views, warning him that they would not be to his liking. He encouraged me to proceed. I told him that I consider the Arab states the main opponents of Israel and believe that peace with the Jewish state will effectively close down the international dimensions of the conflict. In contrast, the Palestinians have only secondary importance. Therefore, it doesn't matter to me that much that the Palestinian portion of the negotiations never got off the ground because the Syrian portion have nicely moved forward.
This approach had Mr. Abdul Fattah almost unable to contain himself. But I won't repeat all that he said about the Palestinian issue being the central issue of Middle East politics; about the impossibility of a separate peace with Israel; and about the earnestness of PLO intentions - you no doubt already know all that.
Over brandy and cigars, Mr. Abdul Fattah took the opportunity of having an Arabic-speaking American in his audience to regale me with an outline of Washington's plans to manipulate the Third World, undermine Islam, and obstruct Palestinian rights.
Post-prandials finished, we guests thanked our host for the not insignificant feast. A small troop then escorted me back to my (PLO-supplied) limousine which then whisked me home.
In retrospect, the evening's distinction lies not so much in the "candid exchange of views," which was perfectly routine, but in two oddities: that the PLO should reach out to someone like me and that it should host such an elegant and thoroughly bourgeois dinner party.
Jan. 16, 2014 update: My 1993 dinner made me especially interested in the news about the Palestinian "ambassador" Jamal al-Jamal dying of an explosion on Jan. 1 upon opening a safe. Now, we learn that the Czech police found explosives while investigating the blast that killed Jamal. Reuters reports that they "ruled out an attack on the diplomat and said they believed he had mishandled an unknown explosive." According to the PLO, it received the armaments more than 30 years ago; i.e., they were present when I visited.
Police outside the Palestinian "mission" in Prague.
Mar. 31, 2014 update: The Czech police confirm that Jamal al-Jamal died when holding an explosive in his hand.