tv Julie Salamon An Innocent Bystander CSPAN September 7, 2019 8:00am-9:01am EDT
democratic presidential candidate at the new hampshire democratic party convention . live coverage is today at 9 am eastern on c-span or listen with the free radio app. >> starting now it's book tv on cspan2. every weekend, 48hours of nonfiction authors and books . >> .. he talks with father imani perry on afterwords. former defense secretary james mattis recounts his military career. and navigating a cited hearing world. check your program guide for more information. and we begin the weekend with journalist julie salamon
talking about the murder of disabled jewish new yorker leon klinghofer by palestinian militants in 1985. >> thank you very much for coming. the usual reminders to silence your cell phones, restrain from flash photography and plan to join us afterwords for the book signing. welcome, my name is andy kahan, director of author events. tonight we look back more than 30 years to the brutal murder of a disabled jewish new yorker at the hands of the palestinian terrorists, an incident that shocked the world and continues to reverberate through the culture at large and the lives of families affected.
the initial murder, an innocent bystander, the killing of leon klinghofer, in "an innocent bystander: the killing of leon klinghofer" julie salamon offers a view of the never-ending cycle of the murder of innocents. initially a long time banking reporter and film critic for the wall street journal, then a tv critic and our reporters at the new york times, julie salamon has written notable nonfiction books about show business, philanthropy, the holocaust, the insanity defense and modern medical care. her ten previous works include several bestsellers and two novels for children. it is a pleasure to have her return. please welcome julie salamon. [applause] >> good evening, thank you for coming out on this hot summer night. you are not on vacation but i will try to make it seem like fun.
i have a very great film clip i'm going to show you in a couple minutes just to take you back to this moment in time in 1985, a time we now think of as pre-terrorism but anybody who has a long memory can remember in the 60s in 70s there were a lot of hijackings and a lot of terrible things going on in the world as there are today, but americans felt somewhat immune from it at that time and in summer of 1985, leon and maryland klinghofer were about to embark on a trip that was really going to be a last hurrah. leon had had a couple strokes, he was in a wheelchair, marilyn, his wife, was about to celebrate her 59th birthday, she was in remission from cancer. with a group of their friends
from the jersey shore they booked tickets on a ship called the "achille lauro" with marilyn. this, what we would now call wheelchair accessible. they didn't use that term but the doors were wide enough, there is an interior elevator so leon could have a nice vacation and they left on this trip on october 3, 1985, believing it was going to be a great voyage with their friends and on the third day, four young palestinians hijacked it. they had been passengers on the ship, but hijacking was not meant to take place the way that it did and that was the story i heard at the time and the story that i knew and it is a true story but it is a much more complicated story as most stories are when you start digging into them.
four years ago i went to an event at the center for jewish history in new york, present by ilse and lisa klinghofer and they had given their family archives to the center for jewish history, and they -- i go to the same synagogue as they do, we weren't friends but we were acquaintances at the time and so i went to this event to show support and it was riveting because the two sisters had been trained by a theater producer in new york, they told the story almost like a piece of theater, the two sisters talking about what it was like to be here in new york finding out about this event going on that eventually resulted in their father being killed and thrown overboard in
his wheelchair and they became the center of a huge international storm, media, this was well before 9/11 so this was a rare event and as they talked they then invited onto the stage the reporter sarah reimer cover their family's story in the new york times on the front page and then they brought in, who had been a young man at the time, a naval pilot, larry neal who had been one of these pilots of the of 47 superjets stations on a giant aircraft carrier in the mediterranean, who was sent up to bring down the civilian airplane that was carrying the four hijackers from egypt to safety in an arab country, they forced it to land, probably illegally in italy so that the hijackers could be taken into custody. as i heard all these stories
none of which i was familiar with that time, it is so exciting, i said i think this could be my next book. he had the same thought and so i approached the klinghofer sisters sometime "after words" and asked if they would participate and if it would be a deep dive into the story is my thought was to do a book called klinghofer's daughters which would focus on the klinghofer story and what it would be like to be a victim of terrorism it is there any way to turn that into something useful and good for society. it was going to be a more philosophical work. shortly into the research i found a part of the story i knew nothing about. leon klinghofer was killed on the "achille lauro" in california.
a palestinian american man who was a piece advocate who worked for an organization for the arab antidiscrimination committee which models itself on the jewish anti-defamation league promoting the idea of positive presentations of arabs in the media. there was a lot of buying up property in new york, it was opec and all those things, pre-islamic fundamentalism but these very negative eras, this organization was started to counterbalance those negative portraits. he spent most of his time in synagogues and writing letters to the editor trying to reach across the aisle for these negotiations and when leon
klinghofer was filled the local abc affiliate interviewed him for his comment speaking on behalf of palestinians and he said words of condolence, he said terrorism was an outrage, this shouldn't have happened and they asked if he thought yasser arafat was responsible for it and the prevailing wisdom at that moment in time was arafat had nothing to do with it. arafat was the head of the palestinian liberation organization and in 1985 it was the beginning of peace talks that would lead to oslo and the breakdown of oslo. that arafat was presenting himself to the world as a man of peace. the world didn't know at that time that he also had organizations like the palestinian liberation front doing dirty deeds to keep up his status as a man of action as well.
so he said no, arafat is a man of peace and in the interview aired on tv the only piece that aired was the arafat is a man of peace and not the condolences and not the condemnations of the hijacking. the next morning, he had 3 young children, all-american citizens went to his office, opened the front door and a bomb went off and he was killed. and the people who were believed to be responsible, the case is still a cold case but the fbi investigating the case has always believed the organization responsible for it was the jewish defense league which was a far right jewish terrorist organization. all of a sudden we're talking domestic terrorism, international terrorism and it is feeling like a very current story so i thought my scope is going to broaden. i will tell you in my 30 page
proposal called klinghofer's.i have two paragraphs dedicated to the hijackers. i didn't know much about them. i knew there was this guy who was the mastermind of the hijacking and i figured i would find out about them later but i saw them as somewhat subsidiary characters or caricatures i might say so one day just googling around idly, up pops a book called the curse of the "achille lauro" written in 2016 by his second wife. so i ordered the book on amazon and i read it, it is fascinating, it is a counter narrative to the story, not justifying or saying it was a good thing to do but explaining the politics and history that led to it and what it was like to be married to this person in
charge of it. so i thought this is interesting so i look up his facebook, 2019, reporting is a lot easier than it used to be. it could take years to check people down, now you go on facebook, she popped up and i sent her a message on messenger she will never respond to me but she is a writer, i am a writer, i knew that if i said i want to talk to you she might, she got back to me and said she would talk to me. and we began a series of skype interviews that went on for hours and hours and hours over along. go of time so all of a sudden i have three families involved, three pieces of this story and i was only beginning. but before i could continue i thought as a short little clip so we can show just to take you back into a sense of how this
was reported in real time, 1985, could we -- i was wanted to say this, could we roll the film clip? thank you. >> a rescue mission would be dangerous but possible, british commandos parachuted onto the queen elizabeth 2 in 1972 when there was a bomb scare in the middle of the atlantic, perhaps 12 palestinian pirates seized the "achille lauro". >> french and italian warships are reportedly shattering that italian cruise ship hijacked by palestinian terrorists 420 persons are bored, one unconfirmed report the two americans have been killed. >> the murder of a 69-year-old disabled passenger from new york city angers america.
after a 72 hour siege at the negotiations among the plo, italy and egypt succeed in getting the "achille lauro" back to egypt. there, the four terrorists surrendered the ship. at first, the world is led to believe that no one is harmed, the palestinians are promised safe passage out of egypt but the next day the truth is learned and the us ambassador to egypt makes the announcement. >> klinghofer was murdered. >> the murder of a 16-year-old disabled passenger from new york city angers america. the terrorists are allowed to escape on an egyptian plane to save territory and tunisia. this time reagan takes action. >> what we want is justice done.
>> in a flawless execution, u.s. navy and 14 fighter jets intercept the egyptian airliner in midair and forced to land a us base in sicily. >> these young americans sent a message to terrorists everywhere, a message, you can run but you can't hide. >> battalion courts convict the palestinian hijackers but the reagan administration in the public are left dismayed when italian authorities grant freedom to abu abbas the brains behind the hijacking. they found no direct evidence of his involvement. >> the hijacking of the italian cruise ship, the "achille lauro". evidence these men killed leon klinghofer was fabricated by the united states and syria.
>> without killing. i do not believe our comrades carried out any -- >> abu abbas was captured when us fighters forced him down in italy. the four cruiseship hijackers, the italian government permitted him to flee to yugoslavia. like so many in the middle east, he does not see himself as a terrorist. >> hunted everywhere. and those things are great but
the palestinians for 40 years. did he know the time? >> that is the corner office of what used to be the headquarters of the american, arab antidiscrimination committee, the 1900 block of 17th st. in santa ana, suite number 208, that is what is left of that fleet. >> this is an office was destroyed by a bomb and 7 other people were injured. >> international terrorism may be taking root here. the man who was killed by that blast, alex okay, age 21, married, father of 3 young daughters. the bomb was powerful enough to shatter glass in several offices. >> debris was everywhere, the wall is blown out, the windows were blown out. >> today at western medical center where oj died his
brother told of numerous death threats received by his brother. >> don't have an idea who did it but there were calls from people. >> as investigators searched through the rubble for clues a short distance away, a grieved family. >> where there is morning there are two sounds. alex a they's families in morning. samuel day describes his brother as a peaceloving man who fled the middle east for a better life in america. a fact he says makes his death even more bitter. >> the one country where freedom of speech is very much sanctions. >> in the meantime president reagan condemned the incident
calling it heinous and pledged to insist in the investigation. the middleton jewish defense we have denied response ability in the bombing but it's director told cnn on two different occasions he shed no tears for a day. >> as you can see i ended up in the middle of the story that was far more complicated than i expected and i hope you will read the book, i'm not going to go through 400 pages of the book and tell you everything that is in it but i will tell you a little about the journey to writing the book because ultimately what i discovered was the stories of these three families, the abbas family, the day family and the klinghofer family who were brought together by the israeli-palestinian conflict and through whose lives we find out an awful lot about the
history of that region and also the common humanity in some ways these families shared and the reporting of this book was fascinating, it took me too many archives. the reagan archive has thousands of documents about the "achille lauro". one aspect of this story i didn't expect to find where the political machinations and how important the "achille lauro" became to reagan because he came into office in 1980 promising to end terrorism because jimmy carter had had the iranian hostage situation which blocked the presidency for him in 1980 and within the first three years of the reagan presidency we had the marine bombing in beirut which had the biggest number of american casualties in a war, in a
non-war since vietnam and this constant inability to keep up with terrorism, you could see how the constant militancy on all sides led to 9/11 and what happened there. in the center of the story is oliver north, i found an incredible document on the iran contra if you remember that scandal that eventually enveloped the reagan administration. oliver north was in a counterterrorism unit in the middle of the white house and he wrote in a document to his boss we have to make the "achille lauro" work because we have 2 diapered attention from iran contra. never write things on documents that may become declassified one day. it wasn't a snoopy reporter 30 years down the line who will find it. i had many lines of stories going on, the family story, the
geopolitical story and the legal story. how do you deal legally with people accused of terrorism, and who has jurisdiction over them, and italian ship, and american victim. the more reporting i did, the more material i started amassing and the question was how do you turn this into a story, how do you turn this into a book. luckily in terms of amassing the information i interviewed a great number of people who were still alive, the ambassador, on learning leon klinghofer caused an international scandal. he was a very interesting man, married to a sort of rock 'n roll artist and at the time, part of what he said didn't
show on the video clip, he spoke on an unclassified radio broadcast which you are not supposed to do, when he made his announcement, he said some sonofabitch killed leon klinghofer and this went out into the arab world and was not received very well. all these diplomatic gaffes, all these kinds of things that were usually kept there were public at this moment in time so the question for me became how do you tell the story that involves three family tragedies, and ongoing conflict to which there is no resolution, the israeli-palestinian conflict and then the politics of the reagan administration and eventually my reporting took me to israel, to lebanon, to california, all over the united states, to all these different
places because there were many people and many players and eventually i decided i wanted to focus on three families and the other material would weave into this story but the actual construction of the book, which had been likened to a spy thriller which really felt like it when i was writing, i kept saying what is going to happen next and i knew it was very exciting to put the pieces together. i spoke to the sun of ilse klinghofer, one of the daughters, a boy who had never met his grandfather, was killed four years before max was born and i said to max what do you want to know about your grandfather, what do you know? he said i know remarkably little. i know the outlines of the story, i know the boat was hijacked, i know he was killed but i don't know him myself. i want to know the tick-tock.
what happened minute by minute. what were the events that led to this, what happened and what did it mean? so i thought when i was going through my notes, you have given me the outline for how to write this book and i really kept that in mind. what is the tick-tock? the book really goes through this story in a kind of chronology. it is also the kind of chronology we have in life, so the first half of the book is very slowly like life tends to do, the first half of the book takes place in two weeks. the next quarter things are speeding up a little bit, it took place in the year. the last quarter of the book takes place in 20 years because it is the aftermath. in the course of doing this i spoke to both wives, his first wife was a christian
palestinian, his second wife was a muslim, secular muslim family. they were a very prominent family, very fascinating women and he had five sons between the two blended families. i interviewed all the children, grandchildren of leon klinghofer and all the ancillary players and through these stories i started to see the difference between the way history is presented to us in textbooks and the way it unfolds in real time for real people. somebody had asked me where is the value of this narrative to people who were not born yet, people today and i found people in their 20s and they and their
friends are reading this book and it is gratifying to me how i didn't tell them to buy it but they didn't have to and i think for them the whole notion that there was terrorism which is mind blowing to them. they thought everything happened in 2001, but also for a lot of them, it gave them a different perspective on the israeli-palestinian conflict. what i try to show is this is not saying the palestinians were justified in hijacking the ship or murdering a man and certainly not justified in murdering a man in a wheelchair, but to try to understand what led to that moment and to see all the different ways, because the
behind-the-scenes political machinations and duplicity on all levels, the italian prime minister trying to appease yasir arafat because he doesn't want to have plo activity in italy but also has to appease the united states because we are the big gun in the region and i had access to taxi's right-hand man during this who was his chief diplomatic advisor throughout all of this and we spent many hours in conversation discussing this. and so you start to see the things that happen under the surface and for me this story on the one hand was a great story and how these different families dealt with this and subsequently it has been unbelievable to see their reaction to the book which came out 3 or 4 weeks ago and having
lisa and ilse klinghofer read the book because they had been so open to me and so forthcoming and at the beginning of the project i told them is no longer klinghofer's daughter, it's going to be a completely different book and they stuck with it. they kept meeting with me and talking with me and not only that but sharing the names of all the people who had accompanied their parents on the ship come most of them no longer alive but their children are, to interview them and i didn't want them to read the book until it was almost time for publication because i have written many books and when you are writing nonfiction it is never good to have people who are in the book read the book
too early, especially in these days of facebook and twitter because if they don't like it or are upset with something, it can go out into the universe before the book does so finally, three weeks before the book came out i gave them a copy of the book to read and their reaction has been unbelievable to me. how moved they were about all the things they didn't know about their parents, so much they didn't know about their parents experience on the ship. i was able to reach the general in charge of the rescue mission who was with marilyn klinghofer when she identified the kidnappers in custody and they went one by one to see these young men and identify them and they were also, i think they were also fascinated and moved to hear the stories of the palestinians and the story of alex o'day and his family and
they were supportive of the book which has been a huge relief to me as a person but also as an author and the next hurdle to clear was the abbas family. dream hasn't read the book, i just got a note from her that she's just starting to read but omar abbas was one of the sons of abu abbas has gotten out of that line of the family business, he does advertising in dubai now and he is a couple years older than max and i think they would probably like each other very much if they meet each other. the reaction was you haven't justified what my father did. you have been very respectable
to the story i always read about of the klinghofers. what i felt you did was tell the story with respect, you are treating people as people, you're looking at a political leader who made a lot of really stupid choices in his life but not condemning him, but trying to understand, your condemning the actions and condemning the strategy but you are trying to understand where it came from and so that also was very interesting and i'm still waiting to hear from the o'day family. i'm going to give away the ending of the book but only because i think it is such a beautiful image and it is worth thinking about. selling santa ana, california where the family lived, where one of his daughters and his wife still live, part of this is a story of resilience, of all these women who had to continue on.
in one case because of the thing there has been did and the other 2, the death of their husband suffered and their part of the story is something i'm really proud of because the side of the story you don't get written about, not the lawyers or politicians but the people who have to deal with the fallout of the stupidity of the politicians and the lawyers and so this is the end of the book, i was trying -- talking to the daughter and she was saying it was very hurtful to them that when leon klinghofer was killed, president reagan met with the klinghofer family in person and had a public announcement of and with their father he said that this was an act of terrorism and wasn't acceptable but he never called
them, he didn't send a note to them. they didn't get any kind of personal reach out from the white house and they always wondered was it because we are palestinians? why didn't we get that same kind of sympathy or empathy from the leader of our country? so they erected a huge statue in front of the library since we are speaking in a library, he is a scholar, a poet and a teacher. that was his profession in addition to political activism and in front of the library, with graffiti and insults on it but a few years ago they cleaned it up and rededicated it and i tracked down the young
man who was the sculptor of the statue and he had been a student of his and when it was time to design the statue he really wanted to do it as an act of friendship to this man who had been very important to him and one of the things he couldn't stop thinking about when he was designing the sculpture, designing the sculptor, was a cartoon that ran shortly after klinghofer's murder. in the los angeles times, our cartoon by paul conrad who was a pulitzer prize winning political cartoonists and the cartoon, i couldn't find it because he didn't remember the date and it is hard to find cartoons online. i went into the archive of the los angeles times, i went through pages of microfiche many advertisements for sale at
macy's or whatever but finally i found the cartoon and it is a simply drawn cartoon, a picture of leon klinghofer in his wheelchair, seems to be in heaven because he's riding on clouds and alex o'day pushing his wheelchair and the caption is very simple. it just says small world, wasn't it? to me, that was really in a way what this book ultimately was about. from all this hubbub, the murder, the international intrigue, the family stories, it is ultimately a very small world. maybe it would be easier not to be fighting so much about it and so thank you. if you would like i would love to hear your questions. if you don't, i can ask myself
questions, i brought some just in case you don't have any and if you're here with a microphone, you want to start right there? yes. >> how to the palestinians choose leon to toss him over q2 you don't usually think of an old man in a wheelchair doing that was it to frighten everybody, to show how depraved they were or something like that? >> that is a great question and probably the most unanswerable question because just to give you a little brief background to answer that question. the "achille lauro" is huge and the four young men were not supposed to hijack it because it is because, four people hijacking a giant ship, like an
airplane where it is a very finite body, this is huge and what happened was the four young guys, age 17-23, got on the ship dressed as tourists. i have this great scene where they go shopping the day before so they would look like tourists. it was a stupid plan so they got sent to italy a few weeks beforehand to pick up italian, none of them spoke italian, it was an italian --. they had fake passports, the 17-year-old had a passport that said he was 35 and i think he was supposed to be from south america. one of them was supposed to be norwegian. it was really, and security needless to say was lax because they were allowed to bring ak-47s in their suitcases on the ship and their plan -- and to say plan i should say plan, was the ship was going from
italy to egypt, making two stops in egypt and its final destination was a port in israel and at that time just to give you -- this is before the intifadas, this was when israel seemed impregnable by the palestinians, nobody had ever invaded israel and this abu abbas came up with one's cockamamie scheme after another. they all ended up in disaster. this when the idea was to stay on the ship until they got to astro and they would get off and start shooting and the idea was to murder a lot of israelis. not a noble plan but in their minds, they were never supposed to hijack the ship. what happened was because they didn't speak italian, the only one that spoke english was the
youngest one and so they get on the ship and by the third day they are getting more and more nervous because somebody comes in to clean the cabins, they think it is a spy. these were young guys brought up in a refugee camp, they had never been on a cruise ship before, they didn't realize somebody comes in to clean the cabin and they were getting more and more hysterical and more worked up that their mission wasn't going to work and on the third day the cleaning i came in and the zipper on one of their suitcases, the gun was sticking out and they worked themselves up and decided they had been caught and they decided to hijack the ship. most of the passengers were off the ship because the ship had stopped in alexandria, egypt. most of the passengers got off to go on a day trip to appear amidst. the passengers, there were 75 passengers left on the ship and
it was mostly people who were sick or not feeling well. leon was in a wheelchair. there were still 700 crew members so it was ridiculous but they decided to hijack the ship and once they do it they tried to land in syria, get passage to other ports but by then the us, the warning has gone out of the us send out messages, don't let the ship land. ironically the ship had been able to land in syria and the hijackers allowed to get off the ship and go free nobody would have been killed. what happened was they had these passengers in a big dining room which is where they are keeping them captive and they go back and forth between being really nice, serving sandwiches and bringing drinks for people and then they get hysterical and start shooting at the ceiling. they don't know what to do and
they are divided themselves. one is spending the whole time in the captain's bow with the captain, to make sure they don't try any funny business and is the only one who speaks a little english, the captain speaks a little english so they are kind of speaking english to each other, two of them are down there with the passengers and the 23-year-old leader is running back and forth and he is starting to panic. by the second day of the hijacking it looks like it's all going to be resolved, they are going to get off in syria and the us is you can't land because they don't understandably want to give haven to the hijackers and so now they are back at sea and they don't know what to do and they decide to separate the american passengers and the british, most of the passengers
were not american or british so they decide to separate them as collaborators of israel and they were worried that a helicopter might land, there was a top deck, so they decided to make them go on to this top deck which was not for passengers, there was no guard railing, it was dangerous and leon couldn't go because leon could only go as far as the elevators went, to get to that top deck you had to go up one of those narrow little ladders so he was left behind and all of a sudden he doesn't have his support group, the beach group and his wife went up on the top deck and leon is left down there and then, nobody exactly knows what happened. i have read pages and pages of interrogatories, these guys were interrogated by the fbi, by lawyers from the part of justice, by the italians and 3 of them had very consistent
stories, the ones who were guarding the passengers, he was up there, they didn't know anybody had been killed. malty, who killed klinghofer kept changing his story. i told them, because we were representative anybody but i killed him because he started hitting me with his cane. i killed him because -- i didn't kill him, there was no such person on this ship. what happened was he took klinghofer away from everybody else on a remote part of the ship. all the passengers and crew are being kept in this one central place, he takes them the this remote place and shoot him and then he can't throw him overboard because he is too happy with the wheelchair. he goes back, finds a waiter at a hairdresser who work for the shipping company, makes them come with him. and they find the murdered man in the chair and they have to
point does now and he lies, nobody has been harmed, he wants those hijackers off the ship. when you ask why klinghofer was killed i would say he was killed because he was an american, because he was in a wheelchair and because he was causing something to go off in this guy that has really gone beyond his skill level. that is what i think happened. questions? is there somebody? >> what was the result of the trial in italy? what came of abu abbas? i seem to remember the israelis went after him and got him but i may be wrong. >> you are wrong but close, you
are in the right ballpark. the four hijackers went on trial in italy and that in and of itself is an amazing story, to see how the us brought them down and the whole negotiation on whether they should stay in italy or come here, the manipulation that was going on was pretty crazy and how they let abu abbas -- a lot of this whole thing with the hijackers was a hot potato going on, nobody wanted them in their country because it was going to cause trouble. so everybody like the injections slipped them out of egypt because they didn't want them there and the italians let him get away but the four hijackers underwent trial and i was lucky i was able to interview both their defense attorney who died a couple weeks ago but i was able to interview one of the defense attorneys and the prosecutor
and read volumes of documents with that case, voluminous documents which were incredibly helpful and detailed. the interesting thing in the trial was the four hijackers received lengthy jail sentences. malty was convicted of murder. the others were convicted of aiding and abetting hijacking and a bunch of different charges. what they were not convicted of was terrorism and that is one of the most interesting parts of the court documents because in italy, i don't speak italian, a specific charge and there is a long philosophical discussion the judge offers on whether they were a band of terrorists or just criminals. italy opted for criminal
because they said they had a political movement that they believed in and considered themselves a nation and therefore they weren't terrorists, they were not just randomly committing acts of terror. it was a very interesting thing. they all ended up spending, three of them spent the maximum amount of time in prison, two of them spent the maximum amount in prison in two of them ended up escaping because italy has a very different system of justice. after you are in jail for a few years you get furloughs like you're in the army and can go away for the weekend, they went away and didn't come back. one of the most interesting people i interviewed, shouldn't say interesting, most surprising to me because i have written books on a lot of subjects but this is my first international terrorism book, i did not expect to find myself
interviewing international arms dealer who shows up in the middle of this story and one of the guys who escaped ended up hanging out with him for a few days, sold the weapons for the "achille lauro". he is now in jail in illinois for selling arms in south america and he also sold arms to oliver north for iran contra so it is a small world. >> what about abu abbas? >> he ended up evicted from tunisia where he had been living and he and his family and that i'm moving to iraq because saddam hussein at the time was very welcoming of palestinians which was not the case in most neighboring arab countries. even today i interviewed the youngest terrorist hijacker and he still lives in a refugee camp in lebanon where even though he was born there he is
not a citizen so abu abbas and that living in iraq, pretty nicely for a lot of years and then in 2003 when the us invaded iraq, even though israel had given him amnesty and he had been back to gaza for a meeting of the plo because israel -- part of oslo was given an st to a lot of people who committed crimes, he was somehow -- the terrorist part the bush administration had, he got picked up by the americans in 2003 and ended up dying in an american jail at a notorious prison outside the baghdad airport. i have his death report about 60 pages long. i think he had a heart attack. i don't think he was murdered
but who knows? >> what you think? >> i talked to john adams and peter sellers. those who don't know, there was an opera made out of the killing of leon klinghofer in 1991 called the death of klinghofer and when it came out, it created a huge firestorm is only opera can do. a lot of people were offended because the opera gave way to the palestinians and it did contain a scene which was later taken out that today seems kind of benign but it was a little caricature, not that nice to the suburban jewish friends of the klinghofers. after the showing at brooklyn academy music they did take that scene out. i hadn't seen the opera in 1991 but in 2014 the opera was revived in new york at the
metropolitan museum and i became offended because there were many people protesting the opera who hadn't seen it. i hate it when people protest things they haven't seen. if they see it and protest it fair game but to protest before you have seen it, no good. at that time i was interested and i went to see it. i'm not an opera expert by any stretch but i found parts of it incredibly affecting. a scene that had been in the earlier version was no longer there. i thought some of the music was quite beautiful. ultimately the story seemed very melodramatic but the two best arias went to marilyn, no way you could walk out of that opera and feel sympathetic to the people who killed leon klinghofer but you might feel
sympathy for the palestinian plight which is a different story. at that time i thought of doing something on this story but as the complexity seemed interesting. is a chapter in the book in real time that deals with the opera. the thing about the opera that is so interesting, when they heard they were making an opera in 1991, she was so excited peter sellers, this opera impresario was going to be involved, she tried to get in touch with him to talk to him about it, she got his number in san francisco and they spoke and he was pretty dismissive of her, not really mean, just i don't need to talk to you because this is a work of art. he made a mistake. he should have respected the sisters. he did say he felt bad. i liked him a lot. he's a real character. he has a different way of
looking at things but the opera itself has a lot of interesting music. did you see it? did you like it? i think some of it, you can't walk out of it and not feel moved by it. so thank you. one more question. no more questions, good. one more question? >> one of the things that didn't come through in your narrative, it is an odd question to ask because of the
>> you are asking me exactly the right questions. throughout the hijacking the israelis are always there. the israeli intelligence, there is a moment mubarak in egypt, without shame, the hijackers are not here anymore. they were right there outside cairo and the israelis had an office. and to provide a lot of intelligence to the us, more heavily, part of my research took me to israel. i met with a former head who
had the unfortunate responsibility, i asked him about the "achille lauro" to put him in the context of what does this mean to israel? he said it was a big deal for americans because an american was killed. for us, it was a few days of interest, for us it was one of many in a long line of incidents and running through the book is this constant refrain of we are going to kill ten of you, the back and forth and the other backdrop, the other violence going on in the us that has the world as riveted, new york is riveted by the death of leon klinghofer, in new york city, people are being killed every year because it is the middle of this terrible time and i said what
about abu abbas? he was on the cover of time and newsweek, most notorious terrorist. just another terrorist. for the israelis, this was an incident that was an american story. they were involved in it from an intelligence gathering situation but did not want to get involved militarily at all, they said this one is on you. that is another piece that was so interesting, watching this intricate dance going on, everybody lying to everybody. one thing i couldn't put in the book because i couldn't nail it down but i am 99% sure it is true, one of the things that was going on when they were trying to reel in abu abbas, where the hijackers should go, italy or the us, need to talk
directly, nobody could find him? he was at his mistress's apartment so he wasn't taking phone calls. that wouldn't happen for 20 years. that was a little thing. with the israelis in the background, the complex in the background all the time. for them this was not a big thing. thank you so much. [applause] thank you. [inaudible conversations] >> you are watching booktv. for a complete television schedule, visit booktv.org or follow along behind the scenes
on social media on booktv, twitter, instagram and facebook. >> and now, booktv's monthly "in depth" program with author and historian joanne freeman. ..s and the road to civil war. joanne freeman, you're going to hate this opening question. trace the arc of our nations history. from 1783 to 1861, the political history of our nation. >> wow, i will use the word hate. back i won't use the word hate.e >> i'm gonna do a historian think and speak generally from the beginning straight through we could even go half of that that civil war. you're talking about