Someday, King Hassans true brutality will be revealed

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

The 1965 kidnapping and murder of the Moroccan opposition leader Mehdi Ben-Barka, then in Paris, was carried out on the orders of his sworn enemy, King Hassan II.

This fact emerged several times in France during the various investigations of one of the most scandalous crimes to rock the French capital in the latter half of this century.

I was the Israeli daily Ma'ariv's correspondent in Paris at the time and was following closely as the French tried in vain to find Ben-Barka's body. French President Charles De Gaulle denounced Hassan and his emissaries in a press conference at the Elysee Palace.

The Mossad was also linked to the crime, when it was learned that the kidnapping and murder had been carried out by two men considered close to the Israeli spy agency — Gen. Mohammed Oufkir, Hassan's defense minister, and Col. Ahmed Dlimi, Hassan's chief of secret police.

Oufkir was said to have stabbed Ben-Barka with a dagger as he left a restaurant on the Left Bank. Israel's name was a hairbreadth away from being permanently stained in France.

In any case, Hassan felt himself most indebted to the Mossad, which manifested itself in ways that cannot be detailed to this day.

Yet the reaction to the murder was so intense that Hassan in the end tried to distance himself from it, to the degree that he slowly "eliminated" all those who knew the secret and carried out his orders in Paris.

First, he did away with three French underworld figures who had fled to Morocco after they had helped Oufkir and Dlimi. Five years after the Paris murder, Oufkir died in Rabat, ostensibly a suicide — though it was Dlimi who allegedly murdered him.

Twelve years after the Ben-Barka affair, Dlimi himself died in a mysterious "road accident." Thus, all those in on the Ben-Barka murder were done away with, and their families were brutally harassed.

Only the king himself died in his bed, taking with him the secrets of the brutal Ben-Barka incident — an Arab-Muslim version of a Shakespearean intrigue that probably remains unparalleled to this day.

Jordan's King Hussein was no "vegetarian" either, but when he pursued his Palestinian rivals to the death in 1970 because they threatened to overthrow him, he at least fought them on the battlefield, killing more Palestinians than the Israelis ever have.

Israel also helped the Moroccan king in his battle with Algeria in 1963-64 and in his battles in the 1970s in the Sahara. Veterans of the Mossad and the Israeli intelligence services can well differentiate between the murderous King Hassan and the warrior King Hussein.

Thus, only those completely ignorant of history should have been jumping out of their skins last week to roll in Hassan's dust. If he indeed helped Israel, it was only in exchange for help that he received. And even then Israel didn't get full value for the risks it took to help the murderous king. It was decades, for example, before Hassan returned the remains of those who drowned on the immigrant ship Egoz.

It is also no surprise that Hassan, given his involvement in the Ben-Barka assassination, made every effort to make himself look like a pursuer of peace, a "humanist," a "man of culture," as he has been called by those Israelis who rushed to bow to his coffin.

It's true that Israel got certain important services from the king, but it also gave him plenty. Except for hosting the secret meeting between then-Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Hassan Tuheimi in 1977, Hassan was almost irrelevant to the peace process, which would have gone on without him.

Sometimes, in fact, he even interfered. For example, he insolently refused to allow then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Morocco on the advice of the heads of the Labor Party, which was battling to take power.

Someday, when the relevant files of the CIA and the French and Israeli intelligence services are declassified, the true picture of this murderous and corrupt tyrant will emerge. Then, all those world leaders who rushed to his funeral and followed his coffin for three miles, including President Clinton and French President Jacques Chirac, will look ridiculous.

As for all those fawning Israelis, well, many of them don't care when Arab hands are covered with the blood of Jews. What can we expect when a despot's victims were Arabs?