Book Review: Kill Khalid

kill khalidIt happened quickly. On a lazy Thursday afternoon, rx somewhere in Amman’s Tla Al Ali district, viagra sale Hamas leader Khalid Mishal saw nothing more than a blur of movement as he emerged from his car only to be faced with two unknown assailants. The sound of an explosion nearby, patient a tussle of activity as Mishal’s driver, Abu Maher lurched at the would-be attackers, and a whirling sound in Mishal’s ear, was all it took. One of the attackers hurled a coca cola can at Abu Maher before both fled the scene, heading for a getaway car a few meters away. Mishal’s men gave chase, and in what unfolded like the typical plot of a James Bond film, the amateur assassins were eventually pinned down. Initially believed to be a failed assassination, Mishal and his men would soon discover otherwise as the Amman-based Hamas leader grew suddenly sick only several hours after the attack. He had been poisoned. Mossad’s head, David Yatom rushed to Amman hours later, as Mishal lay in a hospital bed, to tell the late King Hussein one simple fact: “We did it. He’ll die in 24 hours. We sprayed him with a chemical. There’s nothing you can do about it.”

While such a scene may be easily mistaken to be the climax of this tale, war correspondent and Australian journalist, Paul McGough cleverly weaves together a story filled with intrigue that would rival the best of modern day thriller novels. The only difference is, this tale is true. In Kill Khalid, McGeough tells not only the story of Khalid Mishal’s brush with death in 1997, but that of his life as well. From his birth in Palestine to his upbringing in Kuwait and the rapid development of his political and religious beliefs during his university years, it is perhaps somewhat significant that Mishal’s life fit within the context of its single most defining event that could have meant his demise but, instead, became his power chip, elevating him to unprecedented stature in the Middle East political game.

McGeough relies on extensive research and access to various sources, including Mishal, to put together the story from all its angels and many threads – a difficult task when it comes to depicting a single event that triggered a political crisis of such magnitude. With the streets of Amman as its stage, a tale emerges of a man who lay dying of a mysterious illness, as formidable Jordanian journalist, Randa Habib, attempts to pin down a story everyone (expect Hamas) is trying to keep under wraps. Meanwhile, King Hussein and his men, blindsided, attempt to maneuver through a minefield of anger and frustration shrouding a failed Mossad assassination on Jordanian soil that simultaneously gave the appearance to the average Jordanian observer, of having been supported by the Hashemite government – a perception that Hussein saw as tantamount to his downfall. Thus, perhaps unexpectedly, the story of Mishal’s attempted assassination quickly became King Hussein’s race against time to save the Hamas leader’s life, in order to – as he saw it – save his own throne, to say nothing of the faltering peace process.

While such an outcome may appear implausible, if not downright mind-boggling, Kill Khalid’s narrative of behind-the-curtain proceedings, manages to convince the reader that this single event would have undoubtedly changed the course of Middle Eastern history. It also successfully sets the stage for the history that unfolded a decade after the event, including the 2004 assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmad Yassin – who was released by the Israelis shortly after Mishal’s failed death, due to demands by King Hussein who sought to use Yassin’s release as an instrument to placate his own masses. Hussein also demanded the antidote to save Mishal’s life from the mysterious poison he was exposed to – a poison that McGeough manages to track down and unveil as having dubious ties to Israel’s security establishment. Suffice to say, when all is weaved together, Kill Khalid makes for a fascinating read that might easily be mistaken as fiction.

The book, published both in the US and UK, was upon release, met with wide success in the former country but struggled to find ground across the pond. Australian Journalist, Phillip Knightley pointed to the unwillingness by many British literary editors to review the book and subsequently be seen as promoting the organization to which Mishal belongs. The book’s UK publisher, Quartet Books, even saw its chairman, Naim Attallah, issue a stern press release accusing the literary establishment of engaging in “an unspoken tactic to limit the book’s public circulation” due to a decision to “dismiss Hamas within the box of [a] ‘terrorist organization’ without granting serious consideration to its valid aspects as a voice in the debate.”

“Anyone who hopes for peace in the Middle East must surely recognize that Hamas is an integral part of any move towards a peace settlement,” Attallah added. “No progress can be achieved without their involvement.”

In that regard, it is somewhat ironic that the failed assassination of a single man has had such a diverse ripple effect on Middle Eastern politics, to the extent that even the book depicting the very event, is veiled in political controversy. That, in itself, is perhaps testament to the event’s significance.

*Originally published in Jordan Business magazine, November 2010

Sidenote: The author of the book left a few comments on the Black Iris when I first mentioned out loud that I wanted to read it. In the spirit of the comments he left, I should emphasize that I did in fact purchase the books from Readers bookstore!


  • Interesting book! will definitely read it.
    When it comes to politics and politicians; I didn’t know how true and reliable this book could be, thnx for clearing this up!

    Question: Did the author contact Khalid while writing the book?

  • someone ever noticed how fabricated the whole thing was?
    putting some poison, which has an anti-poison? Why not shoot him with a silencer? Hit and run,make it like a roberry? The very clever mossad (proven in Dubai( could have come up with 1000 ways to eliminate him, but it was all part of the drama, to make a new shiny star, no one ever heard of Khalid before this, and what has he done? Who the hell is he?
    Why no more buses explosions? who paid Hamas in the first years of its birth? Why gaza now no rockets going?Why they stop other factions from throwing rockets?
    Hamas has split the people,it has support by religious people because they wear the Islam clothes.
    They keep meeting with the Americans, behind the scenes,why you think so?

    Al-sholi: That was pathatic,lets focus on the subject

    Like I tell you your son is smoking, you respond: your son is failing his classes

  • Salim,

    Actually I expected to get that line after I leave the comment below. I think you meant Al-Somali, but hay, thats psyche still! 🙂

    Some perspective:

    1. Every developed poison gets its antidote. It is a back up plan in case something goes wrong, which it did in this case, or to use the poison as a bargain chip in other scenarios. Since these poisons are artificial compounds, the developer would know how to reverse it. It is not collected from a magical fruit that no one knows about.

    2. I would argue that while it is not a robbery, shooting him would be telling of who has an interest in his death, while injecting him with a secretly developed poison that triggers organ failures has a higher chance of intercepting it as natural death.

    3. While Israel had an interest in the rise of Hamas, that does not necessarily mean that Hamas gains its legitimacy from Israel or owes it is success to it. Questioning the growth of Hamas is equal to questioning the sanity of the large population it represents, or similar to accusing its base with either naivety or complicity.

    4. Assuming that Hamas sprang from no where is ridiculous. You would have to ignore the rise of the brotherhood in Egypt throughout the Sadat era and their development and affects on the region. Those were the years that the left internationally started to recede. The PLO was left and center left oriented and a right/conservative/religious movement had to grow parallel to it.

    5. Meshal himself was a politically engaged student since his university years, and he assumed a leading position in the political bureau of the movement before an attempt was taken on his life. Discrediting his weight is lack of knowledge, you do not have to agree with him in order to acknowledge him. He was leading a political program that you didn’t “hear” of.

    6. Discussing the strategy of every group in the Palestinian sphere is long for this discussion. You are basically assuming that Hamas is aimless, and if it is genuine it would have carried on with rockets and suicide missions, right? This is a political strategy, tactics for gains, operating against an incredibly strong enemy with many rivals in the domestic scene. Creating a polar against a domestic rival was necessary for the divergence in political views. Splitting the people claim is nationalistic and propagandist, and ignoring the power structure in Palestine is pathetic.

    I would recommend some fact straightening before accusing implicitly or even explicitly a movement of treason. And enough already with the conspiracy shit, analyze what you see instead of assuming a fateful end.

  • I think the Israelis at this point are satisfied with the Hamas leadership, they don’t call for attacking Israel, if they would they’d get killed like the Islamic Army group in Ghaza, such a tiny faction but still targetted because of their message.

  • Al-Somali,

    Hamas didn’t reverse its long term goals, and they are very clearly defined in any of their speeches. They didn’t fire during the truce that preceded the last mass aggression, Israel broke it several times before Hamas reacted. If you follow news, Israel had been escalating its attacks on Gaza for the last month in a scene similar to that of 2008. I don’t know how can you claim what you claim!

  • حركة حماس خلقت للفصل الديموغرافي بين الفلسطينيين والاسرائيليين وقد حققت هدفها بامتياز

Your Two Piasters: