I just received, anonymously, an unclassified cable to the State Department from the American Embassy in Daha, Quantan, one of the Arab countries involved in the boycott of Israel.

It reads as follows, and I swear I did not make up one word of it.

"I - During routin visit to Doha Boycott Office, Embassy Commercial Specialist was made aware of possible problem which Philip Morris Tobacco Co. may face in marketing Merit cigarettes in the Middle East. Something about the structure of the fitter on Merit cigarettes causes tar to be deposited on the mouthpiece end of the white filter in the form of a six-pointed star. The star is clearly visible when the cigarette is smoke approximately half its length.

(Further smoking causes the star to be in a general brown stain.)

"2 - Our Commercial Specialist told Boycott Office officials that this abviously not a serious matter. Office Director agreed but indicated he had already received numerous complaints (including one from the palace), and he then introduced our man to the latest batch of complainers who were sitting in hisouteroffice.

"3 - Boycott Office Director is trying to head off complaints, but fears that sale of Merit cigarettes, and subsequent complaints about the star appearing on the end of the filter element, may lead to the banning of all Philip Morris products, including the immensely popular Marlboro brand."

You may laugh, if you want to, but if you're a stockholder of Philip Morris, this is no joking matter. The Philip Morris Co. never, in all its wildest dreams, thought of developing a cigarette filter which would produce a Star of David on it, and even if it did, it certainly wouldn't export such a cigarette filter to an Arab country.

The only explanation that makes any sense is that the Israeli secret service people have developed such a filter and infiltrated the Merit factory. If this is true, it one of the great breakthroughs in postwar covert operations, and one that has made the CIA green with envy.

There have been rumours that for years CIA scientists have been working on a cigarette filter which would produce an American flag when half-smoked by someone in a Communist country. But the Central Intelligence Agency has not been able to overcome the incredible problems of getting the tar to produce 50 stars and 13 stripes that would fit on the filter.

The Soviet Union's KGB is also said to be unsuccessful in developing a filter that would produce a hammer and sickle while someone was putting away. Even the Japanese, with all their technical know-how, cannot make their tobacco burn in such a way as to duplicate a rising sun.

I called the Israeli Embassy to see if I could get further information on how they did it.

The man on the other end of the line was very upset. "How did you find out about it?"

I told him I couldn't reveal my sources.

"We don't have such a filter," he said. "And if we did, we couldn't talk about it."

"But the Arabs insist you do. There are Stars of David in ash trays all over Doha, and they're getting very upset."

"Then they shouldn't smoke so much."

"That's not the point," I told him. "Something like this could start another Middle East war. You start messing with Philip Morris cigarette filters, and no one knows where it will lead."

"If they smoke fast they won't see it," the Israeli said.

"So you intend to keep putting Stars of David in Merit cigarette filters?"

"I didn't admit we were doing it. But if Philip Morris wants to give us 100 F-15 fighter jets, we might switch to Camels."