Arafat and the PLO, Part II
As we pick up our story on Yasser Arafat and his reign of terror,
it is 1972 and the PLO, now firmly ensconced in Lebanon, kept
up its pressure on Israel and the West.
In May of ’72, 3 Japanese terrorists hired by the PLO killed 28 at
Tel Aviv Airport. Then in September of that year, the world got
sick to its stomach as Arafat’s Fatah organization wreaked havoc
on the Munich Olympics.
Over 90% of the sources you will come across in describing the
horrific events in Munich never mention Yasser Arafat’s name,
as if he had nothing to do with it. This couldn’t be further from
the truth, as Richard Nixon himself wrote. The group that was
responsible, Black September, was really just a cover for Fatah.
Here now the story, as I wrote in another link for this site back in
12,000 athletes and staff were housed in Munich’s Olympic
Village, with every precaution being taken to protect them.
However, in the early morning hours of September 5, eight
armed men managed to infiltrate the compound.
The terrorists, who were to identify themselves as Black
September, stormed into two apartments housing some of the
Israeli team members. 13 Israelis were rounded up, but in the
chaos that followed, two team members successfully escaped,
while two others were shot and killed as they tried to do the
same. The remaining 9 became hostages.
Black September made their demands; the lives of the hostages
in exchange for the freedom of 236 Arab prisoners held in Israel,
plus air transportation to fly them and their captives to an
unspecified location. If their conditions were not met by 9:00
AM, they would begin killing the Israelis.
Images of the hooded terrorists standing on the balcony were
flashed across the world. A standoff ensued.
The terrorists were eventually presented two alternatives in
exchange for the release of their hostages; they could be paid a
large ransom and given safe passage out of Germany, or West
German officials would take the place of the Israeli athletes as
hostages. [Understand that just 27 years removed from World
War II, Germany was petrified this whole incident would have a
huge, negative impact on the world’s impression of a country
that had been making tremendous strides.]
Black September rejected these offers. Instead, they demanded a
plane to Cairo, saying that by the time they landed the Arab
prisoners were to have been released.
The Olympic task force gave in to the request for transportation.
At 10:00 PM the commandos and the Israeli captives were
transported to two helicopters and flown to a military airfield
where they would presumably make their escape. Upon their
arrival at the airstrip, however, German police launched a
For about 90 minutes the police marksmen and the terrorists
waged a continuous gun battle. It ended in further tragedy when
one terrorist threw a grenade into one of the helicopters, killing
all five hostages inside, while the other terrorists shot and killed
the remaining hostages. The final death toll was one German
police officer, five terrorists and eleven Israeli athletes (including
the two killed in the village). The other three terrorists were
In a further tragic twist to the story, many in the world were led
to believe that the Israelis had been released. Israel had
celebrated the false reports at the time and settled in for the night.
The International Olympic Committee, under heavy criticism,
nonetheless decided to resume the Games on September 7th, after
a memorial service on the 6th.
In the fall of 1973 (October 6), Egypt and Syria launched another
failed effort at destroying Israel, the Yom Kippur War, while
Yasser Arafat escalated his own terrorist plans against both
Israeli citizens as well as the West. In December 1973, for
example, Palestinian terrorists killed 31 at Rome’s airport. Then
in April 1974, Palestinian guerrillas entered the town of Kiryat
Shmona and killed 18 men, women and children. A month later
20 schoolchildren were killed in Ma’alot. Arafat then announced
that all foreign tourists in Israel are legitimate targets as well.
So what does the world do? Why invite Arafat to the UN, of
course. Back then the organization was dominated by African
and Asian states opposed to the U.S. (nothing has changed,
really) so they were anxious to hear the chief terrorist, live and in
person. As you’d expect, given the crowd, he was well received,
and then the body voted not to allow Israel to present its own
case. The next year the UN granted the PLO “observer” status as
it denounced Zionism as a form of racism.
Meanwhile, back in Lebanon, the PLO was turning the country
into a battleground. By 1975 the Palestinians were 20% of the
population, alarming the various factions and leaders in Beirut.
The shooting of 27 Palestinians in that city in April ’75 sparked
18 months of civil war.
While this was going on Arafat PLO kept up his terrorist
activities in Israel, with one of the more high-profile incidents
coming in March 1978 when Fatah hijacked a bus en route to Tel
Aviv, killing 34 Israelis. Israel then sent 25,000 troops into
southern Lebanon, with 140,000 Palestinians fleeing north into
Beirut’s refugee camps, exacerbating an already tense situation
in the capital.
Finally, in 1982 Israel’s bombing of Beirut drove Arafat out of
Lebanon, and his power and prestige plummeted. [See any
parallels to today? I do.] The PLO’s headquarters were
transferred to Tunis, where they remained until 1994. By the late
1980s, though, the Palestinians in Israel had launched the
Intifada and a new wave of terrorism swept the nation.
But it was in 1993 that top secret talks were held between Israeli
and Palestinian representatives in Oslo to, in the words of one
present at the time, “put an end to decades of confrontation and
conflict, recognize mutual legitimate and political rights, and
strive to live in peaceful co-existence and mutual dignity and
security and achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace
settlement and historic reconciliation.” [J.M. Roberts]
An autonomous Palestinian Authority was to be established,
covering the West Bank and Gaza, including the transfer of
police power from Israel to the Palestinians. By ’94 Arafat was
allowed to return home.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was concerned back then
that Arafat would be replaced by a far more extreme Palestinian
leader, which is why he signed the Oslo Accords. [Rabin was
himself assassinated in ’95 by an Israeli hard-liner.] Since ’93,
that has been the predominant feeling in the West as well. Or, as
historian Paul Johnson put it:
“The essence of geopolitics is to be able to distinguish between
different degrees of evil.”
For his part, Richard Nixon wrote of this period, “Rabin knew
that Arafat was evil. But the choice was not between Arafat and
somebody less evil, but Arafat and somebody more evil. Arafat
needs to deal because he is weak. Israel can risk making a deal
with its worst enemy because it is strong.”
David Reynolds, “One World Divisible”
Martin Gilbert, “History of the 20th Century”
Bernard Lewis, “The Middle East”
J.M. Roberts, “Twentieth Century”
Joe Garner, “We Interrupt This Broadcast”
Richard Nixon, “Beyond Peace”
*Hott Spotts will return on June 6.