Middle Eastern Terrorism: From Black September to September 11

Middle Eastern Terrorism: From Black September to September 11

Middle Eastern Terrorism: From Black September to September 11

Middle Eastern Terrorism: From Black September to September 11


Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

Since the first airplane hijacking by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in September 1970, Middle Eastern terrorists have sacrificed innocent human lives in the name of ideology. From Black September to the Munich Olympics, to the embassy bombing in Beirut, to the devastating attacks of September 11 and beyond, terrorism has emerged as the most important security concern of our time.

"Where did this come from?" Inspired by a student's question on the morning of September 11, 2001, Mark Ensalaco has written a thoroughly researched narrative account of the origins of Middle Eastern terrorism, addressing when and why terrorists started targeting Americans and American interests and what led to the September 11 attacks.

Ensalaco reveals the changing of motivations from secular Palestinian nationalism to militant Islam and demonstrates how competition among terrorists for resources and notoriety has driven them to increasingly extreme tactics. As he argues, terrorist attacks grew from spectacle to atrocity. Drawing on popular works and scholarly sources, Middle Eastern Terrorism tells this story in rich detail and with great clarity and insight.


In September 1970, a month that came to be known as Black September, terrorists belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) simultaneously hijacked three passenger jets bound for the United States in the skies over Europe. Alert air marshals prevented them from hijacking a fourth. Several days later, terrorists from the PFLP hijacked another jet. They flew the jets to a remote airfield in Jordan and held more than three hundred passengers hostage and issued a series of demands for the release of their comrades. The terrorists did not physically harm the hostages, or even threaten anyone. The incident dragged on for weeks. Then, in a spectacle to draw the world’s attention to the plight of the Palestinian people, the terrorists blew up the empty jets as news cameras captured the images of exploding planes. That was 12 September 1970.

In September 2001, terrorists belonging to Al Qaeda simultaneously hijacked four American passenger jets in the skies over the United States. During the hijacking the terrorists stabbed and slashed passengers and flight attendants. They did not issue a single demand or statement of grievances. One hundred and eight minutes after the hijackings began, the terrorists crashed the jets into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers and the Pentagon as news cameras captured the images of exploding planes and collapsing buildings. The hijacking of the fourth jet was defeated by courageous passengers who sacrificed their own lives to prevent the destruction of the White House or the Capitol. In all, nearly three thousand perished. That was September 11, 2001.

In three decades the terrorism originating in the conflicts and geopolitics of the Arab and Muslim worlds had mutated from spectacle to atrocity.

On the morning of September 11, minutes after American Airlines flight 11 ripped through the World Trade Center’s North Tower, the news director from the Dayton affiliate of ABC News summoned me to the newsroom. I had begun teaching courses on political violence and terrorism at the University of Dayton and for Air Force intelligence officers at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in 1989. The local news affiliate had called on me a number of times over the years: after the bombing . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.