International Terrorism in the Contemporary World

By Marius H. Livingston; Lee Bruce Kress et al. | Go to book overview

EDGAR O'BALL ANCE

Terrorism in the Middle East

This paper excludes, except by way of brief reference, what may be thought of as battlefield or urban guerrilla warfare, as expounded by Mao Tse-tung and other authorities, and only terrorism with a political motive will be considered. The hostage system, murder, torture, and terrorism in all forms are not new to the Middle East: they have been carried out for a variety of reasons, and particularly for political ends. In the Middle East terrorist acts probably date at least to the original Old Man of the Mountains, Hassan ben Sabbah, who toward the end of the eleventh century organized and conditioned a fanatical sect, the Assassins, in northern Iran. He later moved to Lebanon, where his followers committed many political murders.


The Cult of the Fedayeen

The Arab fedayeen, or freedom fighters, came into prominence in 1965, when the Fatah organization began to raid Israel, but it was fairly ineffectual and failed, after the Six-Day War of 1967, to instigate Mao Tse-tung-type guerrilla tactics in the occupied territories, where lived some 1.3 million Arabs. Then suddenly in late 1968, something seemed to snap in the Arab mind, and the cult of the fedayeen swept through Arab countries like wildfire and a crop of guerrilla groups sprang up almost overnight, mostly based in Palestinian refugee camps. Early in 1969, Yasser Arafat, the Fatah leader, became chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO, which was supposed to control and coordinate their activities. By mid-1969, mergers and forcible take-overs had reduced the number of guerrilla groups from more than fifty to about a dozen, but they all had different aims, were of varying quality, and were very independently minded; Arafat's control in most cases was less than nominal. Fedayeen activities included terrorist raids across Israeli borders, explosions inside Israel, assassination of Arabs suspected of collaborating with Israelis, attacks on Israeli embassies and El Al offices abroad, and hijacking aircraft.

On December 1, 1968, Arab terrorists attacked an El Al airliner at Athens Airport, causing death and injury. This incident provoked the Israelis, whose policy was one of hard reprisal, to mount a raid in helicopters on the Beirut Airport in which thirteen Arab airliners were destroyed. The first fedayeen hijacking of an aircraft had already occurred on July 23. Other incidents followed in quick succession, and soon the list became long.

Arab adulation, coupled with the fact that they tried to brush aside gov-

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