(ISRAEL and the MIDDLE EAST to 1979 – continued)

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ISRAEL and the MIDDLE EAST to 1979 (3 of 7)

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Jordan, Arafat and Terror

Palestinians living n the state of Jordan were unhappy about King Hussein not having broken relations with the United States during the 1967 war. They were unenthusiastic about Jordan's King Hussein, while Hussein was unenthusiastic about Palestinian violence against Israel or against his armed forces. Armed Palestinian groups were in many of Jordan's cities and beyond the control of local authorities. Between mid-1968 and the end of 1969 there had been at least five hundred violent confrontations between Palestinian guerrillas and Jordan's army and security forces. Jordanian officials loyal to Hussein were calling for a return to discipline and the rule of law.

In Lebanon, PLO forces were also creating havoc. There, armed Palestinians were clashing with Lebanon's security forces. The leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, was not inclined to keep the groups under him disciplined, in Lebanon or in Jordan.

During the summer of 1970, King Hussein's forces and Palestinians continued to clash. By early September, guerrilla groups were occupying strategic positions in Jordan. In a move against the hostile reaction of Jordanian authorities the  Palestinians called a general strike, and they called on others to join them.

Intervening in the conflict in Jordan was another hijacking. On 6 September the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) tried to hijack five airliners. One was an Israeli plane with Israeli security personnel on board, and Israeli security prevented the takeover. The Israeli plane landed in London, and British authorities imprisoned a surviving hijacker, a Palestinian woman, Leila Khaled. Three of the four other airliners remained under guerrilla command and were forced to fly to an airfield near Amman, Jordan. The fifth airliner was flown to Cairo, the passengers taken off the plane and the plane blown up.

The hijackers at the airfield in Jordan wanted to exchange those they had taken hostage for Palestinians held in Western prisons. Britain gave them Leila Khaled over the objection of the Israelis, who believed that giving into terrorist demands encouraged more terrorism. The 400 hostages held by the hijackers in Jordan were released in exchange for seven other Palestinians. And the three planes in Jordan were blown up.

King Hussein by now had become fed up with the Palestinians, and by 16 September forces in Jordan loyal to him were at war with the PLO. Syria sided with the PLO and sent forces into northern Jordan, which Yasser Arafat declared a liberated area. Arafat described Hussein's military assault on his PLO forces as genocide against the Palestinian people. Israel, in secret agreement with Hussein, placed its forces on alert. The United States announced that naval units were converging on the eastern Mediterranean to reinforce the Sixth Fleet as a precautionary measure. Syria refrained from using its airforce against Jordan, fearing that otherwise the United States and Israel might enter the conflict on the side of Hussein.

On September 22, the league of Arab states(note38) met in order to end the fighting between Hussein and the Palestinians.   At the conference, King Hussein confronted Arafat, accusing him of conspiring to overthrow him, and he produced tapes of radio broadcasts as proof. Arafat retaliated by pounding the table and screaming obscenities. He accused Hussein of being an agent of imperialism and of conspiring with the USA and Israel against the Palestinians. The Libyan leader, General Moammar al-Gaddafi, accused Hussein of being a lunatic. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, disheartened by the vulgar recriminations and incoherent ranting, declared them all to be mentally unbalanced.

An ailing and tired Nasser was there. He had suffered several heart attacks and had been ordered by his doctors to rest and to avoid exertion, but he managed to hammer out an agreement among the participants at the conference. Arafat and Hussein shook hands in a frosty manner. And, hours later, Nasser suffered another heart attack, collapsed and died.

With Nasser gone, Hussein felt free to launch a plan to eject more Palestinians from his country. Late in 1970 he established contact with Syria and with the new head of state in Egypt, Anwar Sadat, and the three determined that they would do little to help Arafat. Arafat had returned to his headquarters in northern Jordan and was sending messages to Hussein professing moderation and promoting a policy of live and let live, but it was too late. Hussein moved against the PLO. He forced the PLO and Arafat to withdraw from Jordan to Lebanon, and now Palestinians in Jordan were to move to the West Bank in greater number.

Meanwhile, peace talks between Israel and the Arab states were going nowhere. Henry Kissinger, in the Nixon administration at the time, was to describe it as follows:

Israel, never having lived within accepted frontiers, saw no essential difference between locating its boundaries in one unaccepted place and another; condemned to Arab belligerency, it sought the widest imaginable security belt. The Arab countries were torn between their philosophical objection to the existence of the Israeli state and the practical reality that they could not altar the status quo except through some form of diplomacy. note39

Some Palestinians continued on their war path. On 22 February 1972, five Palestinian hijackers seized a German Lufthansa airliner flying from New Delhi to Greece. They directed the plane to South Yemen and released their hostages in exchange for a 5 million dollars – a great success for them and for South Yemeni authorities, who took one million of the ransom money for themselves.

On 8 May 1972 four Palestinians belonging to an organization called Black September seized a Sabena airliner on the ground at Israel's Lod Airport, hoping to trade the passengers for 317 guerrillas being held in Israel. Israeli commandos rescued the passengers. Two terrorists and one passenger died.

Black September was associated with the PLO, and Arafat went along with the actions of Black September, as he did the actions of the PFLP. Arafat was interested in maintaining the support of Black September and PFLP members. On 30 May, Japan's Red Army Faction, fervent for proletarian revolution and friendly toward the PFLP, joined the terrorism. They killed 25 and wounded 76 at Israel's Lod Airport. The Israelis killed two of the terrorists and wounded a third. Then on 8 July, in retaliation for the attack at Lod Airfield, an Israeli team killed Ghassan Kanafani, leader of the PFLP.

Black September terrorists struck again on September 5, 1972, killing 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Olympic Games in Munich Germany. Arafat has been accused of planning the attack at Munich. At any rate, members of his Fatah organization were involved with Black September.

On March 1, 1973, eight Black September members seized the Saudi embassy in Sudan. They demanded the release of the surviving gunman of the Lod Airport Massacre and the release of Japanese Red Army members in jail in Germany. They were refused, and they killed the U.S. ambassador to Sudan, Claude Noel, and two other diplomats.

In Greece on 5 August, two gunmen belonging to the Arab Nationalist Youth Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (ANYOLP) shot down passengers disembarking from a TWA airliner that had arrived from Israel. Five passengers were killed and 55 wounded.

In Italy on 17 December, five members of the Arab Nationalist Youth Organization for the Liberation of Palestine (ANYOLP) killed 33 passengers on a TWA airliner, forced the plane to fly to Kuwait, and there the members of ANYOLP were released to the PLO. 

On 11 April 1974, members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) attacked the Israeli settlement of Qiryat Shemona, killing 18 and wounding 16 others. The Israelis refused to negotiate and killed the assailants.

The PFLP seized a school in Israel on 15 May in the village of Ma'alot, taking 100 students and their teachers hostage. Israeli forces crushed the terrorists, but twenty-seven children died in the process.

On 7 Sptember, a Pan Am airliner exploded just after takeoff from an Athens airport – attributed to the ANYOLP. Six days later, three members of the Japanese Red Army invaded the French embassy in the Netherlands and won the release of a comrade imprisoned there. The four Japanese were put on a plane that flew them to safety in Syria.

In October came the Yom Kippur War.


Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.