Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Political Science and International Relations disciplines
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA USA 24401
This reading last was updated Friday, March 12, 2010
This reading is organized largely in chronological order and has sections addressing several periods. Parts of it are in timeline form:
1. The Middle East in Antiquity
2. The age of Diaspora:
3. Jews in the age of European and Ottoman Colonialism
4. The wake of World War II: the U.N. Partition of Palestine:
5. The Israeli and Palestinian claims to the lands
6. The course of modern wars
1. The Middle East in Antiquity
a. The Middle Eastern region was shaped by events beyond those in the lands later known as Israel and Palestine:c. 4000 BCE: Age of Metals begun
c. 3360 BCE: Egypt Unified
c. 3000 Troy, Crete established
c. 2700: Egyptian Pyramids built
b. 2500 BCE Hittites established empire over ancient Palestine; by 2000 BCE Phoenicians dominate coastal areas.
c. 1460 BCE Famine in Canaan/Palestine/Israel; Hebrew exile Joseph serves as ruler in Egypt. Recent Hebrew immigrants made slaves in Egypt (gradually).
d. 1100 Philistines take over some coastal Mediterranean areas in Palestine.
e. 1000 Interior localities unified by Hebrew kings: Saul, David. In 953 BCE, Temple is built at Jerusalem. Later, two Hebrew kingdoms are established: Judah and Israel. (Go to a map of this period).
f. 700: Assyrian vs. Egyptian wars: Judah aligns with Egypt. Assyrian suzerainty is established over Judah.
g. 610: Hebrews rebuild Temple at Jerusalem.
h. 587: Babylonians conquer Judah and Israel; enslave Hebrews and take them to Babylon; destroy Temple at Jerusalem.
i. 538: 40,000 Babylonian Hebrew exiles allowed to return to Judah; they re-establish the Temple at Jerusalem in 520.
j. Kingdom of Judah survives after 520, but increasingly is menaced by stronger neighbors. Greek and Syrian states demand tribute; their influence grows.
k. 165 BCE: Hebrews, led by the Macaques (or Maccabies), revolt against outsiders; re-take Temple at Jerusalem: "cleanse" it of influences of Syrians and Greeks.
l. 63 BC: Roman Empire conquers Judah and Israel; Roman legions conduct terrible massacre at Jerusalem. Period of Roman rule over area begun.
m. 70 AD: In response to Hebrews' revolt, Roman legions destroy Temple and city of Jerusalem. Jews were enslaved and/or disperse as exiles. However, some Jews remained in parts of Palestine up to and after the Arab conquest of the region in AD 637. (Go to a map of this period).
A French Jewish Community was established in 3 AD; and around that same time Jews first settle in the Crimea, in Hungary and Bulgaria. After the rise of the Arab Empire, Jews served as merchants and bureaucrats for the loosely connected string of Arab states between Persia and Moorish Spain. In some places (e.g.., Greece; the islands of what is now known as Italy), extant Jewish communities cooperated with Arab traders.
2. Jews in the age of Diaspora: Christian, Arab, and Ottoman then ruled in the former lands of Judah and Israel.
The lands of Judah and Israel and in the regions adjacent to Judah/Israel remained contested among Christians and, after 637, followers of Islam for many centuries.
a. Until the 10th Century the Christian Byzantine Empire was a major actor. Other power centers were the Caliphate of Baghdad, and the Arab Empire. Constantinople became the Christian center after the seizure of Jerusalem from Christians by the Arabs. In 1187, the Kurd chieftain Saladin mobilized diverse Arab armies and drove the Crusaders from Jerusalem. The Byzantine capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) was burned by Islamic armies in 860, 907, and 941, but it finally fell only in 1453. (Go to a map of Palestine in this period).
b. In the 1200s, the originally Persia derived Ottomans, led by Osman, began creating a large empire in the region. Until 1520, other Turks ruled all the rest of the region (except Constantinople and Armenia, then on the South east coast of Asia Minor). Ottoman dominion eventually was established over the whole region. Ottoman ruler Mohammed II, 1430-81). He extended Turk rule to Serbia, Greece, Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina). Other Ottomans extended further into Europe: Vienna was laid to siege in the 1550s and in 1683, unsuccessfully.
c. Ottoman rule extended southward. In the 1500s they invaded the Hejaz (Arabia) and the mountainous and difficult Yemen, where they did not succeed in establishing dominion until 1871. The Wahabi tribes resisted the Ottomans, and Egyptian influence was as great there as was Ottoman by the 1800s.
d. By 1789, Ottomans controlled Basra, Baghdad, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Syria, Jerusalem, Egypt, the Libyan Coast, all of Northern Africa (except some French coastal cities on the northern edges of Africa), Crimea, the Southern Ukraine, Budapest, all of the Balkans (except tiny Montenegro), and Greece. In 1830, however, Greece became independent.
e. In this empire, Islam was the majority religion, but minorities also lived. Many Islamic peoples were presided over by the Turks, or paid tribute to the Turks in order to have nominal independence of community life. The majority of the world's Jews lived within this empire. (Go to a map of Palestine this period).
f. Not all Jews remained in these Islamic ruled lands. In about 130 AD, a Romanian Jewish community was started. In 325 CE, the first Jewish community in what later is known as Germany is started. These minority peoples lived among non-Jewish neighbors, but in some places that had not converted to Christianity, they introduced monotheism to their neighbors' culture. Around the year 700 CE, and lasting until 969 CE, Jews established and maintained a state (Khzar) in the southern part of what is now considered Ukraine/ southern Russia. This state was conquered by the Duke of Kiev. Jewish communities are established elsewhere in Europe around the first millennium: Austria (c. 1000 CE); Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (c. 1030 CE).
g. Poland: Roughly contemporaneous to the Christian Crusades (c.1000 CE to c.1250 CE), Jewish immigrants from the German city states of Central Europe began settling in the lands to the East. There they were greeted favorably by the government of Poland under King Boleslaw the Pious, who in 1264 issued a Charter which invited Jews to settle in Poland, and to practice their religion. Polish laws encouraged Jews to act as the commercial class, inasmuch as they were not bound by the anti usury edicts of Rome, and inasmuch as some of them had contacts with traders in Western Europe and Northern Africa.
h. West to East migration continued in the 13th Century. After the expulsion of the English Jews (and other communities in Western Europe), Jews looked to Eastern Europe for sanctuary. In lands adjacent to Poland, Jewish communities also were begun after 1200 CE. A Ukrainian Jewish presence was re-established in 1117 CE. In Lithuania and Estonia, Jewish communities were set up around 1333. In Byelorussia (1383 CE) and Latvia (1533 CE), a Jewish presence also was begun.
i. However, pockets of Western Europe remained open to Jews and tolerated this minority people. In 1133 CE, for example, Dutch authorities permitted the establishment of a Jewish community; roughly 100 years later, so did their neighbors, the Belgians. In 1286, a Jewish community was started in Luxembourg (dates above from Gilbert: 16). Some Jews who were expelled from many parts of Western Europe during this period settled in Palestine. (Go to a map of Palestine in this period).
j. Friction between the Catholic people of Poland and the Jews was present from the start, and the church was unhelpful in building a bridge of understanding between the followers of the two faiths. The tolerance of the Polish governments also eroded over time, and by 1400 policies of forced baptism of Jewish children were common and restrictions on the number of Jewish homes were enacted in the Polish cities of Posen and Warsaw.
k. Between 1795 and 1917, onerous restrictions gave way to active, brutal state policies against the Jews after the Polish state was absorbed into the Russian Empire. Jews and Poles participated actively in nationalist and socialist revolutionary movements against the Russian Czars. Other Jews began to organize migration movements, some to historic Israel. These migrants called themselves Zionists, and migrated to the area then known as the Ottoman ruled district of Palestine; most other Jews fleeing Russia went to the USA. (Go to a map of Zionist settlement in Palestine in this period).
3. Jews in the age of European Colonialism
a. Colonization by European nations reached the Middle East only in the 19th Century, due to the powerful influence of the Ottoman Empire over the area. Britain colonized in Egypt, India, Persia in 19th Century; but Ottoman Turkey held sway in most of the rest of the Middle Eastern region for the 500 years leading down to 1918. Turkey chose to join World War I on the side of Germany, and after its defeat, lost much of its territory. After 1918, the League of Nations declared most of the areas of the Middle East to be French and British protectorates. Nearly a hundred years later, many in the Arab world continue to locate the source of central problems in their contemporary economic and political evolution to this rather brief period under European rule.
b. Balfour Declaration: In 1917, the Balfour Declaration was issued by the British government of Lloyd George. It stated that the British government supported creation of a National Home for the Jewish People in Palestine, with "civil and religious" (i.e., not political) rights of the existing communities to be protected. The Jewish population in the area was measured in 1922 to be 84,000 (up from 34,000 in 1872, Peters: 244). Thereafter, Zionists, the USA, the League of Nations and others treat lands both east and west of the Jordan River as this homeland. Firm advocates of the Jews' cause such as Winston Churchill continued to influence British policy in the following decades, but British policy also was shaped by actors less sympathetic.
c. Britain divided Palestine in Two: In an effort to placate Arab nationalists, Britain split Palestine into two entities and, after 1922, confined Jewish immigration to the Western part. (Go to a map of British actions in Palestine in this period). This administrative device was recognized by no other nation. However, the split culminated in the 1946 grant of independence to the eastern portion of Palestine, dubbed "Trans-Jordan," before the United Nations could act on the Palestine question. At the same time, a substantial influx of Arab peoples from throughout the region began, adding markedly to the extant Arab population of both jurisdictions (Gottheil; Peters) and to the administrative difficulties of the British in managing these two immigrant communities (i.e., Jewish and Arab newcomers).
d. British Actions as European War Approaches: Britain generally favored the interests of the Arab community over those of the growing Zionist during the inter-war years. In 1936, the British Peel Commission proposed partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The Zionist Organization, after sharp debate, narrowly voted in favor of accepting the compromise offered; Arab leaders rejected it. Meeting two years later in Damascus, the leaders of Arab states replied to the Peel principles. (The Commission report had by then been withdrawn by the British Government). The Arab leaders told Britain starkly to choose "between our friendship and the Jews." In response, in 1939, the British chose: they issued the infamous "White Paper," restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine to 75,000 in all by 1944, and none thereafter. This cemented a growing, anti-British attitude among some Zionists, and acts by Jewish extremists such as the Irgun and the Stern Gang against British occupiers made more difficult the continued sympathy for the Jews' cause that was advanced by Prime Minister Churchill.
Jewish militancy in Palestine was not simply a response to what seemed a retreat from the British position in the Balfour Report. A new urgency in the Zionists' attitudes grew out of the UK's position toward anti-Semitism in Europe in the 1930s, as well. During the pre-war years, Neville Chamberlain led the Conservative Party and the Government he led sought by all means to avoid war. His appeasement approach guided British policy toward Germany, and language of protection toward minorities in the League of Nations charter essentially became a dead letter.
British policy, however, was not uniformly hostile to Jewish interests. From 1933-38, the UK allowed 52,000 German European Jews into the UK, and 33,399 more legally to enter into Palestine. (About 131,000 more entered illegally; Mahler: 9). This compared to 102,222 into the USA, 63,500 to Argentina, 26,100 to South Africa, 25,000 to Poland and 20,000 to Shanghai, China. Out of government in the late 1930's, Churchill attempted to balance indifference toward the Jews in the Foreign Office with firm public advocacy on behalf of the Zionists.
Nevertheless, a 1939 British "White Paper" was issued at a time after pogroms had begun in Germany (e.g., Kristallnacht, the night of breaking glass, November 9, 1938), and after the whole world saw that these policies were spreading. News coverage was widespread when the Nazis implemented brutal anti-Semitic policies in Austria in their first month of rule there. These same restrictions toward the Jews had taken five years to be implemented in Germany itself. Chamberlain's tilting toward the Arabs did the British little good: after war broke out between Germany and Britain (September 1939), Arab religious and secular leaders in Palestine openly spoke out favoring the Germans, and some top leaders, e.g. the Mufti of Jerusalem, took refuge in Nazi Germany.
e. These attitudes among Arab elites, combined with events of World War II to weaken the grip of the pro-Arab British Foreign Office in the definition of policy during the Churchill Government (1940-45) and as the war closed. The Holocaust greatly had increased the Zionists' efforts and broadened political support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine among non Jews and Jews alike, worldwide. But, shortly after the end of the War a major governmental change also occurred in Britain in 1945. For the first time, a wholly Labour Party Government, led by Prime Minister Clement Atlee, was elected in a landslide general election. Unlike the Churchill Government in which the Prime Minister himself had expressed life-long sympathies for the Jews (e.g., one of his children married a Jew), Labour had no special affection for the Jews. In governing, the Atlee Government displayed remarkably harsh attitudes toward the survivors of the Holocaust who then were attempting to find sanctuary. Survivors were, for example, interned like enemies and roughly treated in British run, barbed wire rimmed camps on the British colonial island of Cyprus. But Labour also held anti-colonialism as a bedrock party principle, and in their rush to exit from all British colonial obligations (e.g., India), there also remained little will to persist in the Mandate territory of Palestine. Extremists among the Zionists encouraged them to leave by undertaking a campaign of sabotage and attacks against British administrators and soldiers, bombing (among other places) the King David Hotel in Jerusalem where important British administrative offices were located.
4. In the wake of World War II: the U.N. Partition of Palestine
a. Migration out of East Central Europe. As the dust of war settled on the European continent, the effects of the war, 1939-45, profoundly had altered the options available to the Jews, whose forebears had been living there for up to 2000 years. In the German-run Holocaust against the Jews, two in every three European Jews had been murdered or perished as the result of deliberate Nazi policies of starvation and neglect of needed medical treatment.
As an Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry found in 1946, virtually throughout Europe the surviving Jews wanted to emigrate away from Europe, and most wanted to go to Palestine. As that report put it: "In Poland, Hungary and Rumania, the chief desire is to get out, to get away somewhere where there is a chance of building up a new life, of finding some happiness, of living in peace and in security. In Germany also, where the number of Jews has been reduced from about 500,000 in 1933 to about 20,000 now, and most traces of Jewish life have been destroyed, there is a similar desire on the part of a large proportion of the survivors to make a home elsewhere, preferably in Palestine." The report underlined the strong Jewish desire to reconstruct their culture: "They are resentful because they are prevented from going to Palestine. In the meantime, as time passes, the new ties between those who are sharing this common frustration become stronger and, obsessed by their apparent rejection by other peoples of the world, their firm desire is to remain together in the future... They are resentful because they are prevented from going to Palestine. In the meantime, as time passes, the new ties between those who are sharing this common frustration become stronger and, obsessed by their apparent rejection by other peoples of the world, their firm desire is to remain together in the future. It is this sense of cohesion, born of common suffering, which doubtless accounts for, if it does not wholly excuse, the firm resistance offered to proposals by competent bodies to remove young children to happier surroundings in other countries for careful rehabilitation. Men and women are marrying in the centers in increasing number, and, together with other members of the center communities, they wait with growing impatience for the time when they can go to the only friendly place they know."
In one of its most understated insights, the report included this statement: "We consider that these men, women and children have a moral claim on the civilized world."
The surviving Jews of Europe had fully appreciated the meaning in the recently concluded pattern of voluntary and willing collaboration of non-Germans with the Nazis' roundups and in the killings. Collaboration had played a large part in the undoing of the Jews and it had been done by many of their Christian neighbors in virtually every European country under Nazi occupation. The social trust needed to rebuild Jewish society in a multicultural Europe simply no longer existed. This is not to say that individual acts of conscience by individual Christians were not of significance to the survival of individual Jews (e.g., see Fogelman), but only to emphasize that collective action by Christian communities to save Jews, as in Denmark and in Bulgaria, was the rare deviation from larger patterns of collaboration and indifference. Even had unity of resistance, rather than betrayal, been the larger pattern, in most of the former homelands of the surviving displaced Jewish persons (i.e., the survivors of the death camps), a state of economic and social collapse due to the effects of the war impeded resettlement of the Jews in Poland, Hungary and most of the East.
In the East, too, the Soviet Red Army occupied; and long-standing Jewish suspicions of Russian dominated governments, and of Russians in general, contributed to fears associated with return to these areas. Stalin was ascendant, and was widely (and correctly) regarded as an anti-Semite by most Jews. In Poland, hostilities toward the surviving Jews also continued after the end of the war, and new pogroms killed hundreds and menaced the entire surviving Jewish population. Thus, to a great extent, there no longer was a viable option for European Diaspora Jews to remain in much of Central and Eastern Europe; individuals might elect to stay, but communities as a whole already had been shattered by the impact of war, the Holocaust, and societal change. Migration of the survivors to Palestine, therefore, picked up quickly in 1945-47, aided by the recommendation of Anglo-American Commission: "...we estimate that as many as 500,000 may wish or be impelled to emigrate from Europe. As described by many witnesses, a factor which has greatly increased the urgent, indeed frantic, desire of the Jews of Europe to emigrate is the feeling that all doors have been shut to them and that there is no exit. We feel that our recommendations both in regard to the authorization of certificates for admission to Palestine, and in regard to the relaxation of immigration laws generally as an emergency and humanitarian measure..."
Jewish refugees arrive in Haifa, 1948
b. No warm welcome. Arab nations and Arab nationalists in European-run areas opposed this migration. Within the U.S. Government, officials in both the War Department and the State Department advised Pres. Truman against pressing forward with the Jewish cause.
c. On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly formally accepted by a vote of 33 to 13 (and 10 abstaining) the recommendation of the U.N. Ad Hoc Committee that Palestine be partitioned into two states, one Jewish, one Arab (Loftus: 170). (Go to a map of the U.N.'s 1947 proposal to partition Palestine). By this action, over 70 percent of the member states of the U.N. endorsed creation of a Jewish state in part of Palestine. Instrumental to this outcome was the role played by the Latin American allies of the U.S. Every Latin American state with a seat at the U.N. voted in favor (i.e., Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela) or abstained (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico), except Cuba, which voted "no." American pressure on the Latin Americans had won the day for the Jews.
d. The Zionist Organization, after searching debate, then accepted this November 1947 U.N. Partition Plan for two states in western Palestine. On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was declared to be established by the Jewish residents of western Palestine. The Jews accepted the U.N. partition as the delineation of their nation, even though it delineated a state substantially smaller than Zionists would have preferred and left key parts of the city of Jerusalem beyond their control. The USA (on May 14) and the USSR were the two first governments to recognize the new Israeli government as the legitimate, de facto government in the U.N. designated territory. (Formal de jure recognition of Israel by the U.S. came on January 31, 1949).
e. Every Arab state, however, rejected the 1947 partition. Prior to its adoption by the General Assembly, in October 1947, the Arab League had instructed all its member states bordering Palestine to mobilize their armies on the frontier with Palestine. Every Arab state in the General Assembly voted against Partition a month later. During the next six months, vigorous lobbying by pro-Arab interests continued to oppose partition, and skirmishing between the two communities slid into all out war. Egypt's Army directly participated, using tanks and other mechanized equipment months prior to Israel's formal declaration of independence. After Israel's May 14, 1948 declaration of independence, the armies of the Arab states further challenged the new state by formally declaring war against it and by reinforcing Arab League forces that already had invaded Palestine in support of local Arab armed groups. While the first Arab-Israel war formally began when Arab states attacked the new Jewish state of Israel, May 15, 1948, combat had been under way for many months, even years. Ultimately, it was neither the U.N. nor any international force that determined the outcome: the Arab armies were defeated on the battlefield by Israel, by the Jews. (view a map depicting the cease fire lines of 1949; these became the de facto borders, 1949-67).
f. U.S. policy: American support for the Jewish cause in these electric years was neither certain, nor automatic. Oil interests favored a policy tilting toward the Arabs; many national security strategists viewed the Jews as stalking horses for international communism in the region. Thus, in 1945-47, U.S. President Harry S. Truman had to resist the advice of senior U.S. diplomats (e.g., Secretary of State George C. Marshall, Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett, U.N. Ambassador Warren Austin), his own Secretary of Defense (i.e., James Forestall) and numerous military strategists all of whom worried about the impact of a pro-Jewish policy on U.S. oil supplies and on the appeal of the USSR among Arabs. (Go to a map of the U.N.'s 1947 proposal to partition Palestine). After passage of the U.N. partition plan (Nov. 1947), Truman repeatedly was forced to intervene to stop State Department officials from undermining his pro-Jewish policy; and on March 18, 1948, the president gave Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann personal assurances of U.S. support for a Jewish state. The very next day, Austin told the Security Council that the U.S. favored not partition but a U.N.-run "trusteeship" for Palestine. Enraged at this insubordination, Truman recorded on his calendar: "This morning I find that the State Dept. has reversed my Palestine policy... There are people on the 3rd and 4th levels of the State Dept. who have always wanted to cut my throat. They are succeeding in doing it..." (McCullough: 610-611). To bring around Austin's boss, Secretary of State George C. Marshall, Truman assigned Clark Clifford to prepare an address to the core of his Cabinet outlining the case for immediate recognition of the Jewish state, should the Zionists proclaim one. On May 12, Clifford presented the case to Truman, Marshall, Lovett and key aides in the Oval Office. Citing from Deuteronomy to the Balfour Declaration, Clifford conveyed that recognizing a Jewish state would embrace "everything this country should represent" (McCullough: 615). Lovett and especially Marshall firmly disagreed, rebuking Clifford and, by inference, Truman's policy. It was a bitter meeting: Marshall never again spoke to Clifford. To manage the division, Truman stalled, and two days later won Marshall's assurance that he would not publicly express his opposition to the policy. Using presidential authority to firmly set U.S. priorities, Truman extended formal U.S. recognition to the Jewish state on the very day that Israel declared itself to be an independent state. Indeed, the hand-altered version of his official document recognizing Israel shows that Truman changed the draft from the generic "Jewish state" to "State of Israel" before signing the official U.S. document. As Truman later wrote (quoted in McCullough: 619-620):
"...I wanted to make plain that the President of the United States, and not a second or third echelon in the State Department, is responsible for making policy."
Hours before U.S. recognition of Israel publicly was announced, U.S. embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East region were warned by Washington to take precautions in anticipation of adverse local reaction. Riots did not develop. U.S. policy did anger Arab governments, but no cut off in supplies of oil to the U.S. followed.
g. When the issue of direct U.S. aid to Israel is examined with accuracy, the best that can be said is that in the early years of the Jewish state little U.S. aid was extended. From 1947 on, an arms embargo against all areas of Palestine was U.S. policy; i.e., prior to and after Israel's declaration of independence. France and Britain, on the other hand, continued to sell arms to the Arab states, only. Diplomatically, U.S. support for Israel was formally correct, but the direct military aid the besieged new state actually needed was not extended (Loftus: 180). Indeed, private efforts to find guns organized by Golda Meir within the U.S., as well as other Jewish efforts to buy arms for the Jews, were disrupted by the FBI. (Substantial sums of cash from Americans sympathetic with the Jewish cause were, however, raised in support of Israel's cause). U.S. citizens seeking to go to Palestine to fight on behalf of the Zionist cause were blocked from leaving the U.S.: the State Department barred the issuance of passports to such persons. This did not, however, stop all American volunteers from taking skills learned on the battlefields of World War II and applying them on behalf of the Jewish cause in Palestine.
While the British and French continued to sell arms to Arab armies already warring with Jews, after Israel declared independence, it alone was turned down by these powers and the U.S.. (Some French officials, e.g. Francois Mitterand, mayor of Marseilles, used their positions to assist Jewish gun-running on behalf of the Zionists in the late 1940s; Loftus: 226). With the Jewish leaders in Palestine forced to look elsewhere, they found assistance in the not-yet-communist-dominated Czechoslovakian government. It supplied crucial military equipment, including aircraft, that insured the Jews' (i.e., 1947-May 1948), and later Israel's (i.e., May 1948-1950), survival despite Stalin's strong opposition to these sales (Loftus: 206-208). Eleven Czech Jews who were ministers in the postwar Czech government that had pursued this policy, most notably Vladimir Clementis, were executed by Czech Stalinists, in 1952.
h. Before and after partition, Arab leaders opposed sanctuary for the Jews in Palestine. In 1946 and for long thereafter, the ruler of the newly established kingdom of Trans-Jordan, King Abdullah (grandfather of the current Jordanian King), continued to insist that both Jordan and western Palestine were one nation; and the Jewish immigration to western Palestine was inappropriate. Despite this and other regional opposition to it, in May 1947, the U.N. had proposed a partition of western Palestine into Jewish and Arab areas. (Go to a map of the U.N.'s 1947 proposal to partition Palestine). In June 1948-- half a year after the U.N. Partition plan was approved by the General Assembly, and a month after Israel's independence was declared and recognized, de facto by USA and de jure by USSR-- Abdullah stated: "Palestine and Trans-Jordan are one,...the same country" (in Peters: 240). In other words, Abdullah opposed creation of a Palestinian state because he viewed Jordan as the Arab state that should rule there. This position formally was abandoned by his successor (King Hussein, father of the contemporary monarch) only in 1974, at the Rabat, Morocco meeting of the Arab League. However, Jordanian government funds continued to finance aspects of social services (schools, local government) on the West Bank of the Jordan, which Israel occupied and ruled under military law from 1967 until the Oslo Peace Process of the 1990s gradually began transfer of some of these areas to nominal control of the Palestinian Authority.
5. Israelis and Palestinians claim the same lands.
a. While Arab peoples have lived in the Eastern Mediterranean region continuously since the establishment of Arab culture in the first millennium, most Palestinians living there in the 20th century descended from newcomers to the specific areas now known as Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Peters has shown that the Arab population of Palestine, 1750-1920, was static, about 300,000 to 400,000 in every census. In 1880, at most there were 200,000 Muslims west of the Jordan (compared to 40,000+ Jews). The Arab growth to 1,000,000 Palestinian residents in 1938, therefore, was due to immigration from elsewhere in the Middle East, principally east of the Jordan River, Arabia and Syria. Therefore, it is inaccurate to state that the Palestinians, any more than the Jews, had been in Palestine "since time immemorial" at the time of partition. Moreover, no State of Palestine ever existed, in marked contrast to the long existence of a Jewish state there in the first millennium BCE.
b. Britain's retreat in 1947: the U.N. General Assembly would ultimately (on November 29, 1947) declare a two state partition plan to solve the problem of Palestine. This came about after the British Labour Government had announced (February 14, 1947) that it would withdraw from the region, and after Britain formally requested (on April 2, 1947) that the U.N. establish a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to make recommendations pertinent to the transition to post-British administration of the region. In the face of British intentions to withdraw and in light of the UNSCOP report and General Assembly action, Jews accepted U.N. plans for a part of their Zionist goal; but the Arab states and the Muslim residents of the area did not accept partition. (Go to a map of the U.N.'s 1947 proposal to partition Palestine). Civil unrest between the two communities intensified, December 1947-May 1948. The whole idea of two states coming into existence was anathema to the Arab states.
c. In May 14, 1948, after diplomatic efforts to establish consensus around the U.N. plan failed, Israel unilaterally declared its independence. War erupted with invasion of the new state of Israel launched by Arab states on May 15, and the security of all civilians was compromised. Violence from the Jewish fighters toward Arab armies created panic among some Arab civilian non-combatants, and vice versa; and there also were isolated atrocities against civilians in both ethnic communities. An exodus of Palestinians from Israeli occupied areas in Palestine occurred, initially because few Arabs wished to remain in a war zone. However, rights for the Arabs who elected to stay in Israel were recognized by the new Israeli government from the beginning, and though some incidents of inter communal violence occurred, no policy of forced deportation of Arabs ever was implemented by the Government of the Jewish state. Immediately after its declaration of independence, however, Israel was attacked by Jordan, Egypt, Syria (independent from France in 1946), Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and others, with the stated aim being to drive the Jews and the Israeli state from the region. The Mufti of Jerusalem told Palestinians to flee, for Arab Armies would view those Arabs not involved in the fight against Israel as collaborators. These several factors, not Jewish "terror" from extremist groups such as Irgun and the Stern Gang alone, drove the Palestinians into exile. By 2001, between 17 and 20 percent of the population of the State of Israel remained non-Jewish. These Arab Israelis continued to have full political rights within Israel, though they are exempt from military service.
Tensions between Arab Israelis and Jews greatly intensified during the Palestinian uprising that began in September 2000. Some Arab members of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, in Fall 2001 were charged with treasonous acts for their relations with Palestinian groups.
d. Refugees and the "right of return." War made refugees of large numbers of the Palestinian people, but Arab states and the U.N. chose to exacerbate the Palestinians' refugee condition. Israel has insisted throughout all negotiations with its neighbors that the return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel is incompatible with the demographic reality of Israel remaining a predominantly Jewish state. As long as there is an Israel, there will be no "going back home" in the Palestinian refugees' future.e. Israeli claims to the lands are not just historical or Biblical (but they solidly are that; go here). Israeli claims are de facto: Israel holds the land. Israelis argue that they, not the Big Powers, established Israeli independence through their military sacrifices in their war of independence and in subsequent wars. They argue that Israel was not the client of a big power, or some sort of colony, pointing to the fact that the U.S. gave no significant military assistance to the Israelis in their independence war (Lewis), yet Israel prevailed and expanded to make more defensible the borders contemplated in, but never put into effect by, the original UN partition. Both the U.S. and the USSR recognized Israel's independence in 1948. The first U.S. military aid to Israel only began in September 1962, when ground-to-air missiles capable of knocking down Egytian and Syrian aircraft first were permitted to go to Israel (Loftus: 258). No Arab state formally recognized Israeli sovereignty until Egypt did, in 1979. Jordan and Israel established peace and formal diplomatic relations in the 1994.
Arab states' roles. Only Jordan among all Arab states granted full citizenship to Palestinian refugees. Syria and Lebanon kept many of the Palestinians confined to U.N. run camps. Many Palestinians in these countries still live in U.N. supported camps; others reside among the majority Arab population but do not enjoy the same formal access to passports and other rights of citizenship which are enjoyed by Syrians and Lebanese. In this sense, their integration into Syrian and Lebanese society has been less than complete.
U.N. role. But if Arab states exacerbated the problem, they did so in league with the United Nations. Analyst Edward Luttwak commented comparatively on the effect of this approach:"The United Nations Relief and Works Agency...was built on the model of its predecessor, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA), which operated displaced person's camps in Europe immediately after World War II. The UNRWA was established immediately after the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war to feed, shelter, educate, and provide health services for Arab refugees who had fled Israeli zones in the former territory of Palestine.Arab states' concern over the Palestinians also has varied widely over the years. Between 1950-1973, Arab states contributions to the U.N. relief effort in donations from Saudi Arabia were $4.6M, the same sum contributed by Israel. All Arab nations gave a total of $26. M; the USA gave $548 M. The USSR gave not one cent. Yet, it is Israel and the US that have most often been accused of indifference to the condition of the Palestinian refugees. This is a central canard used against the US.
"By keeping refugees alive in spartan conditions that encouraged their rapid emigration or local re-settlement, the UNRRA's camps in Europe had assuaged postwar resentments and helped disperse revanchist concentrations of national groups. But the UNRWA camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip provided on the whole a higher standard of living than most Arab villagers had previously enjoyed, with more varied diet, organized schooling, superior medical care, and no backbreaking labor in stony fields. They had, therefore, the opposite effect, becoming desirable homes rather than eagerly abandoned transit camps. With the encouragement of several Arab countries, the UNRWA turned escaping civilians into lifelong refugees who gave birth to refugee children, who have in turn had refugee children of their own.
"During its half-century of operation, the UNRWA has thus perpetuated a Palestinian refugee nation, preserving its resentments in as fresh a condition as they were in 1948 and keeping the first bloom of revanchist emotion intact. By its very existence, the UNRWA dissuades integration into local society and inhibits emigration. The concentration of Palestinians in the camps, moreover, has facilitated the voluntary or forced enlistment of refugee youth by armed organizations that fight both Israel and each other. The UNRWA has contributed to a half-century of Arab-Israeli violence and still retards the advent of peace.
"If each European war had been attended by its own postwar UNRWA, today's Europe would be filled with giant camps for millions of descendants of uprooted Gallo-Romans, abandoned Vandals, defeated Burgundians, and misplaced Visigoths -- not to speak of more recent refugee nations such as post 1945 Sudeten Germans (three million of whom were expelled from Czechoslovakia in 1945). Such a Europe would have remained a mosaic of warring tribes, undigested and unreconciled in their separate feeding camps. It might have assuaged consciences to help each one at each remove, but it would have led to permanent instability and violence." (to read Luttwak's whole argument, follow this link).
6. The territories currently in dispute have emerged in the course of modern wars and peacemaking efforts.
Two major wars and several lesser conflicts punctuated the intervening years, altering the military situation in which states and peoples in the region have pursued their efforts at finding security.
War in 1956. In 1956, Israel acted in support of a French-British military operation that seized the Suez Canal; Israel took the Sinai Peninsula. Under U.S. diplomatic pressure, all three were forced to withdraw and these assets were returned to Egyptian sovereignty. In 1957, a U.N. Emergency Force (UNEF), a buffer force of lightly armed peacekeepers, was placed between Israeli border and the Egyptian armies in Sinai. Pres. Eisenhower, however, made a written pledge that the U.S. regarded waterways leading to the Israeli port of Eilat as international waterways. The territories in dispute were not altered by the 1956 war, as all lands seized by Israel were returned to Egyptian control. By 1959, Egypt began to develop offensive capabilities, including an expanded air force and ground-to-ground missiles, for use in a surprise future attack on the Jewish state. In this project, assistance was received from German rocket scientists who formerly had worked in the Nazis' rocket programs (Loftus: 257-258).
In 1964, political activists of various Palestinian refugee organizations formed the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). In July 1968, at a meeting dominated by the Al Fatah group led by Yasser Arafat, and called a National Congress, these groups created a Palestinian National Charter. It called for the destruction of Israel by way of armed struggle, and linked this struggle to the similar campaign to break the hold of imperialism on all of the Arab world.
Major War: The Six Day War of June 1967. Early in May 1967, a diplomatic signal of displeasure sent by Egypt to the U.N. was bungled. Egypt requested a partial pull out of U.N. peacekeepers, but U Thant, U.N. Secretary General, responded by saying that any pull out had to be a total pull out. Thus, what might have been a small signal of Egyptian displeasure became an alarm. On May 18, 1967, the Egyptian Government of Pres. Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered all the U.N. peacekeepers to leave Sinai and Gaza; in response, Israel mobilized its reserves (May 19). In full recognition of what it would mean (Stein: 134), Nasser then on May 22 closed the Straits of Tiran to shipping into the Israeli port of Eilat, reneging on the understanding reached in 1956-57 about this international waterway (i.e., that it remain open for commerce). As Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, recalled: "Nasser said: ...if we close the Straits, war will be a one hundred percent certainty..." (Stein: 134). Israel had long stated that it viewed closure of the Straits as an act of war, and when closure occurred, Israel did in fact interpret these acts as acts of war; within weeks it attacked Egypt, destroying Egypt's air forces while they sat on the ground. Key was the element of surprise: Israel launched its attack from the west. Jordan and Syria (as well as others) had mobilized for war on May 25, and when Israel attacked (June 5) each joined Egypt in making war against Israel. Syria's and Jordan's air forces also were destroyed by Israel early in the conflict. They each were defeated and Israel won new territories, and new headaches. "Deterrence failed not because Israel's leaders did not adequately demonstrate their resolve but rather because senior Egyptian political and military leaders were strongly motivated by the pressures of regional and domestic politics to challenge deterrence" (Stein: 137).
Origin of the "Occupied Territories." As a result of the 1967 war, all of the "occupied territories" which remain in dispute came to be under Israeli control. (View maps of the situation before the 1967 war, and after the 1967 war). Israel acquired the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights (from Syria) and the West Bank (from Jordan) through this war. Most importantly, Israel took control of the entire city of Jerusalem. The status of each now is as follows:In 1968-70, Egypt and Israel dueled in Sinai and in the skies in the so called "War of Attrition."the Sinai: no longer disputed. Returned in its entirety to Egypt under the Camp David Accords.UN Security Council Resolution 242 (November 22, 1967), authored initially by Britain, stated the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security." It demanded Israel withdraw from "territories occupied in the recent conflict," carefully omitting the definitive article "the" in referring to these territories, and thus implying that it would not necessarily be that ALL territories acquired would have to be returned. No mention was made of stateless persons (i.e., The Palestinians) having any right to found a state; indeed, UN 242 stated that it "Affirms further the necessity ...(b) For achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem; [and] (c) For guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every State in the area..."
the Gaza Strip: remains disputed. Administered by Egypt, 1949-67; captured by Israel, 1967; administered by Israel alone (to mid 1990s); administered jointly by Israel (militarily) and Palestinian Authority (civil functions) under terms of the Oslo Agreements of 1993 until 2005. Evacuated unilaterally by Israel in 2005. Governed by Hamas since it won elections in January 2006. Used as safe area from which to launch rockets at Israel, 2006-09. Heavily damaged in military conflict with Israel, December 2008-January 2009.
the Golan Heights: remains disputed. Recognized as part of Syria, 1949-67; captured by Israel, 1967; annexed by Israel (December 14, 1981) and administered by Israel, 1967- the present. In August 1992, Israel stated that it would be willing to negotiate the status of Golan within the context of a Middle East Peace Conference (Current History 1992: 348), but indirect talks through Turkey have never resulted in direct Syria-Israel talks on this issue.
the West Bank, also known as Judea and Samaria (to some Israelis): remains disputed. Administered by Jordan, 1949-67; captured by Israel, 1967; administered under military law by Israel alone (to mid 1990s); administered jointly by Israel (militarily) and Palestinian Authority (civil functions) under terms of the Oslo Agreements of 1993.
Jerusalem: remains disputed. Administered by Jordan, 1949-67; captured by Israel and reunited as one city June 28,1967; declared by the Israeli Knesset (i.e., Parliament) to be its indivisible and eternal capital, July 30, 1980; claimed by Palestinian Authority as the capital of a future Palestinian state. Alongside with the "right of return" claimed by Palestinians, this is perhaps the most difficult of all of the difficult issues, territorial and otherwise, in the maze that it is the Middle East peace puzzle.
In September 1970, the increasing threat of armed Palestinians within Jordan produced a crisis. King Hussein suppressed the armed Palestinians, and expelled armed contingents from the country. Most went to Lebanon or Syria. In Lebanon, the effect of their arrival was to radicalize Palestinians in the extant refugee camps there, and to destabilize the delicate balance among Lebanese social forces. By 1975, civil war would break out among the many armed militias that had imitated the Palestinians' style of community self-protection through acquisition of arms. In 1976, under authority granted by the Arab League, Syrian Armed Forces entered Lebanon, preventing the defeat of Christian militias in this civil war by militias of the Muslim and Druse communities. The Syria Army only left Lebanon after the 2005 Revolution there, and its intelligence agencies remained active in Lebanon even thereafter.
Major War: The Yom Kippur War of October 1973. In 1973, Nasser's successor, Anwar Sadat, united with Syria and attacked Israel October 6, 1973 in the Yom Kippur War (as it is known in Israel) or Ramadan War (as it is commemorated in Egypt). After initial successes by Egypt (e.g., Egypt succeeded in crossing the Suez Canal into Israeli occupied Sinai), Israel rallied and attacked west of the Suez, taking the city of that name and prepared to march toward the main population centers of Egypt. East of the Suez Canal, the Egyptian III Corps was cut off and trapped by the Israeli armed forces, setting in motion Soviet threats to intervene to rescue them. On the Golan Heights, Israel defeated the Syrians, wiped out an Iraqi force mobilizing there to assist Syria, and was poised eighteen miles from the city ready to march on a virtually defenseless Damascus. On Oct. 24-25, the Soviet Union mobilized to come to Egypt's and Syria's rescue, and the U.S. mobilized to deter Soviet aggression. Israel then consented to let food and water pass through their lines to the Egyptian III Corps, easing the crisis. The world was at the brink of direct confrontation between superpowers, as each was airlifting supplies to its allies and the risk of superpower collision mounted. Both leading states managed the crisis with delicacy, and prevailed upon their clients to begin talking. Shuttle diplomacy produced a cease fire, and reintroduction of U.N. peacekeepers as a buffer in Sinai. The U.N. authorized the Soviets and the Americans to continue trying to facilitate progress toward lasting peace. POWs were exchanged by Egypt and Israel in November 1973.US-Egyptian Relations, which had been severed entirely after 1967, improved through the management of the crisis by U.S. negotiator Henry Kissinger. As a result of the cease-fire and disengagement arrangements that emerged, the U.S. gained new access to this largest of Arab states, and the intent to resume normal relations was jointly announced on Nov. 7, 1973. Formal diplomatic relations were restored on Feb. 28, 1974. This was an early indication of the flexibility later to be shown by the Sadat Government: having proved its military bona fides to its own people, Sadat was in a strengthened political position domestically to begin to move from the logic of war to the logic of peace. Among states of the region, only Jordan has subsequently established formal diplomatic relations with Israel (October 1, 1993).
The "Oil Weapon" During the 1973 War: On Oct. 7, 1973, Iraq nationalized U.S. oil companies. At the time, it claimed this was due to U.S. support for Israel, but full Iraqi control over Iraq's oil had long been an explicit goal of the Ba'ath rulers of Iraq. Their anti-Americanism was at least as central as anti-Zionism in their ideology, so it is difficult to disentangle the motives behind Iraq's 1973 suspension of all oil exports to the U.S. Though anti-Zionist, the conservative Saudi Arabian government had long pursued U.S. alliance as a key element of its national security policy. So it was more jarring to U.S. interests when Saudi Arabia on Oct. 20, 1973, imposed a boycott on shipment of all oil to the United States in retaliation for U.S. support for Israel. The next day, Kuwait, Qatar and the other Gulf mini-states joined this boycott. After the cease fire ending the hot phase of the war, Saudi Arabia continued on an anti-U.S. course, affirming on Nov. 18 that the boycott against the U.S. and the Netherlands continued, and demanding on Nov. 22 that if U.S. support for Israel was not ended, Saudi Arabia would cut by 80 percent its overall oil production. Only in March 1974, did the Arab members of OPEC reverse their decision and end the boycott of the United States. Libya and Syria, however, continued their own boycotts against shipments of oil to the U.S. for some months longer.
Efforts toward Peace. UN Security Council Resolution 338 (October 22, 1973) affirmed the positions in UN 242 of 1967. At the conclusion of the conflict, a U.N. Peace Conference held its first meeting in Geneva (December 21, 1973). While this marks the first time Arab states (Egypt and Jordan) negotiated with Israel, Syria refused to attend. The U.S. and the USSR jointly facilitated the meetings and participated in them.U.N. actions toward the continued conflict. In a gesture of a different kind from those above, PLO terrorists infiltrated the northern Israeli town of Maalot, entered a schoolhouse and murdered sixteen teens on May 15, 1974, setting off a wave of retaliatory strikes by Israel into Lebanon in which sixty perished. Despite such tactics, the U.N. General Assembly received PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat -- gun in belt-- at its U.N. Headquarters in New York, Nov. 13, 1973. On February 21, 1974, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights denounced the continued Israeli occupation of Quenitra, Syria. Most ingloriously, on November 10, 1975, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution, 72-35, calling Zionism "a form of racism or racial discrimination." In response, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Daniel Patrick Moynihan, said: "The United States... does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act."
In a gesture of support for this process, in March 1974, Israel pulled back from the eastern bank of the Suez Canal.
In late May 1974, Syria and Israel exchanged prisoners of war: 382 Arab prisoners were released by Israel; 56 Israelis were released by Syria. Full U.S. diplomatic relations with Syria were restored (June 16, 1974).
1975: US negotiator Henry Kissinger suspended further "shuttle diplomacy," but later restarted it. At summit levels, negotiations between Egypt's Sadat and U.S. Pres. Gerald Ford in Austria in June produced movement. Israel pulled back further from the Suez Canal, and Egypt partially re-opened the waterway. A further agreement in September 1975 between Israel and Egypt led to Congress authorizing a role for U.S. personnel in supervising the cease fire there. Syria and the PLO denounced this Sinai disengagement step that Egypt and Israel signed in Geneva, Sept. 1, 1975.
Camp David Peace Accords. Twice within his first five months in office, U.S. President Jimmy Carter stated that a "homeland" for the Palestinians must be part of a future peace in the region. With this signal clearly sent, forces in the region began to adjust to change in the U.S. position. After visiting Washington to consult, Egyptian Pres. Anwar Sadat then traveled to Israel on Nov. 19, 1977, and the Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin met him with a handshake. This broke the impasse, and over the next two years Pres. Jimmy Carter's good offices facilitated a full peace agreement, known as the Camp David Accords (signed March 26, 1979); Sadat and Begin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1978. This ended the state of war between Israel and the most populous Arab nation, Egypt, and all territories taken by Israel in 1967 eventually were returned to Egyptian control (though some, e.g. Taba, remained disputed until finally returned March 15, 1989; CQ7: 294-295). Syria, however, denounced Sadat's efforts as a "stab in the back of the Arab people" in a speech to the U.N.
On June 16, 1976, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Francis Meloy and Economic Counselor Robert Waring were shot to death while driving to meet the Lebanese President.
Egypt had opted for a separate peace with Israel, abandoning the position of other Arab states that progress on any issue had to occur as part of a general, overall peace settlement of all issues. While this strategy advanced Egyptian national interests, Sadat was not viewed as a hero to many in the Middle East. Egypt was suspended from the Arab League, and in 1981, Islamists in the Egyptian Army assassinated Sadat at a military parade.
Other states in the region also were unhelpful toward Egyptian interests after it signed peace with Israel. In February 1978, Egyptian commandos attempted to rescue hostages taken in Cyprus by PLO gunmen who had assassinated Sadat confidante and newspaper editor Youssef el-Sabai. Cypriot troops, instead of cooperating in the rescue of the hostages, opened fire on the Egyptian commandos sent to rescue the hostages; 15 Egyptians perished.
Enter the PLO: 1974. Changes in Arab states' claims of territorial rights: Until long after 1974, both Syria and Jordan continued to insist that Israel return to the status quo ante 1948; i.e., that Israel cease to exist. (Syria retains this position; Jordan recognized Israel in 1994 when it signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state). At Rabat, Morocco at an Arab League meeting in 1974, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." By this, Jordan and Syria renounced their claims to be the rightful government that ought rule Palestine, though Jordan continued to pay salaries to public officials in the occupied West Bank until August 1988 (CQ7: 294). Syria retained its claim to the Golan Heights. The PLO, founded in 1964, then had in its Charter (i.e., constitution) language calling illegal the state of Israel, and demanding expulsion of Jews there who were not residents in 1917. It is important to emphasize that the claims advanced from the founding of Fatah and the PLO were NOT for Israeli withdrawal from limited areas known as occupied territories, but from the entire region of the eastern Mediterranean.
Through hundreds of terrorist actions in the 1970s and 1980s, the PLO and allied Palestinians advanced its campaign of violence. These took place in the Middle East and in Europe. Notable were the 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes held hostage by PLO gunmen at the Munich Olympic Games, the killings of civilian non-combatants at Maalot (above), and the use of hijackings of airliners. The East German Government's intelligence agency STASI assisted the PLO gunmen in getting arms into the Olympic Village, guns later used to murder Israeli athletes.
PLO gunmen worked with whomever would advance their anti-Israel campaign, a campaign that often took on anti-U.S. dimensions. Within the U.S. Government it is widely known that in 1973, Yasser Arafat personally ordered the killing of two U.S. diplomats, Ambassador Cleo Noel and Charge d'Affaires C. Curtis Moore, who were being held hostage, February 28 - March 3, 1973, by Palestinian "Black September" terrorists in Sudan. Dershowitz (96-7) detailed the incident which occurred when PLO terrorists invaded the Saudi Arabian embassy at Khartoum, abducting the two Americans and one Belgian diplomat, Guy Eid. The National Security Agency intercepted communications between Arafat in Beirut and Khalil al-Wazir in the Khartoum office of al-Fatah, Arafat's core organization. The terrorists demanded that Black September terrorists held by Jordan be released; they demanded release of members of the German terrorist group "Baader-Meinhof Gang." These birds-of-a-feather demands were predictable. But another demand made by the terrorists was as shocking as it was secret: the release of Sirhan B. Sirhan, convicted assassin of Robert F. Kennedy, in exchange for the diplomats. When the U.S. refused this trade, "Yasser Arafat personally ordered the murder of the three diplomats; Moore was then the highest ranking African-American in the foreign service. The diplomats were taken to the basement of the embassy and tortured to death so brutally that 'the authorites couldn't tell which was black and which was white.' " Two months later, Arafat took credit for this Cold River (Nahr al-Bard) operation in a private dinner with Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, according to an eyewitness at that dinner, Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa (2002A; 2002B): "Arafat excitedly bragged about his Khartoum operation," and also took credit for the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympic Games.
In response, U.S. envoy Gen. Vernon Walters was dispatched to Morocco and, under the auspices of Walters' old friend, Moroccan King Hassan, and a first PLO meeting with a U.S. official occurred. Walters is reported to have told the PLO that the U.S. would not stand for such outrages, but apparently no more direct U.S. demonstration of displeasure occurred (Smith: B6).
Much as the geopolitics of the age inhibited U.S. actions, so did Palestinians find assistance from other U.S. enemies, and from its lukewarm "friends." At times the PLO was assisted by European terrorists, such as another group of German terrorists, the "Red Army Faction." For example, the PLO sought publicity and treasure by hijacking on June 27, 1976 an Air France passenger jet flying to Paris from Tel Aviv via Athens, an event designed to coincide with the 1976 American bicentennial. Once again, lax Greek security facilitated the terrorist takeover. After they took control of the aircraft, the German and PLO terrorists on board singled out Jewish travelers for separate, brutal treatment and physical torture over the several days the 103 passengers were held at Entebbe, Uganda, prior to their rescue by Israeli commandos. Israel responded forcefully to each of these actions. The perpetrators of the Munich Olympics' massacre were hunted down and assassinated in 1972-73 (Current History 1994: 46). Some allied governments were less helpful, e.g. France, chose to release key Palestinian suspects (e.g., Mohammed Daoad) when German authorities requested their extradition. Seeing in this pattern a need to rely on its own resources, Israeli commandos rescued the hijacked passengers at Entebbe, Uganda, July 4, 1976. Contemporary Israeli Likud politician Binyamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel in the 1990s, lost his brother in the raid, one of the few Israeli casualties at Entebbe.
In the Middle East, conflict continued on the ground, in the air, and off shore. Rocket attacks on northern Israel, launched from Southern Lebanon by PLO fighters, led to repeated Israeli incursions into the southern Lebanon area, and to the placement of U.N. peacekeepers in Southern Lebanon as a token of the international community's commitment to impede full scale war from breaking out. U.N. personnel, however, were lightly armed and took no action against either belligerent party. Attacks continued in both directions across the Lebanon-Israel border.
Iran: the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism as a Political Force sends ripples through the region. In the late 1970s, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Iran most altered the region and thus affected the Arab - Israeli conflict. The 1978 fall of the best friend to the U.S. in the Gulf, the Shah of Iran, and the rise to governing power by the Islamic Government of Ayatollah R. Khomeini, marked a shift in U.S. influence of great significance. In terms of the conflict under discussion here, it is notable that four days after agents of the Khomeini Government seized the U.S. Embassy in Teheran and took more than 100 U.S. employees hostage, Yasser Arafat arrived in Teheran, met with the new government, and declared that the Iranian Revolution had "turned upside down" the equation in the Middle East. One sign of ripples of change flowing from the shift in the regional distribution of power was the decision, March 24, 1981, by the Government of Syria to permit the PLO to establish bases within Syria from which it could launch assaults against Israel. Over the next year and a half, rocket attacks onto northern Israel from lawless southern Lebanon, and raids from Syrian-based terrorists into Israel mounted.
In this context of heightened "low intensity conflict," in late April 1981, Israeli war planes first were used to attack Syrian forces engaged in battle against Christian militias in the Beirut area, suggesting a new initiative by Israel to try to win an ally among the weary sides of the Lebanese civil war. Syria responded by reneging on a 1976 understanding with Israel that missiles would not be introduced into Lebanon, and deployed Soviet made SAM-6 missiles into the Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon (where Syria continued to control the ground well into the new millennium). Tensions mounted between Israel and Syria, and at a June 4, 1981 summit in (then Israeli occupied Sinai), Egyptian Pres. Sadat joined Israeli Prime Minister Begin in a call for the removal of the Syrian missiles from Lebanon. For heresies such as this, on October 6, 1981, Sadat was assassinated while reviewing his own troops, and his Vice President (and current president) Hosni Mubarak assumed control.
With regional tensions rising, the specter of unconventional weapons being introduced into the mix greatly destabilized a deteriorating situation. Three days after the June Begin-Sadat summit, the Israeli air force destroyed the main nuclear weapons research site at Osirak, Iraq, setting off a firestorm of U.N. and world governments' protests against Israel. The Reagan Administration, while publicly joining the chorus, also sought to reassure Israel of its continued support, and the two nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding (November 30, 1981) that the two states would establish joint measures to address threats caused by the USSR or "Soviet controlled forces" (CQ7: 279). Two weeks later, Israel formally announced annexation of the (formerly Syrian) Golan Heights; the U.S. responded by suspending the Memorandum of Understanding; however, in January 1982, the U.S. vetoed in the U.N. Security Council a resolution denouncing and punishing Israel for the annexation. A bruised Syria --never the most easily understood of the Arab states-- then launched a brutal military campaign, not against Israel or Lebanese, but against Islamists in its own northern city of Hama; at least 10,000 are believed to have died in the February 1982 massacre. Tensions also seemed to rise in Egypt, as military courts tried Sadat's five assassins in what emerged to be a plot by Muslim extremists within the Egyptian Army, convicted them, and executed them in an atmosphere of some public unease (April 15, 1982). Many other Egyptian Islamists were jailed at the same time.
1982: War in Lebanon. In 1982, Israel reached the end of its patience with continuing rocket attacks on northern Israel: after the June 3 shooting of its Ambassador to London, Shlomo Argov by PLO gunmen, Israeli Defense Forces invaded Lebanon on June 6. Heavy fighting and air raids swiftly drove the PLO from South Lebanon, and the PLO fighters then based in Lebanon fully were defeated by late June. After Israel destroyed the Syrian missiles early in the war, Syria and Israel were able to agree to a bilateral ceasefire, facilitating Israel's focus on the PLO for the duration of the fighting. Though some further Israeli-Syrian combat occurred in July, the main focus of the 1982 war was fighting between Israel and the PLO. The Reagan Administration repeatedly tried without success to get more rapid cessation of the hostilities than that to which Israel was willing to agree, and relations were strained. Once the PLO agreed to withdraw entirely from Lebanon (August 19, 1982), French (arriving August 21) and U.S. Marines forces (arriving August 25) facilitated the evacuation of the PLO fighters from Lebanon to Tunisia, which was completed on Sept. 1. (Arafat himself went first to Greece). The U.S. Marines then also departed. In this changed security environment, Christian leader Bashir Gemayel was elected President of Lebanon (August 23), and his Government asserted authority over all of divided Beirut within days after the PLO's evacuation; within weeks, on Sept. 14, he was assassinated by a car bomb. Angered beyond measure and thirsty for revenge, on September 15-18 heavily armed Lebanese Phalangist Christian militiamen passed through Israeli lines and massacred hundreds of Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Shatilla camps south of Beirut. Israeli Prime Minister immediately launched an investigation of this incident; this Commission's findings, February 8, 1983, faulted Defense Minister Gen. Ariel Sharon and others for having permitted the Christian militias access to the camps. Sharon resigned as Defense Minister, February 11, 1983, but was reappointed to the Cabinet in a different role by Begin that same day. (Later, in 2001, a Belgian court attempted, ultimately unsuccessfully, to indict not the perpetrators but Sharon for these war crimes. In this context it is important to emphasize that all murders committed at Sabra/Shatilla were murders found to have been committed by members of Lebanese Phalangist Christian militias; no evidence of Israelis committing the killings ever has been presented. Nevertheless, Palestinians and their supporters continue to assert that Israel, not the Lebanese gunmen who did the shooting and killing, are responsible for the massacre). Thus the Sabra/Shatilla massacre entered the fog of accusations and the history of martyrdom in the Palestinian chronicles. This massacre and other factors, spurred the U.S. to return to Lebanon with troops to attempt to build up a pro-Israel Lebanese Government. That Government signed a peace treaty with Israel (May 4, 1983) ending the state of war between Lebanon and Israel. Any such agreement would prove unacceptable to Muslim Lebanese leaders and the Syrians; the treaty subsequently was abrogated by the successor Lebanese Government, led by the assassinated president's brother Amin, chiefly at the direction of Syria. In reality, no central government with genuine authority recognized by most major factions actually existed in Lebanon at the time, hence no group could guarantee any treaty abroad or constitutional arrangement at home in Lebanon.
Fratricide within the PLO. If Lebanon was in deep disarray due to civil war, Syrian occupation, Israeli invasion, and the arrival of international peacekeepers without a clear mission, so too was the Palestinian movement frayed. On April 10, 1983, at Lisbon, Portugal, the close advisor to Yasser Arafat, Issam Sarwati, an advocate of mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine, was killed by assassins. The Revolutionary Council of Fatah, a PLO faction once closely linked to Arafat, claimed responsibility for the killing. These tensions also would spill over in Lebanon. In Beirut, the troops most loyal to Arafat had been expelled by the 1982 Israeli invasion, but where other PLO terrorist units remained elsewhere in the country, dissent with Arafat became open conflict. In the (Syrian controlled) Bekaa Valley, Al Fatah leaders fed up with Arafat in June 1983 began a rebellion against his approach, and pitched battles between pro and anti Arafat factions revealed the shaky unity of his movement. Arafat accused Syria and Libya of being behind the uprising. Unable to accept a Lebanon he was unable to control, Syrian leader Haffez al Assad, on June 24, 1983, expelled Arafat from Syria. Later, in November - December 1983, continued intra-PLO fighting would draw in Syria again and the anti-Arafat factions backed by Syria militarily would prevail to expel Arafat and his Palestinian militants from the northern Lebanon city of Tripoli. Saudi Arabian diplomats and U.N. Secretary General Perez de Cuellar arranged this round of the PLO leader's retreat from Lebanon, but Israeli gun-ships initially prevented his evacuation. U.S. pressure led Israel to pull back. This was a low moment in the checkered history of the PLO, but Arafat managed to find new patrons, re-establishing relations with Mubarak's Egypt (December 22), relations that had been cut off since the Camp David Peace Accords.
As we have seen, the climate of violence and terror in Lebanon in the 1980s had many faces. Civil conflict among Lebanese factions also added to this chaotic backdrop, and anti-US dimensions of the violence often were used by one faction or another to further their aims in the balance of Lebanese forces known after 1975 as the Lebanese Civil War. In light of this conflict, the stalled Arab-Israeli process of reconciliation hardly was a primary consideration to any Lebanese group. Maronite Christians fought Muslim militias; blood rivalries pitted Christian followers of Phalangist militias against other Christians; Druze fighters engaged all others who menaced their control over their mountainous homeland region; Syrian Armed Forces intimidated others; Shi'ite militias named Amal and Hezbollah shot at each other and at each of the other forces. In short, chaos prevailed, and in it villages and neighborhoods followed the logic of the law of the jungle and protected themselves. Thus began the plague of political hostage taking: on July 4, 1982, commandos linked to Lebanese Christian militias kidnapped Iranian charge d'affaires Mohsen Musavi, and three other Iranians holding diplomatic status -- including the commander of the Revolutionary Guards in the Bekaa Valley-- in Christian East Beirut. Retaliatory kidnappings by other groups began almost immediately, and a nine year long hostage crisis in which dozens of Westerners were abducted began. David Dodge, President of American University in Beirut, was the first U.S. citizen taken hostage, July 20, 1982. Initial reports at first pointed to the (Shi'ite) Amal militia as perpetrators of the crime, but later U.S. officials came to blame the (also Shi'ite) rival militia, Hezbollah.
The larger point is that these were simply symptoms of a much larger disorder that prevailed throughout Lebanon, a state reeling from foreign occupation and an ongoing civil war. Substantial contingents of at least three different foreign armed forces occupied parts of Lebanon. Israel held the ground in the South; Syria in the East, and a combined U.S., French and Italian armed force, dubbed the Multinational Force, which attempted to train a new Lebanese Army to keep a peace, initially held the Beirut area. Iranian Revolutionary Guards also had gained a foothold in the Bekaa Valley, though in support of ongoing Syrian dominance of that region.
Despite momentary paper agreements apparently welcoming the introduction of the Multinational Force, peace had not genuinely been agreed to by most Lebanese armed factions or by their Syrian occupiers. Accordingly, when it suited the interest of any of these factions, the Multinational Force would come under fire, and that assessment soon came. Effective retaliation was not forthcoming. Under very limited rules of engagement, the Multinational Force troops were positioned to be more a symbol of international concern than an army on a military mission. Nor were these interlopers the only ineffectual group of foreigners inside Lebanon: U.N. peacekeepers attempted to stand near the border of Lebanon and Israel to show international solidarity with something, even as the Israeli Army occupied areas both north and south of it, and ignored the U.N. personnel.
Lebanon, in short, was a failed state, and a complete mess.
Terrorists target the U.S. In this atmosphere began a great increase in the taking of Westerners as hostages, sniper shootings at the U.S. Marines training the Lebanese Army (1983-84), and car/truck bombings directed at Western interests. On April 18, 1983, a pickup truck packed with explosives brought down the U.S. Embassy in Beirut; 63 died, including seventeen Americans. One key loss was the U.S. CIA's chief regional head, Robert Ames (Woodward: 244-5). The French Embassy also was similarly bombed. US intelligence information pointed to involvement of Iran and Syria in the bombings, and the "spiritual" leader of the Hezbollah, Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, prominently became the focus of investigations. The Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, was found to be the conduit through which payment was being made to various dangerous factions among the Lebanese terrorists (Woodward: 286). The operation apparently was planned by Imad Mugniyah, Fadlallah's bodyguard (Goldberg: 79). The biography of Mugniyah, a Lebanese Shi'ite from Tir Dibba, near Tyre, shows the way in which the Palestinian movement has glued together the region's terrorists. Mugniyah had been a member of Arafat's personal security force, Force 17, prior to the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon; and after the PLO left, Mugniyah moved into the center of the security operations for the emerging Shi'ite political movement, Hezbollah. Along with present day Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Mugniyah orchestrated a string of kidnappings and bombings focused on Western interests throughout the mid-1980s, using the name of a front organization "Islamic Jihad Organization" to conceal the ties to Hezbollah and the Iranians. (Mugniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in February 2008).
Americans also were menaced in other ways. On August 29, 1983, the first two U.S. Marines to die were shot during an exchange between Muslim and Christian forces; on September 13, the Marines were authorized to call in support from U.S. warships offshore, and did. Within days (Sept. 16-19), both French warplanes and the U.S. battleship New Jersey had begun military operations to protect their peacekeepers on the ground there; and on Sept. 29, the U.S. Congress passed legislation authorizing an 18 month exception to the 60 to 90 day time limits demanded in the U.S. War Powers Act of 1973; the law took effect October 12, 1983. Four days later, Israeli forces stumbled into a Shi'ite religious procession at Nabatiyeh and in a confused encounter two Shi'ites were shot dead. Radicalization of the Shi'ites of South Lebanon was aggravated by the incident, and social leaders (e.g., Sheikh Mehdi Shamseddin) called for civil resistance (Jaber: 18). More radical elements among the Shi'ites increasingly identified both the Israelis and the Multinational Force as a common enemy.
Shortly thereafter, on October 23, 1983, US Marines based at the Beirut airport were bombed by what now is believed to have been an operative of the most radical of the Shi'ite militia, Hezbollah. In the worst incident of terrorist violence to strike the U.S. prior to September 11, 2001, 241 U.S. Marines died. Ten days later, a similar truck bombing destroyed the Israeli headquarters at Tyre, Lebanon, killing 60 Israeli soldiers and numerous Lebanese prisoners held at the facility. Of the attack on the Marines' base, a civil court later stated as part of its ruling:
The resulting explosion was the largest non-nuclear explosion that had ever been detonated on the face of the Earth. The force of its impact ripped locked doors from their doorjambs at the nearest building, which was 256 feet away. Trees located 370 feet away were shredded and completely exfoliated. At the traffic control tower of the Beirut International Airport, over half a mile away, all of the windows shattered. The support columns of the Marine barracks, which were made of reinforced concrete, were stretched, as an expert witness described, “like rubber bands.” The explosion created a crater in the earth over eight feet deep. The four-story Marine barracks was reduced to fifteen feet of rubble (Peterson v Islamic Republic of Iran 2004: 16).
Many of the deceased did not die instantly.
These acts served as a precipitant to US withdrawal from Lebanon (February 1984), and in its wake, the collapse of the pro-Israel Christian-dominated Government of Lebanon. Israel, however, would stay on in Southern Lebanon until 2000. Civil War in Lebanon, which had begun in 1975, would continue another five years until the 1989 Ta'if Accords brought about a new power sharing arrangement among Lebanese factions. Syria, which dominated Lebanon throughout 1976-89, continued to control Lebanon politically and militarily until forced to redeploy in 2005 by the "Cedar Revolution" and by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559. But even then its influence continued, as was indicated by Syrian arms' role in the inconclusive standoff known as the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006.
U.S. and Western Retreat and its consequences: increased terrorism and hostage taking. American actions never have been viewed in the Arab Middle East as disconnected from Israeli actions or actions of other Western powers. Accordingly, when the U.S. gave up on directly projecting power into the region, many others appear to have been directly affected by the action / reaction chain of events which followed. On February 7, 1984, Pres. Reagan announced that U.S. Armed Forces stationed in Lebanon to train and equip the Lebanese national army would be "redeployed" offshore. After less than a year in Lebanon, with no clear end in sight, and after attacks on the U.S. Embassy (Spring 1983) and on U.S. Marine Barracks at Beirut Airport (October 1983) had convinced the Reagan Administration to abandon its earlier statements of U.S. resolve. On February 26, 1984 the last U.S. Marines left Lebanon, and the fleet "redeployed" entirely: it left the area late in March. Britain and Italy left the Lebanese mainland contemporaneously with the U.S.; France stayed on another month before it, too, pulled out, ending all Western military forces there.
During that same month, the U.S. Secretary of State, George Shultz, confirmed that from in 1981-82 the U.S. had been meeting secretly with the PLO. Few friends seem to have been won by that admission, which angered U.S. supporters of Israel, and the Israelis, but also did little to quiet anti-Americanism in Lebanon. Even American friends of the Arab peoples were soon targeted. American University in Beirut President Malcolm Kerr, a former UCLA professor and formerly the president of the Middle Eastern Studies Association in the U.S., a believer in the idea of a university as a place that "promotes both Western and Arab cultures and implicitly looks for a symbiotic relation between them" (as quoted in Kramer: 46) was shot dead in 1984 outside his Beirut office. Subsequently, those more directly identified with U.S. interests also became fair game: CIA Station Chief in Beirut, Lt. Col. William Buckley, was abducted (March 16, 1984) by Mugniyah's "Islamic Jihad Organization," abused, and transferred to Iran. Later, Buckley was confirmed to have died under torture, probably in Iran.
Nor did other terrorism abate after the U.S. military lowered its profile in the region: on April 12-13, 1984, Palestinian terrorists seized a bus carrying thirty-five Israeli civilians; one died before all the rest were rescued when Israeli police stormed the bus, killing all four hijackers. In this orgy of targeted killing of civilians, Lebanese and Palestinians led a broader escalation. Attacks by other states on Western interests also picked up in the months after the about face in Lebanon: in London, police woman Yvonne Fletcher was shot dead by gunmen inside the Libyan Embassy, April 17, 1984. In the Summer of 1984, a series of explosions menacing shipping in the Red Sea by use of mines also raised tensions; Islamic Jihad in late July publicly took credit for these deeds, and Iranian radio praised them for it. Beyond these increased hazards to international shipping by all nations, U.S. Government sites especially continued to be targeted: on Sept. 20, 1984, a van with diplomatic plates delivered a car bomb that took down the U.S. Embassy Annex in Beirut. Twenty-four died, including two U.S. servicemen; at least 90 were wounded, including US Ambassador Reginald Bartholomew (Woodward: 379). Again, the pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad Organization claimed responsibility, though this act of terrorism probably stemmed from Mugniyah's group which by then was an integral part of Hezbollah.
Iran's hand showed in other places. In the Gulf region, a Kuwaiti airliner carrying 161 persons was hijacked December 4, 1984, and taken to Tehran. Once safely landed and settled in the congenial atmosphere the Islamic Republic provided there, the terrorists demanded the release of Arabs jailed in Kuwait for bomb attacks on the U.S. Embassy there. Two Americans among the passengers deliberately were killed prior to Iran's takeover of the plane. When the incident ended, Iran refused to extradite the terrorists to the U.S., clearly establishing the Iranian Government's assistance to the terrorists, at least after the crime if not in its commission.
Attacks on private Americans in Lebanon also continued: journalist Jeremy Levin (held 1984-85 prior to his "escape" February 14, 1985) was replaced quickly: on May 28, 1985, David Jacobsen, director of the American University Hospital in Beirut, was kidnapped.
Eventually, the U.S. augmented its diplomatic strategy of dealing with all this with a more forceful tactic or two. On March 8, 1985, a U.S. covert operation in combination with willing Lebanese attempted to kill the leader of the Hezbollah, Sheikh Fadlallah, with a car bomb; 80 perished and 200 plus were wounded, but Fadlallah survived. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia is reported to have bribed Fadlallah into discontinuing some of Hezbollah's more spectacular anti-American attacks (Woodward: 397). Around this same time Israel made a conciliatory gesture toward the Palestinians, trading 1150 captured Palestinian fighters for three Israelis held by the PLO, a trade completed on May 20, 1985.
But attacks on U.S. interests, and on Israel, continued. In March 1985, AP Correspondent in Beirut Terry Anderson started his 6 year ordeal as a hostage kidnapped in Lebanon (he was released December 4, 1991).
On June 14, 1985, there began a seventeen day long hijacking of TWA Flight 847, taken over after takeoff from Athens, Greece, on a flight to Rome by two Lebanese gunmen from Islamic Jihad, Hazzan Izz-al-Din and Muhammad Ali Hamadi (sometimes spelled Hamadai), both trained by Mugniyah. Immediately after seizing the plane, a group of U.S. Navy divers were discovered on it. The terrorists demanded all Moslems held by Israel from the 1982 Lebanon war be released, and for more than two weeks, 40 Americans and Jews originally on the plane were flown to Algiers, then back to Beirut. After the plane returned to Beirut, Mugniyah boarded the plane and shortly thereafter U.S. Navy sailor Robert Dean Stethem, aged 23, was killed and dumped onto the tarmac. The five surviving U.S. sailors (i.e., Kurt Carlson, Stuart Dahl, and three others) were then handed over to another Shi'ite militia, Amal, and kept hostage in basements hidden around Beirut for some days. According to Carlson, among their interrogators was none other than Arafat's former bodyguard, Imad Mugniyah (Goldberg: 80). After seventeen days, all of these surviving captives were released. Israel subsequently released another 300 detainees.
Justice for those involved in the TWA 847 events was excruciatingly long in coming. Mugniyah himself was discovered in Paris only five months later in 1985, staying at the luxurious Hotel de Crillon, which sits across the street from the U.S. Embassy. U.S. officials requested French authorities to detain him, but after six days of polite interrogation of the master terrorist, France "worked out an agreement to release him in return for the freedom of a French hostage" (Shadid: 21). In January 1987, one of the two perpetrators of this hijacking, Muhammad Ali Hamadai, was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany carrying explosives onto another commercial airplane. The U.S. immediately requested his extradition to the U.S. for trial for murder. Germany, faced with new abductions of its nationals in Lebanon, elected to try Hamadai in Germany; he received a "life" sentence in 1989; but he was released over U.S. objections and sent back to Lebanon in December 2005. In 1995, American officials came tantalizingly close to arresting Mugniyah for a second time. FBI officials travelled to Saudi Arabia to take custody of him during a stopover of a flight from Khartoum, Sudan to Beirut. But Saudi officials "decided not to cooperate and refused to allow the plane to land, angering U.S. officials" (Shadid: 21). Ultimately, Mugniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria on the night of February 12, 2008. Hamadai and Mugniyah's fellow terrorist in the TWA 847 operation, Hasan Izz al-Din, never faced arrest, and in early 2010 a $5 million reward for his arrest and conviction remained active.
By the mid 1980s, a pattern was clearly established: terrorism would be a tool to advance the Palestinian cause in Israel, and the radical Hezbollah's cause in Lebanon. Far from being the isolated actions of disparate groups, international terrorists appear to have been closely in cooperation in order to advance common ends. And this pattern continued well into the new millennium: in 2005, the German government released Hamadai shortly after terrorists in Iraq released a German woman, Susanne Ostoff, who had been abducted in Iraq a month earlier; (see this link).
In the 1980's, of course, this strategy meant that other victims soon would be menaced. But first, conciliatory steps were needed in order to reinforce the message that the West needed to cooperate. So, on September 14, 1985, the Rev. Benjamin Weir, an American hostage held 1984-85 in Lebanon was freed. Then, the see-saw pattern continued: three Israeli tourists were murdered on Cyprus, September 24. In retaliation, Israeli warplanes demolished the PLO headquarters in Tunis (Tunisia), an attack the U.S. described as "a legitimate response to terrorism" (CQ7: 286-287).
Though Arab governments and other allied governments played only a minor part in this dirty business, their self-serving acts assisted in the impunity with which the terrorists have been treated. In response to Israel's raid on PLO headquarters in Tunis, on October 7, 1985, four PLO terrorists associated then and later with Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro along with the 438 passengers and crew. Like in the Beirut hijacking by Hezbollah, the PLO terrorists in this case would kill only a single American, Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound New York Jew. Klinghoffer was shot in the head, then thrown overboard. Despite the killing, these murderers readily were released from any criminal liability upon arrival in Egypt (October 9). Indeed, the terrorists escaped the region on a plane provided for that purpose by the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak. However, with leadership supplied by Marine liaison to the National Security Council Lt. Col. Oliver North, the U.S. intercepted the plane, forced it to land at a NATO base in Sicily, Italy, and arrested the hijackers. Italy then insisted the ringleader, PLO operative Muhammad Abu'l Abbas, leader of the Palestinian National Front (an integral part of the PLO), had diplomatic immunity, and demanded he be set free. Reluctantly, the U.S. turned Abbas over to the Italians, and Italy gave Abbas safe passage out of the country (October 21). Ultimately, he took up residence in Baghdad, Iraq where he lived as a free man for nearly two decades. But Abbas never quit the Palestinian cause. In November 2002, he was interviewed by the NY Times, after being provided his phone number by the Palestinian Authority office in Baghdad. In December 2002, the Mubarak Government hosted talks on the future of Palestine at which Abbas was a formal participant. The full rehabilitation of Abbas was short lived, however: Abbas was captured and detained by U.S. forces during the invasion and overthrow of the Saddam Government (2003); he died in U.S. custody in March 2004.
In June 1986, the Italian Government issued a report on the Achille Lauro incident, acknowledging that Abbas in fact had been the person who selected personnel and directed from Jordan the entire Achille Lauro affair. It stated that the terrorists had trained in Algeria (CQ7: 289), and later 11 of 15 of them were jailed for terms of from 15 to 30 years. Abbas and two others, tried in absentia, were given meaningless life sentences: Abbas died in 2004 never having served a single day of his Italian sentence. But he did die in custody in Iraq, potentially awaiting a U.S. trial for Klinghoffer's murder. (Ultimately, parts of the U.S. Government, e.g. the State Department, grew equivocal about whether Americans killed by the PLO, such as Klinghoffer, should be compensated by the Palestinians for their losses: see this Feb. 12, 2008 Washington Post news account by Glenn Kessler).
Ultimately, leading terrorists of the 1980's, whether Lebanese (Mugniyah) or Palestinian (Abbas) met justice, though the fact they easily were permitted to elude the long arm of the law won their appeasers no respite in those days. Less than two months after the Achille Lauro incident, the very same Egyptian airliner used to facilitate the Achille Lauro hijackers' unsuccessful escape then was hijacked, November 23, 1985. Forced to land on Malta, the hijackers began murdering Americans, Jews, and Israelis on the plane; three died, two had survived the gunshot wounds incurred before they were thrown from the plane. Egyptian paratroops stormed the aircraft, and 59 of the original passengers and crew perished in the firefight and fire. Later, Egypt accused Libya and the (apparently) anti-Arafat Palestinian Abu Nidal of being responsible for the crime. Nidal, too, was reported to have met a violent death: he was reported to have been killed in Baghdad in August 2002, shot twice in the head in what the Saddam Government implausibly claimed to have been a death by suicide.
Even the tactic of seizing cruise ships also was not uniquely applied in the Achille Lauro case. In 1988, Abu Nidal's "Black September" terrorists, in this instance led by Palestinian Mohammed Ahmed Khaidir, seized the Greek ship "City of Poros" and killed seven and wounded 80, principally French citizens. Press reports again characterized Nidal as a "renegade" outside the control of the PLO leadership, but the modus operendi remarkably resembled that of the PLO's Abbas.
Palestinian gunmen continued to employ similar tactics elsewhere in Europe. On December 27, 1985, gunmen attacked the ticket counter areas of the Rome, Italy and Vienna, Austria international airports, throwing grenades and firing machine guns chiefly at the El Al facility (i.e., Israel's national airline). Eighteen died and 111 were wounded before police were able to subdue the attackers. Though the one surviving terrorist professed to be a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and to be avenging the Israeli attack on the PLO headquarters in Tunis, Austrian authorities confidently announced that the PLO was not responsible (CQ7: 288). Pres. Reagan (January 7, 1986) announced comprehensive trade sanctions against Libya for having been behind these attacks. Shortly thereafter, on February 4, 1986, Israeli jets intercepted and forced a Libyan airliner en route to Damascus to land in Israel so that Israeli police could arrest suspected terrorists on board. Less than two weeks later, Lebanese Moslems abducted and killed two Israeli soldiers near the Lebanon-Israel border. This set the stage for extended Israeli incursions into South Lebanon, operations which coincided with growing U.S. - Libyan tensions being carried out elsewhere in the Mediterranean region.
On April 2, 1986, a bomb exploded on a Rome to Athens TWA flight, killing four Americans. Libyan-backed Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal took credit. Then, on April 5, two Americans were killed in Berlin when Libyan terrorists assisted by East Germany exploded a bomb at the La Belle nightclub, a popular nightspot for U.S. servicemen. Only in November 2001 were the parties responsible convicted of this crime in German Courts, and the ties to Libya there were conclusively proven. In retaliation, Pres. Reagan had ordered an air raid on Libya (April 14, 1986), and at the U.N. all three Western powers who then and now remain permanent members of the Security Council (i.e., the U.S., Britain, France) joined in the rare joint action of vetoing a resolution of condemnation of the U.S.. France, however, did not permit U.S. aircraft to fly through French airspace to conduct this operation from Britain. The U.S. planes had to fly a far more circuitous route, apparently all the way to the mouth of the Mediterranean at Gibraltar, in order to reach Libya, as both Spain and France publicly claimed to have barred use of their airspace.
Better cooperation among international terrorists took place. This was revealed yet again in the apparent act of retaliation which followed the U.S. air raid on Libya. On April 17, 1986, three Western hostages held in Lebanon were shot dead: American Peter Kilburn and Britons Leigh Douglas and Philip Padfield. A note linking their deaths to the U.S. air raids on Libya was found with their bodies; but the hostages had been held by Iran's surrogate, Hezbollah. Cooperation had two different sides, however. Shortly thereafter, to convey solidarity with Britain's friends in the region, on May 24, 1986, Margaret Thatcher became the first British Prime Minister ever to visit Israel, 38 years after its founding.
Appeasing Terrorist States backfires. The very next day, U.S. former National Security Advisor Bud MacFarlane and NSC staffer Oliver North began their first secret mission to Iran, a risky undertaking that ultimately would culminate in the famous "arms for hostages" Iran-Contras scandal in the U.S. Imagining it a strategy to free American and Western hostages in Lebanon while rounding up some untraceable monies for financing a war in Central America, the Reagan team sold missiles to Iran. Some releases were accomplished, but the victory was quite transient in the volatile Middle East.No general letup in terrorism occurred, either. On September 6, 1986, assailants in Istanbul attacked the Neve Shalom Jewish synagogue with machine guns and grenades, killing 21. (This same synagogue was bombed by Al Qaeda in 2003). Moreover, the act of secretly selling weapons to Iran apparently enraged the Saddam Hussein government of Iraq, which was then well into its eight year (1980-88) war with Iran. On May 17, 1987, shortly after the Iran-Contras revelations took place in the U.S. press (though substantially after the scandal first was revealed in the Lebanese weekly Al-Shiraa, November 3, 1986), Iraq "mistakenly" fired a French Exocet missile into the U.S.S. Stark, then patrolling the Persian Gulf to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers earning money to finance Iraq's war against Iran. Thirty-seven U.S. sailors died; 21 others were injured.
On July 26, 1986, the Rev. Lawrence Jenco, kidnapped January 8, 1985, was released by terrorists in Lebanon. But, subsequently others were abducted: Frank Herbert Reed (September 9, 1986), director of the Lebanese International School in West Beirut; Joseph Cicippio (seized September 12, 1988; released December 2, 1991), an administrator at the American University of Beirut; and Edward Austin Tracy (abducted October 21; released August 11, 1991), an author and bookseller. Thus, the further releases of hostages as more planes of deadly weapons were delivered to the Iranians (David Jacobsen, held May 28, 1985-November 2, 1986), really brought about no net reduction in Middle Eastern anti-American terrorism. Indeed, greater numbers of Western hostages were held in Lebanon after the arms were shipped to Iran than before. On January 20, 1987, Anglican Church emissary Terry Waite was seized in Beirut (and later released November 18, 1991 along with earlier detainee American Thomas Sutherland, taken in 1985), and on January 24, 1987, four more Westerners were abducted, including: U.S. citizens Alann Steen (released December 3, 1991), Jesse Turner, and Robert Polhill, all professors at Beirut University; and Mithileshwar Singh, an Indian national with permanent resident status in the U.S. (Singh was released October 3, 1988). On June 17, 1987, yet another hostage was taken, Charles Glass; he escaped some two months later.
Intifada and Double Standards. Back on the ground in Israel and the occupied territories, on December 9, 1987, the Palestinian movement embraced a new tactic: bottle and rock throwing at soldiers, augmented by the occasional fire bomb. The tactics seem part of a strategy of winning broadened support abroad for the Palestinian campaign by depicting a strong Israel behaving excessively toward under-armed Palestinians. Such a pose required short memories and considerable inattention to the ongoing cooperation of the PLO and Hezbollah. Inattention and short memories being readily available, the PLO then reaped a public relations harvest. Israeli responses (e.g., 36 Palestinians were shot dead in the first six weeks) soon were condemned by at the U.N., with the U.S. remarkably withholding use of its veto. But this tilt toward the Palestinian Arabs, too, earned no positive response toward the U.S.: on February 17, 1988, U.S. Lt. Col. William R. Higgins, an officer assigned to the U.N. peacekeeping contingent in South Lebanon, was abducted and later murdered by hanging. A new Shi'ite organization "Oppressed on Earth" took credit for this act of aggression, but experts interpreted this as a front for the larger Shi'ite force in the area, Hezbollah. To spur chaos along, in early March 1988, Yasser Arafat ordered all Palestinians working in the Occupied Territories to resign as police on the Israeli payroll; nearly half then did. Israel promptly (March 28, 1988) sealed off access to the Occupied Territories, an act interpreted as a dark indication of hidden horrors throughout the Arab press. Largely unnoted in those same Arab presses, however, was the genuine horror committed March 16, 1988 at Halabja, Iraq, where approximately 5000 Kurds had been killed by the Iraqi Government's use of banned poisoned gas. Meanwhile, targeted violence against legitimate military targets continued: on April 16, 1988, Khalil Wazir (a.k.a. Abu Jihad), the PLO military chief and second in command of the PLO's Fatah organization, was shot dead in his home in Tunis. Israeli commandos were blamed, but Israel did not acknowledge it had committed this act some 1500 miles from Israel. Circumstances caused blame to fall on Israel in 1988, but three years later, in January 1991, Wazir's successor, Saleh Khalef, also was assassinated in Tunis. This time the PLO identified Abu Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council as the perpetrator of the crime (Current History 1991a: 139), suggesting that the ready blaming of Israel earlier might also have been misplaced. Indeed, during the Gulf War of 1991, PLO factions battled one another in Lebanon, too, and PLO "courts" executed 20 fellow Palestinians for the uprisings (Current History 1991b: 188.
Israeli armed forces also fought Shi'ite militia near Maidun in South Lebanon, May 2, 1988: 40 Shi'ites and two Israelis died. But Israel was not the only military force killing Shi'ites in Lebanon: beginning on May 6, 1988, the Amal militia fought the Hezbollah for three weeks, killing more than 300, including many civilian non-combatants. Only Israeli military actions against Shi'ite militias in Lebanon, however, occasioned anguish and denunciations throughout the Arab world, and at the U.N. Arab states were more concerned with Palestinian victims, meeting as they did June 7 to 9, 1988 in Algiers to pass a resolution calling for Arabs to "support by all possible means" the Palestinian uprising (CQ7: 294).
Extremism lives on, even when some moderation occurs. On November 15, 1988, at Algiers, the Palestinian National Council declared as independent the state of Palestine to exist on the West Bank and Gaza. The day previous, this same council had passed resolutions accepting U.N. 242 and U.N. 338, thereby indirectly recognizing the right of Israel, a State in the region per those resolutions, to exist in a secure way. But the U.S. took the position that this act was too indirect, and did not accept the Palestinian declaration as legitimate, even though Arafat later (May 3) explicitly stated that he thereby had recognized Israel's right to exist. Reflecting an unchanged tone toward Palestinians who favored other methods and approaches to winning statehood, on January 2, 1989, Yasser Arafat said the following: "Whoever thinks of stopping the intifada before it achieves its goals, I will give him ten bullets in the chest" (CQ7: 295).
The Rushdie fatwa. Elsewhere in the region, a similarly harsh attitude toward alternative views was expressed when, in February 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini (ruler of Iran) issued a fatwa ordering the death of British based, Indian born Muslim author Salman Rushdie for his heretical book, The Satanic Verses, and ordering assassination of its editors and publishers as well. This bizarre act led Iran to sever diplomatic relations with Britain (March 1989) when the Thatcher Government refused to comply with the outrageous request to turn Rushdie over to Iran. It was highly ironic that Rushdie would be targeted by the zealots of revived anti-Americanism in Iran. Rushdie himself had long been a left-wing critic of western capitalism, and publicly had sympathized with anti-Western authors such as Edward Said (Kramer: 47), author of the best selling (and highly over-rated; see Kramer, chapter two) 1980 polemic Orientalism. But in the emerging politics of the region in the 1980s, secular Muslim critics of the West as much as Westerners themselves would come to be viewed as enemies of the new militants of Islam. Totalitarianism brooks no dissent.
Regional politics in the Arab world unfolded somewhat more magnanimously: in May 1989, Egypt was re-admitted to the Arab League twelve years after its expulsion for having made peace with Israel at Camp David.
But all of this progress toward formal Arab unity, limited as it was, did not point to an agenda where the end to terrorism was even an item on the menu. On December 21, 1988, Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 on the plane and 11 on the ground. Soon thereafter, U.S. and British investigations narrowed the list of culpable parties to suspicions focused on Syria and on Libya. In the Arab world, disbelief alone was sufficient answer to the Western accusations, and little cooperation was given to the investigation. For years, the victims' families knew only the absence of justice, little fortified by occasional Libyan public relations gestures masking its non-cooperation. But ultimately the pursuers on behalf of the Lockerbie martyrs were vindicated: in January 2001, a defendant linked in the trial to the government of Libya was convicted by a Scottish court of this crime. The unusual case also involved the acquittal of a second defendant; and the trial itself was held under Scottish law but convened in the Netherlands. Late in 2003, Libyan leader Gaddafi authorized payments be made to families of the Pan Am 103 victims, and after he also renounced further secret effort to build weapons of mass destruction, the process of ending U.N. and U.S. sanctions on Libya was begun.
Closer to the epicenter of anti-Western hatred, matters had changed little. In Lebanon, Shi'ite militias continued to snipe at Israelis and to undertake other terrorist acts. Accordingly, on July 28, 1989, Israel responded by sending commandos into Lebanon who arrested and returned to Israel the leader of Hezbollah, Sheik Abdul Karim Obeid. It was the failure of Israel to release Obeid that was said to have led to the release of a videotape in which the Shi'ite militia "Oppressed on Earth" showed the hanging of U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Charles Higgins, who however may have been murdered earlier after his abduction from his assignment with the U.N. Peacekeepers in southern Lebanon. Killing Americans would provide leverage through which to coerce the U.S. government to coerce Israel, or so Higgins' tormentors imagined. This dynamic, odious as it long has been, of course reverberated most powerfully after September 11, 2001.
Israelis were not even the principal force menacing Lebanese sovereignty or killing Lebanese at that time. (Israel did, however, continue to occupy parts of the border region of Southern Lebanon until their final pull out in May 2000). Syrian armed forces in Lebanon and their Muslim allies had killed no less than seven hundred Christian Lebanese, March to August 1989, principally by artillery barrages directed at Christian villages (CQ7: 298). Nor were targeted killings against Lebanese only conducted by Israel: Abu Nidal's Fatah Revolutionary Council publicly claimed (September 15, 1989) that it had executed fifteen Lebanese and Palestinians. Their "crime": "spying" for Israel and the U.S., a capital offense among terrorists who find Western necessities like trials too cumbersome and too un-Islamic with which to bother. It was in this horrid atmosphere, then, that the U.S. Embassy again was evacuated (September 1989) after Christian militias threatened to take all Americans in Lebanon hostage in order to get the U.S. to be more involved with their plight.
After years of a lowered profile in the Middle East, aggression against U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf did bring a new, forceful U.S. role in the region for the first time in more than seven years. In 1990-91, the U.S. mobilized a coalition to defeat the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait, a story deserving of separate analysis in its own right. Within the Middle East, no state actively supported Iraq, but Yemen, Iran, and Jordan remained neutral. Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and others all backed the U.S. led coalition that liberated Kuwait; no Arab state, however, participated in the invasion of Iraq that militarily speaking was the key to the success of Desert Storm. Notably, the PLO led demonstrations in favor of Saddam Hussein during the crisis and war. Cheering crowds chanted ecstatically, calling for Iraqi SCUD missiles targeted on Jerusalem to kill Jews, and embracing even the use of chemical weapons against Israel. Strangely, this tactical choice in 1991 by the PLO, and these vile sentiments of the average Palestinian in the street, proved to have little cost to the PLO, or for sympathies with the Palestinian cause held among Europeans and, after a time, even among the moderate Arab states in the 1990-91 anti-Iraq coalition.
Peace Agreement. After the defeat of Iraq, Pres. George H. W. Bush made new efforts to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. In April 1991, Israel's Foreign Minister agreed to attend a Middle East Peace Conference planned to be convened by U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. In January 1993, the Israeli Knesset voted to lift the ban passed in 1986 forbidding Israeli officials from talking with PLO representatives; the first such authorized meeting occurred in Cairo, August 6, 1993. On September 9, 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat exchanged letters mutually recognizing each other as legitimate entities, shaking hands and signing a Declaration of Principles on Palestinian self rule four days later. Though violence did not end, on September 23, 1993, the Israeli Parliament (The Knesset) by a 61-50 vote ratified this accord. This diplomacy began in a joint US-Soviet conference in Madrid in 1991, and ended in September 1993 when Pres. Clinton presided over the signing of an interim peace agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Yikzak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Thereafter, the PLO was referred to as the Palestinian Authority, or PA. Each side committed itself to use only peaceful means thereafter, though a final settlement remained put off until further progress was made on a series of interim issues. Most thorny are the issues of control over Jerusalem and the "right of return" of the displaced refugees.
All, however, was not well within either community whose leaders had, apparently, embraced peace. Hamas, an Islamist group formed in the 1980s, sent bombers who embarked on a new campaign of violence within months, roiling a Palestinian society uncertain it could accept Israel as a permanent presence. In 1995, Rabin was assassinated by a disgruntled Israeli who opposed the peace process. But leaders trudged on. A series of American-brokered conferences produced yet more stillborn plans for peace: in October 1998, at Wye River, Maryland; in March-April 2000 at Bolling Air Force Base (Maryland); and July 15-25, 2000, at the White House. Ultimately, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered approximately 96 percent of the land area of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, and partial control over some sites in Jerusalem in exchange for a final peace agreement. On behalf of the P.A., Arafat rejected this latter proposal.
A September 2000 visit by Israeli politician Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem proved to be the catalyst that greatly increased Palestinian violence. In Fall 2000, the step-by-step peace process broke down and widespread violence resumed, much of it directly tied to the Palestinian Authority which just seven years earlier solemnly had foresworn just such a strategy. Other terrorist groups, e.g. Hamas, PFLP, Hezbollah, operated apparently outside the control of the P.A., but employed similar tactics to those used by P.A.-affiliated militias (e.g., Tanzim, Al Asqa Martyr's Brigade, Fatah). In response, the U.S., in November 2000, appointed former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to convene a commission to investigate the causes of this outbreak in violence and to make recommendations. That commission reported its findings on April 30, 2001: an immediate cease-fire, a renunciation of terrorism and a resumption of peace talks, as well as a freeze on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The Mitchell Report was received but had little effect.
In the interim, a series of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks inside Israel committed by Palestinians in 2000- August 2001 provoked a substantial shift in Israeli public opinion. In general elections, Ariel Sharon, leader of the Likud Party, was elected Prime Minister, replacing the more conciliatory Labor candidate, Ehud Barak. Public opinion shifted further from support for concessions after initial attempts at a cease fire fell apart. In terms of public opinion in Israel, the "Peace Now" sentiment ascendant just years before, was dead.The events of September 11, 2001 deepened the conflict. In Fall 2001, after Arab radicals, principally Saudi Arabians, led by the Egyptian terrorist Mohammed Atta of the Al Qaeda organization attacked the U.S. killing approximately 3000 in New York and in the Washington D.C. area, thousands of Palestinians in Lebanon openly celebrated in the streets (WP 2001: 25), as did Palestinians in East Jerusalem. This news was not broadly reported, nor did it visually engage many American television viewers. The mantra of there being an ongoing "peace process" had been repeated so often that it had inculcated habits of thought among Americans that precluded easy acceptance of the then obvious fact in Israel: high degrees of acceptance of tactics of killing Jewish civilian non-combatants had become the norm within the Palestinian community. Americans simply were uncomfortable trying to grasp the real attitudes toward Israel and toward America held by most Palestinians; indeed, held by most throughout the Arab world. Their editors spared them the discomforting images. In this, they were assisted: after the US military began on October 7-8, 2001 to wage war against Afghanistan for harboring and assisting the Al Qaeda terrorists, radical Palestinians marched in Gaza under posters of Osama Bin Laden. The P.A. suppressed these demonstrations and barred broadcast news coverage of the pro-Bin Laden crowds. The quotable Arafat through such censorship continued to attempt to portray the P.A. as a genuine partner in an ongoing peace process. But after the assassination later in October 2001 in a Jerusalem hotel of an Israeli Cabinet minister by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP, a Syrian headquartered Palestinian group) which again was working in collaboration with P.A. forces, Israel insisted that the P.A. arrest and turn over to Israel the PFLP suspects. Arafat refused. When an impasse developed over that position, Israel re-entered with tanks several of the areas of the West Bank that had been turned over to the PA under the Oslo Peace Accords and the 1993-2000 peace process.
In marked contrast to its own invocation of self defense to justify ongoing war in Afghanistan, the United States then urged Israel to desist from its act of self defense and to withdraw. After Prime Minister Sharon initially refused, withdraw Israel did. But Sharon continued to demand that Palestinians respect the basic terms of the Oslo agreements: peace, and the renunciation of violence. The United States, on the other hand, had other objectives in addition to these, objectives that included enlisting Arab states in support of its contemporaneous effort to overthrow the Taliban government of Afghanistan. Thus, the U.S. authored at the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1397, which endorsed a "vision of a region where two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side within secure and recognized borders." This first Security Council resolution to refer to Palestinian statehood, which passed on March 12, 2002, earned little good will for the U.S.: no Arab state joined in the liberation of Afghanistan.
There matters stood as Winter 2001 stumbled into Spring 2002. But, despite the diplomatic finesse represented by U.N. 1397, it appears that in the interim Pres. Bush had given up on the illusion that the P.A. as then constituted, was a force capable of making just such a peace. On June 24, 2002, Bush publicly called for the Palestinians to find new leadership. Numerous Palestinian bombings, most by use of the suicide bomb tactic popularized by Al Qaeda, had shocked Israelis and their friends, though regrettably not all in this world. For example, European governments and publics continued largely to regard this deliberate, targeted killing of Jews as an unfortunate excess undertaken in an otherwise legitimate struggle; this repose hardened Israeli reluctance to be guided by European chiding. Religious ceremonies were a favored target: bar mitzvah, for example, were targeted. But so we quite secular sites: nightclubs, restaurants, public buses, universities. Finally, the suicide bomb attack on a Passover seder in Spring 2002 proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back: Sharon's forces again re-entered the West Bank (though not Gaza) en masse early in April 2002, routed the Palestinian terrorist networks, and found documents of the Palestinian Authority that conclusively showed it to be a central organizer of the wave of terrorism. Charges of widespread massacres by Israeli troops, especially in Jenin, surfaced almost simultaneous with the tanks subduing most Palestinian resistance; Chairman Arafat, confined to Ramallah after December 2001, was further restricted to a bare two rooms in his former ruling complex; Israeli armor destroyed the entire rest of it.
Finally understanding well the right of Israel to defend itself much as the U.S. invoked its right to self defense after September 11, 2001, President Bush delayed comment and when he did, generally expressed his understanding for the Israeli position throughout the siege of terror. In Europe and especially in the Arab and Muslim worlds, this led to near unanimous charges of U.S. complicity in the perceived excesses of the Israeli campaign, often tendered with the most hyperbolic phrasings (e.g., "genocide"). To manage these voices of criticism while not abandoning Israel, Bush dispatched first an American sympathetic with the Arabs' position, retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, and then sent the more widely trusted Secretary of State Colin Powell to try to get the parties to talk again. After delays resulting from Israeli objections to its proposed composition, a U.N. mission was dispatched to investigate. This U.N. team filed a report, quietly made to little European notice in the summer of 2002: it refuted the overblown claims of a massacre at Jenin, finding that 53 Palestinians, only, and these principally combatants, had died there. The Palestinian response was swift: a suicide bombing of a Hebrew University snack bar, an atrocity which killed several Americans.
Small steps to return Palestinian areas in Gaza and Bethlehem to self rule began to take effect late in August 2002, and a further diplomatic move at the U.N. produced yet another plan for peace, the so-called "Roadmap." But further bombings brought renewed Israeli occupation of Bethlehem, and frequent forays into Gaza continued as winter 2002 passed into 2003. The grisly cycle continued to define life of both communities, e.g. the events of November 21, 2002.
Throughout 2003-2004, most evidence indicated that the Oslo Peace Process was dead, and the will to make a new pact had evaporated on both sides. Palestinian leaders abandoned efforts to portray their secular movement as different from the religious/Islamist terrorists of Hamas. In Egypt, efforts by the government there to convene a series of conferences where all Palestinian groups would to some degree renounce terror tactics failed to achieve results. This polarized atmosphere was underlined on January 28, 2003, when Israeli voters re-elected to government the Likud Party-led Sharon team that had drawn the hard line; dovish Labor Party vote percentages sank to their lowest level in decades.
Sharon top to bottom pursued a hard line against the Palestinians. At the top, Sharon's policy was one of keeping Arafat bottled up in his compound in Ramallah, surrounded and unable to travel even to Gaza, let alone outside the country. A security barrier was begun to be constructed, physically dividing Israel from Palestinian majority areas throughout the land. At the street level, Israel's security forces dropped hard onto suspected terrorists and other supporters of suicide bombings; targeted assassination of Palestinian leaders tied to the bombings increased.
Sharon's hard line policy produced results. Israeli deaths, which had risen in the first three years of the second intifada, sharply declined: 43 deaths in 2000, 206 deaths in 2001, 451 deaths in 2002, but down to 212 deaths in 2003 and 90 in the first nine months of 2004, through Sept. 30, 2004 (WP 2004: 22). The number of Palestinian suicide bombings followed a similar pattern: 7 in 2000, 46 in 2001, 61 in 2002, 44 in 2003, and 10 in the first nine months of 2004, through Sept. 30, 2004 (WP 2004: 22). As the second intifada wore on, higher percentages of suicide bombings were prevented each year: in 2001, 26 bombings were stopped while 46 were committed; in 2002, 117 were stopped while 61 were committed; in 2003, 185 were stopped while 44 were committed; and in the first three fourths of 2004, 82 were stopped while 10 were committed. In response to the waves of suicide bombings, Israel retaliated by destroying the homes of the bombers. In the West Bank: 5 houses in 2000; 7 in 2001; 138 in 2002; 58 in 2003; and 35 in the first three fourths of 2004 (WP 2004: 22). In Gaza, 770 homes were similarly demolished, 2000-2002; 778 in 2003; and 960 in the first three fourths of 2004 (WP 2004: 22).
While more than one thousand Israelis perished in violence as part of the second intifada, 2760 Palestinians were killed by Israel in this same period. The pattern in Palestinian casualties ran parallel to the peaks and valleys in the other figures cited above: 282 Palestinian deaths in 2000; 471 Palestinian deaths in 2001; 1006 Palestinian deaths in 2002; 543 Palestinian deaths in 2003; and 478 Palestinian deaths in the first three fourths of 2004 (WP 2004: 22.
Peace as envisioned in the Oslo Accords, seemed to be as elusive as ever as the U.S. set about choosing a president in 2004. President Bush reiterated unconditional U.S. support for Israel in April 2004 with a letter he wrote to Premier Sharon indicating that the U.S. understood that territorial adjustments in favor of Israel would need to be accommodated in any future final settlement. Small encouragement could be found that year on the Palestinian side: both U.S. presidential candidates pledged to pursue a policy of firm support of Israel; and the most pro-Israel politician in decades, George W. Bush, won re-election in November, suggesting little likelihood of this changing.
But change was given new opportunity by unpredictable elements elsewhere in the equation. In November 2004, Yasser Arafat died in Paris after a long illness, removing the largest obstacle to any discussion of another negotiated settlement. A Palestinian local election and a public balloting for a new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen), took place early in 2005, creating a basis for new negotiations to commence with the Sharon Government. The U.S., acknowledged by all parties as a key influence on the future of the region, displayed no inclination to abandon its policy of clear favoritism for Israel over the Palestinian cause. But, after a February 2005 visit to the region by a new U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Abbas and Sharon parlayed face-to-face in Egypt and, on February 8, 2005, a new cease-fire was announced, and Israel withdrew from Gaza later that year. In January 2006, the Islamist organization HAMAS was elected to govern Gaza, complicating efforts to restart peace negotiations; they later seized full control of the strip from the P.A. (i.e., the PLO). In Summer 2006, HAMAS gunmen took an Israeli soldier hostage and a similar operation by others on the Lebanese border ignited a war between Hezbollah and Israel in July-August 2006, one that destroyed much of the infrastructure of that recovering state. Conditions remained tense, but without major incident on the Gaza-Israel front through that conflict and during 2007-08. Increasingly, rocket attacks from Gaza rather than infiltration of suicide bombers into Israel from Gaza, was the method of confrontation preferred by HAMAS. After an informal cease fire between Israel and HAMAS broke down in December 2008, the two fought another war, dubbed Operation Cast Lead by Israel, in December 2008-January 2009, with Israel suffering a handful of casualties and Palestinian casualties numbering between 750 and 1300. The inauguration of Barack Obama as U.S. President later that month initially raised hopes that the U.S. would more actively be involved in trying to mediate more stable arrangements among the parties, but after his first year in office little had changed.
For an excellent lecture on this topic by Prof. Barry Rubin, go here.
Gordon Bowen, "Israel is Necessary," (speech delivered Nov. 18, 2004; Staunton VA).
John F. Burns, "Threats and responses: An Old Terrorist; Ringleader of '85 Achille Lauro Hijacking Says Killing Wasn't His Fault," New York Times (November 8, 2002): 14.
CQ7: Editors of Congressional Quarterly, The Middle East seventh edition (Washington DC: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1991).
Current History 1991a: "The Month in Review" Current History (March 1991): 139-144.
Current History 1991b: "The Month in Review" Current History (April 1991): 188-192.
Current History 1992: "The Month in Review" Current History (August 1992): 348-352.
Current History 1994: "The Month in Review" Current History (January 1994): 45-48.
Alan Dershowitz, "Put Arafat on Trial," Reform Judaism 31, 1 (Fall 2002): 96-97.
Eva Fogelman, Conscience and Courage (New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1994).
Jeffrey Goldberg, "In the Party of God: Hezbollah sets up operations in South America and the United States," New Yorker (October 28, 2002): 75-83.
Fred M. Gottheil, "The Smoking Gun: Arab Immigration into Palestine, 1922-1931," Middle East Quarterly X, 1 (Winter 2003).
Lee Hockstadter, "A Dreamer Who Forced his Cause onto World Stage," Washington Post (Nov. 11, 2004): A22.
Hala Jaber, Hezbollah: Born with a Vengance (NY: Columbia U.P., 1997).
Martin Kramer, Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America (Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2001).
Bernard Lewis, "The Revolt of Islam: A new turn in a long war with the West," The New Yorker (November 16, 2001).
John Loftus and Mark Aarons, The Secret War against the Jews (NY: St. Martin's, 1994).
Edward Luttwak, "Give War a Chance," Foreign Affairs 78, 4 (July/August 1999): 36-44.
Gregory S. Mahler, Israel: Government and Politics in a Maturing State (Orlando FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990).
David McCullough, Truman (NY: Simon and Schuster, 1992).
Michael B. Oren, Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the present (NY: Norton, 2007).
Pacepa 2002A: Ion Mihai Pacepa, "The Arafat I know," Wall Street Journal (January 10, 2002): 12.
Pacepa 2002B: IIon Mihai Pacepa, "Soft on Arafat," Wall Street Journal (January 21, 2002): 13.
Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine (NY: Harper and Row, 1984).
Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Civil Action No. 01-2094, Memorandum and Order (D.D.C., Lamberth, J., May 30, 2004): http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/01-2094.pdf.
Anthony Shadid and Alia Ibrahim, "Bombing Kills Top Figure in Hezbollah," Washington Post (Feb. 14, 2008): 1, 21.
J. Y. Smith, "(Obituary) Gen. Vernon A. Walters; CIA Official, Diplomat" Washington Post (February 14, 2002): B6.
Janice Gross Stein, "The Arab-Israeli War of 1967: Inadvertent War Though Miscalculated Escalation," in Avoiding War: Problems of Crisis Management, Alexander George, ed. (Boulder CO: Westview, 1991): 126-159.
U.S. Department of State, Middle East Peace Chronology (Timeline) (Washington: Department of State, 2002). alternative website with this: go here.
Naomi Weinberger, "How Peace Keeping becomes Intervention: Lessons from the Lebanese Experience," International Organizations and Ethnic Conflict, Milton J. Esman and Shibley Telhami, eds ((Ithaca NY: Cornell UP, 1995): 148-178.
Bob Woodward, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987).
WP 2001: Washington Post (September 12, 2001): 25.
WP 2004: Washington Post (October 5, 2004): 22.
this page last updated March 12, 2010
return to PolS 128 Supplements page
return to Prof. Bowen's homepage