From the Vault: 1972: Terror as a tactic

Sep 06, 2012
Forty years ago this week, a band of Palestinian terrorists known as Black September broke into the Olympic Village in Munich, West Germany and succeeded in taking members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage. On Sept. 6, an attempt by the West Germans to rescue the athletes and coaches went horribly awry. When all the smoke had cleared, 11 Israelis were dead, as well as a handful of the terrorists. Here's what Journal Star opinion page editor Chuck Dancey had to say about that on this date in 1972.


"The sudden explosion of terror tactics into the Olympic Games exposes millions of people, a little bit more closely, to the realities of the doctrine of terror as a tactic ...

The shock around the world was but a sample of the shocks that have beset Israel for 40 years ... and as such ought to make a great many people much more appreciative of their experience and the necessities of their policies.

Not many years ago, I was visiting a border kibbutz in northern Galilee where terrorists had sneaked across the border at night, bypassed a number of real targets, and mined a soccer field ... A celebrated case more recently was the group that sneaked across and set a road ambush, hid when the Israeli army patrol car came by, and saved their bazooka attack for a school bus! They proceeded to massacre the small children, and later boasted on Syrian TV of killing 'future soldiers and scientists.'

They like to call themselves 'guerilla fighters' and 'freedom fighters,' but they do not fight. They deliberately employ the tactics of terror, preferring the most vulnerable and helpless targets ...

Likewise, there is much plain baloney about this situation, some of it being peddled right now by Arab spokesmen seeking to exploit the situation ... by saying such 'terrible and desperate deeds merely reflect the desperation of homeless refugee Arabs.' They say the answer is to put to rest Arab grievances. Further, they insist that Arab governments are not responsible.

That's the game that was played for so long. Israeli reprisals have been formal, straight-up military actions carefully directed against terrorist havens or where the responsibility lies ... Yet from the beginning, the United Nations has taken the position that these horrifying attacks against unarmed civilians by armed terrorists were 'outside the law' and outside their jurisdiction - whereas Israeli military reprisals are official acts, and therefore formally condemned!
The Israelis properly regard the terrorist attacks as morally far worse than a direct military response to the source of such attacks, and have been deeply angered by UN condemnations directed at them instead of the instigators of border troubles. This is the real background ... It is also a fact ... that there was a period of more than a decade when those borders were quiet - from 1956 to 1967.

That gives the lie to the 'desperation' theory and propaganda. Such activity stopped when it was not the policy of neighboring Arab states, and it only resumed when terrorists were openly recruited, paid, trained and financed - some also publicly honored and even decorated - with the connivance of Arab governments, chiefly Syria.

The so-called refugees were largely people who flooded into Palestine under the British mandate - and left again during the war of 1948. The Bedouin who were there when British rule began ... did not leave. They remain in Israel to this day in peace and citizenship. Nor did those other people leave to alien lands ... but to another part of the 'Arab world,' places still part of their 'homeland' and among their racial, linguistic and religious brothers. Politics made them outcasts, and politics alone ...

This brings us to a fact of life which ought to be studied and noted. The whole doctrine of terror did not just blossom out of a desperate situation in the Judean hills or the Gaza strip. It was born in a cold-blooded, calculated exposition laid down by Nicolai Lenin when he created the Cheka to administer 'revolutionary justice' ... He specifically pointed out that 'guilt' or 'innocence' was irrelevant so long as the killing produced the result desired, and he specifically dubbed the tactics involved as the use of 'terror' ...

It is hard for Americans to realize that for 40 years there have been textbooks on terror .. classrooms with 'full professors' devoted to the techniques, organization, weapons, choice of targets and political uses of 'terror' - as formally as we have studies in public relations!

... This is part of the world we live in, and it is not very bright to ignore it simply from squeamishness ... or because it offends an 'intellectual approach to problems.'"


The Israelis responded to the terrorism at Munich the way they always do, of course, by giving as good as they got, and sometimes then some. Forty years later, and there still is no love lost between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We may have to reconcile ourselves to the reality that there may never be. And that, where terrorism is concerned, no nation can ever let down its guard, as this one learned on Sept. 11, 2001.


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