We all know what happened to the participants in Munich ’72, right? Golda Meir announced:
We have no choice but to strike at the terrorist organizations wherever we can reach them. That is our obligation to ourselves and to peace. We shall fullfil that obligation undauntedly.
What followed was a slow, grinding series of assasinations that ultimately killed eight terrorists involved in Black September.
According to Aaron J. Klein, the story is largely hype perpetrated (without collaboration) by the P.L.O. and the Israelis. In his book, Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel’s Deadly Response, Klein claims that ultimately the Israeli’s only killed one man directly involved in the tragedy at Munich: Atef Bseiso. The Israelis shot him in Paris as late as 1992.
The first Palestinian to die was Wael Zwaiter, shot in Rome six weeks after Munich. Mossad claimed he was the leader of Black September. Klein claims (on the basis of interviews with key relevant Mossad agents that:
[the case against Zwaiter was] uncorroborated and improperly cross-referenced. Looking back, his assassination was a mistake.”
According to Klein, the real perpetrators of Munich ’72 had sought safety in Arab and Eastern block countries where the Israelis couldn’t actually get them. Ironically, the leader, Abu Daoud, was allowed to enter Israel in 1996 to help rescind the P.L.O. charter article which called for Israel’s destruction. The rest of the direct participants in Black September? Abu Iyad, Black September’s chief, was killed by a fellow Palestinian in 1991. Of those who survived the airfield fight in Munich, one died of heart failure, another (Jamal al Gashey) appeared in a documentary in 2000 and finally Mohammed Safady is claimed by Tafiq Tirawi to be ‘as alive as you are’.
How did this happen? Klein quotes a senior intelligence source:
Our blood was boiling. When there was information implicating someone, we didn’t inspect it with a magnifying glass.
The P.L.O., for their part, unintendedly participated in fueling the myth that the Israelis were carefully targetting munich massacerers by elevating the status of the operatives the Israelis assassinated. From the Israeli point of view, a dead Palestinian operative sent the message that terror would be met with harsh measures (midah k’negged midah?). From the P.L.O.’s point of view, a dead mid-level agent was valuable as good propoganda if he were important.
Aaron J. Klein is Time magazine’s Military and Intelligence Affairs correspondent in the Jerusalem Bureau. He was the recipient of 2002 Henry Luce Award and has been a consultant for CNN. Klein was the military/security correspondent and analyst for Hadashot and Al-Hamishmar, two of Israel’s leading national newspapers. He is a contributor to Malam, the journal for former IDF Intelligence, Mossad and Internal Security Agency officers. He teaches at Hebrew University and is a Captain in the IDF’s Intelligence.