“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
Many people attribute this quotation to a Chinese man named Confucius. Except, there was never anyone named Confucius. His name was Kong Fuzi. Non-Chinese speakers often anglicize Asian words, so Kong Fuzi, transliterated, becomes Confucius.
Confucius lived around 500 years B.C. He was a philosopher — one of the more important persons in the ancient world. If the above quote is properly attributed to Confucius, he is no doubt attempting to impart wisdom — about the lack of wisdom in seeking revenge.
It is in the nature of people to seek revenge whenever they feel wronged, and if there is one clear indication of the punishing nature of man, it is that man demands justice. Some argue that justice should be swift. Others say that justice is sweetest when delayed.
Justice is what the Israelis were looking for following the massacre of Jewish athletes in Munich in 1972. This particular act of revenge was known as Operation Wrath of God and Operation Bayonet. What made these events extraordinary was that the operation lasted more than twenty years and, scholars believe, involved “getting even” with between 35 – 40 Palestinians. Spoiler: mission accomplished.
Black September Organization
People who develop an intense dislike of other people hold on to that contempt as if it were a gold nugget. They won’t let it go for anything. There are a few such instances. Japanese vs. Koreans, for example — and Vietnamese vs. Chinese. Syrians, Jordanians, Saudis, Egyptians, Iraqis, Yemenites, and Turks vs. Palestinians. Almost no one — of any Arab culture — has any regard for people who call themselves Palestinians. In the opinions of those other people, they are the worst of the worst. Worse, even, than the Jews — because all those other people can at least respect the Jews.
Experts tell us that Palestine is a modern word derived from the much older Philistine. In accounts from the Hebrew Bible, the Philistine appears mostly as a villainous enemy. They are the ones who sent Delilah to cut the hair of the Israelite leader Samson and thus stripped him of his power. Goliath, the giant, slain by David, was a Philistine. The reputation of Philistines is still that of a hostile, war-mongering, hedonistic tribe, which became so pervasive that “philistine” is still an insult, meaning a crass or uncultured person.
Ancient cities like Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron were mentioned as Philistine strongholds in the Bible. In the 19th and 20th centuries, scholars finally started to piece together a distinct archaeological record of Philistine culture. Excavations revealed that these cities saw the emergence of new architecture and artifacts at the beginning of the Iron Age, around 1200 B.C., signaling the arrival of the Philistines. For example, pottery found at Philistine archaeological sites appeared to have been made locally but looked strikingly similar to the wares created by Aegean cultures — such as the Mycenaeans. They built their civilization in what is now mainland Greece. The Bible mentions “Caphtor,” or Crete, as the place of origin of the Philistines. Some scholars wonder if the Philistines were the descendants of another people of this region: Phoenicians.
Historians also know that around the time these changes occurred in the archaeological record, civilizations in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean collapsed. The Philistines are written about in Egyptian hieroglyphs, where they are referred to as the Peleset — among the tribes of “Sea Peoples” said to have battled against Pharaoh Ramses III around 1180 B.C. But other scholars suggest that the Philistines were a local people or those from present-day Turkey or Syria.
In any case, the ancient Philistines are present-day Palestinians. When the Romans showed up, the Philistines became Syrian-Palestina. Subsequently, Palestine became an Arabic-language description of the region during the invention of Islam. After the Romans went home, Palestine “disappeared” until after World War I — when it became a political mandate assigned to Great Britain.
The modern debate about Palestine is that it cannot be a proper country because it has no precise borders. It is a place where people live, and if you ask any Lebanese, Hashemite, or Egyptian about a Palestinian, you may as well be talking about lepers. It stands to reason that people (such as the Philistines — now Palestinians), so long discriminated against by almost everyone in the Middle East — there must evolve bad feelings. Left unaddressed or untreated, bad feelings lead to deep-seated anger. In the case of the Palestinians, it led to such lethal organizations as Black September.
Black September was a breakaway faction of the Palestine Organization Fatah. The group was formed in 1971 to seek retribution on the King of Jordan for “turning on” the Palestine people. Of course, that is only one side of the story, but among Arabs, half of the history (the story) is all one is likely to receive.
In 1949, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordon, and Syria agreed to end the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. The United Nations Organization (U.N.) established supervising agencies to monitor the ceasefire. Additionally, the United States, United Kingdom, and France agreed to “take action outside of (and beyond) the U.N.” to prevent any violation of the frontier or armistice zones — to foster peace and stability in the region.
On 24 April 1950, the Kingdom of Jordan annexed the “West Bank” territory when the U.N. earmarked trans-Jordan territory (previously part of the British Mandate Palestine) as an area for a soon-to-be-announced independent Arab state: Palestine. Jordan took possession of this region during the 1948 war. Jordan intended not to return this land; they wanted to keep it out of the hand of the Palestinians. Trans-Jordan included the cities of Jericho, Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, and Eastern Jerusalem (Old Jerusalem). Trans-Jordan became known as the “West Bank.”
Many Palestinians accepted Jordanian rule and the King of Jordan as their sovereign. Most didn’t care. A few took it personally. Following the Six Day War (1967) (which only lasted five days), Jordan lost control of the West Bank and its one million Palestinian population. Israel promptly expelled 300,000 of these trouble-makers, and they moved to Jordan. Most remained in their homes and traditional territories — but they were a de facto people without a country. No one wanted them, and no one was looking out for them (one of the U.N.’s worst mistakes), so they began looking out for themselves.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) was formed in 1964 to create Arab unity throughout the former Mandate region — mainly in political opposition to Israel — and because the U.N. and every other Arab nation/culture had ignored the Philistines for nearly 19 years. By the time of the creation of the P.L.O., 4.6 million Philistines were living in the former Mandate region and the Gaza Strip. Of these, roughly 60,000 were Philistine Christians. The dominating faction of the P.L.O. was (and remains) Fatah. It is a nationalist political party and the largest faction of the multi-party P.L.O. There are several militant groups within Fatah, each struggling to assert dominance — usually by demonstrating ruthlessness.
On 16 September 1967, a civil war broke out when 250 Syrian tanks (with P.L.O. markings) invaded the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The clash pitted Jordan’s King Hussein against Yasser Arafat of the P.L.O. It was an eleven-day war (16 – 27 September 1967) with additional severe conflicts lasting through July 1971. After Jordan lost control of the West Bank (1967), P.L.O. fighters (fedayeen) moved their base of operations to Jordan and stepped up their attacks on Israel and the occupied territories.
The P.L.O.’s fedayeen tried to assassinate King Hussein on two occasions, leading to King Hussein declaring martial law and confronting the P.L.O. in June 1970. Initially, Hussein held off attacking the fedayeen (fearing injury to non-involved civilian populations), but the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked three airliners and blew them up full of international passengers. It was Hussein’s last straw.
On 17 September, the Jordanian Army surrounded P.L.O. occupied cities, including Amman and Irbid, and launched massive artillery attacks. On 18 September, Syrian forces disguised as P.L.O. reinforced the fedayeen fighters. On 22 September, U.S., U.K., and Israeli ground and air forces joined with the Jordanians in a substantial assault, inflicting heavy losses on both P.L.O. and Syrian troops. Between then and late January 1971, Jordanian forces attacked, defeated, and drove out all Fedayeen forces. Whoever wasn’t killed became a prisoner of the Jordanian prisoners — around 2,000 — most of whom may have rather died.
Philistine dissidents within the Fatah organization formed Black September — naming it after the month in which the Jordanian Civil War erupted — likely in retribution for starting a fight and then blaming the other guy. After the Jordanians killed the initial leader of the B.S.O. (Abu Ali Iyad), the organization embarked on a program of propagandized denial and disinformation. Black September was not a terrorist organization; it was only a resistance movement. No relationship existed between B.S.O. and Fatah, or the P.L.O. Abu Daoud (also known as Mohammed Daoud Oudeh) testified to Jordanian police that no such organization as B.S.O. existed.
Nevertheless, eight members of Black September (the organization that never existed) killed two Israeli Olympic athletes and kidnapped nine others in Munich, Germany. It was the perfect place for an assault on Israelis — killing Jews is a German pastime. West German Neo-Nazis provided Black September with much-needed logistical support during the standoff. What B.S.O. wanted to accomplish was the release of 234 Philistine prisoners of war sitting inside Israeli jails.
B.S.O. operatives murdered the remaining nine Israelis on 6 September 1972. Two days later, Israel retaliated by bombing ten P.L.O. bases in Syria and Lebanon. Prime Minister Golda Meir established Committee X, a small group of government officials and operatives tasked with formulating an Israeli response — including Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, General Sharon Yariv to advise on counterterrorism matters, and the Director of Mossad, Zvi Zamir.
The Wrath of God
Israel’s Committee X concluded that to deter future Palestinian violence, the Israelis must terminate everyone responsible for the Munich massacre. The more dramatic their deaths, the better. Prime Minister Meir was under tremendous pressure from the Israeli intelligence departments (and public opinion) to make the right decision. However, reluctantly, Golda Meir authorized the assassination of any and every member of the P.L.O. connected to the Munich massacre. Germany’s complicity in the P.L.O. killings appeared obvious when West German authorities released the three surviving Arab perpetrators in October — in compliance with the demands of the hijackers of Lufthansa Flight 615.
Committee X’s first task was for Israel to draw up a list of targets — a hit list of people involved in the operation, in whatever capacity. Israeli agents were aided in this process by members of the P.L.O. who were working for Mossad. This information was independently vetted and validated by intelligence agencies of European intelligence agencies — information that was never unclassified for release to the public. Scholars believe the number of “hits” was between 35 – 40 Philistines.
At the outset of planning for the operation was the dictum: the Mossad must always maintain plausible deniability and strive to achieve the impossibility of anyone making a direct connection between any assassinations and the state of Israel. High on the list of Israeli priorities was causing P.L.O. militants a great deal of indigestion. David Kimche, an assistant director for Mossad, later claimed, “The aim was not as much revenge as to fright them [P.L.O. terrorists].”
British author Simon Reeve reported that the Mossad team(s) consisted of squads named and organized according to the Hebrew alphabet. Five squads (Aleph), two trained killers (Bet), two guards to follow the targets (Het), two agents to establish cover for the rest of the team (Ayin) — all together, six to eight teams, including communications technicians (Qoph).
There is conflicting information, however. Victor Ostrovsky names the assassination team The Kidon, a claim supported by British investigative journalist Gordon Thomas. Thomas somehow obtained copies of debriefing reports submitted by Kidon’s 80-member backup team involved in the operation. Israeli author Aaron Klein claimed that the assassination teams were named Caesarea — but re-named at periodic intervals.
One embarrassing incident occurred on 21 July 1973 when Israeli agents mistook a Moroccan waiter (and the brother of a professional musician named Chico Bouchikhi) as a P.L.O. terrorist named Ali Hassan Salameh. After the killing of Ahmed Bouchikhi, Norwegian police arrested six of the fifteen Mossad agents. A Norwegian court convicted five of those agents of complicity in the murder. Norwegian authorities also issued an arrest warrant for Mossad team leader Michael Harari, who managed to escape. After 12 months, the warrant was canceled.
One psychological ploy used by the assassination squad was that several hours before each assassination, the target’s family received flowers with a condolence card reading, A reminder we do not forget or forgive.
The first assassination occurred on 16 October 1972. P.L.O. member Wael Zwaiter met his end in Rome, Italy — as he returned from having dinner. Mossad agents stepped up behind him and shot him to death. Police found 12 slugs in his body. Zwaiter was the P.L.O. Representative in Italy. In the aftermath of his death, the P.L.O. publicly announced that Mr. Zwaiter was a caring, loving man with no evil bone in his body. Had the detestable Israelis not assassinated Zwaiter, he may have received a Nobel Prize one day.
Target number two was Mahmoud Hamshari, the P.L.O.’s Representative in France. A Mossad agent posing as a journalist lured Hamshari from his apartment so that an explosives team could place a bomb below his telephone instrument. The agent posing as a journalist telephoned Hamshari on 8 December 1972. Hamshari died, of course, but not before he could make a statement to police investigators.
Hussein al Bashir was a Jordanian and a member of Fatah in Cyprus. When he turned out the light in his hotel room in Nicosia, a bomb planted under his bed detonated. As it turned out, Bashir was later identified as having ties with the U.S.S.R. Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (also, K.G.B.).
On 6 April 1973, law professor Basil al-Kubaissi (from the American University, Beirut) was linked to Black September as their logistics guru. He was shot to death in Paris while returning to his home from a dinner engagement. Again, 12 shots, 12 hits. Two might have been enough. Tap, Tap. But all 12-rounds were in tight groups.
Three Israeli targets lived in heavily guarded villas in Lebanon, which initially placed them beyond the reach of assassins — but Mossad reorganized the teams to find a different approach. This particular operation was designated Operation Spring of Youth. The targets were Muhammed Youssef al-Najjar (Black September Operations Officer), Kamal Adwan (Chief Operations Officer), and Kamal Nasser (P.L.O. Executive Committee Member and Chief Spokesman).
During the hours of darkness on 9 April 1973, Israeli special operations came ashore at Lebanese beaches where they met Mossad operatives, who drove them to their target addresses and then returned them to the beach for extraction later. Israeli military operators killed all three targets. Additional casualties involved P.L.O. security officers, al-Najjar’s wife, and an Italian next-door neighbor who was gawking out of a second-story window while holding something that closely resembles a weapon.
Israeli soldiers also assaulted the six-story building that served as the PFLP headquarters. The building was heavily defended, but the Israelis managed to destroy the building and everyone in it, losing two of their own in the process. Naval commandos also raided a P.L.O. arms-manufacturing facility and fuel dump. In total, Israelis killed between 20 and 100 of their Philistine enemies.
The P.L.O. replaced Bashir with Zaiad Muchasi, whom Mossad killed on 11 April 1973. The bomb, placed underneath an automobile, also injured two minor Black September operatives.
At about this time, Mossad agents began surveilling Algerian-born Mohammad Boudia, who served as Black September’s Director of Operations (France). Boudia was known for wearing disguises, including cross-dressing as a woman, and for womanizing. Boudia met his end in Paris on 28 June 1973 when he activated a canister packed with explosives and metal objects Israeli agents placed under the seat of his car.
Mossad caught up with Ali Salem Ahmed and Ibrahim Abdul Aziz in Cyprus on 15 December 1979. Both men were shot to death with suppressed weapons at point-blank range. On 17 June 1982, two senior P.L.O. members were killed in Italy in separate attacks. Nazeyh Mayer, a leading figure in the P.L.O.’s Rome office, was shot to death outside his home. Kamal Husain, Mayer’s deputy, was killed by shrapnel from a bomb placed in his car, detonated as he drove home from work. On 23 July 1982, Fadl Dani, P.L.O. director in Paris, was also blown up. A year later, a P.L.O. official in Athens named Mamoun Meraish was killed in his car by two assailants riding a motorcycle.
On 10 June 1986, Khaled Ahmed Nazal, serving as Secretary General of the P.L.O.’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), was gunned down outside a hotel in Athens. Nazal received four taps to the head. In October, Munzer Abu Ghazala, a member of the Palestinian National Council, was bombed to death in Athens.
On 14 February 1988, a car bomb in Limassol, Cyprus, killed Abu Al Hassan Qasim and Hamdi Adwan. Marwan Kanafami was seriously wounded.
The Story of Ali Hassan Salameh
For years, Mossad agents searched for Ali Hassan Salameh. Israelis referred to him as the Red Prince. He was the head of “Force 17” and the Black September agent believed to be the mastermind behind the Munich massacre. P.L.O. leadership challenges Mossad’s claim. Yes, he was involved in many murders in his miserable life, but he never had anything to do with Black September.
Some scholars believe that Salameh was skilled in manipulating Mossad agents and informants. After a year of searching, a Mossad informant (perhaps intentionally) directed Israeli agents to the small town of Lillehammer, Norway, telling them that Ahmed Bouchikhi was Salameh. Two of the six agents arrested were women. Five of the six were eventually convicted of the killing (known as the Lillehammer Affair) and imprisoned. In 1975, Norwegian officials released the agents and returned them to Israel.
In January 1974, Mossad agents covertly deployed to Switzerland after receiving information that Salameh would meet P.L.O. leaders inside a church on 12th January. Two assassins entered the church at the time of the meeting and encountered three Arab men. One of these men went for his weapon; the Israelis killed all three men. The assassins continued inside the church, searching for Salameh, but he was not found. Michael Harari, the lead Israeli, decided to abort the mission. His team, however, disregarded his order and tried one more time to kill Salameh. Intelligence placed Salameh’s location at a house in Tarifa, Spain. The second attempt was aborted when an Arab security guard approached the men with an AK-47.
Mossad was compromised throughout Europe. Revelations by the agents on trial compromised safe houses, other agents, and operating methods. The international outrage about the Lillehammer Affair prompted Prime Minister Meir to suspend Operation Wrath of God. The operation was re-started under Prime Minister Menachem Begin — his order simple enough: find those on the list who are still at large.
In November 1978, Mossad began tracking Salameh once more. A Mossad agent operating under the name of Erika Chambers, traveling with a British Passport, entered Lebanon and rented an apartment on Rue Verdun — a street frequently used by Salameh. Two additional agents arrived using the names Peter Scriver and Roland Kolberg. They traveled with British and Canadian passports. Shortly after their arrival, a Volkswagen packed with explosives was parked along Rue Verdun, within view of Chambers’ rented apartment. At 15:35 on 22 January 1979, Salameh and four bodyguards drove down the street in a Chevrolet station wagon. The Volkswagen was detonated remotely from Chambers’ apartment. Everyone in the Chevrolet was killed. Finally, Salameh was dead. Unfortunately, so too were four innocent bystanders — including a British student and a German Nun. Eighteen others received severe injuries. Chambers, Scriver, and Kolberg disappeared.
The Hostage Takers
Only three of the eight P.L.O. terrorists that carried out the Munich massacre survived the botched German rescue attempt on 6 September 1972. The survivors were Jamal Al-Gashey, Adnan Al-Gashey, and Mohammed Safady. On 29 October, German officials exchanged these men for the hostages on Lufthansa Flight 615. They traveled to Libya and went into hiding.
For many years, it was thought that Mossad agents killed Adnan and Mohammed. “Not so fast,” claimed journalist Aaron Klein. He reported that Adnan died of heart failure in the 1970s, and Lebanese Christians killed Mohammed in the early 1980s. But in 2005, former P.L.O. official Tawfiq Tirawi informed Klein that Safady, his close friend, was still alive. He also reported that Jamal, who gave a press interview in 1999, now resides in Tunisia.
Justice delayed is justice denied. —Magna Carta, clause 40: “To no one will we sell — to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”
Search and Destroy
Mossad didn’t confine itself to tracking down murderers and their associates. To deter such events in the future, Mossad began a campaign of sending letter bombs to Palestinian officials all across Europe. Most injuries caused by such bombs were non-fatal.
They also engaged in psychological operations designed to mess with the minds of the enemy. They would run obituaries of still-living militants. They would write notes to certain militants giving them detailed information as a demonstration that Mossad knew all about them.
Over the years, assassinations (or attempts) have been attributed to Mossad’s post-Munich campaign of retribution — but many of these could just as quickly be the work of breakaway P.L.O. factions. In early January 1978, Said Hammami, U.K.’s P.L.O. representative, was shot and killed in London. Experts claim the murder was likely the work of either Mossad or Abu Nidal.
On 3 August 1978, Ezzedine Kalak (P.L.O. Bureau Chief, Paris) and his deputy Hamad Adnan were killed at their offices in the Arab League building. Three other members of the Arab League and P.L.O. staff were wounded. The attack was either the work of Mossad or the Abu Nidal Organization — both denied involvement.
A year later, Zuheir Mohsen, head of P.L.O. military operations, was murdered as he exited a gambling casino in Cannes, France. The assassination was blamed on Mossad, Abu Nidal, and Egypt’s state security.
On 1 June 1981, Naim Khader, P.L.O. Representative to Belgium, was shot and killed in Brussels. The P.L.O. blamed Israel. Two months later, Abu Daoud, a Black September militant commander (who openly bragged about his role in planning Munich), was shot multiple times in Warsaw while having lunch. Daoud survived the attack, blaming Israel and a P.L.O. double agent.
Recall in the Book of Genesis the story of Abraham, his wife Sarah, and their concubine Hagar (also Agar). It is one of the more disturbing stories of the Old Testament. The account tells us that Abraham and his wife failed to trust God’s word and promises. The story evolves into human slavery, sexual depravity, perfidy, and attempted murder. Murder? Yes — because it was intended to be their death sentence when Abraham and Sarah sent Hagar and her young son Ishmael out into the desert with no more than a loaf of bread and a skin of water.
Since then, Hebrews (Abraham’s main line) and Arabs (the line descended from Hagar) have deeply hated one another. We are now discussing a problem lasting 4,000 years — around 200 generations. Hatred learned, encouraged, and reinforced over so many generations produces a deep-seated conflict that simply cannot be concluded.
This is the story of the relationship (or lack of one) between Hebrews and Philistines (now Israelis and Palestinians). But modern scholars want to simplify our understanding of this complex association, so they began their explanation of the violence in Israel and Palestine in the 20th century. The past 122 years are probably “enough” time to get the big picture. This problem has existed for 4,000 years — and no one with a lick of sense believes it’s going away any time soon. Arabs hate the Jews. Europeans seem to side with the Arabs and ignore that they helped to create this mess in the modern period. As for the Jews — probably no one on the face of the earth holds Jews in more contempt than other Jews.
There is plenty of poison and no shortage of people to spread it. People who feel they have been denied justice will seek it through any means at their disposal. Arabs and Jews have been engaged in this search for a long time. Neither has found it. And neither is likely to find it. It’s complicated. It involves Arab vs. Jews, Moslems vs. Jews, and every Arab culture in the Middle East vs. the Philistines — the present-day Palestinian people, who have become the redheaded step-child of earth’s great sandbox.
Despicable behavior begets despicable behavior. This is a story of pettiness. It has nothing to do with God or His wrath.
Here endeth the lesson.
- Blumenau, B. The United Nations and Terrorism. Basingstoke, 2014.
- Calahan, A.B. The Israeli Response to the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre. Thesis, 1995.
- Cooley, J. K. Green March, Black September: The Story of Palestinian Arabs. London, 1973.
- Daoud, A. Palestine: A History of the Resistance Movement by the Sole Survivor of Black September. New York, 2002.
- Klein, A. J. Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Massacre and Israel’s Deadly Response. Random House, 2005.
 Jordan negotiated secretly with Israel despite voting at the Arab summit in August 1967: No to peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel. While Jordan would not sign an official accord with the Israelis, the two countries regularly worked together against the Philistines.
 Mossad is an organization within Israel’s national intelligence agency, along with Aman and Shin Bet (military and internal security). Mossad collects intelligence, plans, and conducts covert operations, and supervises all activities relating to counterterrorism. The director Mossad answers directly to (and only to) the Prime Minister. None of Mossad’s purposes, objectives, roles, missions, powers, or budgets have been defined in any law.
 Scholars and journalists have argued that Germany was behind the hijacking from its inception. The aircraft’s passenger capacity was 130; there were nine people on board. They say it was a scam so that Germany could get rid of the three assassins in custody from the Munich attack, reduce the risks of future attacks, and secure for themselves lucrative business opportunities in the Arab States.
 The DFLP is a PLO member organization that maintains a paramilitary terrorist construct called the National Resistance Brigade, which proudly claimed responsibility for the 1974 kidnapping of 115 Israelis and subsequent massacre by automatic weapons fire of 25 schoolchildren and a teacher.
 Force 17 was the designation of the criminals who lived at No. 17 Al-Fakhani Street in Beirut.
 Abu Nidal is a common name for the PLO Fatah (Revolutionary Council) militant group, a U.N. designated terrorist group.
A mix of complex tales of people killing each other over the past 4000 years. And the killing will probably continue for another 4000 years.
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The more things change, the more they remain the same:
killing Jews is a German pastime.
I maintain there are but 4 main things controlling human activity – Greed and Fear and Supply and Demand. When either of these goes too far out of balance, conflict and death happens.