September 19, 1972: Letter bomb sent to the Israeli embassy in London

If you go far enough back in recent-ish history one of the terrorist groups that used to get a fair bit of attention was an outfit named Black September. Named after the month in 1970 during which the Jordanian armed forces clashed with fighters from the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO – remember them?), which led to the expulsion of thousands of PLO cadre, Black September initially turned its attention to Jordanian officials, killing that country’s Prime Minister in November 1971 before targeting Israel. Black September was behind the iconic siege at the 1972 Munich Olympics where it held and eventually slaughtered 11 Israeli athletes.

A few months later, on September 19, 1972, that same group claimed responsibility for a letter bomb sent to the Israeli embassy in London that took the life of Agricultural counsellor/ attache Ami Shechori.

What I find most interesting about this attack was the reminder of the way things used to be. Forty-fifty years ago terrorism was seen almost as synonymous with Palestine. The news was filled with bombings, shootings and aircraft hijackings tied to the violent campaign to gain an independent Palestinian state – and the destruction of Israel at the same time. It was almost stereotypical.

Palestinian terrorism has not disappeared entirely: there are still mortar, missile and maybe even drone attacks launched from the Gaza Strip and the occasional knifing in the Occupied West Bank or in Israel proper. But these pale in comparison (although not to average Israelis of course) to what is transpiring in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and many other nations plagued with terrorism.

Nevertheless, I think two lessons are important here:

  • the Palestine-Israel issue is still unresolved and may always remain so, implying that more violence will likely ensue;
  • Islamist terrorist groups today regularly raise Palestine as a casus belli but rarely pay it more than lip service. Sure Iran supports Hamas and Hizballah, although the latter is not really a pro-Palestinian force, but when was the last time you saw definitive proof that either Al Qaeda or Islamic State really provided significant aid to violent Palestinian actors? Do they really care?

In the end maybe the Palestinians and the Israelis deserve each other, although a potential bright spot – how many times have hopes been dashed however? – is the possible removal of Benyamin Netanyahu from the office of the Israeli Prime Minister (has any Israeli PM done more to undermine peace, as remote as that seems most days?). As for the Palestinians it has been said that “they never miss a chance to miss a chance”: renowned Israeli diplomat Abba Eban coined that phrase way back in 1973 although he was referring to Arabs, not specifically Palestinians.

Maybe Shakespeare’s Mercutio had it right in Romeo and Juliet: “a pox on both (their) houses.”

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

Leave a Reply