Palestine: Part 15 – Black September
War of Attrition
Following the 1967 Six-Day War, no serious diplomatic efforts were made to try to resolve the issues at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In September 1967, Arab states formulated the “Three No’s” policy, barring peace, recognition or negotiations with Israel. Egyptian President Nasser believed that only military initiative would compel Israel or the international community to facilitate a full Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, and hostilities soon resumed along the Suez Canal.
Initially, these hostilities took the form of limited artillery duels and small-scale incursions into Sinai, but by 1969 the Egyptian Army judged itself prepared for larger-scale operations. On March 8, 1969, Nasser proclaimed the official launch of the War of Attrition, characterized by large-scale shelling along the Suez Canal, extensive aerial warfare and commando raids. Hostilities continued until August 1970 and ended with a ceasefire, the frontiers remaining the same as when the war began, with no real commitment to serious peace negotiations.
Palestinians in Jordan
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in late 1947 led to civil war, the end of Mandatory Palestine, and the Israeli Declaration of Independence on 14 May 1948. With nationhood, the ongoing civil war was transformed into a state conflict between Israel and the Arab states. Egypt, Jordan and Syria, together with expeditionary forces from Iraq, invaded Palestine. They took control of the Arab areas, and immediately attacked Israeli forces and several Jewish settlements. The fighting was halted with the UN-mediated 1949 Armistice Agreements, but the remaining Palestinian territories came under the control of Egypt and Transjordan. In 1949, Transjordan officially changed its name to Jordan. In 1950, it annexed the West Bank of the Jordan River, and brought Palestinian representation into the government.
Only one-third of the population consisted of native Jordanians, which meant that Jordanians had become a ruling minority over a Palestinian majority. This proved to be a mercurial element in internal Jordanian politics, and played a critical role in political opposition. The West Bank had become the center of the national and territorial aspects of the Palestinian problem, which was the key issue of Jordan’s domestic and foreign policy. According to King Hussein, the Palestinian problem spelled “life or death” for Jordan, and would remain the country’s overriding national security issue.
King Hussein feared an independent West Bank under PLO administration would threaten the autonomy of his Hashemite kingdom. The Palestinian factions were supported variously by many Arab regimes, most notably Egypt, who gave political support; and Saudi Arabia, who gave financial support.
The Palestinian nationalist organization Fatah started organizing attacks against Israel in January 1965, and Israel was subject to repeated cross-border attacks by Palestinian fedayeen; these often drew reprisals. The Samu Incident was one such reprisal. Jordan had long maintained secret contacts with Israel concerning peace and security along their border. However, due to internal splits within the Jordanian government and population, many of King Hussein’s orders to stop these raids were not obeyed, and some Jordanian commanders along the Israeli-Jordanian border were lending passive assistance to the Palestinian raids.
Otherwise known as the Jordanian Civil War began in September 1970 and ended in July of 1971. The conflict was fought between the two major components of the Jordanian population, the Palestinians represented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) under the leadership of Yasser Arafat and the native Jordanians represented by the Jordanian Armed Forces under the leadership of King Hussein.
At its core the civil war sought to determine if Jordan would be ruled by the Palestine Liberation Organisation or the Hashemite Monarchy. The war resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, the vast majority Palestinian. The armed conflict ended with the expulsion of the PLO leadership and thousands of Palestinian fighters to Lebanon.
Black September Group
The group Black September was established by Fatah members in 1971 to serve as a terrorist organization for revenge operations and international strikes after the September events. On November 28, 1971, in Cairo, four of its members assassinated Wasfi al-Tal, the Prime Minister of Jordan. The group would go on to perform other strikes against Jordan, and against Israeli and Western citizens and property outside of the Middle East.
Palestine: Part 16 – The 1972 Munich Massacre