The Arab population began to lose faith in their governments to defeat the state of Israel after numerous wars in which the Arab forces had been defeated by the Israelis, most notably in the Six Day War. From 1959 onwards the Palestinian population realised that they could not rely fully on the Arab states to destroy the state of Israel, and so many different Palestinian organisations began to appear and take more of an active role in the campaign to defeat Israel.
One organisation in particular, Fatah, was led by Yasser Arafat and became prominent in Kuwait. In the 1960’s and onwards Fatah fought for liberation of the Palestinians. In 1964 the Arab governments started an organisation called the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, or the PLO. The Arab governments ran the PLO, with President Nasser of Egypt and his government taking a leading role. It was created due to the demand and hope of the Palestinian people that the neighbouring Arab countries would destroy Israel.
Its goal was ‘the liberation of Palestine through armed struggle’. After the humiliating defeat in the Six Day War for the Arabs in 1967, the PLO became the ‘voice of the Palestinians’, and successes such as the defence of a village called Karama by Fatah and Jordanian forces against Israel helped to gain support and saw levels of recruitment increase rapidly. In 1969 Fatah’s leadership, led by Yasser Arafat, became more prominent in the running of the PLO and Yasser Arafat was elected as chairman of the PLO in 1969.
The PLO became an umbrella organisation, where multiple organisations existed under the PLO name, such as Fatah, Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP). This meant that the PLO now represented the Palestinian people and their views, instead of a joint organisation run by other Arab governments. The PLO used terrorism and guerrilla fighting to keep themselves in the public eye around the world. It meant publicity for the Palestinian cause, and was supported by many of the splinter cell organisations inside the PLO.
For instance, George Habash, the leader of the PFLP, said ‘We believe that killing a Jew far away from the battlefield has more effect than killing a hundred of them in battle, it attracts more attention. ‘ This type of view shows that terrorism was seen by the PLO as the best way of publicising themselves, as well as attempting to defeat the state of Israel. At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Black September, a group in the PLO, held 11 Israeli athletes hostage, eventually leading to the death of the 11 hostages. ‘Black September’ was named after the event in which the PLO were forced out of Jordan by King Hussein.
The terrorists were killed at the airport in Munich by German police forces in a gun battle, but the mission was a huge success for the PLO anyway, due to the huge amounts of publicity that had been gained. This publicity was due to the attack taking place at such a high-profile event, but also because it contrasted with the peaceful meaning behind the Olympic Games, that countries can unite as one. In 1972 Japanese supporters of the PFLP killed 26 Israeli civilians at Lod airport in Israel. This shows that the support for the PLO was widespread, and stretched across the whole world.
In 1976, the PFLP hijacked a French plane full of Israeli passengers. The hijackers flew it to Entebbe in Uganda, but the Israeli armed forces flew over 2000 miles to kill the Palestinian terrorists and free the 100 Jewish civilians who were being held captive. This sort of story meant that hijackings became less common due to terrorists being fearful of the Israeli authorities. These terrorist actions attracted huge media attention and publicity, and as a result of terrorism the PLO had managed to bring their cause, the liberation of Palestinian people, to be noticed by the world.
The general public in countries such as Britain and America were following these events, but didn’t really have a good knowledge of the background story that was causing the violence. Therefore, many reporters went to the Middle East and saw the terrible conditions that the 1,000,000 plus Palestinian refugees were living in. The refugees had fled Israel in 1948-49, and these reports gained a lot of sympathy for the PLO and the Palestinians from the rest of the world.
In 1974, Yasser Arafat was invited to speak to the UN, and this strengthened his standing in the political hierarchy as the undoubted leader of Palestine. This invitation to talk to the UN was part of the UN plan to try and resole the problems between Israel and Palestinians. However, although there were advantages of terrorism, it had a negative effect on the worldwide opinion of the Palestinian cause. Also, the PLO was seen as ruthless and brutal for their terrorist activities, and this reduced the sympathy for the Palestinian people.
The PLO were forced out of Jordan in 1971, as I said earlier, after disagreeing with the King of Jordan, King Hussein. King Hussein didn’t like the methods that the PLO were using, and thought that the PLO had become too powerful and so fighting broke out between the PLO and Jordanians where 10,000 Palestinians were killed. By using terrorism while being based in Jordan, the PLO lost both the support of a powerful ally and also a ‘base’ that was situated perfectly for the needs of the PLO. This was a huge setback for the PLO.
Israel refused to negotiate with the PLO whilst the PLO were still using terrorism, and so this meant that terrorism was achieving opposite to what it was meant to- it was actually postponing talks with Israel. In conclusion the PLO did achieve publicity and recognition by using terrorism, and allowed the Palestinians a place in world politics through the UN. However, terrorism also created a negative view of the PLO, and some countries that had supported the PLO before the terrorism were shocked and disappointed by the actions of the PLO. The goal of the PLO to have an independent Palestinian State was not achieved by using terrorism.