Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A History of Black September and Palestinian Paramilitary groups

The Film Archive has posted up another excellent documentary from the 1970's this time detailing the history of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, its foundation its structure its aims (if it has any) and its relations with other Palestinian liberation groups. Despite the emotive issue being discussed and the graphic nature of some of the imagery the reporter keeps a cool head and does his best to investigate the flesh and bones of the group and the issue that it spawned.

It starts off discussing the 1970 plane hijackings by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Dawson's field Jordan and how that act despite being bloodless proved to be one challenge to many to the Jordanian Monarchy. In response Martial law was declared and bloody campaign against not just the PFLP but all Palestinians living in Jordan gave rise to an even more radicalised group of Palestinians which eventually coalesced into Black September.

Then of course it recaps all the attacks which Black September claimed responsibility for including the infamous Munich Olympics siege in 1974 and its bloody aftermath. What I found very interesting is rather then just stick with visceral scenes of blood and explosions the program expands the topic. At the 11 minute mark It asks Palestinians themselves what they think groups like Black September mean to them and what they will accomplish, and he gets a varied and interesting response.

One of the scholars interviewed makes the point that the reason why terrorism is perceived as an attractive option for Palestinians is that back when Palestine was still a British mandate Jewish liberation groups such as the "Lehi" or Stern gang and developed terrorist tactics and too great effect. What does the reporter do when he hears this? instead of dismissing it like I think many reporters would do today, he investigates it gets in touch with former members of the Jewish terrorist groups and at 13 minutes in asks them questions. At first I assumed the interview would be the usual journalist asks questions that imply hypocrisy and the interviewee gets emotional and believes its different when "they" do it. But no the first speaker a former Leader of Stern fully admits what he did was terrorism, that the nature of the conflict between Palestine and Israel is the same as the one he fought against the British, and that yes Palestinian terrorist groups lead at least a few of there tactics from copying earlier Jewish terror groups. He also says that Golda Meier at the time Israel's Prime Minister is wrong in her assertions that there is no such thing as a Palestinian, because the British said the same thing about the Israeli's when the issue of the Palestinian mandate was debated. He is however very keen to stress that he doesn't approve of terrorism against civilians, but we should ask why was he part of a group that among other things blew up hotels and train stations. The second Israeli talked sadly is very much in the typical "it isn't comparable, we were right they are wrong" mould.

It then wraps up describing the then current rocky situation in neighbouring Lebanon where many Palestinians found sanctuary after being expelled from Jordan. All in all this 20 minute documentary is a high watermark in journalism and is a fascinating insight into a turbulent chapter in this sadly ongoing struggle between two entrenched peoples.

The above is a wanted poster given out by British police in the 1940's for Jewish terrorists guilty of murder.

Video Download Link.

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