December 09, 2005


Apropos of Steven Spielberg's upcoming movie on the Munich massacre in 1972, a Time reporter apparently has a new book out arguing that the Israeli reprisals ordered by Golda Meir were completely ineffective (this is Wikipedia's summary):
Aaron J. Klein (who based his book in large part on rare interviews with key Mossad officers involved in the reprisal missions) contends that the Mossad got only one man directly connected to the massacre. The man, Atef Bseiso, was shot in Paris as late as 1992. Klein goes on to say that the intelligence on Zwaiter, the first Palestinian to die, was "uncorroborated and improperly cross-referenced. Looking back, his assassination was a mistake." He elaborates, stating that the real planners and executors of Munich had gone into hiding along with bodyguards in East-bloc and Arab countries, where the Israelis couldn't reach them.

Meanwhile, it was lesser Palestinian activists that happned to be wandering around Western Europe unprotected that were killed. "Israeli security officials claimed these dead men were responsible for Munich; P.L.O. pronouncements made them out to be important figures; and so the image of the Mossad as capable of delivering death at will grew and grew." The operation functioned not just to punish the perpetrators of Munich but also to disrupt and deter future terrorist acts, writes Klein. "For the second goal, one dead P.L.O. operative was as good as another." Klein quotes a senior intelligence source: "Our blood was boiling. When there was information implicating someone, we didn't inspect it with a magnifying glass."
Huh, the real perpetrators go untouched, lesser figures are rounded up and killed instead, and no one bothers inspecting key intelligence with "a magnifying glass." We could draw parallels but it seems much too tricky. It's not clear if Spielberg uses Klein's book for his movie—surely it changes the movie if we know that, in the end, the assassins are just knocking off a bunch of lesser activists, no?

MORE: Also, read this fantastic post at Arms and Influence.
-- Brad Plumer 1:30 PM || ||