Twelve Major Tactics of Modern Terrorism

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Here, in chronological order, is a list of twelve major tactics of modern terrorism and the dates of their first introduction into the conflict over Palestine by members of the Irgun or Stern gang, and in one case by the Hagana, which was the military organization of the Jewish Agency. Four of the twelve incidents, it should be noted, took place outside the borders of Palestine and are thus also early instances of international terrorism:

1- Grenade in cafes: first used against Palestinians in Jerusalem, 17 March 1937 (Colonial 146, HM Stationary Office, London, 1938);

2- Delayed-action, electrically timed mines in crowded market places: first used against Palestinians in Haifa, 6 July 1938 (Sefer Toldot Ha Haganah, Tel Aviv: Zionist Library and Marakot, 1954-1972: “This tactic was the fruit of the planning of a number of young ETZEL [i.e., Irgun] leaders” (Chapt. 43, p. 812);

3- Blowing up a ship with its civilian passengers still on board: first used in Haifa, 25 November 1940. Although the action was politically aimed at the British, the ship in question, the Patria, had 1700 Jewish immigrants on board (the incident caused the death of 252 Jewish illegal immigrants and British police personnel, according to “A Survey of Palestine, Jerusalem: Government Printer, 1946), vol. I, p. 61; see also Munya M. Mardor, Strictly Illegal (London, 1957, pp. 56ff).

4- Assassination of a government official outside Palestine for a reason related to the Palestinian-Zionist conflict: first used against the British in Cairo, 6 November 1944 (Lord Walter Moyne, British Resident Minister in the Middle East. For PM Yitzhak Shamir’s direct involvement in Moyne’s assassination and for his general “philosophy” of assassination, see Nicholas Bethel, The Palestine Triangle (London: Andre Deutsch, 1979), p. 187 and pp. 277ff; and Dan Kurzman, Genesis 1948 (london: Valentine, Mitchell and Co. 1972), pp. 555ff.

5- Taking of hostages to put pressure on a government: first used against the British in Tel Aviv, 18 June 1946 (see R.D. Wilson, Cordon and Search (Aldershot: Gale and Polden, 1949), p. 55. Wilson, the official historian of the Sixth Airborne Division in Palestine, describes the incident as “a new development in lawlessness”. The individuals kidnapped were five British officers. See also Supplementary Memorandum by the Government of Palestine (Jerusalem: Government Printer, 1947), p. 12;

6- Blowing up of government offices with their civilian employees and visitors: first used against the British in Jerusalem, 22 July 1946. The toll was 91 dead and 46 wounded. This is the notorious King David Hotel incident. The mastermind behind the attack was Menachem Begin, the late PM of Israel. The event is described in detail in Thurston Clarke’s By Blood and Fire (London: Hutchinson, 1981). In the blurb of the book, Dominique Lapierre describes the event as “the first massive terrorist political action of modern history”. See also R.D. Wilson, op. cit., pp. 63ff;

7- Blowing up of embassy outside Palestine with a booby-trapped suitcase: first used against the British Embassy in Rome, 31 October 1946. See Nicholas Bethel, The Palestine Triangle (London: Andre Deutsch, 1979), p. 289;

8- Booby-trapped car parked alongside buildings: first used against the British in Sarafand (east of Jaffa) on 5 December 1946. This was probably the first use anywhere of this device. On this occasion, two were killed and 28 injured. R.D. Wilson, Cordon and Search (Aldershot: Gale and Polden, 1949), p. 259;

9- Whipping of hostages as a reprisal for government actions: first used against British in Tel Aviv, Natanya and Rishon-le-Zion, 29 December 1946. The victims were a British army major and three British non-commissioned officers. Supplementary Memorandum by the Government of Palestine (Jerusalem: Government Printer, 1947), p. 24, see R.D. Wilson, Cordon and Search (Aldershot: Gale and Polden, 1949), p. 87; see also Nicholas Bethel, The Palestine Triangle (London: Andre Deutsch, 1979), p. 291;

10- Letter-bombs sent to politicians outside Palestine: first used against Britain when 20 letter bombs were sent from Italy to London between 4 June and 6 June 1947. The first batch of 8 letter-bombs arrived in London on 4 June 1947. One letter was addressed to Sir Stafford Crips, Minister at the Board of trade, and another to Mr. John Strachey, Minister of Food. All were intercepted by Scotland Yard, whose investigations indicated that this was “another attempt by Jewish terrorists to intimadate responsible people in this country” (The Times, 5 June 1947, p. 4). Three more letter bombs were intercepted on 5 June. One of these was addressed to Mr. Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary, another to Mr. Anthony Eden, former Foreign Secretary, and the third to Mr. Arthur Greenwood, Minister Without Portfolio (The Times, 6 June 1947, p. 4). On 6 June, nine more letters were intercepted. The content of each were said to be capable of “making a hole in a steel plate (The Times, 7 June 1947). On 9 June, two Zionists were arrested by the Belgian police trying to smuggle 6 letter-bombs addressed to prominent people in Britain (The Times, 10 June 1947). The man who made these bombs was Yaacov Eliav, who was the bomb expert of the Stern Gang, as he himself acknowledged to the Sunday Times of London (24 September 1972);

11- Murder of hostages as a reprisal for government actions: first used against the British in the Natanya area on 29 July 1947. The victims were two British NCOs, Martin and Paice, kidnapped on 12 July 1947. On 31 July, there were found “hanging from a eucalyptus tree…The area for some distance round was mined and as one of the bodies was cut down, it exploded, having been booby-trapped. In this explosion, a British officer was severely wounded”. R.D. Wilson, Cordon and Search (Aldershot: Gale and Polden, 1949), p. 132. Menachem Begin gave the order to hang the two NCOs. For his defense of his action, see Nicholas Bethel, The Palestine Triangle (London: Andre Deutsch, 1979), p. 338.

12- Postal parcel-bomb sent outside Palestine: first used against the British in London, 3 September 1947. The bomb was addressed to a Brigadier in Intelligence at the War Office, according to the Sunday Times of London (24 September 1972). It exploded in a London district post office at Howick Place, Victoria Street, injuring two postmen (The Times, 4 September 1947, p. 6. For several months there had been persisent reports from field intelligence that the Irgun or Stern were planning a bombing campaign in Britain. See Nicholas Bethel, The Palestine Triangle (London: Andre Deutsch, 1979), p. 348; Sunday Times, 24 September 1972.

See also: Walid Khalidi, Palestine Reborn, London: IB Tauris, 1992, Chapter 5.

The author is a Dutch-Palestinian political scientist, human rights activist and is affiliated to the the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (Al-Awda).

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