President Yasser Arafat’s newly appointed Palestinian Authority prime minister does not have the pristine past touted by his supporters, charges an Israeli civil rights group.
Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, provided financing for the terrorist attack that killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany, says Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of the Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center.
In a letter to President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Darshan-Leitner called for an investigation into Abu Mazen’s role in the Sept. 5, 1972, attack, carried out by Arafat’s central Palestinian Liberation Organization faction Fatah.
The terrorist group, operating under the name “Black September,” sent a squad of armed Palestinians to attack dormitories housing the Israeli Olympic team. The gunmen murdered a coach and a member of the weightlifting team, then took nine other Israelis hostage. The Palestinians demanded they be transported to the Munich airport where a rescue attempt by German police failed, and all nine hostages were murdered.
Last week, President Bush praised Abu Mazen as “a man dedicated to peace,” indicating he would invite him to the White House for talks after his cabinet was installed. The Palestinian parliament meets today to confirm the new prime minister as head of a cabinet created under international pressure to curb Arafat’s powers as president.
Shurat Hadin claims it has contacts within the Palestinian Authority itself who point out the hypocrisy of Abu Mazen’s insistence he has never been involved in terrorism.
The Israeli group also notes the mastermind of the Munich attack, Mohammed Daoud Oudeh, or Abu Daoud, claims Abu Mazen provided the funds to carry out the Black September attack.
Member of Black September in 1972 Munich Olympics attack
Daoud made that charge in his 1999 French language memoir, “Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich,” and again in an interview last August with Don Yaeger of Sports Illustrated magazine.
Abu Daoud said he was angered by the dozens of Palestinian terrorists allowed to return to the Palestinian territories as a result of the Oslo process while he remained persona non grata to Israel and the United States. Abu Mazen, Daoud complained, is now considered “respectable” even though he also was involved in the Munich attack.
Abu Mazen, part of the Palestinian hierarchy for nearly four decades, has served as PLO executive committee chairman.
In his book Abu Daoud states:
“After Oslo in 1993, Abu Mazen went to the White House Rose Garden for a photo op with Arafat, President Bill Clinton and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.
“Do you think that … would have been possible if the Israelis had known that Abu Mazen was the financier of our operation? I doubt it.”
In the Sports Illustrated interview, he added: “Today, the Bush Administration seeks a Palestinian negotiating partner ‘uncompromised by terror,’ yet last year Abu Mazen met in Washington with Secretary of State Colin Powell.”
Daoud also was interviewed about the Munich massacre for a film called “One Day in September,” produced by John Battsek and Arthur Cohn for Sony Pictures Classics. Director Kevin Macdonald said Abu Daoud admitted Black September was merely the cover name adopted by Fatah members when they wanted to carry out terrorist attacks.
The PLO operative recalled how Arafat and Abu Mazen both wished him luck and kissed him when he set about organizing the Munich attack.
The Shurat Hadin letter to President Bush said:
“Under your leadership the United States has declared that it will no longer conduct diplomacy with those tainted by terrorist pasts. It appears that the new Palestinian leader to which the United States and Israel are now pinning all their hopes, was also involved in murderous attacks perpetrated by the PLO’s Black September. Abu Mazen’s alleged role in the brutal killing of the Israeli athletes and American citizen David Berger must also preclude his involvement in the negotiations between Israel and their Arab neighbors.”
Abu Mazen also has been criticized for a 1983 book in which he suggested the figure of 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust was “peddled” by the Jews. In “The Other Side: The Secret Relationship between Nazism and the Zionist Movement,” he said the Zionists collaborated with the Nazis to murder Jews in a plot to gain sympathy for creation of the state of Israel.
Nevertheless, as one of the PLO architects of the Oslo Accords, Abu Mazen is regarded by Europe and the United States as the best hope to lead the Palestinians to renewed negotiations, known as the “road map” to peace.
His supporters also point to statements he has made against the Palestinian armed struggle, or Intifada, as evidence of his moderate credentials. However, analysts, such as the Middle East Media Research Institute contend his position has been primarily pragmatic, based on strategic reasons.
Steve K. Walz is an American journalist who moved to Israel from New York just prior to Sept. 11, 2001. He is currently a member of the Foreign Press Association and hosts a weekly newsmagazine program in English on Israeli radio.