Black September - How September turned black

The term “Black September” went on to ever-more sinister depths, when the PFLP-coined month of terror mutated into a movement whose members murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

SCOUTS GUARD torches above the names of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich by terrorists from the Black September movement, at the memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: YA’ACOV SA’AR/GPO)
SCOUTS GUARD torches above the names of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich by terrorists from the Black September movement, at the memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: YA’ACOV SA’AR/GPO)
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964 to eliminate Israel through armed struggle. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), established by George Habash in 1967, is a key component group in the PLO, second only to Fatah.
The PFLP, which does not recognize the State of Israel and opposes negotiations with it, has been designated a terrorist organization by countries such as the US, EU, Canada, Australia and Japan, but receives millions of dollars from Iran and Palestinian NGOs.
It first became notorious in the 1960s and 1970s for a long series of terrorist attacks causing multiple civilian casualties in buses, supermarkets, airports, airplanes (hijackings) and more.
In September 1970, the PFLP hijacked four passenger planes (Pan Am, TWA, BOAC and Swissair) and forced them to land – three in Dawson’s Field in Jordan and one in Cairo, as the pilot convinced the hijackers that it was too large to land where they preferred. (Their attempt to simultaneously hijack an El Al plane was thwarted by the pilot, who put the plane into a steep nosedive that threw the two terrorists off-balance. One died in the subsequent struggle; the other was captured and the plane landed safely in London.)
Most of the 310 passengers in Jordan were released by their PFLP captors relatively swiftly, but the 56 passengers thought to be Jewish were segregated and held hostage.
With some tacit assistance from Israel, Jordan’s King Hussein launched military action against the PFLP hijackers in what became known as the Black September conflict. Ultimately, the terrorists’ demands were not met, the hostages were freed and the hijackers were killed or captured. The only PFLP terrorist from that period whose name is known at all by westerners today is Leila Khaled, who was freed in a prisoner swap and became a lecturer and something of a minor celebrated figure in some anti-Israel circles. Today she lives with her husband and children in Jordan.
Within months after the Dawson’s field incident, Hussein drove the PLO from Jordan, and that organization established strongholds in Lebanon, destabilizing that country. Airport security became a high-priority and high-profile issue and numerous changes were instituted by airports worldwide to help prevent future hijackings.
Air travel was never the same again.
The term “Black September” went on to ever-more sinister depths, when the PFLP-coined month of terror mutated into a movement whose members murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.