The actions of both the PLO and JDL should be understood within the context of the history of the broader Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Both sides make arguments spanning back to Biblical times in attempts to justify their occupation, or right to occupy, the land. The area in conflict (Israel, Palestine, Canaan) is a patch of land that extends from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea, bounded by Egypt to the south, Lebanon to the north, and Jordan to the east. Here is an overview of the recent history:

  • 1800’s rise of Zionism – the goal of Jews in Europe to establish a “Jewish Homeland”
    • 1897 – First Zionist Congress organized by Theodore Herzl
  • World War I – Ottoman Empire joins Axis powers during the war
    • Sykes-Picot Agreement (1916) divided Middle East between French and British
    • Balfour Declaration (1917) Declaration of British support for a Jewish homeland  in Palestine
    • British Mandate (1922) Formalized British rule in the Middle East, created two states, Palestine and Transjordan.
  • 1920-1948 (British Rule) – Surge of Jewish immigration from Europe to Palestine
    • Arab revolts in the 20’s in response to immigration and the Balfour Declaration
    • Great Uprising (1936) Arabs riot in response to the killing of a Syrian preacher
    • White Paper (1939) Decree limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine
  • U.N. Control/ Independence – Britain turns mandate over to U.N. control
    • May 14,1948 – State of Israel declares independence, British withdraw
      • Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia declare war w/ Israel
      • (1949) Armistice agreements end war, give Israel control of the majority of Palestine, except for the Gaza Strip and West Bank
  • 6 Day War (1967) – Fought between Israel and the states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria
    • Sinai and the Gaza Strip were captured from Egypt
    • East Jerusalem and the West Bank were captured from Jordan
    • Golan Heights captured from Syria

The Palestine Liberation Organization

PLO Logo

Key Players


Yasser Arafat

  • Founded Fatah around 1959, reverse acronym for Palestinian National Liberation Movement
  • Nationalist organization concerned with liberating Palestine and opposing Zionism
  • Rose in prominence after Battle of Karameh
    • Fatah was only faction of fighters willing to stay and resist Israeli forces
    • Jordanian military also stepped in when Israel escalated amount of force
    • Arafat said to have been on the battle field urging his fighters to hold their ground
    • After battle, Arafat featured on Time Magazine cover, gained mass applause from Arab World
    • Major increase in funding and recruits coming to Fatah
  • Arafat advocated guerilla warfare tactics as way to resist Israeli occupation
  • Fatah joins PLO in 1967, given 33 of 105 seats in PLO Executive Committee
  • Arafat becomes Chairman in 1969
  • Was awarded Nobel Peace Prize along with Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, as a result of Oslo Accords
  • After Accords, Arafat took a huge step in publicly recognizing the State of Israel and saying it had a right to exist in “peace and security”
  • Died in 2004 at age 75 from health problems


Mahmoud Abbas

  • Succeeded Arafat after his death, Abbas is also a founding member of Fatah.
  • Took over the Chairmanship of the PLO in November of 2004
  • Abbas took over the PLO as well as the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority at time when the PLO was losing relevance and support from Palestinians.
  • Hamas was enjoying more and more support as the PLO faded more into the background, focus turned to Hamas – Fatah conflict, culminating in Hamas taking over control of Gaza

Major Events and Media Coverage

  • Black September (1970)
  • BBC focuses on UK’s involvement with Jordan during the month of September 1970, emphasizing that it could trigger the collapse of Jordan by cooperating with the guerillas’ demands.
  • The Guardian places the importance on the civil war approaching and mistrust each side has for each other.  They also mention possible Iraqi and Syrian involvement in assisting the guerillas’ revolution in Jordan.
  • Three western commercial aircraft hijacked in order to “pay special attention to the Palestinian problem”
  • Two weeks later King Hussein of Jordan uses military to remove combative Palestinian refugees from Jordan
  • Thousands die, mostly Palestinians
  • July 1971 à Ends with expulsion of PLO; thousands of Palestinians fighters go to Lebanon
  • Munich Olympics massacre (4-5 September 1972)
  • BBC Historic Story, which discusses events that happened on any given day, sequences events after.  Focuses on Mossad hunting down other 3 terrorists released.
  • NY Times uses words like “bloodbath” and “bloodshed” to describe the event.  They also provide a very descriptive picture of how the entire event went, especially the gun battle.
  • Video Source:

    Victims of Munich Massacre

  • Done by the Black September Organization; upset with the Black September conflict
  • Kidnapped and murdered 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and 1 West German police officer.
  • 5 BSO killed, 3 captured and subsequently released by West Germany after a plane hijacking
  • Oslo Accords (20 August 1993)
  • 9 September 1993 – Arafat via press release, “the PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security”
  • Washington Post centers on hope.  Depicts rabbis telling their congregations that the PLO is no longer enemy of Israel but “partners of peace”.  Emphasis also on Yasser Arafat and how he has “changed”.
  • Secretly negotiated with Israel
  • Yasser Arafat appointed head of Palestinian Authority with elections to follow

The Jewish Defense League

Key Players

Meir Kahane

Meir Kahane

  • Founded JDL in 1968, was also the founder of a political party in Israel, Kach (This is the way!) In the early 1970s
    • Kach finally gained a seat in the Knesset, Israeli parliament in 1984, which Kahane occupied
    • Kach was then banned by Israel on the grounds that it was “racist” and “undemocratic”
  • Kahane formed the JDL to protect Jews from anti-Semitism. This took the form of violently opposing Soviet anti immigration policies that were preventing Jews from leaving the Soviet Union
  • Naturally, Kahane and the JDL actively combated the efforts of the Neo Nazi movement
  • Also considered Christian attempts to convert Jews to be one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism
  • Opposed a democratic Israel because that would give equal rights to all, regardless of race and religion. Decided that Western democracy was unacceptable for Israel because it created the possibility that Arabs could infiltrate Israel, become a majority, and declare it was no longer a Jewish state
  • Assassinated after giving a speech to Orthodox Jews in which he warned them to return to Israel before it was too late. Assassin was eventually found to have ties to Al-Qaeda.


Irving Rubin

  • Rubin succeeded Kahane as the main leader of the JDL
  • Put on trial for soliciting the murder of members of the American Nazi party, but was acquitted in 1981
  • After murder of Alex Odeh, Rubin said Odeh “got what he deserved”
  • Most members of the Jewish community in America regarded Rubin, and to some extent the entire JDL to be radical and extremist
  • Rubin committed suicide in 2002 while awaiting trial for charges that he was involved in a conspiracy to bomb the office of a US Congressman. Reportedly cut his throat with a prison issued safety razor and jumped off a twenty foot balcony. Rubin died days later in a hospital as a result of his injuries.

Major Events and Media Coverage

Murder of Alex Odeh (11 October 1985)

  • Office bombed in southern California
  • Regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
  • Weeks prior, he had been on national television where he engaged in tense dialogue with a member of the JDL
  • LA Times had a quote from Irv Rubin, who was involved with the attempted bombing of Darrell Issa, saying he “wouldn’t lose sleep” over the death of the leader of an “anti-Israel” committee.

Cave of Patriarchs massacre (25 February 1994)

Cave of Patriarchs

  • Jerusalem Post had a few articles about how Goldstein was an unlikely character for the shooting but showed signs a little before the event took place.  American Zionist Movement called Goldstein’s acts “a violation of Jewish teaching and Zionist tradition,” and “as shocking as the killing of innocent Jews by Arab zealots.”
  • President of Israel at the time, Ezer Weizman, focuses on condemning the acts of Goldstein and preparing to work hard to mend the wounds caused by this massacre.
  • Baruch Goldstein opened fire inside a mosque in the West Bank.
  • Between 39 and 52 killed with more than a hundred wounded.
  • Israeli Prime Minister condemns attack, while JDL website acknowledges that Goldstein was a charter member of the JDL.

Planned Congressman assassination

  • LA Times article has statements from both the prosecution and defense lawyers, both using 9/11 as a basis for their arguments.
  • Rubin and member Earl Krugel planned to bomb the office of Arab-American congressman Darrell Issa
  • Turned over by their hired bomber turned informant to the FBI
  • Rubin committed suicide before trial and was implicated in plot by Krugel; both were charged on 12 December 2001

Latest Developments

—  PLO

  • —  Loss of faith in PLO from Palestinians
  • —  Hamas currently in the forefront
  • —  Infighting continues between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
  • —  Abbas having difficulty maintaining previous Arafat control
  • —  Elections scheduled for January but postponed due to Hamas’ opposition


  • —  All of main leadership is now dead
  • —  No longer actively participating in terrorist actions since