Britain’s Civil Wars: Counter-Insurgency in the 20th Century 
by Charles Townshend.
Faber, 220 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 0 571 13802 0
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Terrorism and the Liberal State 
by Paul Wilkinson.
Macmillan, 322 pp., £25, May 1986, 0 333 39490 9
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Terrorism: How the West can win 
edited by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Weidenfeld, 254 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 79025 0
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Political Murder: From Tyrannicide to Terrorism 
by Franklin Ford.
Harvard, 440 pp., £24.95, November 1985, 0 674 68635 7
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The Financing of Terror 
by James Adams.
New English Library, 294 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 0 450 06086 1
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They dare to speak out: People and institutions confront Israel’s lobby 
by Paul Findley.
Lawrence Hill (Connecticut), 362 pp., $16.95, May 1985, 0 88208 179 9
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American foreign policy since 1945 has often been a force for good. Much of ‘the free world’ has felt the need of US protection, and some of it has been grateful. In recent times, however, many people have come to regard the United States as a power as dangerous as any other. In reaction to the quietism of the Carter era, American foreign policy has become ultra-activist in both word and deed. This has gone down well with the voters. American public opinion was intensely proud of the successful invasion of the tiny island of Grenada. There was similar exaltation when the resources of the Sixth Fleet proved capable of forcing down an unarmed Egyptian airliner. And after some of Colonel Gaddafi’s military installations were bombed, together with five embassies and the killing of 39 civilians, there was almost universal jubilation. There is a dangerous process whereby the Administration stirs up American public opinion, and public opinion in turn spurs on the Administration to further military adventures. US foreign policy usually needs a target, and American public opinion a crusade. With the USSR, Reagan’s ‘evil empire’, too powerful to take on directly, Gaddafi has succeeded Stalin, Mao, Nasser, Castro and Ho Chi Minh as the current hate figure. Terrorism is now the vogue evil, and anti-terrorism the fashionable crusade, and few stop to consider the wisdom of the course the US is pursuing.

In this country sensible discussion of terrorism is still possible. Charles Townshend, Paul Wilkinson and James Adams are immune to the hysteria that has afflicted Reagan’s America. Performing a miracle of compression, Mr Townshend tells the story of British ‘counter-insurgency’ in Ireland, the Middle East, India, Malaya, South Africa and Kenya. The author of the masterly Political Violence in Ireland knows all there is to know about the subject in Ireland, and he is equally well-informed about other countries. The British constitution, he points out, does not recognise insurgency. Britain has had no legal ‘third way’ between peace and war. Hence the tendency has been to treat insurgency as a temporary aberration, and not the result of a breakdown in normality demanding special legal measures. This reluctance to resort to martial law, added to the doctrine of minimum force and to the English preference for inaction, led to muddle and confusion but also, as a rule, to a relatively low level of repression. In 19th-century Ireland, ‘the sense of general resistance to British law’, Mr Townshend writes, often coalesced ‘into a sort of “rival government” ’, which defended security of tenure by violence and intimidation. A tenant who took over a farm from which the previous tenant had been evicted was violently punished. The groups who carried out the violence would now be called terrorists, but these ‘enforcers of the “unwritten law” were representatives, or in some sense agents, of the community’. And it was, Mr Townshend suggests, ‘the imposition of British law in Ireland which actually provoked disorder’.

Consistency may be an overrated virtue, but it is a pleasure to find ‘Bomber’ Harris, advocate of the mass bombing of German cities as the way to win the war, thinking during the Palestinian Arab revolt in 1936 that ‘one 250 lb or 500 lb bomb in each village that speaks out of turn’ would satisfactorily solve the problem. Montgomery, too, was consistent in his ideas. In 1938 he disagreed with the view of his military superiors and the Palestine Government that the Arab rebellion was a national campaign: the rebels were merely ‘professional bandits’ who would be crushed by heavy military pressure. Similarly, in 1947, Montgomery demanded all-out war against the Jewish terrorists and thought the population would co-operate in putting an end to terrorism. He was wrong both times. Mr Townshend’s accounts and judgments of all the counter-insurgencies are so clear, well-balanced and informative that the only possible cavil is his omission of the British response to EOKA in Cyprus. Perhaps that is the result of the 30-year rule, and it may be that Cyprus will be the subject of a separate study.

Of the cases discussed by him, only in Malaya and Kenya have competing nationalisms or religions not led to subsequent terrorist violence. But Cyprus and Palestine are the only exceptions allowed by Professor Wilkinson to the general rule that terrorism does not work. The new edition of Terrorism and the Liberal State is welcome and timely; it is by far the best general survey of the subject. Like Townshend, Paul Wilkinson is cool and objective. He takes a firm line against terrorism, which he defines as ‘the systematic use of murder and destruction, and the threat of murder and destruction, in order to terrorise individuals, groups, communities or governments into conceding to the terrorists’ political demands’. Terrorism is a crime against humanity. But in dealing with it there should, he believes, be a ‘two-front’ strategy. The fight against violence should be combined with a responsiveness to pressures for reform and a readiness to remove injustices. Terrorists’ ideology may be anything from neo-fascism and racism to neo-Marxism and anarchism, yet in confronting them liberal democracies must remain true to themselves and not adopt the methods of their opponents. Indiscriminate repression or retaliation ‘is totally incompatible with the liberal values of humanity, liberty and justice’.

Mr Wilkinson believes that much more can be done to combat terrorism, and he outlines some practical steps for governments to take: more international consultations and collaboration, a review of the Vienna Convention and improved procedures of extradition; the abandonment by governments of double standards in defining terrorists; the rectification of injustices. Over-reaction by governments, which is, after all, one of the aims of the terrorists themselves, is, he suggests, almost as bad as acquiescence, and he is scathing about what he calls ‘the bomb-first-and-think-afterwards school’. He notes that governments, too, may be guilty of terrorism.

There are contributors to Terrorism: How the West can win who are able to match the sanity of Wilkinson and Townshend. Edwin Meese III sees the danger of over-reaction, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan stresses the importance of governments observing the law – ‘lest terrorists win by inducing a kind of bunker terrorism’. John O’Sullivan emphasises the need to deny them publicity. In the best piece in the book Leszek Kolakowski discusses legitimacy and terrorism, pointing out that the armed struggle of the underground partisans against the Nazi occupation was perfectly legitimate because the rule of the invader had no legitimacy – he refrains from drawing the obvious corollaries today – while, in the next best, the FBI’s Director, William Webster, gives a clear factual account of his organisation’s activities in this field. The rest of the book, which is edited and partly written by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Ambassador to the UN and the brother of the hero of Entebbe, is, however, very different. Apart from the editor’s obtrusive commentaries, this consists of lectures given at the Jonathan Institute in Washington by George Shultz, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Arthur Goldberg, Moshe Arens, Eugene Rostow, Paul Johnson, Senator Cranston and many others with similar views. The blurb describes the book as a polemic, which it is, and ‘a comprehensive reasoned analysis’, which it is not. The thesis is that terrorism is an anti-Western phenomenon and the battle against it part of the struggle ‘between the forces of civilisation and the forces of barbarism’. ‘The two main antagonists of democracy in the post-war world,’ Mr Netanyahu tells us, are ‘Communist totalitarianism and Islamic radicalism’, and between them they have ‘inspired virtually all of contemporary terrorism’. That will be news to the people of Northern Ireland, who will be keen to know whether the IRA are totalitarian Communists or radical Muslims. According to Mr Netanyahu, terrorism does not stem from social misery and frustration. There are no ‘root causes’ of terrorism other than ‘the political ambitions and designs of expansionist states and the groups that serve them’. ‘One man’s terrorist’ is emphatically not ‘another man’s freedom fighter’. Terrorism, moreover, when successful, has ‘always ended in totalitarianism’. That should interest the Israelis and the Cypriots, who pride themselves on their democracy. Terrorism, Mr Netanyahu goes on, is ‘uniquely pervasive in the Middle East’, because of Islamic fundamentalism and Arab nationalism. It does not in any way result from the West’s or anybody else’s treatment of the Arabs. ‘The root cause of terrorism lies not in grievances but in a disposition towards unbridled violence,’ which in turn is caused by the belief that ‘certain ideological and religious goals justify, indeed demand, the shedding of all moral inhibitions.’ After all this, it is no surprise to learn that ‘the West will not be able to stem the tide of international terrorism without facing squarely this alliance in terror’ between the Communists and Muslims. In short, the West must line up behind Israel and against the Palestinians.

The thesis of Terrorism: How the West can win (hereinafter known as ‘Netanyahu’) thus depends on the truth of these propositions: 1. Arab terrorism is quite unprovoked and springs from a mere propensity to violence. 2. Islam is a uniquely violent religion with an especially violent history which uniquely inspires terrorism and assassination. 3. There is very little terrorism in the world that is not either Communist- or Islamically-inspired or both. 4. The West is innocent of terrorism.

One difficulty in the path of showing that terrorism is an anti-Western Communist-Muslim activity, and that there is no reason for Muslim violence, is the history of Palestine. That obstacle is triumphantly surmounted. Although, with the loss of India, as Mr Townshend points out, Palestine was no longer strategically important to Britain, it was Zionist terrorism which persuaded us to give up the Mandate. Even more important for Israel was Zionist terrorism against the Arabs and the expulsion of most of the Palestinian population of pre-1967 Israel. Netanyahu expunges all this from the record. For a moment, in Moshe Arens’s piece, it seems that reality is going to break in. ‘Israel lived with terrorism,’ he writes, ‘even before it became a state.’ But he is talking about Arab terrorism. Nowhere in the book do Mr Begin and his Irgun terrorists or Mr Shamir and his Stern Gang terrorists rate a mention. ‘Deir Yassin, massacre of’, does not appear in the index. The assassination of Aldo Moro is referred to five times; the assassinations of Lord Moyne and of Count Bernadotte are not mentioned at all. The root cause of Arab violence is thus suppressed, and we are then given to understand Arab violence has no cause at all. It is mere violence for its own sake. At the time, as Mr Townshend says, the Irgun and other groups were labelled ‘terrorists’ even by the moderate Zionist leaders; there is no label of any kind in Netanyahu. So the book is based on the belief which it purports to reject: that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. When the bodies of the murderers of Lord Moyne and his chauffeur were returned to Israel in 1975, they were given a state funeral.

There is silence, too, on Israeli state terrorism after 1948 – for example, Qibya and the Lavon affair – and on the terrorism of the Jewish settlers on the occupied West Bank in Palestine. Presumably, these, too, are freedom fighters – and terrorists only to the Palestinians they terrorise. Most of their activities are scarcely reported. Yet in 1980, for instance, there was the attempted assassination and actual maiming of Arab mayors, and three years later in Hebron bombs were placed in schools and in mosques timed to go off during classes and when services were finishing.

Netanyahu goes to some lengths to befog any memories of Israeli violence. The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 is clearly an awkward episode. The word ‘invasion’ has a violent ring. So Mr Rostow talks about the Israelis ‘entering’ Lebanon, and Mr Johnson has them ‘crossing into Lebanon’. In the same way, no doubt, did the Russians cross into Afghanistan and the Germans enter Poland. The little matter of the entry into Lebanon costing some twenty-five thousand lives is discreetly omitted. In 1982 Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of Beirut caused heavy civilian casualties. Yet for an example of a bombing going tragically wrong, Mr Netanyahu himself uses the RAF’s hitting of a hospital in Copenhagen in 1944. In 1982 the Israelis hit even more hospitals in Beirut than the Americans hit embassies in Tripoli, not once but several times. And the citing of an incident forty years ago is a good indication of the intellectual standards of this book. The point Mr Netanyahu is seeking to make is in any case dubious. For him, terrorism is ‘the wilful and calculated choice of innocents as targets’. This definition is intended to exclude most Israeli activities: indiscriminate bombing of Beirut, say, cannot be terrorist because the killing of thousands of innocent civilians is not specifically intended; it is merely an ‘accident of war’. This is bad law as well as bad logic. As Lord Hailsham put it in R. v. Hyam in 1975, intention includes ‘the means as well as the end and the inseparable consequences of the end as well as the means’. And it has long been a maxim of law that ‘a man is presumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his act.’ Since Mr Sharon and Mr Begin knew perfectly well that their bombardment of Beirut inevitably meant the killing of innumerable civilians, that is what they intended. ‘What,’ Mr Netanyahu asks, did ‘the American passengers of TWA have to do with the Shiites?’ A good point. But ‘what,’ a reader might equally ask, ‘did thousands of Lebanese civilians have to do with the Israeli Army and Air Force?’

The number of Arab civilians killed by Israelis vastly exceeds the number of innocent Israelis killed by Arabs, and that was true even before 1982. The Palestinians have committed some appalling acts of terrorism. But, as Jacobo Timerman wrote from Israel in The Longest War, ‘more children were killed in Beirut in the second month [of the 1982 war] than during thirty years of terrorism in Israel.’ That was an understatement. The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz estimated that in the 15 years from 1967 to 1982 the PLO had killed 282 Israeli civilians – a good deal less than the number of Arab civilians killed in Israel’s ten-minute bombing raid on Beirut in July 1981.

Aware of this difficulty, while carefully not admitting it, some of the contributors try to suggest that the Israeli invasion, styled ‘Peace for Galilee’, was fully justified and was all the fault of the PLO. But that is not true either. The Israeli Ambassador had been cruelly shot in London but by Abu Nidal’s anti-PLO faction, not by the PLO. And that atrocity was not the cause of the invasion but its pretext. Later the Ambassador himself called the invasion ‘a useless military adventure’. Nor were the military activities of the PLO the cause of the invasion. As Timerman put it, the Israeli Government ‘sloganised Peace for Galilee when there had been no shots fired in Galilee for over a year’. The decision to invade, wrote an eminent Israeli historian, Yehoshua Porath, ‘resulted from the fact that the cease-fire had held ... this was a disaster for Israel. If the PLO agreed upon and maintained a cease-fire they may in the future agree to a more far-reaching political settlement and maintain that too.’

In other words, what the Israeli Government feared was peace, not terrorism, and Netanyahu would have done well to admit it. Unfortunately truth is often the first casualty of many of America’s right-wing institutions, and the Israeli-founded Jonathan Institute which sponsored these lectures is no exception. Netanyahu’s moralising seems ill-judged. In their efforts to return to their country the Palestinians were wrong to turn after twenty years to violence: terrorism is always wrong anyway, and as Mr Wilkinson emphasises, it very rarely works. But it is difficult to think of any nation that would not have done the same. If Netanyahu said to the Palestinians, ‘We took your country by violence and we have no intention of letting you get back even a small part of it by terrorism or by any other means,’ that would not be generous or just – at the very least they should say, ‘We will agree to a compromise very much in our favour which will allow you some 25 per cent of your country’ – but it would be honest.

The recent past is not the only sufferer in this book. Professors Lewis, Kedourie and Vatikiotis come on stage to tell us that Islam is in effect a terrorist religion and that the term ‘Islamic terrorists’ is therefore legitimate. Elie Kedourie even says that ‘the old history’ of Islamic terrorism ‘will serve to account for, and in great measure explain, the recourse to political terrorism today’. Now it may be that Islam is the most violent of the great religions. But before suggesting that, the minimum requirement is surely some comparison with the record of the other religions and with past and present Christian and Jewish countries. Have these Zionist professors never read the Old Testament? Have they never heard of the massacre of St Bartholomew’s Day? That massacre, said Pope Gregory XIII, gave him more pleasure than fifty battles of Lepanto, and he commissioned Vasari to paint frescoes of it in the Vatican. Do Lewis and Co think ETA is Sunni or Shia, or that Hitler took a crash course in Muslim fundamentalism?

That political assassination was not an Islamic invention is clearly demonstrated by Franklin Ford. His history might well have seemed merely like one bloody murder after another: Professor Ford’s narrative skill entirely avoids that difficulty. From 1939 onwards his touch is, perhaps, rather less sure, but he has produced a highly readable, learned and remarkably comprehensive account of a depressing subject. After detailing the career of Joab, he comments that without it ‘the significance of the Old Testament’s place in the history of political murder might easily elude our grasp,’ and he finds the chief weakness of the Old Testament for the student of political homicide to lie ‘in the very profusion of murders of invaders and brothers, kings and pretenders, occurring at a rate that threatens to outrun the observer’s memory’. Later there were the Zealots, whose ‘campaign of assassination ... was all the more chilling because its victims included not only occupation officials but also Sadducees and other Jews identified as complaisant towards Rome’. Their targets were all those ‘who failed to share their vision of god-sent fury’. Ford also gives an absorbing account of the many ‘Christian’ assassinations. As well as celebrating the St Bartholomew’s Massacre, Gregory XIII ordered Te Deums to be sung for the assassination of William of Orange. Yet neither Professor Ford nor surely anybody else would seek to erect on this history a theory of ‘Christian’ or ‘Judaic’ terrorism. The second prop of the Netanyahu polemic – Islam’s unique violence – has little more foundation than the first.

The first step in understanding politics, according to Jeane Kirkpatrick, is to observe things ‘without confusion – simply to observe who does what to whom’. The second step, presumably, is not to be tendentiously selective about the ‘whos’ who are doing it. She claims that the USSR is the ‘principal supporter and sponsor of international terrorism’, and she lists the left-wing terrorist groups in Latin America. The right-wing ones are not mentioned. Mrs Kirkpatrick thinks that totalitarians attempt ‘to confuse as well as to terrorise’: she herself only confuses. She also misrepresents and misquotes Orwell, whose views were diametrically opposed to Mrs Kirkpatrick’s on almost everything.

James Adams’s excitingly written and fair-minded book is, like Wilkinson’s and Ford’s, a useful antidote to much of the bombast in Netanyahu. He is contemptuous of ‘the conspiracy theory of world terrorism’, and hints that the book by Claire Sterling, a contributor to Netanyahu, which pins the responsibility for international terrorism on the KGB, was largely the product of the CIA’s disinformation department. No doubt terrorists pool information, and the USSR no doubt trains some terrorists, but ‘the USSR’s financing of terrorism is minimal’ and the idea that the Soviet Union ‘is largely responsible for the growth of international terrorism’ is a ‘major myth’. It is a ‘convenient’ one for the extreme Right and for the Israelis. But Adams quotes an Israeli intelligence officer as saying: ‘The Russians have never given the PLO anything except a few scholarships.’

According to Adams, the IRA is ‘in many respects more dangerous and ruthless’ than the PLO. Though it has been responsible for some 1400 deaths in Northern Ireland, and 90 in Britain, the IRA is largely ignored in Netanyahu. It does not fit the thesis. Midge Decter does indeed mention the IRA sympathisers who shout ‘British murderers must die’ outside the British consulate in New York City, but she then goes on to ask whether anybody stopped to ‘consider that these people might actually be on the payroll of Libya.’ Can she really not know that the great bulk of foreign money for the IRA comes from Americans? Since Noraid helps to finance the IRA in Ireland, it would hardly need Colonel Gaddafi to rent a crowd for them in New York. Paul Johnson does complain of American financial support for Irish terrorism. But he soon atones by calling the IRA the PLO’s ‘junior allies’. This kills two birds with one stone. It smears the PLO, while giving an Islamic flavour to the IRA. In fact, says Mr Adams, British Intelligence has no knowledge of any member of the IRA having been trained by the PLO. Indeed almost the only link beyond consultation between the IRA and Palestine is in the person of Paul O’Dwyer, a New York politician and lawyer, who defends the IRA without fee and who was a gun-runner for the Zionists in 1948.

Netanyahu gives ETA even shorter shrift than the IRA. That terrorist movement has killed some seven hundred and fifty Spaniards, but does not appear in the index or the text. There is one brief and inadequate reference to ‘Basque terrorism’ – and one to Sikh terrorism. Armenian terrorism and the ANC do not even get that. All non-Islamic and non-Communist terrorist movements are an inconvenience to the thesis of the book, as well as to their victims.

If the third proposition, that virtually all terrorism is Communist/Islamic, does not stand up, the fourth, that no terrorism is carried out or sponsored by the West, is even less sustainable. In a lecture which illustrates the decline of the State Department during the last few years, George Shultz tells us that wherever terrorism takes place, ‘it is directed in an important sense against us, the democracies.’ Here he is surely being unfair to Mr William Casey, his former colleague and a former head of the CIA. However incompetent or misguided the CIA’s activities may have been, they are surely not ‘directed against us’: but there is no doubt that the CIA, and therefore Mr Shultz and the American Government, sponsor terrorism. There was, for instance, the car bomb that killed 92 people in Beirut in March 1985. According to the CIA’s own definition of terrorism, Mr Adams points out, the US Government has been guilty of financing, training and to a large extent controlling terrorists. The CIA has even issued a manual which is in effect a terrorists’ handbook. This includes instructions on how to ‘neutralise’ selected individuals. Since it is not a Muslim organisation, the CIA ‘neutralises’. If it were, it would ‘assassinate’.

More important is the American support for the Contras in Nicaragua and of Unita in Angola. The Contras, Mr Shultz informs us, ‘do not blow up school buses or hold mass executions of civilians’. That, to say the least, is highly misleading, and yet another demonstration that for Netanyahu, as for the people they denounce, one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. In a recent column in the New York Times entitled ‘Reagan’s policies subsidise savagery’, Mr Anthony Lewis told of the Contras laying indiscriminate mines on the only routes between villages and blowing up 34 innocent civilians. In another incident they threw a grenade into a home and killed two children aged five and 12. And there have been far worse brutalities. Mr Lewis also writes of ‘a particularly revolting atrocity’ by Unita in which 107 villagers including women, children and a Methodist pastor were killed by Jonas Savimbi’s ‘freedom fighters’. ‘There is a wide gap,’ Mr Shultz notes, ‘between Soviet words and Soviet actions.’ But America’s actions on terrorism are also at variance with the high-sounding sentiments of the President and the Secretary of State. To close the gap, the USA could adopt a consistent policy, which would be difficult, or could drop its global rhetoric and windy self-righteousness, which should be easier.

So all the propositions on which the Netanyahu polemic is based are false, and there is no case for an Israeli-led Western crusade against ‘terrorism’, with Mr Shamir, perhaps, as its commander-in-chief. The US is not only guilty of sponsoring the terrorism is denounces: it is itself a main cause of terrorism in the Middle East. In an observation which is on a par with his wife Midge Decter’s about Libya and the IRA, Norman Podhoretz complains about the ‘mindless bias’ of the press in favour of terrorists and Yasser Arafat. In fact, as everybody except Mr and Mrs Podhoretz knows, the American press has been biased in favour of Zionism. Discussion of Middle Eastern realities has in consequence become virtually impossible in most American papers, and American ignorance is so profound that almost all Zionist propaganda is readily swallowed. The state of Congress is even worse than that of the press. The late Senator Jackson used to be known as the Senator for Israel. Now almost all senators are senators for Israel, and in his courageous and frightening exposé of the activities of the Zionist lobby ex-Congressman Paul Findley shows in meticulous detail how this has been achieved. Zionist pressures on American politicians and press are nothing new. Even President Truman, of all people, complained of them, and only President Eisenhower was able to stand up to them. President Reagan does not try, and Mr Shultz has delivered up the State Department – the one institution that used to try to defend American interests and to pursue a balanced policy – to the Israeli lobby. The steady growth of Zionist pressures on Congress is well described. In 1973, one of the most distinguished senators since the war, William Fulbright, said that the US bore ‘a very great share of the responsibility’ for the continuation of Middle East violence, and added: ‘Israel controls the Senate.’ More recently, Congressman Dymally pointed out that it was easier to criticise Israel in the Knesset than ‘in the US Congress here in this land of free speech’, and Adlai Stevenson III asserted that the Israeli prime minister had more influence over America’s Middle Eastern policy than over his own government. This control is exercised, Mr Findley shows, through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, whose greatest achievement was the defeat of the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Percy, in Illinois in 1984. Percy’s voting record in support of Israel was only 89 per cent. AIPAC wanted 100 per cent, and with the aid of some illegal funding from a Californian Zionist, Percy was duly defeated. Findley lists the methods which the Zionist lobby uses to silence criticism: ‘smear and innuendo, complaints to superiors at the workplace, mention in published “enemies lists”, ostracism, hate mail, anonymous phone calls, threats to one’s personal safety, and, in a few cases, physical attack’. The intimidation of American politicians and the press is a direct cause of violence and terrorism in the Middle East. As a result of it, American policy is almost completely one-sided. Money and weapons are lavished upon Israel – more than a third of all US foreign assistance goes there – and no matter how Israel behaves the US supports her in the end. American politicians treat the Middle East not as an area with its own needs and interests, or as a place where human life is important, but primarily as a place where votes can be won in the Middle West and New York.

The trouble with terrorists is that they behave like governments. They enlarge the sphere of politics. And like governments they are not restrained by the promptings of morality – they have a ‘higher’ cause. The correct response is not for governments to behave like terrorists. ‘Responding to terrorism with terror,’ Mr Adams writes, ‘is completely counter-productive.’ The attempt to assassinate Gaddafi in the Tripoli bombing raid would have been even more disastrous if it had succeeded. After a major propaganda effort to portray Libya as a threat – though, Mr Adams shows, Gaddafi has supplied almost no money to terrorist groups for the last five years – American pilots of the Sixth Fleet regularly invaded Libyan air space for a whole month, and when the US Fleet crossed ‘the Line of Death’ Gaddafi reacted with missiles and later, almost certainly, with the attack on the Berlin discotheque: and after that came the F111 strike on Tripoli. Similarly the Israeli attempt to assassinate Arafat by bombing his Tunis headquarters would have led to more violence, not less, had he been in them. Somebody in the White House should read Political Murder and tell President Reagan that tyrannicide, like terrorism, is rarely successful.

By copying the Israeli policy of reacting to terrorism with fairly indiscriminate violence, the American Government has got itself into difficulties. For one thing, the policy has not worked. For another, it has involved America in ridiculous inconsistencies. When President Botha followed suit and attacked the ANC in neighbouring countries, the White House expressed itself ‘outraged’. American policy is liable to lead to ever greater violence. Terrorism is a problem which should be dealt with by international co-operation and by the redressing of legitimate grievances. Fantasies about world-wide terrorist conspiracies should be recognised as such, and terrorisms should not all be lumped together any more than wars should be. According to Paul Wilkinson, the suggestion in Netanyahu that the West should imitate the Israeli action in 1982 and ‘act physically against the terrorist states’ shows ‘a staggering moral blindness’, as well as ‘a remarkable ignorance of both terrorism and international relations’, and James Adams believes that, ‘politically, militarily and morally’, the American attack on Libya ‘was a serious mistake’, which ‘showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of modern terrorism’.

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Vol. 8 No. 22 · 18 December 1986

SIR: In his review of a number of books on terrorism (LRB, 23 October) Ian Gilmour mentions one of his authors, Benjamin Netanyahu, using ‘the RAF’s hitting of a hospital in Copenhagen in 1944’ as an example of ‘a bombing going tragically wrong’. The tragedy in fact occurred in 1945, and what was hit was a primary school.

In the winter of 1944-45, the Gestapo in Copenhagen were on the verge of breaking up the Resistance organisation on Zealand, greatly helped by Danish informers who had infiltrated the movement. Through their representatives in London the Resistance leaders requested the RAF to bomb the Gestapo Headquarters in the centre of Copenhagen in order to destroy the Gestapo files on members of the organisation. The attack came on 21 March 1945 at midday and was carried out by 18 Mosquito bombers escorted by 28 Mustang fighters. The planes flew in at a very low altitude and released their bombs in such a way as to hit the lower storeys of the building. The attack was a complete success: the building was destroyed and all the Gestapo files with it.

The joy felt in Copenhagen and elsewhere in Denmark at the destruction of the dreaded Gestapo Headquarters was marred only by the tragedy which followed. As the aircraft had to fly very low, one of them accidentally hit a tall signal mast in the Central Railway Station and crashed into the French School, a Roman Catholic primary school run by nuns, at a time when classes were in progress. Some of the bombers in the last wave of attack, seeing the fire and smoke resulting from the crash, mistook the school for the target and dropped their bombs on it; some also hit the surrounding residential area. Although casualties were low compared to air bombardments generally in the Second World War, they were felt to be frightful in the circumstances: 112 people killed, of whom 88 were schoolchildren, and 304 wounded. The RAF had 12 airmen killed and one taken prisoner. The RAF officer who commanded the action visited the school after the war and laid a wreath at the site, expressing the sorrow and regret of the surviving airmen.

Frede Hojgaard

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