The first full account, based on access to key players who have never before spoken, of the Munich Massacre and the Israeli response–a lethal, top secret, thirty-year-long antiterrorism campaign to track down the killers.
1972. The Munich Olympics. Palestinian members of the Black September group murder eleven Israeli athletes. Nine hundred million people watch the crisis unfold on television, witnessing a tragedy that inaugurates the modern age of terror and remains a scar on the collective conscience of the world.
Back in Israel, Prime Minister Golda Meir vows to track down those responsible and, in Menachem Begin’s words, “run these criminals and murderers off the face of the earth.” A secret Mossad unit, code named Caesarea, is mobilized, a list of targets drawn up. Thus begins the Israeli response–a mission that unfolds not over months but over decades. The Mossad has never spoken about this operation. No one has known the real story. Until now.
Award-winning journalist Aaron Klein’s incisive and riveting account tells for the first time the full story of Munich and the Israeli counterterrorism operation it spawned. With unprecedented access to Mossad agents and an unparalleled knowledge of Israeli intelligence, Klein peels back the layers of myth and misinformation that have permeated previous books, films, and magazine articles about the “shadow war” against Black September and other terrorist groups.
Spycraft, secret diplomacy, and fierce detective work abound in a story with more drama than any fictional thriller. Burning questions are at last answered, including who was killed and who was not, how it was done, which targets were hit and which were missed. Truths are revealed: the degree to which the Mossad targeted nonaffiliated Black September terrorists for assassination, the length and full scope of the operation (far greater than previously suspected), retributive acts against Israel, and much more.
Finally, Klein shows that the Israeli response to Munich was not simply about revenge, as is popularly believed. By illuminating the tactical and strategic purposes of the Israeli operation, Striking Back allows us to draw profoundly relevant lessons from one of the most important counterterrorism campaigns in history.
Told in remarkable detail, author Klein (Time's Jerusalem correspondent) chronicles the tragic Israeli hostage massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the secret assassination campaign that followed. The execution of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by members of Black September is presented as the result of the colossal ineptitude of West German and Bavarian officials. From this horrific event, the author departs on a fascinating examination of the Israeli response-a shadow war in which "Mossad combatants...were charged with carrying out the assassination orders, which had been passed down from Golda Meir to each successive prime minister." The Mossad quickly identified assassination targets for their involvement in the Munich Massacre; as the program evolved, however, the Mossad's goals expanded, creating a systematic counter-terror campaign based on prevention and deterrence. On the heels of Operation Spring of Youth, in which Israeli commandos assassinated three high-level PLO and Fatah officials in Beirut, "the myth of Israel's military capacity and the long reach of the Mossad was hitting its peak," putting terrorists on the defensive. Klein's account is well researched and highly valuable, and while the episodic structure he employs becomes repetitive, it is nevertheless a necessary read for anyone interested in Israeli history and politics as well as the birth of modern counter-terrorism.