Although many Nazis found new and ideologically welcoming homes in Egypt and Syria after World War II, the Grand Mufti’s [el-Husseini‘s] Palestinian national movement itself, bereft of its Nazi patron, was an orphan. No sovereign state of any consequence supported it. On the contrary, most of the surrounding Arab states, all of them buoyed by postcolonial nationalism and looking for political stability, perceived the Palestinian cause, especially as embodied in the Muslim Brotherhood, as a threat. Egypt aggressively suppressed the Brotherhood. Saudi and Jordanian royalty watched the growth of radical Islam with suspicion. Syria and Lebanon, trying to move toward more open societies in the pre-Ba’athist era, feared the Brotherhood’s opposition to western-style civil rights and liberties and its fierce condemnation of westernized Arab societies.
More to the point, each of these states coveted some or all of what was formerly British Mandatory Palestine and were no more enthusiastic about the creation of a new Arab state there than they were about the creation of Israel. As a result of these complex national ambitions and antagonisms, no state for the Arabs of British Mandatory Palestine was created. Even though Israel offered the return of territories gained in the 1948 war at the Rhodes armistice conference of February 1949, the Arab leaders (among whom there were no representatives from the Arabs of the former Palestine) rejected Israel’s peace offers, declared jihad, and condemned the Arab refugees to eternal refugee status, while also illegally occupying the remaining areas that the United Nations had envisioned as a Palestinian state—as Arafat himself tells us in his authorized biography (Alan Hart, Arafat: Terrorist or Peace Maker?). Egypt herded Palestinian Arabs into refugee camps in its new fiefdom in the Gaza Strip, assassinated their leaders, and shot anyone who tried to leave. Jordan illegally annexed the west Bank and maintained martial law over it for the next nineteen years.
Egypt was particularly conscious of the threat the Muslim Brotherhood posed to the westernized and increasingly secularized society it was trying to build, and both King Farouk and later Gamal Abdel Nasser took brutal and effective steps to repress the movement. They also made sure that the 350,000 Palestinians whom the Egyptian army had herded into refugee camps in Gaza would develop no nationalist sentiments or activism. Egyptian propaganda worked hard to redirect the Palestinians’ justifiable anti- Egypt sentiments toward an incendiary hatred of Israel. Its secret police engineered the creation and deployment of the fedayeen (terrorist infiltrators) movement, which between 1949 and 1956 carried out over nine thousand terror attacks against Israel, killing more than six hundred Israelis and wounding thousands. These fedayeen were mostly Arab refugees, trained and armed by Egypt.
As the conflict with Israel hardened throughout the 1950s, Nasser came to see that Palestinian nationalism, if carefully manipulated, could be an asset instead of just a threat and an annoyance. Although the fedayeen terrorism prompted Israel to invade the Sinai in 1956, the Egyptian leader saw the value in being able to deploy a force that did his bidding but was not part of Egypt’s formal military; which could make tactical strikes and then disappear into the amorphous demography of the west Bank or the Gaza Strip, giving Egypt plausible deniability for the mayhem it had created. But Nasser’s ability to support such a useful terrorist group was limited by the failed economy over which he presided; and so, in 1964, he was delighted to cooperate with the Soviet Union in the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Brainchild of the KGB
As Ion Mihai Pacepa, onetime director of the Romanian espionage service (DIE), later explained, the PLO was conceived at a time when the KGB was creating “liberation front” organizations throughout the Third world. Others included the National Liberation Army of Bolivia, created in 1964 with help from Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and the National Liberation Army of Colombia, created in 1965 with help from Fidel Castro. But the PLO was the KGB’s most enduring achievement.
In 1964, the first PLO Council, consisting of 422 Palestinian representatives handpicked by the KGB, approved the Soviet blueprint for a Palestinian National Charter—a document drafted in Moscow—and made Ahmad Shukairy, the KGB’s agent of influence, the first PLO chairman. The Romanian intelligence service was given responsibility for providing the PLO with logistical support. Except for the arms, which were supplied by the KGB and the East German Stasi, everything, according to Ion Pacepa, “came from Bucharest. Even the PLO uniforms and the PLO stationery were manufactured in Romania free of charge, as a ‘comradely help.’ During those years, two Romanian cargo planes filled with goodies for the PLO landed in Beirut every week.”
The PLO came on the scene at a critical moment in Middle East history. At the Khartoum conference held shortly after the Six-Day war, the defeated and humiliated Arab states confronted the “new reality” of an Israel that seemed unbeatable in conventional warfare. The participants of the conference decided, among other things, to continue the war against Israel as what today would be called a “low intensity conflict.” The PLO’s Fatah forces were perfect to carry out this mission.
The Soviets not only armed and trained Palestinian terrorists but also used them to arm and train other professional terrorists by the thousands. The International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CPSU), the Soviet Security Police (KGB), and Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU) all played major roles in this effort. From the late 1960s onwards, moreover, the PLO maintained contact with other terror groups—some of them neo-Nazi and extreme right-wing groups—offering them support and supplies, training and funding.
The Soviets also built Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba People’s Friendship University to serve as a base of indoctrination and training of potential “freedom fighters” from the Third world. More specialized training in terrorism was provided at locations in Baku, Odessa, Simferopol, and Tashkent. Mahmoud Abbas, later to succeed Yassir Arafat as head of the PLO, was a graduate of Patrice Lumumba U, where he received his Ph.D. in 1982 after completing a thesis partly based on Holocaust denial.
Cuba was also used as a base for terrorist training and Marxist indoctrination, part of a symbiotic relationship between its revolutionary cadre and the PLO. The Cuban intelligence service (DGI) was under the direct command of the KGB after 1968. Palestinian terrorists were identified in Havana as early as 1966; and in the 1970s DGI representatives were dispatched to PLO camps in Lebanon to assist terrorists being nurtured by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In late April 1979, an agreement was reached for the PFLP to have several hundred of its terrorists trained in Cuba, following a meeting between its chief George Habash and Cuban officials.
The Communist Roots of Palestinian Terror
By David Meir-Levi
December 14, 2007
Robert Spencer Explains How Palestinians Were Created by KGB
Interview with Robert Spencer
November 5, 2009