The Palestinians and Terrorism in Europe, Redux

When a safe that allegedly had not been opened in thirty years blew up in the face of Jamal al Jamal, the Palestinian Authority ambassador to the Czech Republic, along with the blast came a reminder about the role of the Palestinians in Europe’s nihilistic terrorism when the safe supposedly was last closed.

Some thirty years ago, nihilistic violence spread across Europe as so-called “fighting communists” sought to revive the original spirit of the young Marx -- the Marx of the 1830s manuscripts and the Communist Manifesto. To the fighting Communists, the spirit of the young Marx had been extinguished by bourgeois Communists that were willing to compromise principle for access to the corridors of power.

Across Western Europe, nihilistic violence spread from country to country. Names like France’s Direct Action, the Italian Red Brigades, Germany’s Baader Meinhof Gang (also known as the "Red Army Faction"), and, to a lesser extent, Britain’s Angry Brigade became associated with seemingly indulgent violence that ironically Marx himself would have condemned as acts of egoism without a revolutionary base or purpose.

But within this seemingly purposeless violence, the Soviets saw opportunity. Their Simferopol military academy in the Crimea was heavily invested in training third-world terrorists, especially the Palestinians. For fear of a confrontation with the West, the Soviets could not directly sponsor the European nihilists; they were, however, quite capable of engaging their surrogates in the effort.

The Palestine Liberation Organization had maintained a crude plausible denial for its terrorism. It used fictitious action groups to shoot up airports, seize hostages, and conduct assassinations -- often, like Saturn, devouring its own children in the latter process. Of these action groups, the most notorious was Black September.

Elements in the politburo, however, were not happy with the PLO. These Soviet leaders wanted a strong client state as a balance against the American dominance in the Middle East. They wanted back into Egypt and not to be the patrons of insignificant and uncontrollable terrorists.

But ultimately, it was the KGB that moved the regime to sponsor both the nihilists and the Palestinians. To the KGB, there was opportunity in chaos, and besides, the KGB wanted an action group that was in place behind the allied lines in Western Europe in case of war. The nihilists easily served this function. The nihilists needed resources and leadership; the Palestinians needed people who could blend in and retrieve intelligence for them.