It is seven years now, since the simmering conflict between Arab and Israeli boiled over into the Six-Day war of 1957.
It is seven years now, since the simmering conflict between Arab and Israeli boiled over into the Six-Day war of 1957. With the anniversary tomorrow (June 5), Israeli security forces are on the alert in case Arab guerrillas mark the occasion with a raid, as they have done so on other significant anniversaries. It it should happen, Israel would undoubtedly launch another counter-blow. Such is the patter of terror which has been imprinted on the Middle East for the past seven years.
The Six-Day war inflicted a savage wound on Arab pride which even the partial success of last year's October war did not heal. The result of this and the failure to solve the Palestinian question was that exiled Palestinian Arab groups, trained in guerrilla tactics, began hitting back at Israel whenever and wherever they could.
Their first assault was in 1968, in Athens. A fedayeen group attacked an Israeli El Al airliner at the airport. One Israeli was killed and another wounded. Israel's response was immediate and devastating. Their jet fighter-bombers, supporting helicopter-borne commandos, raided Beirut airport in Lebanon. They wrecked 13 airliners, almost the entire fleet of Middle East Airlines.
Eighteen months later, in 1970, the fedayeen struck inside Israeli territory for the first time. Their target was a school bus which they blew up with bazooka rockets. Eight children were killed and 22 wounded. Grimly dedicated to a retaliatory policy, the Israelis continued to pound Arab camps across their border with Lebanon. Ironically, they founded their policy on the Bible. Specifically, a passage from the book of Exodus -- "Thous shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth." And for the Arabs, there was the Koran and its stern injunction - "O believers, prescribed for you is retaliation touching the slain, freeman for freeman, slave for slave, female for female."
Later in 1970, Arab commandos pulled off their most spectacular coup to date. They skyjacked four American, British and Swiss airliners with more than 400 passengers on board and took them to Egypt and Jordan. They freed the passengers and blew up the aircraft.
Planes and airports became prime targets for terror. In May, 1972, the Arabs enlisted others in their cause and sent a group of Japanese revolutionaries on a would-be suicidal mission to Lod airport in Tel Aviv. There, in the passenger hall, they opened up with machine guns and grenades, killing 27 people - mostly Pueto Rican pilgrims - and wounded 70.
Israeli raids on Lebanese camps became so regular they barely made news, but the next Arab attack, in Munich, in September, 1972, had a shattering impact. At the height of the Olympic Games, Black September guerrillas infiltrated the Israeli team quarters and killed eleven athletes and coaches. Five terrorists were killed and three captured.
A flurry of murderous attacks and counter-attacks followed. Israeli aircraft destroyed a Palestinian village in Lebanon. And in February 1973, a Libyan airliner was intercepted by Israeli aircraft and shot down in the Sinal desert, killing all 107 people on board. The aircraft was off course and Israeli Phantoms tried to persuade the Boeing 727 jetliner to land at an Israeli airfield. Israel said later it shot down the airliner because its intelligence had received reports of an Arab guerrilla plan to crash a plane crammed with explosives on Tel Aviv.
In between times, the Black September group carried the fight, for the first time, onto Arab territory. In Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, they occupied the Saudi Arabian embassy and killed three visiting diplomats -- the new American ambassador and his predecessor and a Belgian charge d'affaires.
It was the fedayeen's first serious mistake. Instead of sympathy and asylum, the group were arrested and have now gone on trial in Khartoum. And, for the first time, moderate Arab opinion raised its voice in condemnation.
But it did not stop. In December, 1973, the skyjackings continued, this time at Rome airport. Arab commandos blew up an American airliner and forced a German jet to fly to Athens and Kuwait. 33 people were killed.
In the first half of this year, the savagery escalated. Eluding strong Israeli security forces on the Lebanese border, three Arab guerrillas entered the town of Kiryat Shmoneh and seized an apartment building. In the subsequent siege, the three commandos and 18 Israeli men, women and children were killed.
Again, refugee camps inside Lebanon were blasted by Israeli jets. Their aim was to hit at fedayeen training grounds, but they left behind a trail of indiscriminate destruction.
And then, in May this year, the bloodiest chapter of all. At Ma'alot, in northern Israel, three fedayeen held 85 Israeli schoolchildren hostage, demanding the release of a number of their comrades held in Israeli prisons. But Israeli policy has haver been to negotiate with guerrillas. Troops launched an attack on the Ma'alot school. They killed the three Arabs - but not before 26 children, most of them young girls, were Killed in the shooting. The following day, the Israeli Air Force mounted its most ferocious attack ever, on Palestinian camps in Lebanon. 50 people were killed and over 200 wounded.