Tuesday, February 17, 2009

PBS American Experience: a major event in 1970, leading to modern airline security


PBS “American Experience” tonight aired a one hour film “Hijacked about the beginnings of airline-associated terrorism from the United States point of view. After the 1967 Six Day War, the Palestinian cause attracted radical Marxist elements like the PFLP, or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In September 1970 the group took over four non El-Al flights from airlines associated with countries, including the US, that supported Israel. The political tactic was to go after “capitalist” countries and their citizens to try to force Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, but, in the context of the Cold War, the event seems as much an extreme Left-wing war act as an act supposedly intended to benefit the Palestinians for just grievances (over land, etc). Jewish citizens were singled out, as were men from the offending countries. One plane was destroyed after the hostages were removed, with the hostages being taken to a hotel as indefinite “political prisoners.”

The link explaining the PFLP is here.

These incidents help stimulate the development of standard airline security that would become commonplace for decades. In the 1960s, with the airline industry was much more regulated in other ways (like airfare) one could board a commercial plane with no security. Gradually it would be taken over by private security companies, whose effectiveness would be questioned after 9/11.

The attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972, leading to catastrophe, might have in some ways have been partially motivated by this 1970 event, but the 1970 event seems as much an expression of Communism, the stuff of those old Irving Wallace novels, as of anything like radical Islam was we know it today.

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