Following the Oslo Accords of 1993, the mastermind of Black September's Munich attack enjoyed a certain respectability. Mohammed Daoud Oudeh, a.k.a. Abu Daoud, sat on the Palestinian National Council, where in 1996 he joined a majority in voting to revoke the clause in the PLO charter calling for Israel's destruction. Though Israel had long known of his role at Munich -- Mossad was believed to have been involved in a 1981 assassination attempt in which he was shot six times -- he even carried an Israeli-issued VIP pass that allowed him to shuttle between his home in Amman, Jordan, and the occupied territories.
All that changed in 1999 after Abu Daoud openly acknowledged his role in the Olympic attack, both in his memoir, Palestine: From Jerusalem to Munich, published in Paris, and in an interview with the Arab TV network al-Jazeera. Germany issued an international arrest warrant on Abu Daoud, and Israel canceled his travel credentials, barring him from the Palestinian lands he had spent his adult life trying to liberate....
"At the time, it was the correct thing to do for our cause," Abu Daoud told SI. AP
In late July, SI's Don Yaeger went to the Middle East to find the 72-year-old Abu Daoud. After five days in Syria, where he met with leaders of several Palestinian groups, including the Palestinian Authority, PA president Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction and the militant Hamas, Yaeger received a call from Abu Daoud, who said he was in Cyprus. Abu Daoud, who would not reveal where he resides -- saying only that he lives with his wife on a pension provided by the PA -- agreed to answer written questions. Among his claims, in his memoir and to SI, are these:
Though he wasn't involved in conceiving or implementing it, "the [Munich] operation had the endorsement of Arafat." Arafat is not known to have responded to the allegations in Abu Daoud's book. In May 1972 four Black Septembrists hijacked a Sabena flight from Brussels to Tel Aviv, hoping to free comrades from Israeli jails. But Israeli special forces stormed the plane, killing or capturing all the terrorists and freeing every passenger, leaving Arafat, by Abu Daoud's account, desperate to boost morale in the refugee camps by showing that Israel was vulnerable.
Though he didn't know what the money was being spent for, longtime Fatah official Mahmoud Abbas, a.k.a. Abu Mazen, was responsible for the financing of the Munich attack. Abu Mazen could not be reached for comment regarding Abu Daoud's allegation. After Oslo in 1993, Abu Mazen went to the White House Rose Garden for a photo op with Arafat, President Bill Clinton and Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. "Do you think that ... would have been possible if the Israelis had known that Abu Mazen was the financier of our operation?" Abu Daoud writes. "I doubt it." Today the Bush Administration seeks a Palestinian negotiating partner "uncompromised by terror," yet last year Abu Mazen met in Washington with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
While he doesn't regret his role in the operation, Abu Daoud told SI, "I would be against any operation like Munich ever again. At the time, it was the correct thing to do for our cause. ... The operation brought the Palestinian issue into the homes of 500 million people who never previously cared about Palestinian victims at the hands of the Israelis." Today, he says, an attack on an event like the Olympics would only damage the Palestinians' image.
Daoud also was interviewed about the Munich massacre for a film called "One Day in September," produced by John Battsek and Arthur Cohn for Sony Pictures Classics. Director Kevin Macdonald said Abu Daoud admitted Black September was merely the cover name adopted by Fatah members when they wanted to carry out terrorist attacks.
The PLO operative recalled how Arafat and Abu Mazen both wished him luck and kissed him when he set about organizing the Munich attack.
In an interview in 2006, Abu Daoud described how the Olympics massacre was a great victory for the Palestinian Arab cause:
Discussing the Palestinians' struggle for a homeland and rejecting the use of the word "terrorist" to describe its fighters, he said of the Munich days: "There was nothing we weren't prepared to do to keep the Palestinian cause in the public eye.Unfortunately, the murderous calculus of the PLO was correct. Only two years after Munich, Yasir Arafat was honored at the UN.
"Before Munich, we were simply terrorists. After Munich, at least people started asking who are these terrorists? What do they want? Before Munich, nobody had the slightest idea about Palestine."
"Today, I cannot fight you anymore, but my grandson will and his grandsons, too," he said, addressing Israelis.
When Abu Daoud died in 2010 of kidney failure in Damascus, Mahmoud Abbas praised him without any equivocation:
President Mahmoud Abbas sent a telegram of condolences yesterday over the death of the great fighter Muhammad Daoud Oudeh, 'Abu Daoud,' who died just before reaching 70. The telegram of condolences read: 'The deceased was one of the prominent leaders of the Fatah movement and lived a life filled with the struggle, devoted effort, and the enormous sacrifice of the deceased for the sake of the legitimate problem of his people, in many spheres. He was at the forefront on every battlefield, with the aim of defending the [Palestinian] revolution. What a wonderful brother, companion, tough and stubborn, relentless fighter. [Al Hayat al Jadida, July 4, 2010]And official PA media were even more explicit in their praise for the Olympic massacre and its architect:
President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday held a telephone conversation with the family of the Shahid (Martyr) fighter Muhammad Oudeh, Abu Daoud, member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and former head of the movement's Supervisory Committee, and expressed his condolences over [Oudeh's] death.
During the conversation the President noted [Oudeh's] life filled with the struggle, his devoted effort, and the enormous sacrifice of the deceased for the sake of the legitimate problem of his people, in many spheres. He was at the forefront on every battlefield, with the aim of defending the [Palestinian] revolution." [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 5, 2010]
"In its [Black September terror group's] ranks were many distinguished men and women, headed by the Panther of Palestine, Salah Khalaf 'Abu Iyad.' Abu Daoud was one of his prominent assistants. His [Abu Daoud's] name shined brightly in the German city of Munich in 1972, where the Olympics took place....May Allah have mercy on this great Fatah fighter and patriot, Abu Daoud."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 6, 2010]
(I posted the SI article originally in 2005.)