Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response by Aaron J. Klein (Random House), 254 pages, $34.95 cloth. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Some mass murders make better Hollywood films than others, and the Munich massacre's firefights, athletes and assassins make it a natural.
Those horribly tense days in September 1972, which ended in the slaughter of 11 helpless Israeli Olympians and the killing of all but three of the gunmen, set the tone for decades of tit-for-tat political murder.
Striking Back, a thin, fast-paced recounting of the massacre and the secret Mossad hit team that hunted down anyone it believed was remotely connected to the operation, makes no apologies for the assassination program.
This isn't surprising, considering the book's author, Israeli journalist Aaron Klein, is a captain in Israeli military intelligence.
Each killing, except for the accidental murder in Norway of an innocent Algerian waiter shot down in front of his pregnant wife, gets a thumbs-up from the author.
The author's connections to Israeli intelligence allow him access some interesting stories. For example, how cloudy skies over Lebanon prevented Israeli jets from bombing a Fatah meeting being conducted by Yasser Arafat.
Klein leaves the question of the assassination program's efficacy in preventing terrorism until the end of the book. Although Palestinian terrorist attacks in Europe all but ended by the mid-1970s, he acknowledges that this was more because of the PLO's desire for political respectability than because of the Israeli assassination program.
This quick read about the twilight world of terror is probably closer to the truth than Hollywood's version. Unlike the angst-ridden assassins in Steven Spielberg's Munich, the real Israeli bombers and gunmen had no qualms about carrying out their missions. In fact, the leader of the hit squads, Michael Harari, was so good at his job that he went to Panama to train Manuel Noreiga's security forces.
But you won't find that in this book.
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