Tue, Nov 16, 2010 | shmuelkatz.com | By Shmuel Katz
Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine
A Garland Of Myths
This article is the sixth chapter from the book “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine” written by Shmuel Katz. Yesterday, we published the fifth chapter: Beginning To Restore The Land. In the next few days, we will publish the rest of the chapters from this book as part of a series of facts, fantasy and myths concerning Israel, Palestinians and the Middle East. For all the chapters of the book, click Here.
About the book: “A fully documented, dramatic history of the events which shaped the Middle East. Every key problem in the Arab-Israel conflict, every decision is carefully analyzed, from the questionable policies of Britain in 1948 to how the Palestinian refugee problem began. The territory won in the war of 1967, and the terrorist war of attrition is discussed.” (From the intro at ShmuelKatz website). To view the entire book online, go to Shmuelkatz.com. To buy the book, go to Afsi.org.
The distortion of history, ancient and modern, basic to the Arab-British resistance to Jewish restoration, had been fully articulated by 1948. After 1948, the Arabs added greater depth and vehemence in presentation and with it a theme of hatred of the Jews, comparable only to the demonology of medieval Christianity or the excesses of German Nazi propaganda in our own age. Inevitably, the propaganda became even more intense and unrestrained after the Six Day War. As Hitler and Goebbels, the arch-propagandists of the century, discovered and taught, the greater the lie, the more likely it is to be believed.
The Arabs’ version of history, of their and the Jews’ relationship to Palestine, is not uniform. It is often accommodated to the tastes or prejudices of the audience. It not only fabricates, it also ignores the known recorded facts and unblinkingly replaces the picture of public knowledge of even a year ago with a completely imagined substitute.
Thus, one of the versions in its bold outline goes: Palestine was the Arab homeland even before the Arab-Moslem conquest in the seventh century. The Arabs were the original inhabitants and rulers of the country. The Canaanites were, in fact, Arabs; the Philistines were Arabs; the Amorites were Arabs. The Jews for their part were, in fact, the rulers of the country only briefly – for some eighty years in the days of David and Solomon. In any case, they disappeared and were subsequently swallowed up by the Arabs. The modern Jews are not the descendants of the ancient Jews. This version has not yet reached the point of suggesting that the modem Jews do not exist.
The Western powers – so goes the Arab version – as an act of recompense for the Christian persecution of the Jews, brought them to Palestine, where they drove out the Arab possessors of the country. The Western powers did this by promulgating the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate at the end of the First World War or, alternately, after the Nazi campaign of extermination during the Second World War.
The most startling item in the Arabs’ propaganda is their usurpation of the Jewish patrimony of Jerusalem. Arab political propaganda claims that Jerusalem is an “Arab city,” has been an Arab city for many centuries, and is a holy city in Islam. There is only one small grain of truth in this claim, which on the whole is as false as the quite common description of Palestine as “a land holy to three faiths.”
It is possible to call Palestine a land holy to two faiths: to Christianity as well as to Judaism. It was certainly never holy to Islam. Mohammed no doubt turns in his grave at the ignorant suggestion that Islam has a “holy land” other than Arabia. Palestine has no significance in the Moslem religion. It never existed as a country under Arab or any of the other Moslem administrations. Jerusalem does contain a place holy to Islam (and this too was borrowed from Judaism), but the city as such has no significance in Islam.
The known facts are fascinatingly simple. Mohamed, in establishing Islam in Arabia, hoped that both Jews and Christians would adopt the new religion. He called on them to accept him as the successor of both Moses and Jesus, whose original authority and sanctity he respected. To emphasize the affinity and religious continuity between the two older religions and Islam, he at first ordered that when praying the Moslem should adopt the Jewish custom of turning his face to Jerusalem (at that time still under Christian rule). When, however, there was no response by Christians or Jews to his claim or to his appeal, he rescinded the order eighteen months later. Moslems at prayer have ever since turned their faces to Mecca.
It was presumably the recognition by Mohammed of the sanctity of the Holy City of Judaism that gave birth to the Moslem tradition that the Temple Area was the site of his ascent to the seventh heaven. The Koran itself relates only that Mohammed in a single night was transported to heaven by Buraq, a horse with wings, a woman’s face, and a peacock’s tail. He was first taken to what the Koran called the “uttermost mosque” – il masjad al aksa. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the story, and there was, of course, no mosque in Jerusalem. After Mohammed’s death, the tradition – which did not pass unchallenged by an opposing school of thought – laid it down that the “uttermost mosque” meant the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
It was not Mohammed’s dream that conferred sanctity on the Temple Mount. On the contrary, it was the existing sanctity of the place – it had been holy to the Jews for nearly two thousand years before Mohammed – that inspired the weavers of the legend to choose it as lending a fittingly awesome station for Mohammed’s ascent. The Buraq, as the Moslems call the site, is thus in fact a permanent memorial to Islam’s recognition of the Jewishness of the Holy Place.
On this legend rests the Moslem claim to the Jewish Temple Mount as a Moslem Holy Place. The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque were subsequently built on the Mount. This, called Haram-A-Sharif, became the third holiest place in Islam (after Mecca and Medina). It is not known that Mohammed in fact ever set foot in Jerusalem. Here begins and ends the religious significance of Jerusalem to Islam. It is fascinating to reflect what the Christian reaction would be if the Moslem theologians had chosen to declare the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the station for Mohammed’s ascent, then renamed it Buraq, and claimed the site as Moslem property. Christopher Sykes has put it pithily:
“To the Moslems it is not Jerusalem, but a certain site in Jerusalem which is venerated…the majestic Dome of the Rock. To a Moslem there is a profound difference between Jerusalem and Mecca or Medina. The latter are holy places containing holy sites. Apart from the hallowed rock, Jerusalem has no major Islamic significance.”
Nor were the Moslems overly impressed with Jerusalem’s importance when they ruled in Palestine. When, on the fall of the city to the Crusaders in 1099, a Moslem delegation arrived in Baghdad, then the capital of the empire, to seek aid against the invading Christians, the Baghdadis shed tears and expressed sympathy but offered and took no action to help in the recovery of Jerusalem.2 The city never played any part in the Arabs’ political life. While in turn Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo glittered with the luster of an imperial capital, Jerusalem stagnated as a remote provincial townlet. It never served even as a provincial capital, not even a subprovincial capital (an honor reserved for Ramleh). No less significantly, it was never a Moslem cultural center. No great school of Islamic lore was established nor any religious message proclaimed there. To the Moslems, Jerusalem, though the site of a Holy Place, was a backwater.
Nor did the Arabs attach any importance to living in Jerusalem. Even when the Moslems ruled, for long periods the majority of the population was Christian.
After the middle of the nineteenth century, soon after modern Jewish reconstruction began, the Jews attained a majority, which they have never relinquished. Successive Arab attacks, encouraged or permitted by the British, from 1920 onward, gradually squeezed the majority of the Jews out of the Old City and into the New. In 1948, when their ammunition ran out, the final remnant and the handful of defenders surrendered to the Jordanians. That was when the city was divided.
The Arabs’ slight and superficial relationship to the city has only recently been expanded into a claim of an uncompromising, even exclusive, ownership. Just as they originally borrowed the sanctity of the Jewish Holy Place, they have now, in our generation, tried to simulate something of the unique and mystic passion of the Jewish people for their ancient and incomparable Holy City.
In the war of 1948, Abdallah’s Arab League, under British guidance, captured the eastern part of Jerusalem, including the Old City. The one significant change in the subsequent nineteen years of Jordanian rule was the attempt to obliterate the Jewish presence and the signs of Jewish identity. All the synagogues were destroyed. In the rains of the most famous of them – the Hurvah – an enterprising Arab citizen put together a small stable for his ass or his goat. The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Old City, was torn up, some of its tombstones being used for paving and some for lavatory seats in Jordanian army camps. The Arabs avoided hurting any Christian susceptibilities and, as a result, the many Christian witnesses in the Old City kept silent about acts of desecration and destruction perpetrated against Jewish sites. Then, suddenly for the first time in history, the Arabs discovered and revealed to the world the vehement, passionate, almost desperate, accents of a deep-rooted, longstanding, and undying attachment to Jerusalem.
This fabrication of an emotion which can after all so easily and manifestly be exposed has yet, again because of the very intensity of its presentation, made at least some impression throughout the world. But it may be helpful in demonstrating a national characteristic of the Arabs, which has assumed central importance in the confrontation between the Jewish and Arab peoples: the admitted capacity of the Arabs to manufacture facts, to deceive themselves into accepting them, and to work themselves up into a public passion over what is in fact a nonexistent emotion.
“What a people believes,” writes Hitti about the Arabs, “even if untrue, has the same influence over their lives as if it were true” (p. 88).
What is commonly called the Oriental imagination has long been recognized. It is only in our day, however, that it has played a striking part in shaping world events. The amplifying effects of modern communications media-radio and television – and the willing involvement of powerful world interests have presented the Oriental imagination with unprecedented influence. The use of lies in our time as a primary weapon of state policy by the two most powerful totalitarian states the world has known-Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union-has, moreover, set an example. It also introduced techniques whose application has sharpened the Oriental imagination into a highly effective political weapon.
Al-Ghazzali, the great eleventh-centuryMoslem theologian, wrote:
“Know that a lie is not haram [wrong] in itself, but only because the evil conclusions to which it leads the hearer, making him believe something that is not really the case….If a lie is the only way of obtaining a good result, it is permissible….We must lie when truth leads to unpleasant results.”
Students of Islam and the Arabs – not least Moslem and Arab scholars – have devoted much attention to the significance and the consequences of the application of this precept.
“Lying,” writes the Arab sociologist Sania Hamady, “is a widespread habit among the Arabs and they have a low idea of truth….The Arab has no scruples about lying if by it he obtains his objective….He is more interested in feeling than facts, in conveying an impression than in giving a report. The Arab language, moreover, provides its users with the tool, for assertion [tarokid] and exaggeration [mubalong]. The result has been the creation of colorful rules in communication.”
“The Arabs are forced,” writes another Arabic scholar, Eli Shouby, “to overassert and exaggerate in almost all types of communication, lest they be misunderstood. If an Arab says exactly what he means without the expected exaggeration, his hearers doubt his stand or even suspect him of meaning the opposite.”
Falsifying history is not a new Arab art, and it was never confined to the marketplace. According to the whimsical description given by Hitti,
“The Arabian genealogist, like his brother the Arabian historian, had a horror vacui and his fancy had no difficulty in bridging gaps and filling vacancies; in this way he has succeeded in giving us in most instances a continuous record from Adam or, in more modest compass, from Ishmael and Abraham” (p. 91 ).
As a major political weapon, however, complex fabrication has developed organically among the Arabs in the two generations of the struggle for Palestine. In their first encounter as a group with the modem world, the Arab leaders discovered how avidly foreign imperialists and other interested parties who were not Moslems and who were not Arabic-language specialists were ready to encourage, and exploit for their own ends, Arab fantasies and exaggerations. The Sherifian Arabs in the First World War and in its aftermath had the great good fortune to be allied with a British agent interested in precisely the kind of fabrication their own culture and custom encouraged. T. E. Lawrence found the appropriate partners for his historic adventure in mendacity.
Thus, for example, the Emir Faisal, in addressing the Paris Peace Conference in February 1918, turned the few train wreckings by his Bedouins into an “advance of 800 miles by the Arab army.” The army (of 600 men) did, in fact, move about 800 miles northward, but most of the advance took place only after the British, Australian, and French forces (and in the latter stage a Jewish force) had already driven out the Turks. The size of the army, Faisal claimed, was 100,000, and it had suffered 20,000 casualties. To top it all, his army, he declared, had taken 40,000 prisoners. This tale, however, so suited the British interests at the time that it was only eighteen years later that the British Prime Minister, who had been present at Faisal’s speech, described his figures as “Oriental arithmetic.” At the time the statement was woven into the fable, disseminated by the British, and accepted by the world at large as a measure of the scope and impact of the “Revolt in the Desert.”
The profit to the Arabs of the Laurentian fraud was not calculated to encourage them to restrain their own national failing, and it made its continuous impact on the history of Palestine. It was brought home in incredible drama to millions of citizens throughout the world in June 1967.
The Arabs’ account of the events of the Six Day War consisted of a counterpoint utterly different to the events themselves. Their reports bore only minimal relation to what was happening–except for the two facts that a war was in progress and that its scene was the Middle East.
Even the identities of the combatants were distorted. The Egyptians, and the other Arab states in their wake, repeatedly proclaimed the completely imaginary participation of American and British pilots and planes in the attacks on their airfields. The Egyptian Air Force – which, in fact, never left the ground – was said to be wreaking havoc in Tel Aviv, in Haifa, in Natanya. The Israeli Air Force (which came through the six days with a loss of nineteen planes on all fronts) lost, according to Arab communiques, 160 planes on the first day alone. Gigantic tank battles in the Sinai Desert, with huge Israeli losses, were waged in the Arab reports two and three days after the Israeli forces had overwhelmed the mass of Egyptian armor, and while tens of thousands of Egyptian soldiers were giving themselves up as prisoners or fleeing toward and across the Suez Canal.
Some skeptical, case-hardened newspaper readers and television viewers, remote from the scene of conflict, were convinced that after allowing for wartime exaggeration, the war was going very well for Egypt and Jordan and badly for Israel. It could surely not all be untrue. Though it was no doubt untrue that Haifa and Natanya were in flames, they must have suffered some damage. If the Arabs claimed that Tel Aviv had suffered heavy casualties from bombing, some casualties there must no doubt have occurred. Allowing for exaggeration, twenty or thirty Israeli planes had surely been downed. In fact, neither Haifa nor Tel Aviv, nor any other city, received a single bomb or any other attack by Egypt. Two shells were fired into Tel Aviv from the Jordanian front; a single bomb was dropped in the neighborhood of Netanya by an Iraqi plane.
These allowances for the Oriental imagination were made by the sophisticated, the cynics, the optimists. To large numbers of more credulous people throughout the world, it seemed certain by the second day of the war that Israel was on the brink of defeat. Thereafter the balance was restored, but it was only by the end of the six days that the realization of the magnitude of the Arab defeat made its full impact.
The effect of the Arab reports was not achieved without the assistance of foreign news media which, credulously or in wishful eagerness, spread them. The Russians, whose own original contribution to the mendacities of the age had precipitated the war (early in May they had given Nasser unfounded information that Israel had massed forces for an attack on the Syrian border), gave their own enthusiastic intonation to the news of Israeli disasters. They were themselves completely deceived, and, in consequence, delayed the call for a ceasefire by the Security Council lest too early a cessation might prevent the complete defeat of Israel.
The British Broadcasting Corporation served as a main instrument of the Arab information services, publicly repeating even the most improbable of their reports and severely censoring the only version of events – from its reporter in Jerusalem – that corresponded to the truth. Many hours after the officer commanding the Israeli Air Force had announced the destruction of the Egyptian Air Force, British newspapers were still debating whether Britain could stand aside and see Israel destroyed.
The very brevity of the war, the concentration of events, sharpened the exposure in men’s minds of the magnitude of the Arab fabrications. Indeed, it awakened many thoughtful Arabs to the dangers to themselves of their imagination. Deception was, after all, the obverse of self-deception. When President Nasser claimed that British and American planes had bombed Egyptian airfields and that Egyptian planes had bombed Israeli cities, he was misleading not only the world, but also the Arabs. He was probably misleading himself because his military chiefs were lying to him. He certainly misled King Hussein of Jordan. Hussein’s decision to attack Israel – and to persist in the attack even after the Israeli Prime Minister had urged him to desist to avoid a clash – was probably based on his belief in Egyptian reports of havoc and destruction in Israel.
For it is a well-known part of the character of Arab fantasy that the inventor of a story comes to believe it himself. A charming little tale from Arab folklore tells of a man whose afternoon nap was disturbed by the noise of children playing in the courtyard below. He went out to the balcony and called, “Children, how foolish you are! While you are playing here, they are giving away figs in the marketplace.” The children rushed off to collect their figs, and the man, pleased with his invention, went back to his couch. But just as he was about to drop off, a troublesome thought aroused him: “Here am I, lying around, when there are free figs to be had in the marketplace!”
Their misrepresentations of the Six Day War harmed the Arabs most of all. In the years that have followed, a far more complex web of fiction has victimized the Jewish people. The fiction of the so-called Palestine revolution, or the “Palestine Liberation” movement, could have results no less dangerous than those of the Cairo-Khartoum school’s workings after 1918.
The Arab terrorist organizations, operating without a Lawrence, adapted the tone and content of their propaganda to prevailing political currents in the world and made effective use of the modem mass media.
They disseminated so plausible a statement of their motives, so lively a version of their fighting methods and achievements, that the average person, with little opportunity or interest to make a study, naturally tended to accept them. Many people were thus persuaded to believe that the Arab terrorist organizations were daring bands of partisan or guerrilla fighters, springing out of the Arab population of Palestine, determined to regain a lost homeland, and suffering an alien and cruel occupation. These fighters, it was maintained, sallied forth by day and by night from the underground bases provided by the sponsorship of the “Palestine nation”; they boldly engaged occupying Israeli army units, with their always superior numbers and with their tanks and their planes. Large numbers of these were thus “destroyed,” and very many Israeli soldiers were “killed.” No less regularly these brave guerrillas were depicted as penetrating the heart of Israel, where they attacked military installations and inflicted untold damage.
The terrorists’ propagandists exploited recent history to suggest that the French Maquis, the Scandinavian undergrounds, or Tito’s partisans in the Second World War had come to life again in the exploits of the Fatah and its sister organizations. They were pictured more specifically as the latest reincarnation of Castro’s guerrillas in Cuba, as bloodbrothers to, Che Guevara in the Bolivian jungle, as the tactical disciples of Mao Tse-tung, of the Algerian rebels against French rule, of the Viet Cong. This is, of course, the type of story that Europeans and Americans expect to hear, attuned as they are to the taut heroic drama of liberation movements, underground or open, that have captured the public imagination during the past thirty years. The Arabs’ action stories have, moreover, often been retailed and given added verisimilitude by the dispatches of eager American and European news correspondents on the spot. They were permitted to visit “secret guerrilla headquarters” and enabled to talk (and to tape-record) participants in “attacks” or, “raids,” both before and after; they were even permitted to take photographs. The picture thus presented of the purpose of the Arab terrorist organizations, of their origin and background, and of the nature of their activities, was a sophisticated, modern fulfillment of Al-Ghazzali’s permissive philosophy: It was a mixture of exaggeration and wishful thinking. It was spread abroad with great intensity by the worldwide labors of a large team of propagandists, some frankly professional, many planted as students at universities in Europe and the Americas, all maintained or subsidized by a vast budget.
In fact, the Fatah and its rival organizations have never carried out or tried to carry out an attack of any significance on any unit of Israel’s army, air force, or navy. Such engagements as have occurred have been initiated by the Israeli forces. These, patrolling border areas or carrying out a search, have encountered Fatah groups, infiltrated across the Jordan River or in the mountains of Galilee at the Lebanese frontier.
Fatah operations have been directed almost exclusively against civilian targets. Except for attempts to sabotage the Israel Water Carrier – the national pipeline carrying water from the comparative abundance of the Lake of Galilee to the semiarid Negev – and mining a border road used by children on their way to school along which Israeli military patrols might be expected to travel, they have, insofar as they have succeeded in operating within Israel, tried to destroy civilian property and to kill civilians. In these operations, they have confined themselves almost exclusively to two weapons: explosives with a time mechanism, and hand grenades. The explosives have been planted, with becoming intrepidity, in a shopping basket in a crowded supermarket, in a package in a university students’ restaurant, under an apartment house at night, and in waste baskets during the rush hours at a bus terminal.
These operations, involving penetration into Israel’s population centers and in some cases a momentary mingling with the intended victims, have not been numerous. The Israeli security forces have in nearly all these instances caught the perpetrators, and the cells to which they belonged have been eliminated. By far the greater number of Fatah operations have been executed from outside Israeli territory: mainly across the Jordan River, but also to a lesser degree in the mountains of Galilee straddling the dividing line with Lebanon. Across these borders, at a safe distance, the fighters of Fatah have carried out hundreds of light-artillery attacks.
Such attacks across borders have provided the most picturesque locations for conducted visits by foreign correspondents. Here the missing ingredients of stark military confrontation and of guerrilla valor could be added at will. Journalists and television teams were, for example, taken at night to the banks of the Yabbok River in the heart of Transjordan. Facing each other across the river, two groups of Fatah fighters exchanged artillery fire with careful imprecision. The following day, Scandinavian television viewers were shown the Yabbok River, now identified as the Jordan, and the battling forces, one of which was now described as the Israeli Army. The picture of the battle was accompanied by a commentary on the casualties probably inflicted on the Israeli Army and the certain destruction of specific Israeli military targets. Those news-hungry journalists, ignorant of local geography, no experts in battleground reporting, bemused by the night and the noise, unconscious of the Arabs’ infinite capacity for invention – what reason did they have to doubt the authenticity of the connection between what their eyes saw and what their hosts were telling them?9 Why should even an experienced newspaper correspondent at the always secret guerrilla headquarters, amid the noise of nearby exploding shells, speaking to warriors returning to their base, disbelieve their story of a daring crossing of the Jordan River into Israeli-held territory and the successful demolition of Israeli tanks or guns? How could he know that they had in fact merely lobbed shells over the river and then given the suitable texture of battle grime to their face and hands and uniform? Why should the reader of the illustrated newspaper in Paris or the television viewer in Cincinnati doubt the evidence provided by the picture of that begrimed Arab guerrilla and the caption composed by the reporter?
The targets of attacks from across the border were invariably the Israeli border villages – their men and women and children, their domestic animals, their little houses. As in the days before 1967, when they were harassed nightly by Syrian artillery fire pouring down from the Golan Heights, there are children in many villages on the Jordan who do not know what it is to sleep in their own cots; they spent their childhood nights in underground shelters. The routine may be varied by a daylight attack with Katyusha missile throwers on a school bus – described in the Fatah community as a successful attack on Israeli Army transport.
The scope and nature of the operations of the Fatah is marked by a characteristic unique in the history of liberation movements, underground or open. Hundreds of members of Fatah and other terrorist organizations – most of them described as Palestinian Arabs, the rest from the Arab states – are in Israeli detention. During the four years after the Six Day War, they were tried and convicted for taking part in or planning sabotage activities, or for organizing or recruiting for the terrorist organizations. A minority was caught during or following an operation; the rest were denounced by their comrades. As soon as they were questioned, sometimes even earlier, captured officers supplied the names of their subordinates, rank-and-file members gave away their officers. In some cases, prisoners reconstructed their operations for the Israeli police, explaining the part played or due to have been played by each of the participants.
There were, of course, exceptions. Some young Arabs kept their lips sealed and showed defiance to their captors and judges. They served to provide an occasional break in the gray picture of so-called freedom fighters prepared, once caught, to jeopardize and indeed torpedo their movement and the cause they claim to be fighting for. It was not to save their lives that they were so free with the freedom of their comrades and the continuation of their struggle. The Israeli military courts do not impose the death penalty, and there is no torturing of prisoners. The advantage to be gained therefore was at most the lightening of a prison sentence.
Nor is this yet the full measure of the masquerade. Fatah and its sister organizations were not born after or as a result of the Six Day War and the Israeli occupation of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. They came into existence some ten years earlier, when three quarters of a million Arabs in Samaria and Judea lived under Arab rule from Jordan and three hundred thousand lived in the Gaza Strip under Egyptian Arabic rule.
They did not enjoy the independence which the Fatah propagandists claim to be the breath of life to them, and they seemed quite oblivious to its absence. For those nineteen years, there was no talk of independence nor any action to secure it. In those years as well, Israel was the target of Fatah’s activities – Israel in its cramped partition borders. Then, too, Fatah acted in the name of the “Palestinian people”–presumably the Arab – ruled Arabs of Hebron and Jenin and Nablus as well as the Arabs of Haifa and Jaffa and Nazareth in Israel.
Yet the cardinal fact about the Fatah and its campaign against Israel is that it did not spring from the Arabs of Palestine, whom it claims to represent and for whom it claims to be living and dying. It was not welcomed in their midst or given a minimum of help and of comfort.
Fatah was not founded in Palestine. Throughout the years of non-Israeli rule in Judea and Samaria, it did not have its headquarters there and did not conduct its operations from there. It was founded in Lebanon in the late 1950s. Its first official offices were opened in 1963 in Algiers, in a building placed at its disposal by the Algerian government. Compelled to leave Algeria because of internal Algerian frictions, it established new headquarters in Beirut. In mid-1965, Fatah headquarters were moved to Damascus, where they remained until the Six Day War.
Yasser Arafat, its leader, is not uncharacteristic of the Fatah membership. His claim to have been born in the Old City of Jerusalem may well be true. It is certain that he was brought up and educated in Egypt, after his parents had emigrated there from Palestine. They were not “refugees” or exiles, they had simply moved house in the 1920s, twenty years or more before the State of Israel came into existence. Arafat is said to have served in the Egyptian forces during the invasion of Palestine in 1948. He certainly qualified in Egypt as an engineer and worked there for some time.
He moved to a job in prosperous Kuwait and there began to agitate against Israel. Henceforward, his political activity dictated his mode of life. From Kuwait he went to live in Beirut, then in Algiers, then back in Beirut, and then in Damascus. Though he was a frequent traveler, in all the nineteen years of Jordanian Arab rule, he did not set foot, let alone try to live, still less naturalize his movement, in Judea or Samaria, not even in the city he claims as his birthplace. He gave Palestine and the people who lived there a wide berth.
Fatah operations against Israel, first launched in 1965, were planned in Syria. The fighters first crossed into Jordan or sometimes into Lebanon and from there infiltrated directly into Israel. All the attacks were hit- and-run raids on civilian targets, and seldom did they stray far from the border. For Fatah members could not expect shelter from the Palestinian Arabs, whether in Jordan-occupied Judea and Samaria or in Israel. With few exceptions, the “Palestinian people” were not involved at all, nor did they offer any substantial cooperation, even passive, in these operations.
After the Arab defeat in the Six Day War and Israel’s gaining of Judea and Samaria, the Fatah put its pretensions to the test. A month after the Six Day War, Yasser Arafat left his headquarters in Damascus and infiltrated into Palestine, setting up a clandestine headquarters in the market area in Nablus. Later he moved to Ramallah.
Several hundred members of the Fatah recruited in Syria, Algeria, and in European universities were infiltrated into Palestine, some of them taking advantage of the Israeli government’s policy of “open bridges” across the Jordan. They succeeded in smuggling in substantial quantities of arms and military equipment.
Assuming that Israeli military occupation rule would be harsh and oppressive, inspired by doctrines culled from the Algerian rebellion against French rule, and applying the tactics of the Viet Cong in the South Vietnam countryside, Arafat sent agents into the Arab towns and villages of Judea and Samaria to recruit members for the organization and to establish local cells throughout the areas. He planned gradually to build into the Arab population an armed force that would sally forth from safe billets to carry out guerrilla attacks, then fade back into the population. Into the Jewish towns and villages he would send teams of saboteurs to wreak death and destruction. His cells, moreover, were to oversee the Arab population; he would set up an underground “government” that would dominate the Arab countryside and population, at least by night. To this end, leaflets were distributed clandestinely among the population calling for a boycott of Israeli economic, cultural, and judicial institutions, even of the Israeli radio and newspapers. The leaflets contained instructions for the execution of various simple acts of sabotage, such as rolling rocks down from the hills to block roads, or pouring sand into the gas tanks of Israeli vehicles.
The adoption of these ideas, whatever their validity in North Africa or South Vietnam, proved only that Yasser Arafat, true to tradition, was the victim of his own fantasies. Arafat’s plans did not work out, not only because the Jews in Palestine were not foreign colonists, but also because he apparently knew little about Palestinian topography, still less about “his own” people, and nothing at all of the outlook and methods of the Israelis whose “occupation” of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza is extremely liberal. (Fatah appeals dated September 1, 1967, at last “warned” the Arab population against the “soft ways” of the Israelis designed to “weaken our resistance.”) When the agents Arafat sent to mobilize the Arabs in the countryside reached their destination, they told their hosts tales of their daring in making their way through the mountains and in outwitting ubiquitous Israeli Army patrols. The townsmen, even the villagers, were not impressed. They listened to the stories politely. They were the kind of stories expected from heroes. They themselves knew that there were no restrictions on movement in the area in the daytime. One did not have to move in byways and mountain paths. The Israeli government early laid down and pursued a policy of letting the life and occasions of the Arab population go on with a minimum of interference. All that Arafat’s agents had to do in order to travel from one town to the next was to board a bus and pay the fare.
A handful of young Arabs, understandably fired by the promise of an early expulsion of the Israelis, did join the Fatah. A few traveled into Jewish towns to carry out acts of terror. The Arab population as a whole, though certainly willing to see the Israelis disappear, turned a deaf ear to appeals for active cooperation. They refused, moreover, to provide billets for their liberators. Instead of safe bases deep in the homes of the population, the terrorists had to make their way to the hills and maintain themselves there. The season was in their favor; the Palestinian summer is well suited for living in the open. By the autumn of 1967, Fatah changed its plans. After barely three months among his “own people,” a presumably sobered Arafat, narrowly escaping capture by the Israeli Army, returned to Syria and briefly established his headquarters in Damascus, later moving to Transjordan. Neither Fatah nor any of the other “Palestinian” organizations made any serious renewed effort in the years that followed to establish a base within the “occupied territory.”
The discrepancy between the propaganda and the reality of the “Palestinian Revolution” is most clearly demonstrated in the almost complete failure of the self-styled revolutionaries to win the physical participation of the “people” that is supposed to be yearning and fighting for its “freedom.” The terrorist organizations are not, in fact, nor have they been, an arm of the allegedly homeless Palestine Arabs. Each of them has been the instrument of one or more or all of the Arab states. When the Fatah, after seven years of talk and discussion and much traveling by its founders, in 1965 finally planned a few actual sabotage operations from Syria, it was because the Syrian government had taken the organization under its wing. It remained a client of the Syrian government, which supplied money and training facilities until after the Six Day War. The Syrian affiliation of the Fatah placed strict limits on its size: Its membership was drawn exclusively from those elements among the “refugees” who had Syrian sympathies and associations. It was opposed by other Arab leaders for reasons of their own and, therefore, by their followers among the “refugees.” Nasser of Egypt and, in his wake, the leaders of the other Arab states, argued that guerrilla action was untimely.
The status of the Fatah, the powers driving it on, and the resources at its disposal changed drastically after the Six Day War. The Arab states, defeated and not yet able to resume a direct attack on Israel, began to promote “popular” terrorist activity on a large scale.
They turned to Fatah as the potential instrument of preparatory attrition, and set up additional terrorist organizations of their own. From time to time after June 1967, a new body with an explosive-sounding name announced its birth, but of the thirty-odd that did so, only twelve appear to have had any real existence. Of these, only four or five made any impact. Each of them enjoyed the all-embracing patronage of one or more or all of the Arab states.
The largest contributions in cash came from the fabulously wealthy oil states of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. Training facilities were provided by Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. A wide range of arms poured in from all the Arab states. Instructors were provided by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. An army of recruiting officers was set up by the Arab states and sent out to mobilize “Palestinian refugees”–that is, young men on the UNRWA lists who were working or studying in one or another of the Arab states or in European universities.
The origin, direction, and scope of cooperative action among the Arab states in the “Palestine Revolution” are illustrated in the story of Ahmed Arshid (known as Sword). Classified as a refugee, he enrolled as a student of industrial economics at Karlsruhe University in West Germany in 1960. In 1965, a Syrian agent enrolled him nominally in Fatah, and he became its organizer among the Arabic students of Karlsruhe.
In June 1967, after the Six Day War, still a student, he and 120 other students were sent to a training camp at Balida in Algeria, where for three weeks they were trained in the elements of sabotage, physical fitness, fieldcraft, and marksmanship using a Chinese revolver and a French rifle, and battle practice with a Sten submachine gun and Russian and Chinese bazookas. The instructors were Algerian officers.
At the end of the course on July 20, Arshid and thirty-eight other students were flown to Syria. In Damascus they were given more field training, this time with Czech light arms. They were also given a course in theory on the struggle against Israel and on liberation movements in the world, with special reference to China, Cuba, Yugoslavia, and Algeria.
Now qualified for action, Arshid was appointed a staff officer in the command of the Fatah in the Jenin district of Samaria. He was provided with an identity card belonging to an Arab resident of the area and taken by Syrian Army Intelligence to the village of Hama on the border with Jordan. There he transferred to an Iraqi Army vehicle, which took him to Amman. He reported to a Jordanian Army officer named Assad Shibli on the orders he had been given in Damascus.
Shibli gave him a permit for crossing into western Palestine. He succeeded in crossing the Jordan and made contact with Fatah headquarters in the Jenin district. This was in August 1967, during the brief period when Fatah headquarters were in Palestine itself. Shortly after his arrival, Arshid was arrested by Israeli security officers.
Between his recruitment in Karlsruhe and his capture in Palestine, he had been mobilized, transported, trained, indoctrinated, armed, and provided with maintenance by the war machines of four Arab states. Only the Palestinian Arabs, the alleged objects of all this activity, proved unwilling to cooperate in achieving the liberation offered them by Arshid. He shared his experience with several hundred other “guerrillas” who made their way into western Palestine that summer. His story is typical of the “Palestine Revolution” and the Palestine “Liberation Movement.”
Rebuffed by all but a few of the Palestine Arabs and unable to carry on the only kind of struggle that might conceivably create a basis for the claim of a popular war, unable even to provide some grain of truth to support the stupendous tales of fiction with which the Arab propaganda crowded the communications media throughout the world, Arafat and his colleagues dismissed the episode of their rebuff and its implications. Their pan-Arab sponsors accepted the situation philosophically. They may have been disappointed at the refusal of their Palestinian brothers to make any serious effort at liberating themselves or to allow others to make the effort to liberate them from the “cruel Israeli occupation.” They may have felt that Arafat, like Kaukji in 1937-1938, should have imposed his will on the population by force and intimidation. In fact, the Palestinian Arabs were not essential to the objectives.
The Arab states adapted themselves to the new circumstances, even intensifying their cooperation with Fatah. Its sabotage operations within Israel never exceeded limited proportions or rose above the simplest and most primitive techniques, such as firing into a busload of tourists or leaving a few sticks of dynamite in a paper parcel in a school playground. The main force of Fatah was now concentrated in Jordan, with a lesser force in Lebanon. Large rear bases were set up as well as a series of forward bases along the Jordan.
An extensive new range of arms, especially field weapons including katyushas of 132 and 240 mm and light and heavy mortars, poured into these camps. Thus armed – indeed, equipped like a regular army, with guidance and sometimes fire cover given them by nearby Jordanian Army units – the Fatah carried out a daily artillery barrage against Israel, that is, against sitting-duck targets: the villages along the Jordan’s West Bank.
Substantial damage was inflicted on the villages. Many houses were hit. Work in the fields was repeatedly interrupted. Daily life and household routine were restricted. Children could not play or run about. There was gloom in the air. Beyond this, the results were meager. Nobody ran away. There was no evacuation. No village was abandoned. From the rest of Israel, moreover, came volunteers – veterans of 1948, high-school students, new immigrants – for a stint of labor and guard duty in the harassed villages.
Again, the events themselves carved out a yardstick of confrontation between one kind of devotion to the land and another. When the Israeli Army and Air Force took retaliatory action against the Fatah bases across the Jordan, the Arab farmers in the neighborhood ran away. Though their villages, unless they actually included a base, were not attacked, the Arabs abandoned them all, leaving their houses and fields to seek shelter in the interior of the country. It was not long before the Jordan valley east of the river was emptied of its inhabitants.
Nor did the Fatah persevere in maintaining its permanent forward bases or artillery emplacements. They now continued their attacks from mobile artillery units, which were moved down to the river bank as required and withdrawn after use. The operational bases followed the civilians into the interior of Jordan.
It was precisely after the Fatah found out, and demonstrated that it had no political roots in the Arab population of Palestine, that it reached the peak of its fame and its popularity. It now developed its capacity for propaganda and exploited the receptiveness of many elements in the West. ne heroic image it created for itself was disseminated throughout the world. Its primary impact was, of course, in the Arab countries.
Around the essential fact that operations against Israel were indeed being carried out was built a larger glittering structure of the imagination. The minor terrorist attacks were translated into an awesome campaign that instilled terror into the hearts of all Israel and inflicted such heavy losses on her armed forces that she must surely soon surrender. Operations of great boldness were reported, complete with statistics of the enemy’s casualties and of his losses in guns and tanks and even planes. On occasion, even accidents and mishaps in Israel were pressed into the eager service of Arab propaganda: When the Israeli Minister of Defense, General Moshe Dayan, an amateur archaeologist, was severely injured in a fall of earth, the Fatah claimed to have wounded him in a “commando” attack; when Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol died after an illness in Jerusalem, the Fatah proclaimed that he had been killed in a Fatah attack on his home in Degania on the Jordan.
Arab pride soared, and volunteers poured in. They were all absorbed: There was no lack of money or facilities in this liberation movement de luxe, financed as it was by the treasuries of some of the richest states in the world. The number of members in the terrorist organizations in the period 1968-1970 may have reached 10,000, all maintained “in the field” as fall-time soldiers, that is, with all their needs provided for.
The Fatah did in fact take on the aspect of an army on leave. Foreign correspondents in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon at this time reported large numbers of these young members of the “liberation movement” in their picturesque green-spotted field uniforms, swaggering about in the towns, inviting the admiration of less heroic civilians for vaguely wonderful deeds of valor.
There was much movement of jeeps and guns on the roads of Jordan and Lebanon.
As for the leaders, much of their arduous underground labor resisting and outwitting the Israeli defense forces had to be performed in aircraft flying between the cities of the Middle East, in automobiles racing along highways in Syria or Egypt or Algiers, at much photographed conferences in Cairo, and in the first-class hotels. They often also worked hard at being interviewed and photographed at one of their always “secret” headquarters “just before” or “just after” an operation.
“Each one of us,” later declared Abu Ayad – the pseudonym of Salah Halef, the Fatah leaders’ second-in-command – “rode around in an automobile with three or four bodyguards. We attached undue importance to processions, to demonstrations and applause. Let us turn our backs on all this. Let us disregard the cameras. All this must come to an end.”
He made this confession at a meeting in a refugee camp in Lebanon on January 3, 1971 (reported in the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz on January 5, 1971).
By this time, a drastic change had overtaken the fortunes of the terrorist organizations. Yet another of their bluffs had been called. The chief agent of their decline and their exposure was the Jordanian government.
The Fatah first clashed with the Jordanian government soon after its concentration in Jordan. It was proper for the Jordanian Army to help Fatah agents and saboteurs to cross the Jordan for the common purpose of harassing the Israelis and perhaps persuading the Palestine Arab population to rise in revolt. It was also proper to give intelligence support to their artillery units firing across the river. It was another matter when the Israeli artillery and Air Force retaliated and the farmers of the Jordan valley, the most fertile zone in the country, deserting their homes and their farms, deprived the people of Jordan of crops essential to their economy. No decision of the Jordanian government brought this about; the area bordering on the Jordan River simply passed out of its control. Ordinary civilian life all but disappeared as it became a military enclave dominated by the Fatah. With Fatah establishing permanent bases all over the interior of the country, moreover, Israeli Army and Air Force retaliation spread far over the Jordanian countryside.
Nor was this all. The Fatah now also began to ignore the laws of the land and its authorities, arrogating to itself the rights of a regular army responsible only to its own commanders. They accepted as volunteers young citizens of Jordan who were evading enlistment in the Jordanian Army. They set up roadblocks, checking the credentials of law-abiding civilians; they imposed a tax, backed by threats and force, on businessmen; they set up courts not only for their own members, but for trials of Arabs from western Palestine accused of spying; they set up the beginning of a state within a state.
The “liberation” movement was shifting the focus of its activities. The propaganda campaign abroad continued to mobilize considerable sympathy in the larger world. Consequently, there was much less need for actual operations in Israel–especially as these became ever more difficult. Moreover, the smaller terrorist organizations discovered a way of fighting Israel with the maximum of publicity and the minimum of risk: They began to attack Jewish institutions in faraway Europe and, particularly, to hijack civilian planes, Israeli and others, bound to or from Israel. These attacks, which resulted in the murder, maiming, or detention of men, women, and children travelers, and with their overtones of sensation and drama, concentrated universal public attention. At the same time, the main object of Fatah activities became the Kingdom of Jordan, and the conflict between the terrorist leaders and Hussein ripened.
From the beginning of his independent activities in Jordan, and in anticipation of a clash with the government, Arafat had succeeded in mobilizing the support of substantial sections of the population. He was particularly successful with the many Arabs from western Palestine who, as “refugees” or otherwise, had moved across the Jordan in the years between the wars. He could also depend on the backing of the other Arab governments, notably Egypt and Syria, who brought pressure to bear on Hussein to stretch the laws of the country for the “liberation” fighters. As early as November 1967, Hussein signed an agreement with the terrorist organizations which, while not giving them the degree of freedom they demanded, accorded them extralegal recognition. They issued their own identity cards, which exempted their members from carrying Jordanian cards. They were not to be allowed to arrest or question people independently, but they could do so in coordination with the government authorities.
Though they were not to carry out attacks on Israel from the East Bank of the Jordan, the local commanders of the Jordanian Army would help them if they crossed the river to attack.
The Fatah honored the agreement more in the breach than in the observance. But the Jordanian government, while trying from time to time to put a brake on its activities within the country, succumbed to the pressures of the Fatah’s Arab League sponsors and held back from a serious clash. Periods of mutual recrimination were characteristically followed by periods of demonstrative fraternity and declarations of Hussein’s utter devotion to the cause of the “fedayeen.” “We are all fedayeen,” he once said.
The clash came in September 1970, sparked by the boldest stroke ever carried out by the smaller left-wing organization, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. In one day, it hijacked four planes of different international airlines, demanding the release from prison in Europe of a number of its members sentenced or awaiting trial for previous attempts at hijacking – some of them with lethal consequences – as well as a number of prisoners in Israel. The European governments involved accepted their terms. The Israeli government was able to avoid this problem because the attempt to hijack an Israeli airliner had failed.
In the worldwide agitation that accompanied the tense human drama, little attention was paid to the implications of the episode for the Jordanian government.
Three of the hijacked planes had been landed near Zerka in Jordan. While the terrorists warned the world that the planes would be blown up with their passengers, the Jordanian Army stood helplessly by; Hussein and his government were powerless to interfere. This severe humiliation – which indicated that Hussein was no more than a figurehead presiding over an anarchic state – proved to be the last straw.
The Jordanian Army launched a widespread attack on the bases of Fatah and other organizations throughout Jordan. A large-scale military clash developed. After eleven days of fighting, the terrorist organizations were defeated.
Amman, the capital of Jordan, had become the center of the terrorist organizations. For eleven days, both the center of the city and its suburbs – where Fatah had established bases in the refugee camps – served as a battleground. The foreign newspaper correspondents, from whose reports one might expect to be able to form a reasonably coherent picture, were immobilized in a hotel in the heart of the city.
What the world learned of these events – from the fragments the correspondents were able to piece together, from the statements of the two embattled sides, and from other Arab sources-had to be sifted and measured with very special care for grains of truth. The total number of dead, for example, was estimated by the Jordanian Army at 1,500, but the Egyptian press, drawing on terrorist sources, placed it at 30,000. The Jordanian Army’s figure was actually close to the truth.
The battle, in which the army made great use of tanks, was fought with the utmost ferocity. The damage to buildings was considerable, and the bodies of the killed lay in the central streets of the city, thickly intermingled with the bodies of the wounded. Many of these died in the late-summer heat, for neither side tried to arrange a truce for their evacuation.
Amman was not the only battleground. The terrorist organizations had established themselves in strength in other towns, especially in the north near the border with Syria. It seems that much of their arms and equipment came from Syria. Jarash and Irbid served at once as staging posts to Amman and as bases for artillery attacks across the northern sector of the Jordan. The Jordanian Army mounted its attack on these bases at greater leisure and continued them well beyond the signing of the truce.
The Arabian governments sponsoring the Fatah adopted an equivocal attitude while they brought pressure to bear on the Jordanian government to stop what the terrorist organizations described as a slaughter; they did not press too hard until it was clear that the terrorists had been substantially weakened. The only sign of physical intervention came from Syria, whence, at a late stage, a force of fifty tanks arrived at Irbid. This force, grandiloquently described as a Fatah unit, aroused the expectation that the tide of battle would turn, but it turned tail and went back to Syria. (Various explanations have been advanced for the withdrawal: the threat of Israeli intervention, United States diplomacy, Egyptian disapproval.)
The battle now came to an end. The Jordanian government stopped short of an effort to crush the terrorist organizations completely. There followed a series of negotiations and agreements which, in turn, were broken by one side or the other. Reports continued to appear of mopping-up operations against the terrorists in the north and of exchanges of fire here and there. In fact, a new arrangement was reached, uneasy and marred by the bitter memory of September. It was achieved with the help of a “conciliation committee” set up by the Arab states; it reflected approximately the requirements of King Hussein and his government and the somewhat reduced demands of the terrorist organizations.
The Arab states allowed the Jordanian government to weaken the Fatah and the other organizations because they had got out of hand and needed to be disciplined. Nasser and his counterparts could tolerate the worldwide propaganda that projected the image of the terrorist organizations as the most important, the strongest, the most dynamic, and altogether the superlative Arab factor in the world. This image had great advantages: It emphasized the Palestinians as the objects of Arab concern and struggle. But an intolerable situation was created when Arafat and his junior rivals began to believe the propaganda themselves so far as to threaten the sovereignty of an Arabian government by bringing one of the hijacked planes to Egypt and blowing it up there. By their uninhibited threats to achieve by force at least the dissolution of the State of Israel and the elimination of at least part of its Jewish population (a moderated version of earlier threats), they were further interfering with Egyptian and Jordanian policy, developed in the latter half of 1970, of achieving that dissolution in stages, the first step being diplomatic pressure to force Israel back to the 1949 Armistice lines.
The pretensions and arrogance of the Fatah and the other organizations had, therefore, to be reduced and the Arab states welcomed Hussein’s initiative. Once the organizations had been taught their place, they were expected to resume their role in conformity with the schemes laid down by Egypt and the other Arab states.
Hussein and his advisers, however, exploited their advantage to the hilt. They continued by a combination of guile and force to harass and reduce the terrorists.
Progressively they eliminated them from Amman and its neighborhood. Against a remnant entrenched near the Syrian border at Jarash and Irbid, Hussein moved effectively in the spring and summer of 1971. The Fatah fought back, but their troops were routed. Many fled into Syria, some were arrested, and still others were hunted down and killed.
Now followed a most significant episode in the history of the Fatah, lighting up through the fog of propaganda the truths about their pretensions and their illusions. In their extremity, they evoked sympathy and pity in all the Arab countries as well as among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria. There developed a sharp crisis between Jordan and the other Arab states. Hussein was denounced by most of them, with Libya in the lead, for the ferocity of his onslaught on the terrorists. Pleas for him to desist alternated with threats of boycott, sanctions, and elimination.
None of this actually helped the Fatah. Some of the terrorists now grasped the ironic reality of which they were the victims and swiftly made a choice. They set out westward to seek sanctuary among the only people whose practical compassion and reasonable humanity they could trust. Every day for a week, groups of Fatah called out from the East Bank of the Jordan to Israeli Army patrols and were enabled to cross the river and surrender. About a hundred succeeded. Many others were not so fortunate. Alerted Jordanian Arab Legion units intercepted them on their way to the river and shot them down.
The debacle does not necessarily mean the end of Arab terrorist organizations or of renewed attempts to harass Israel. The Arab states will no doubt have need of them again. Whatever their future, by their success in disseminating the story of a “Liberation” movement and the hoax of the “revolution” of the “Palestinian nation,” they rendered incalculable service to the Arab states. They mobilized the sympathy of many honestly ignorant people throughout the world who thus unwittingly helped the pan-Arab war effort against the restoration of the Jewish people to its homeland.
We would like to thank ShmuelKatz.com for providing us with the material for this article. This article is republished with the permission of David Isaac, e-Editor of ShmuelKatz.com. For republishing rights please contact David Isaac directly at David_Isaac@ShmuelKatz.com.
About the author,
Shmuel “Mooki” Katz, born Samuel Katz (9 December 1914 – 9 May 2008) was an Israeli writer, member of the first Knesset, publisher, historian and journalist. He was a member of the first Knesset and is also known for his research on Jewish leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Katz was born in 1914 in South Africa, and in 1930 he joined the Betar movement. In 1936 he immigrated to Mandate Palestine and joined the Irgun. In 1939 he was sent to London by Ze’ev Jabotinsky to speak on issues concerning Palestine. While there he founded the revisionist publication “The Jewish Standard” and was its editor, 1939–1941, and in 1945. In 1946 Katz returned to Mandate Palestine and joined the HQ of the Irgun where he was active in the aspect of foreign relations. He was one of the seven members of the high command of the Irgun, as well as a spokesman of the organization.
In 1948 Katz assisted in the bringing of the ship, Altalena to the shores of Israel. Shmuel Katz was one of the founders of the Herut political party and served as one of its members in the First Knesset. In 1951 he left politics and managed the Karni book publishing firm. He was co-founder of The Land of Israel Movement in 1967, and in 1971 he helped to create Americans for a Safe Israel.
In 1977 Katz became “Adviser to the Prime Minister of Information Abroad” to Menachem Begin. He accompanied Begin on two trips to Washington and was asked to explain some points to President Jimmy Carter. He quit this task on January 5, 1978 because of differences with the Cabinet over peace proposals with Egypt. He refused the high prestige post of UN ambassador. Katz was then active with the Tehiya party for some years and later with Herut – The National Movement after it split away from the ruling Likud. He also has written for the Daily Express and The Jerusalem Post. (source: wikipedia and shmuelkatz.com)