"Not every despairing person can make, at home, the necessary belts, fuses and lethal charges. These things require a godfather." (Christopher Hitchens, Svengalis behind the murderers, The Australian, 20/7/09)
To return to Hitchens' column and the subject of Palestinian suicide bombers (see my previous post), you'll remember the gin-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay's contention that "nasty, vicious, fanatical old men, not human emotions," were the be-all & end-all of the Palestinian suicide bombing phenomenon.
Well, I got to thinking about those grumpy old Svengalis and their bomb belts. Who made the first bomb belt? I asked myself.
Robert Pape, in his authoritative study of suicide bombing, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (2005), is of the opinion that "the first attacker to use a 'suicide belt'" was a young female Tamil Tiger recruit named Dhanu, who used the device to assassinate Rajiv Ghandi in 1991. "It is not known how the Tigers hit upon the idea," he writes, but speculates that they may have been inspired by a scene in Frederick Forsyth's 1989 novel, The Negotiator. (Pape, p 227)
Perhaps, but Pape has overlooked another, earlier bunch of Svengalis who beat Forsyth to the punch by decades. First, a little context: From 1945 to 1948, a branch of the Palmach, known as Ha'mossad Le'aliya Bet (or Mossad), organized the clandestine immigration of European Jewish refugees to Palestine in defiance of the restrictions on Jewish immigration imposed by the British Mandate authorities at the time. From August 1946, the British began deporting such illegal arrivals to camps in Cyprus. Now read on:-
"There was resistance of some kind to British capture in almost all the Mossad ships, but it became established Mossad policy beginning with the British government's Cyprus decision in August 1946. The Mossad then issued instructions for passive resistance during the transfer of refugees to the British deportation ships. The initiators of this resistance policy and its escalation were Palmach headquarters in Palestine and members of Mossad's operational arm there. They were responsible for bringing the refugees from ship to shore, and thus the potential sites of clashes with the British were within their 'jurisdiction'. Their commander was David Nameri, a kibbutz member and one of the founders and senior officers of both the Mossad and the Palmach and the liaison between the two. An activist in both his views and actions, he had no direct contact with the refugees as did his colleagues in Europe. He therefore formulated his positions without being influenced by the specific fate of the refugees, their sufferings and fatigue, or their ability to fight or resist. The first instructions on resistance were transmitted from Palestine to ships that were already at sea, before a comprehensive policy had been adopted: 'If there is an attempt to take control of the ships outside the territorial waters, there should be passive resistance such as: preventing them from coming up the ladder, blocking the approaches to the helm and the engine room, interference with handcuffing and creating havoc'. A few days after publication of the British decision on deportation to Cyprus, Nameri demanded that the refugee ships be transformed into true vessels of war. His opinion, and that of some of his colleagues, was that 'shouts and curses' were no longer sufficient and that it was time to act, to conduct a fierce and violent battle against deportation including deliberate sabotage of the deportation ships. Explosions were put on the ships and were sometimes attached to the bodies of refugee women, who thus became living bombs. Instructions were given as to how and when to carry out sabotage. 'If they are deported without any response we will never be forgiven', Nameri stated in a cable to the Mossad in Tel Aviv (he was himself in Haifa, where the refugee ships were held until deportation). Nameri, who undoubtedly remembered the Patria tragedy six years previously - more than 260 Jewish refugees drowned as a result of a badly executed dynamiting of the ship that was supposed to deport them - and his own role in it, was still not deterred from renewing his demand to sabotage ships loaded with thousands of refugees." (From Catastrophe to Power: Holocaust Survivors & the Emergence of Israel, Idith Zertal, 1998, pp 140-141)
So here we have a bunch of "nasty, vicious, fanatical old (?) men" aka the Mossad, under the supreme command of another "nasty, vicious, fanatical old man" by name of David Ben-Gurion, turning female Holocaust survivors into ticking bombs for use against British sailors in a blatant attempt to make propaganda for the Zionist cause. Nice.
As to whether these ticking bombs ever went off, Zertal, an Israeli historian, records only that "[w]hile some [Mossad agents] organized resistance at almost any price, others calculated the cost and benefit, especially with regard to victims. With the deportation of both the Catriel Yafeh and the Twenty Three, orders came from shore to those accompanying the refugees to conceal and transfer explosives on the bodies of women refugee passengers. This appalling order was carried out, and a bomb was detonated on one deportation ship." (ibid p 169)