Did Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas play a role in the murder of two American diplomats 50 years ago today? Or did he at least have advance knowledge of the plot and fail to warn the United States?
It is very likely that the answers are yes and yes.
On March 1, 1973, Palestinian Arab terrorists stormed the Saudi Arabian embassy in Khartoum, Sudan where a party for diplomats was underway. The terrorists took a number of diplomats hostage, including U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel and his chargés d’affaires, George Curtis Moore.
The Palestinian Arabs demanded the release of Palestinian Arab murderers and other terrorists imprisoned in multiple countries, including the United States. Among them was Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 due to Kennedy’s support for Israel.
President Richard M. Nixon refused to negotiate with the Palestinian Arab terrorists or accede to their demands, so the next day the terrorists murdered Noel, Moore and Belgian diplomat Guy Eid. According to multiple sources, this was done under the direct orders of PLO and Fatah Party leader Yasser Arafat. Noel and Moore were machine-gunned to death.
No one has ever faced American justice for the murders of these diplomats or for any role in the plot.
At the time, Mahmoud Abbas was a member of the Central Committee of the Fatah movement and had been since 1964, according to official Palestinian Authority websites.
The attack on the Saudi embassy and the murders of Noel and Moore was attributed to a Palestinian Arab terrorist group called the Black September Organization. American officials and others publicly claimed at the time, and for many years after, that Black September was separate from the PLO/Fatah and Arafat. But declassified documents have revealed that American officials knew in the immediate aftermath of the murders of Noel and Moore that Black September and the PLO/Fatah were one and the same.
Six months before murdering the U.S. diplomats, the same Black September attacked the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, massacring 11 Israeli athletes, coaches and officials—including American David Berger.
Thus, we have a series of “dots” to connect:
- Mahmoud Abbas was a high-ranking Fatah official, which made him a high-ranking PLO official and a close confidant of Yasser Arafat. Abbas succeeded Arafat as head of the P.A. and leader of both Fatah and the PLO.
- There was no separation or distinction between the Black September Organization and the PLO and Fatah according to high-ranking U.S. officials and once-classified documents from the 1970s.
- Abbas financed Black September’s massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes and coaches.
- Arafat himself gave his blessing to the Khartoum operation, ordered the murders of the American diplomats and even orchestrated the surrender of the murderers to Sudanese authorities.
So, a more appropriate question emerges: How could Mahmoud Abbas not have played a role in or known about the Noel and Moore murders?
To help connect the above “dots”:
- During the early 1970s, Abbas—also known by his nom de guerre “Abu Mazen” (in some documents spelled “Mazin”)— accompanied Arafat on important trips and missions. He represented Arafat and the PLO/Fatah at key meetings, according to multiple U.S. government documents from the era.
- Michael Young, a longtime opinion editor and columnist for The Daily Star newspaper in Beirut, wrote for Slate, “A founding member of Fatah, the PLO’s main faction, Abu Mazen headed some of the organization’s most sensitive departments in the 1960s and ‘70s; it would have been remarkable if he was not involved in violence.”Young added that terrorist Abu Daoud “wrote [in his memoir] that he was the mastermind of Munich, which was carried out by the so-called Black September organization. He recalled that the plan was concocted in Rome at a meeting he held with senior PLO official Salah Khalaf, better known as Abu Iyad, and another colleague. Soon after, Abu Daoud began planning the operation. The only people he dealt with on the matter were Abu Iyad and Abu Mazen, who, Abu Iyad said, was to secure the funding.”In an earlier article in The Nation, Young wrote, “Munich was carried out by the Black September organization, a secret tributary of Fatah, the PLO’s largest faction. It was established in 1972 by Abu Iyad, Abu Daoud and Abu Mazen.”
- U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers wrote in a telegram to American embassies titled “Arab Government Support for Black September Organization,” dated March 13, 1973, and finally declassified in the late 1990s, “Question of link between Black September Organization (BSO) and Fatah has been subject of much public discussion since the murder of U.S. diplomats in Khartoum. Fatah leader Arafat has disavowed connection with BSO, and many in the Arab world and elsewhere have pointed to Arafat’s disavowal as justification for continuing financial and other support for Fatah.”But Rogers asserted: “The USG (United States Government) has information that Fatah is in fact parent body of BSO. … This brief should not be attributed to CIA in any way, and owing to extreme sensitivity of information it should be conveyed orally only.”
He added, “The Black September Organization (BSO) is a cover term for Fatah’s terrorist operations executed by Fatah’s intelligence organization. … Fatah funds, facilities and personnel are used in these operations. There is evidence that the ‘BSO’ operation in Khartoum was carried out with substantial help from Fatah’s Khartoum office.”
Rogers concluded, “For all intents and purposes no significant distinction now can be made between the BSO and Fatah. … Fatah leader Yasir Arafat has now been described in recent intelligence as having given approval to the Khartoum operation prior to its inception.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Khartoum attack and murders, members of Congress insisted that the perpetrators be brought to justice. In the 1980s, more than 40 U.S. senators signed a bipartisan letter to Attorney General Edwin Meese demanding that Arafat be indicted for the murders, but the Justice Department refused. Citing a Justice Department memo, it declared that there were no legal grounds to indict Arafat.
In 1986, Sen. Jeremiah Denton, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, led a hearing on “Legal Mechanisms to Combat Terrorism” that delved deeply into the Khartoum attack and murders. In the appendix to a 332-page transcript, in an item labeled “Document 3” titled “Arafat’s Top Personal Aides Organize Terror,” there is a list of Palestinian Arab attacks attributed to the PLO/Fatah/Black September that murdered or wounded scores of Americans.
The document states that the terrorists involved “operated with the full support of Arafat and the Fatah Central Committee, which takes collective decisions. Faruq Qaddumi (Abu Lutf)—political secretary of the organization, Khalid al-Hasan, Hani al-Hasan, Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazin), and Hayel Abd al-Hamid, have reiterated their support for ‘armed struggle,’ the codeword for terrorism, including, and especially, against Americans.”
Not only was Abbas never brought to justice for whatever role he played in the murders of Noel and Moore and/or other Americans, but American presidents including Joe Biden and Donald Trump; American secretaries of state such as Antony Blinken and his predecessors; and other high-ranking U.S. officials and members of Congress routinely meet with Abbas and handsomely reward him financially. They accord him the respect given a head of state rather than the contempt due to someone complicit in the murder of Americans. Much the same was done in regard to Abbas’ predecessor Arafat.
In 1986, Sen. Frank Lautenberg rose from his Senate seat and said the following: “I would like to address a matter that goes back 13 years but is still very much alive today. It appears that the Justice Department has new information concerning Yasser Arafat’s involvement in the brutal slayings of two United States diplomats in Khartoum in 1973.”
“ … [T]he Justice Department should lose no time in seeking a criminal indictment against Yasser Arafat,” he asserted. “Why indict a man for a 13-year-old crime? Because it’s never too late to catch a murderer. There is no statute of limitations for that crime. And such an action tells the world that the United States does not take the murder of its diplomats and citizens lightly.”
Or does it?
Steve Feldman is the executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Zionist Organization of America.
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