News Release

Israel’s Invention of Hijacking and its “Sacred Terrorism”

CNN reports: “Did Belarus ‘hijack’ a civilian airliner to detain an activist?” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki claimed Sunday: “Hijacking of a civilian plane is an unprecedented act of state terrorism. It cannot go unpunished.” Such charges have been echoed by other officials and media, but the statement is inaccurate — Israel originated the practice in 1954 and suffered no legal consequence, see below.

BEAU GROSSCUP, bgrosscup@csuchico.edu
Grosscup is professor emeritus at the department of political science at California State University, Chico. He is author of several books on terrorism, including Terrorism and Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial BombardmentHis latest book is Tell Them What You Want, co-authored with Laverne Merritt-Gordon.

He said today: “The U.S. government is demanding an international investigation here while refusing one for the horrific bombing of Gaza by Israel. It is another instance that the oft quoted ‘one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter’ is a vacuous statement. The U.S. government (and its allies) ‘owns’ the concept terrorism, meaning it tells the global community who the terrorists are and who the freedom fighters are, and has the power to make that distinction meaningful in policy, law, practice, and public opinion.”

Jeremy Scahill tweeted: “If the reports are accurate, Lukashenko’s government forcing this plane to land in an effort to arrest a dissident is a terrible crime. Interesting to contrast this with the Obama admin. forcing Evo Morales’s plane to land in 2013 in an effort to arrest a US dissident, [NSA whistleblower Edward] @Snowden.” See by John Pilger: “Forcing down Evo Morales’s plane was an act of air piracy.”

Israel originated the practice of a state hijacking an airplane in 1954. On Dec. 8 of that year, five Israeli soldiers were captured in Syria, apparently retrieving eavesdropping equipment. On Dec. 12, Israeli jet fighters intercepted a Syrian civilian aircraft flying from Damascus to Egypt, claiming that the plane had violated Israeli airspace.

The following day, the New York Times reported that this “development appears to have given Israel an unexpected position of strength for negotiating the release of Syria’s prisoners.”

Gen. Moshe Dayan was then Israeli Chief of Staff. The Israeli Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett, wrote in his diary, “It is clear that Dayan’s intention…is to get hostages in order to obtain the release of our prisoners in Damascus.”

Contrary to General Dayan’s hopes, no exchange took place. Prime Minister Sharett added that the United States State Department complained that “our action was without precedent in the history of international practice.” See Israel’s Sacred Terrorism by the late Livia Rokach, which has a forward by Noam Chomsky and prefix by Naseer Aruri.