THE HISTORY OF TERROR AND TERRORISM
Nowadays many of us question wether today’s terrorism is something new and recent or whether it has been a product of an ongoing historical process, and indeed we can say it has been so. Already in 1948, tensions began to rise between the Israeli population and the Arab population in the Middle East, tensions which would continue to develop and worsen throughout history and the future.
Since its creation in 1945, the Arabs rejected the organisation of the League of Nations and its proposal of a division of the Middle Eastern territory. In fact, when the United Kingdom left the organisation in 1947, the Arabs attacked Israel, who was able to promptly counterattack, defeat the Arabs and continue to expand in the region. In the meantime, two nationalist movements arose in Egypt; one was the called the Muslim Brotherhood, who’s main member was Sayyid Qutb, and the other movement was called the Free Officers, lead by the Egyptian leader named Nasser. The latter movement aimed at uniting all Arabs countries under a single government, also known as a “qawm”, creating a third super- national power.
In 1952, Nasser overthrew the government and took the lead of the Egyptian nation. Nasser wanted to modernise his country and finally expel any European symbol or influence, for example by nationalising it’s own Suez Canal, therefore also prohibiting European ships to sail across it for trade resources. In 1953, Nasser asked the United States to finance his project of a new dam known as the Aswan Dam, but the Americans refused. The Egyptian leader would therefore turn to the Soviet Union for financial aid. In 1967, the Egyptian forces then invaded Syria and Palestine to carry on their pan- Arabism goals. This conflict would be called the “Six-Day War” and would eventually be settled by the Camp David Accords.
However, the Egyptians were harshly defeated, and Israeli took full control of Gaza, continuing to expand their power in the region. With the expansion of Israel, nationalist groups such as the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, were created.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation, who’s goal was to spread Arab- nationalism, committed various terrorist acts and during the Lebanese Civil War took advantage of Lebanon’s weakness to set up a new base for their actions. When the Lebanese Civil War burst out, the first terrorist groups begin to develop as non- state actors, militia which would fight for their country and ideologies.
An example of these militia groups would be a group known as Hezbollah, created in 1982, which at the end of the civil war gained the leadership of the whole Lebanese country. One of the pivotal years in the Middle East was 1979. In 1979 in Iran a revolution would begin, with rebels seizing the American embassy in Tehran, causing new hostilities between the United States and Iran. Saddam Hussein would soon after overthrow the government in Iraq and establish a new Muslim leadership, specifically a new Sunni leadership. That same year the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia was also seized by the rebels. In December, insurrections began in Afghanistan and the Soviet Union would enter Afghani territory to restore the order. The uprisings in Afghanistan laid the basis for the conflicts of the following era.
In fact, Al-Qaida would then begin to develop as an organisation and America would enter the arena to support the rebels’ front in order to contain Soviet actions. In 1980, Iraq would then invade Iran creating what we today call the Gulf War, and the United States would aid the Iranians in order to obtain the liberation of the hostages of the embassy in Tehran. During this period warfare also developed and terrorist groups such as Al- Qaida would become quasi-state entities in some countries such as Lebanon.
It is fair to say that in order to understand the terrorism we face in today’s world we need a deep understanding of the history that occurred before it and that lead to the creation of this type of terrorism. The type of terrorism we know today was not created overnight and by only one individual, as we have seen it has been an ongoing historical process in various regions of the Middle East. A question that we can therefore ask ourselves is how has it spread to Europe and attacked the biggest metropoles of the European continent?