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Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response [Hardcover]

Aaron J. Klein
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)


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Book Description

December 20, 2005 1400064279 978-1400064274 First Edition
The first full account, based on access to key players who have never before spoken, of the Munich Massacre and the Israeli response–a lethal, top secret, thirty-year-long antiterrorism campaign to track down the killers.
1972. The Munich Olympics. Palestinian members of the Black September group murder eleven Israeli athletes. Nine hundred million people watch the crisis unfold on television, witnessing a tragedy that inaugurates the modern age of terror and remains a scar on the collective conscience of the world.
Back in Israel, Prime Minister Golda Meir vows to track down those responsible and, in Menachem Begin’s words, “run these criminals and murderers off the face of the earth.” A secret Mossad unit, code named Caesarea, is mobilized, a list of targets drawn up. Thus begins the Israeli response–a mission that unfolds not over months but over decades. The Mossad has never spoken about this operation. No one has known the real story. Until now.
Award-winning journalist Aaron Klein’s incisive and riveting account tells for the first time the full story of Munich and the Israeli counterterrorism operation it spawned. With unprecedented access to Mossad agents and an unparalleled knowledge of Israeli intelligence, Klein peels back the layers of myth and misinformation that have permeated previous books, films, and magazine articles about the “shadow war” against Black September and other terrorist groups.
Spycraft, secret diplomacy, and fierce detective work abound in a story with more drama than any fictional thriller. Burning questions are at last answered, including who was killed and who was not, how it was done, which targets were hit and which were missed. Truths are revealed: the degree to which the Mossad targeted nonaffiliated Black September terrorists for assassination, the length and full scope of the operation (far greater than previously suspected), retributive acts against Israel, and much more.
Finally, Klein shows that the Israeli response to Munich was not simply about revenge, as is popularly believed. By illuminating the tactical and strategic purposes of the Israeli operation, Striking Back allows us to draw profoundly relevant lessons from one of the most important counterterrorism campaigns in history.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Told in remarkable detail, author Klein (Time's Jerusalem correspondent) chronicles the tragic Israeli hostage massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the secret assassination campaign that followed. The execution of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by members of Black September is presented as the result of the colossal ineptitude of West German and Bavarian officials. From this horrific event, the author departs on a fascinating examination of the Israeli response-a shadow war in which "Mossad combatants...were charged with carrying out the assassination orders, which had been passed down from Golda Meir to each successive prime minister." The Mossad quickly identified assassination targets for their involvement in the Munich Massacre; as the program evolved, however, the Mossad's goals expanded, creating a systematic counter-terror campaign based on prevention and deterrence. On the heels of Operation Spring of Youth, in which Israeli commandos assassinated three high-level PLO and Fatah officials in Beirut, "the myth of Israel's military capacity and the long reach of the Mossad was hitting its peak," putting terrorists on the defensive. Klein's account is well researched and highly valuable, and while the episodic structure he employs becomes repetitive, it is nevertheless a necessary read for anyone interested in Israeli history and politics as well as the birth of modern counter-terrorism.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Aaron J. Klein is Time magazine’s Military and Intelligence Affairs correspondent in the Jerusalem Bureau. He was the recipient of 2002 Henry Luce Award and has been a consultant for CNN. Klein was the military/security correspondent and analyst for Hadashot and Al-Hamishmar, two of Israel’s leading national newspapers. He is a contributor to Malam, the journal for former IDF Intelligence, Mossad and Inernal Security Agency officers. He teaches at Hebrew University and is a Captain in the IDF’s Intelligence.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (December 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400064279
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400064274
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #922,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
93 of 101 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Aaron Klein's book "Striking Back" and Steven Spielberg's film "Munich" chonicle
the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by the Black September Palestinian organization at the 1972 Munich Olympic games and tell the story of the Israeli's' government's response, which included a covert campaign to assasinate the terrorists responsible for planning the massacre.

"Munich" is a decent spy movie. "Striking Back" is exciting to read. But the book seems more balanced and credible to me, and it provides a real life case study that is probably worth understanding in the context of today's ongoing war on terror, while the movie appears to bend the facts to fit the story that Spielberg wants to tell.

Both the book and the movie do an excellent job recounting the events in Munich. They both capture many of the same details, like the scene where the Palestinian terrorists force their way into the Israeli dorm rooms using the barrel of an AK-47 as a lever to push open the door while an Israeli athlete tries to hold it shut. Evidently both the filmaker and author have studied the primary sources.

Where the two diverge is in the story of the Israeli government's response. While I have no insight into clandestine operations, I found the book's account much more believable and interesting and note that the author has respectable credentials (including a stint in the Israeli army) and claims to have interviewed numerous sources with firsthand experience of the events.

For example, in the movie, the entire responsbility for assasinating 11 Palestinian terrorists is placed on the shoulders of a single agent, who goes so deeply underground that he ostensibly no longer works for the Mossad.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This isn't "Munich" March 3, 2006
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This excellent book is by an Israeli journalist who was able to get remarkable access to Mossad. One might think this would result in a one-sided presentation, but Klein has done an excellent job of being extremely objective and analyzing the twin motivations of revenge and deterrence that underlay the strike-back assassinations after Munich. The only point on which he isn't objective (and with good reason) is in his unreserved condemnation of the action, inaction, negligence, and callousness (not to mention stupidity) of the German officials during the 21 hours or so of the hostage crisis. The book is worth reading for his thorough account of that one day in September.

Klein's analysis of the Mossad reaction is unsparing, especially in the disaster and tragedy at Lilliehammer, when Mossad agents killed an innocent man whom they should have realized was not Ali Hassan Salameh ("The Red Prince"). Six Mossad operatives were actual imprisoned in Norway for this crime, and the fact that "Munich" never makes mention of this incident is sufficient refutation to those who ridiculously claim that Spielberg and Tony Kushner were insufficiently sympathetic to Israel. While he wrote the book in Hebrew, Klein makes it clear this is not an apologia for Mossad. He sternly questions the rightness of the process in which Palestinian terrorists were identified and "prosecuted" in "show trials" before Israeli Prime Ministers who issued death sentences. People identified as "architects" of Munich often had little if any direct connection to the tragedy. He also carefully analyses the deterrence claim. While Black September terror largely faded after the strike-back assassinations, this appears to have had much to do with the PLO's attempt for legitimacy (Arafat addressing the U.S. in 1974, etc.
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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding and real December 24, 2005
Format:Hardcover
Klein's Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response reads like the latest bestseller from the pen of a major author.

Having lived through the events of 1972, I found Kleins account of the events succeeding the Olympic massacre to be terribly interesting and somehow very much on target in today's world. I only wish a certain major movie director had read this book before filming his version of the aftermath of the terrorist attack on defenseless athletes.

Klein's story is fast paced, well written, well researched, and jumps off the page at the reader. Striking Back is unapologetic which makes it unusual. The events and the principle characters are presented in a manner that makes sense. As I read Striking Back, I had the feeling that I was at last being let in on inside information. Truly a wonderful read.

Aaron Klein is perhaps one of only a handfull of individuals capable of writing of the events related to Munich. I'm so glad that he did.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By Kiwi
Format:Paperback
When it comes to the story of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre and its aftermath there is fact and there is fiction. The fictional element was illustrated by filmmaker Steven Spielberg's Munich. He claimed the film was `inspired by real events' but it 's plot lines was implausible, not to mention the subjective political posturing and sanctimonious moralising. Funnily enough, left-wing Israeli journalist Aaron Klein has produced a thoughtful and balanced factual account of the Olympic slaughter and the Mossad counter-terrorist campaign that decimated the PLO's `Black September' unit that perpetrated the attack. Klein is an IDF reservist intelligence officer, and he has obviously put his spooky connections to good use.

Spielberg based his film on a widely discredited book relating the Walter Mitty fantasies of a Mossad-wannabe. By contrast, Klein interviewed most of the major Israeli players who planned and executed the operations against Black September. And just as in the craft of intelligence itself, excellent sources provide excellent information. While Munich-the-movie is a case of garbage-in-garbage-out, Klein provides us with an accurate portrayal of precisely what the Israelis did, how they did it, and for what purposes it was done. The angst and disillusionment that afflict Spielberg's fictional Israeli undercover agents are nowhere to be seen in Striking Back. During an interview with the 7:30 Report, Klein explained that the Mossadniks, in fact, were firmly imbued with a sense of the righteousness of their cause: I spoke with more than 50 veterans of Mossad and military intelligence. There was no remorse, no second thoughts. They were proud; most of them were proud of what they did and they are still proud of what they did. And in my personal opinion, rightly so!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read- well writtem
I was always under the impression that Israel and the Mossad killed all the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics massacre- they didn't; I was suprised to read about how perps were... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Oldshep
5.0 out of 5 stars The Munich Massacre
Even tho I remember the entire tragedy. The book was a page turner and I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend it. Especially if you weren't alive then . Read more
Published 27 days ago by Jane M. Curtin
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book
Very well written, lots of information that is very interesting. Reading it shows how the struggle between the two nations continues.
Published 5 months ago by Joe
4.0 out of 5 stars Hitting the terrorists
I thought this was a good book as bout how the cc country of Israel decided it had enough with terrorists and no other country's helping them out in putting away bad guys. Read more
Published 6 months ago by chris
5.0 out of 5 stars Very detail description of events.
A very detail narration of the Munich Massacre and the Isrealy strick back. The writter is pro Israel, which doesn't mean he's not objective. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Percy Azofeifa Diaz
5.0 out of 5 stars The reality behind the scenes
I vividly remember the '72 Olympics and the massacre. Once again, what you learned from the TV news isn't even half the story. Well written. Read more
Published 8 months ago by tleeminnieme
4.0 out of 5 stars Know the truth
We must read for ourselves history, or we are doomed to repeat it. While this did not happen all that long ago, its truth is already being lost to us.
Published 14 months ago by Beverly J. Street
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Book on the Subject
I can honestly claim to be fairly knowledgeable on the Munich massacre and Israel's response. I've conducted my own research and in the process have read several books on the... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Calvin&Hobbes
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Writing
Although nothing of what is written book should have happened at all, it has unfortunately happened. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars A quick but uneven read that leaves much to ponder on
Striking Back is a fascinating, but very uneven read. Uneven in that its attention wanders half way through, it is poorly edited (basic errors in sentence construction abound) and... Read more
Published 17 months ago by keetmom
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