Black September 1970

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BLACK SEPTEMBER 1970

Name given by the Palestinians to the events of September 1970 in Jordan, when the fighters of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) were attacked by the Jordanian army. In ten days of bloody fighting, more than 4,000 people died. Black September was the result of a series of events that began with the defeat of the Arab armies in the Arab-Israel War of 1967, which discredited all Arab governments and particularly disillusioned the Palestinians. The occupation by Israel of the West Bank, which had previously been controlled by Jordan, caused more than 250,000 Palestinians (many already displaced by the 1948-1949 War) to flee to Jordan, and it deprived both them and Jordan of the benefits of the West Bank economy, causing a recession. There was then extensive growth in Jordan of Palestinian organizations and institutions, both social and military, amounting almost to a separate government. The Jordanian government at this point was too weak to prevent this, and there was already hostility to the Jordanian royal house by certain Palestinian movements, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), many of whose members were of Jordanian origin.

In 1970, during the war of attrition, Egypt's unsuccessful campaign to drive Israel back from the Suez Canal, U.S. secretary of state William Rogers, who had proposed the rejected Rogers Plan in 1969, offered a modified proposal calling for a ninety-day truce while a cease-fire between Israel and the Arab states was negotiated by United Nations mediator Gunnar Jarring. This was accepted by Egypt, Jordan, and Israel—and unanimously opposed by the PLO. The cease-fire took effect on 7 August. On 16 September 1970, King Hussein formed a military government, and the following day, the Jordanian army undertook its campaign of violent repression of the Palestinians, which lasted until a truce was negotiated by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt. Fighting broke out again in July 1971; after the Jordanians suppressed it, they expelled the Palestinian organizations from the country en masse. These organizations regrouped in Lebanon.

SEE ALSO Hussein ibn Talal; Nasser, Gamal Abdel; Palestine Liberation Organization; Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Rogers Plan.