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The Lod Airport Terrorist Attack

Lawrence Bush
May 29, 2017

Lod Airport, today’s Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, was attacked on this date in 1972 by three members of the Japanese Red Faction who had been recruited and trained by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Dressed conservatively and carrying violin cases, they took out their sawed-off assault rifles from the cases and began firing and tossing grenades at airport staff and visitors in the waiting area. Twenty-six people were killed, of whom only eight were Israelis, among them Aharon Katzir, head of the Israeli National Academy of Sciences. The other victims included a Canadian and seventeen U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico. The lone surviving terrorist, Kozo Okamoto (pictured on trial above), told the Japanese embassy that he had done his “duty as a soldier of the revolution.” He was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Israeli military tribunal, but served only thirteen years in prison before being released in 1985 with more than 1,000 other prisoners in an exchange for captured Israeli soldiers. Granted political refugee status in Lebanon, he is still wanted by the Japanese government. Wadie Haddad (Abu Hani), the Palestinian who was the primary organizer of the attack and later organized the Entebbe airport attack in Uganda, was poisoned to death by Mossad in early 1978. A senior defector from the KGB later told British intelligence that Haddad had been recruited as a KGB agent and that the Soviets had helped to fund and arm the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“One of the ambiguities of Okamoto’s revolutionary conception is that the enemy is not clearly defined. Sometimes the ordinary person living in bourgeois society is regarded as part of the enemy bourgeoisie. Yet at other times, he counts the same people as potential supporters of the revolution because they are victims of such things as pollution . . . Because he foresees total overthrow of the existing arrangements of society, he does not feel bound in any way by the moral values of the present world . . . On the other hand, he is not really certain of what society will be like after the revolution has occurred. When I asked him what kind of a world he envisioned after the revolution, he smiled and said, ‘That is the most difficult question for revolutionaries. We really do not know what it will be like.’ ”--Prof. Patricia G. Steinhoff

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.