The Munich massacre and the proliferation of counterterrorism special operation forces

Ronit Berger Hobson, Ami Pedahzur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The attack on members of the Israeli team during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany, was a critical juncture in the understanding of terrorism as theatre and in the fusion between counterterrorism and special operation forces. It created a path dependency in the way the terrorist threat is perceived and handled. For Israel, the attack was one in an ever increasing and constantly changing terrorist threat that helped shape its security apparatus and led to the proliferation of special operation forces units within the military, police and border police. Globally, the attack led to a spur in the establishment of special operation units with specific counterterrorism and hostage rescuing expertise. Overall, the media coverage of the Munich massacre and the failure of the German security forces in handling the crisis contributed to the survivability of special operation forces units. These units specialised in counterterrorism operations and later-on appropriated other types of missions and responsibilities while tightening their political ties and enhancing their public image. Most notably of these was the Israeli Sayeret Matkal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-637
Number of pages13
JournalIsrael Affairs
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Israel
  • Munich massacre
  • counterterrorism
  • special operation forces
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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