Jamal Al-Gashey (Arabic: جمال الجاشي; born 1953) was a member of the Black September offshoot of the Palestine Liberation Organization and is the last surviving member of the group of eight Black September members who carried out the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes during the 1972 Summer Olympics. He is visible several times in videos of the event, identifiable by his blue and white striped jacket. During the failed rescue attempt by Bavarian border guards and Munich police which resulted in the deaths of nine hostages and five of the Black September members, Al-Gashey was shot in the wrist attempting to aid a fellow Black September member.
In interviews, Al-Gashey has said that he was brought up in conditions of great poverty, mostly in the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon. His family was displaced in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, but always harbored a desire to return. Al-Gashey claimed that the injustice of being forced to live in squalor and rely on handouts while the "intruders" were living on his land fostered his hatred for Israel. This led to his joining the PLO in 1967. He said that during his initial training he felt, for the first time, "truly Palestinian ... not just a wretched refugee, but a revolutionary fighting for a cause."
Role in the Munich massacre
In July 1972, Al-Gashey was one of several young Black September members recruited for what he referred to as "special training," without having any idea what their target might be. He flew to Munich at the end of August 1972, staying in a hotel and even attending a couple of Olympic events. On the night of 4 September, Al-Gashey met for dinner with the other members of the strike team, along with a senior Black September operative (believed to be Abu Daoud), who briefed them on their upcoming mission and drove with them in taxis to the Olympic Village. Al-Gashey claims that until that dinner meeting, he had no clue that the team's target was to be the Israeli Olympians.
Although charged with multiple crimes related to the massacre, Al-Gashey and his surviving compatriots never stood trial. Nearly eight weeks after the massacre, on 29 October, a Lufthansa jet was hijacked by two Black September members, who demanded the release of the three Munich survivors. The jailed fedayeen were subsequently released by the West German government. When they landed in Libya, they were interviewed, with footage of this press conference being shown in the film One Day in September. Jamal Al-Gashey can be seen seated in the middle of the three, between his cousin Adnan (believed to be the guerilla who shot and killed five of the hostages who were tied up in one of the helicopters) and Mohammed Safady. When asked directly if he had killed any of the Israelis, Adnan Al-Gashey simply replied, "It's not important for me to say if I killed Israelim (sic) or not."
It is believed that Al-Gashey has spent the subsequent time since his release in hiding in North Africa. He is married and has two daughters. He is the only member of the group to consent to interviews, having given a brief statement in 1992 to a Palestinian journalist. In 1999, Al-Gashey emerged from hiding to give a more in-depth interview in the film One Day in September. Since Al-Gashey believed that Israeli agents were still trying to kill him, he was disguised and his face shown only in blurry shadow as a precaution. Director Kevin Macdonald noted Al-Gashey's edgy, almost paranoid behavior throughout the interview, but was able to convince him that the film he was working on would only be truly authentic if Al-Gashey gave his side of the story. During the 1999 interview, he explained,
I'm proud of what I did at Munich because it helped the Palestinian cause enormously ... before Munich, the world had no idea about our struggle, but on that day, the name of 'Palestine' was repeated all around the world.
- Reeve, Simon (2000). One day in September : the full story of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre and the Israeli revenge operation "Wrath of God" (1st U.S. ed.). New York: Arcade. p. 49. ISBN 1-55970-547-7.
- Personal interview, in One Day in September. 1999.
- Greenfeter, Yael (4 November 2010). "Israel in shock as Munich killers freed". Haaretz. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
- When the Terror Began (2002). Time. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
- Press conference, as shown in One Day in September. 1999.
- Klein, Aaron J. (2006). Striking Back: The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and Israel's Deadly Response. Melbourne. ISBN 1-920769-80-3.
- Reeve, S. (2001). One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre and Israeli Revenge Operation 'Wrath of God'. New York. ISBN 1-55970-547-7.
- The Munich massacre (2000). BBC News. Retrieved 24 December 2009.