Car bombing has become synonymous with the Middle East in recent years, so few people would be surprised to realise that this most destructive and indiscriminate form of terror became established in this part of the world.
However, less well known is the fact that this was originally a Jewish weapon used against the Arabs.
The method of killing and destruction was actually pioneered in 1920 in New York, and in a cart rather than a car. An Italian anarchist called Mario Buda packed a horse-drawn wagon with explosives and killed dozens of innocent bystanders on Wall Street in a protest against capitalism.
However, the first bomb to be transported to a target in a motorised vehicle was created by two fighters of the Lehi movement in pre-state Palestine.
These pioneers of a uniquely horrible form of warfare are still alive and were interviewed by the presenter, former CIA agent Bob Baer.
Yaakov Heruti and Eliezer Ben-Ami explained how they chose their target, the Soraya building in Jaffa, used as the headquarters of the armed Arab resistance. They parked their truck bomb outside the building and set it off, killing 28 people including innocent bystanders, and injuring hundreds more.
The two 83-years-old were unrepentant about the operation but regretted the non-combatant casualties. Said Heruti:
“We never wanted to kill innocent civilians and children, it happened by bad luck.”
Perhaps, but it must have crossed their minds that by exploding a truck packed with explosives in a crowded street without any warning, civilians and children were likely to be blown away along with enemy fighters.
This was not a film that set out to make any moral points – indeed most of those interviewed showed little remorse for their actions – but it did demonstrate that in every single case, the reverberations of the explosions had a negative impact on those who planted the bomb as much as on those who were attacked.
After the Lehi bomb, an Arab called Fawzi El Kuttub set about wreaking vengeance on the Jews. Trained by the Nazis in bomb-making, he aped the Jewish fighters by setting off car bombs which killed Jewish civilians in Jerusalem, and came close to assassinating future Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. When the smoke eventually cleared, eight car bombs had been set off – four Arab, four Jewish – claiming 120 lives.