Why Did the European Parliament Embrace a Palestinian Terrorist?
If there was ever a reminder that Europe is losing its way, the appearance this week at the European Parliament by convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled is surely it.
Khaled, a major operative in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was involved in a wave of hijackings of commercial airliners in 1969 and 1970, most notably a TWA flight from Rome to Athens and Tel Aviv, and an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York City.
The PFLP, headed by George Habash, helped to invent modern terror. Its curriculum vitae is filled with enough hijackings, bombings (suicide and otherwise), drive-by shootings and kidnappings to fill a good-sized bookshelf. It has partnered with like-minded organizations, such as the Japanese Red Army and Colombia’s guerrilla army FARC, and though Marxist in orientation, the group has enjoyed a relationship with terrorism’s biggest backer today — theocratic Iran. The PFLP’s targets have invariably been civilians: in 2014, for example, its operatives attacked worshippers with axes and knives at a Jerusalem synagogue, killing four and wounding seven.
The PFLP has been on the European Union’s terrorism list since 2012 (decades after the organization came into existence). And yet, Khaled was a featured speaker this week on a program at the European Parliament, titled, “The Role of Women in the Palestinian Popular Resistance.” Khaled received a two-minute standing ovation, preceded by this introduction: “We…have a living legend here with us today, who we can call the Che Guevara of Palestine, Leila Khaled.” The Venezuelan ambassador, who was also present, was introduced as an “honored guest.”
Khaled’s speech was not about empowerment and opportunity. Instead, it was a nonstop screed filled with time-tested Palestinian canards about Zionism — and about Jews.
“The Holocaust,” she said, “is only pain to the Jews. They have monopolized the pain and have played the role of the victims. … [D]on’t you think that what happened in Auschwitz is comparable to what happens in Gaza today?”
The Zionist movement, she stated, “aligns with all the capitalists in the world,” and she added that “in the next 100 years, they [the Zionists] will be able to dominate the world economy.”
Khaled even reprised the time-worn line about her being a “freedom fighter,” a term frequently used to excuse, explain or apologize for the violent acts of terrorists such as Khaled and her cohorts in the PFLP, and organizations like it.
At a time when European cities are under increasing assault by an assortment of suicide bombers, car and truck rammers, and knife-wielding attackers, why was Khaled — an inspiration to those who carry out such acts — given a European Union-affiliated megaphone to spout such hatred?
The meeting she addressed was organized by a far-left leaning coalition of parties inside the parliament. According to one report, Martina Anderson, who represents Ireland’s Sinn Fein, gushed in a tweet about the “fantastic turnout” at the event. “Long live international solidarity,” she wrote.
But “solidarity” for what? Khaled’s presentation, with its rants about control of the world’s economy by “racist” Zionists “who have appropriated the role of victims….entirely for themselves all around the world,” was nothing more than a showcase for a rejectionist Palestinian narrative that embraces hatred and antisemitism.
The European Parliament is not the only platform where this kind of behavior has played out; it is only the latest. United Nations agencies like the Human Rights Council and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and even the World Health Organization seek, on a routine basis, to deny, minimize or rewrite Jewish history to fit the Khaled narrative.
The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is closely aligned with this worldview, specializes in comparing Israel with apartheid-era South Africa, and accusing Israeli authorities of ethnic cleansing.
The Khaled event at the European Parliament was not something hidden or unknown to those who peruse the international body’s weekly calendar. Someone made a decision to approve its being placed on the schedule.
To be fair, some members of the parliament have spoken out against Khaled’s appearance in Brussels, as has the European Commission’s coordinator on combating antisemitism.
Yet with so many EU heads of government, foreign ministers and other officials proffering comments about the need to defeat the growing threat of terrorism on the continent, where are those voices expressing outrage over the invitation to a convicted terrorist — who remains a “member of the political bureau” of one of the deadliest of terror organizations — to speak at one of the EU’s central institutions?
In trying to explain this, words like “hypocrisy” and “indifference” come to mind, along with simple political correctness. But it is more than that: Haven’t those in leadership positions in Brussels learned anything from decades of violence espoused by Khaled, her contemporaries and now, by Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS? If nothing else, have they no self-respect?
The recent list of terrorist attacks in Europe is long, and growing. At the EU, some may have short memories, but surely the families of victims in Paris, Nice, London, Brussels, Copenhagen and so many other places, do not.
The citizens of a united Europe deserve better.
The author is the CEO of B’nai B’rith International.