Barnard College to Host Prisoners’ Group Accused of Ties With Palestinian Terrorists
Barnard College in New York is due on Thursday to host a group accused of ties with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist organization in the United States and more than 30 other countries.
Two members of Addameer, a Ramallah-based outfit that bills itself as a prisoner support and human rights association, will participate in the event Breaking Bars: Fighting Incarceration from the US to Palestine, which is set to take place at the school’s Diana Center.
Yet critics such as the Jerusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor have recently warned that “more than half of Addameer’s current and former employees, as well as lawyers that work for Addameer, have links to the PFLP.”
The terrorist group has carried out multiple attacks against civilians, including at least nine suicide bombings that claimed nearly 110 casualties during the Second Intifada. More recently, it orchestrated a 2014 massacre of five worshipers and one police officer in a Jerusalem synagogue.
Numerous Addameer leaders have been suspected — and, in many cases, convicted — of involvement with the PFLP, according to research carried out by NGO Monitor.
These include Abdul-Latif Ghaith, Addameer’s chairperson, who in 2017 was accused by Israel’s Ministry of the Interior of remaining an active member of PFLP and maintaining ties with its leaders abroad, Palestinian media reported.
Another Addameer leader — Board of Directors member Yaqoub Oudeh — previously served 17 years in an Israeli prison over his affiliation with the PFLP. He spoke of his continued commitment to the PFLP’s position at a 2014 event, where he was identified as a “comrade.”
Other board members have likewise been charged with links to the PFLP, among them Bashir Al-Khairi, who was described as a member of the PFLP National Council by Arab media upon his arrest by Israeli authorities in 2010, and was praised as a “historic leader” by the group in 2014.
Also implicated is Khalida Jarrar, a Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member who served as an Addameer board member until late 2017. Jarrar — who the PFLP called a “leader” in 2014 — was jailed in 2015 after being convicted by an Israeli court of membership in the terrorist organization. She was released in 2016 but detained again the following year, with Israeli prosecutors accusing her of ongoing affiliation with the PFLP, according to Addameer. Information about the specific charges leveled against her remains confidential.
Another imprisoned Addameer affiliate is Salah Hammouri, a field researcher who was first arrested by Israeli forces in 2005 for his membership with the PFLP and involvement in a plot to assassinate Ovadia Yosef, the late Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel and founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party. He was released in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, but rearrested in 2017, reportedly due to alleged association with illegal organizations.
Hammouri has previously admitted to membership in the PFLP, which in a 2011 called him a “comrade.” Yet like those of many other prisoners, his convictions are not mentioned on his Addameer profile.
Addameer likewise does not mention Israel’s designation of the PFLP as a terrorist organization, simply referring to incarcerated PFLP secretary general Ahmad Sa’adat — who is convicted of ordering the assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, and represented by Addameer lawyers — as a “political leader.”
The advocacy center has previously denied charges that it is an affiliate of the PFLP, calling them “a clear attempt to smear our organisation.” It claims that it offers free legal aid to “political prisoners” and “works to end torture and other violations of prisoners’ rights through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns.”
Nonetheless, its purported links to the PFLP have troubled some members of the Jewish and pro-Israel community at Barnard and Columbia University.
Students Supporting Israel at Columbia cautioned on Tuesday that by hosting the event, the university “not only allows but also propagates anti-Semitism on its own campus.”
“It is scary to us as Jews, Israelis and pro-Israel students to know that an undergraduate college within our university allows a recognized terror organization whose goal is to destroy our people’s country to speak on our campus,” they wrote. “We are calling for an end to this propagation and encourage the administration to take a stand in protecting ALL of its students.”
The Aryeh: Columbia Students Association for Israel echoed these concerns, saying, “Addameer’s affiliation with the terrorist organization is indisputable; among other ties, several members of Addameer’s board are current or former members of the PFLP.”
They noted that after a “difficult past semester” — during which Barnard students voted to endorse a divestment campaign against Israel in a referendum — “it is dismaying to see the College further used to discomfort members of its community.”
The event is co-organized by Release Aging People in Prison – RAPP, whose member Laura Whitehorn will join Addameer’s representatives for an “intimate discussion” on “shared systems of domination” affecting American and Palestinian prisoners.
Whitehorn was sentenced to prison in 1990 for her involvement in the 1983 bombing of the US Senate and seven other sites in Washington, DC and New York City, including the Israeli Aircraft Industries Building. She was released on parole in 1999 after serving 14 years.
Other hosts include the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace — the latter of which has advocated on behalf of Rasmea Odeh, a PFLP member convicted in Israel of a 1969 bombing that killed two Hebrew University students. Odeh, who was deported from the US in September after lying on her immigration forms, maintains that she is innocent and only confessed under duress.
A spokesperson for Barnard said on Wednesday that the event would be “on the topic of incarceration and alternatives to incarceration in the United States and around the world.”
“Barnard supports its faculty and students to invite speakers of their choosing to campus to engage in open discussion and debate in an environment free of fear and hate,” the spokesperson told The Algemeiner.