Hijackers, Bombers, and Masterminds: The 5 Most Popular Palestinian Terrorists in the West
One of the defining characteristics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the use of terrorism by Palestinian organizations and individuals in order to harm Israeli civilians and to further their political goals through violent means.
These terrorist attacks have taken the lives of thousands of Israelis, and have left countless others wounded and traumatized.
Despite their role in inflicting violence on innocent civilians, a number of Palestinian terrorists have developed an international following, with activists, artists, and academics glorifying their actions and ideas.
The following is a list of five of the most popular Palestinian terrorists in the West:
1. Leila Khaled
A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Leila Khaled took part in the 1969 hijacking of a TWA flight from Rome to Tel Aviv that was ultimately diverted to Damascus.
A year later, Khaled was part of a two-person team that attempted to hijack an El Al flight from Amsterdam to New York City. During the attack, Khaled removed the pins from the two grenades that she was carrying.
After her partner was killed by Israeli air marshals, Khaled was overpowered by security and taken into custody.
Upon landing at London’s Heathrow Airport, Khaled was taken into British detention. She was released less than a month later in exchange for hostages that had been taken during a separate hijacking.
Leila Khaled currently lives in Amman, Jordan, where she maintains her membership in the PFLP.
Even though Leila Khaled took part in two hijackings that put the lives of hundreds of civilians at risk, she has been internationally glorified for almost half a century by both political activists and artists.
In 1981, the English band The Teardrop Explodes released a song named “Like Leila Khaled Said.”
In 2005, Lina Makboul released a film titled “Leila Khaled Hijacker,” where the Swedish-Palestinian filmmaker referred to Khaled as “my idol.”
In 2014, images of Leila Khaled cradling a rifle were painted on two separate wall murals in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
In both September 2020 and April 2021, the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies Program at San Francisco State University invited Leila Khaled to speak online as part of their “Whose Narratives?” program. Both speeches were ultimately abandoned, with the September talk being canceled by Zoom due to the streaming platform’s anti-terrorism policy.
2. Rasmea Odeh
Rasmea Odeh, also a member of the PFLP, was imprisoned by Israel in 1970 for committing two terrorist attacks in 1969: The bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket that claimed the lives of two Hebrew University students, and the attempted bombing of the British consulate in Jerusalem four days later.
Odeh was released in a 1980 prisoner exchange and moved to the United States in 1995. She became a naturalized American citizen in 2004.
In 2014, a court convicted Rasmeah Odeh of immigration fraud for lying on her US immigration and citizenship applications about her terrorism convictions.
Odeh was deported to Jordan in September 2017.
Even though she is a convicted terrorist who is responsible for the death of two innocent civilians and the wounding of countless others, Odeh has become a cause célèbre and icon for political activists around the world, having been invited by a wide array of organizations to speak and spread her views.
In May 2017, just months before her deportation from the United States, Odeh was asked to speak at Northwestern University outside of Chicago by the local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
According to an SJP spokesperson, the organization wanted to host an event to “honor the amazing work [Rasmea Odeh] has done.”
In 2018, Rasmeah Odeh was invited to speak at the Verrekijker center at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam for a discussion about the “Palestinian struggle for liberation.” The university subsequently closed down the center.
In March 2019, Odeh was barred from giving a presentation in Berlin after she had been invited by two PFLP-affiliated organizations to speak at a conference on “Palestinian women fighting for liberation.”
3. Marwan Barghouti
Marwan Barghouti is the head of the Tanzim (a militant faction of Fatah) and a senior member of the US-designated terrorist organization, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.
He is currently serving five life terms in an Israeli prison for organizing shooting attacks during the Second Intifada, for directing a terrorist attack on the Seafood Market restaurant in Tel Aviv that killed three Israelis, and for an attempted bombing of the Malha Mall in Jerusalem.
Barghouti has also called for a Third Intifada, advocating for a resumption of violence against both Israeli soldiers and civilians.
His terrorist bonafides notwithstanding, Barghouti is lionized throughout the West, touted as a reputable leader and portrayed as a political prisoner of conscience.
As HonestReporting has already reported, a number of news organizations have obfuscated Barghouti’s violent background, with the AP referring to him as a “popular, charismatic leader,” and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour describing him as an “activist.”
Similarly, The New York Times dubbed Barghouti “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.”
In 2017, Marwan Barghouti led a hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. The striking prisoners included members of the US-designated terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Even though the hunger strike was being led by a convicted terrorist and included members of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, student activists from such esteemed institutions as Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and DePaul University joined together to openly demonstrate solidarity with the fasting prisoners.
Likewise, the Stanford Student Senate helped fund an on-campus talk by Marwan Barghouti’s youngest son, Aarab, where he spoke out on behalf of his father and the other hunger-striking prisoners.
4. Ghassan Kanafani
A noted Palestinian writer and poet, Ghassan Kanafani was also a leading member of the Palestinian terror organization, the PFLP. Serving as the PFLP’s spokesperson, Kanafani justified attacks on civilians, including airplane hijackings and the massacre of tourists in Israel’s Lod Airport in 1972.
In response to the Lod Airport massacre, Kanafani was killed by Israeli forces two months later.
Despite his ties to an internationally-recognized terrorist organization and his justification for attacks against civilians, Kanafani is an icon among anti-Israel activists, academics, and far-left political groups.
Support for Kanafani is also allowed to be expressed on university campuses, with the University of Texas at Dallas allowing the 2022 Ghassan Kanafani anthology to be released on its campus.
Similarly, Kanafani’s image was included in a brochure for an event sponsored by the University of Toronto’s Institute of Islamic Studies, Department of History and Center for the Study of the United States.
5. Ahmad Sa’adat
The General Secretary of the PFLP since 2001, Ahmad Sa’adat is currently serving a 30-year prison sentence for organizing the assassination of Israel’s culture minister, Rehavam Ze’evi, in October 2001.
Even though he is a convicted terrorist and heads an internationally recognized terror organization, Sa’adat has become a cause célèbre among anti-Israel organizations and political extremists fighting for his release from prison.
In 2019, Minnesota University allowed for the National Students for Justice in Palestine conference to take place on its campus. At this meeting, Ahmad Sa’adat was lauded and a message of his was shared with attendees.
Ahmad Sa’adat has also become a point of interest for international bodies, with Amnesty International advocating for his release since 2002, the United Nations publicizing work that is sympathetic to Sa’adat, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (a global organization of national parliaments) calling for him to be set free.
As can be seen from the above, Palestinian terrorists who have advocated for and committed violence against innocent civilians are disconcertingly popular, even glorified, in the West.
For peace to come between Israel and the Palestinians, the voices of Leila Khaled, Rasmea Odeh, and Marwan Barghouti need to be replaced with the voices of Palestinians who advocate for peace and cooperation.
And by finally calling out the dastardly deeds of these enemies of peace, the media can help turn back the process of normalization that has been taking place with regards to people and groups who are motivated solely by the desire to destroy.