A strange, ironic, and tragic historical moment 2

In a remarkable decision taken at the end of August, Germany’s Interior Ministry declined to bar the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – listed as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada, the European Union, and Australia – “from campaigning as a political party in the September general election to the Bundestag”. Yes, the PFLP – on a joint list with the Marxist-Leninist Party – plans to field candidates in this month’s elections in Germany and run for Parliament.

So Bruce Bawer writes at Gatestone.

What is the PFLP?

The Popular  Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), is a Marxist group. Its founder was George Habash, born in Lydda (in the British mandated territory of Palestine) in 1926 to  a Greek Orthodox family. His father was a successful corn merchant. Much of his childhood was spent in Jerusalem. He entered the American University of Beirut in 1944 and qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1951. While at the university he founded the Arab National Movement (ANM). Its guiding light was President Nasser of Egypt, who gave it financial support.

With a central doctrine of pan-Arabism, and, vital to that end, the elimination of Israel by violent means, the movement gathered strength and spread rapidly as an underground organization through the Middle East, on both sides of the Red Sea. It attracted intellectuals and members of the military in several Arab states. But stress shifted away from the Palestinian cause to internal political issues. Habash himself believed so unswervingly in the need for revenge (against the British and the Arab leaders who had been  responsible for the 1948 defeat of the Arab armies against the newly declared state of Israel, as well as against the Jews), in the annihilation of Israel and and in the Nasserite aim of Arab unity, that he sometimes quarreled with Nasser himself when the Egyptian leader adjusted his own policies. But Habash continued to function as one of Nasser’s agents of subversion. His leftist tendency became more extreme. He began to think of himself as a “Marxist-Leninist”, but scorned the ineffectual Communist parties of the Middle east, and favored China over the Soviet Union. He no longer saw the issue of Palestine as part of a merely Arab revolution, but both as necessary to world revolution. (By Marxist prophecy, world revolution is inevitable, yet has to be fought for.) The arch-enemy was “imperialism” of which “the Zionist entity” was only one aggressive spearhead. The defeat of the Arab armies by Israel yet again in the 1967 Six Day War persuaded Habash that the immediate and primary goal must be the “liberation of Palestine”. Although only a means to an end, it was the first step.

And so Habash, along with a number of others in the ANM founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on December 7, 1967. It was composed of three small groups: The Heroes of the Return, the Youth Revenge (branches of the ANM), and an already active group called the Palestine Liberation Front, led by a Syrian army officer named Ahmad Jibril.

Jibril had no personal connection to Palestine, but had formed his PLF with some twenty other Syrian army officers. He had personal contacts with the KGB, and the Communist regimes of East Germany and Bulgaria. His terrorist organization had carried out more than ninety raids on Israel between 1965 and the Six Day War.

With the coming together of Jibril, the professional soldier backed by the Communist bloc and Syria, and Habash, the experienced underground leader  with wide influence throughout the Arab National Movement, the PFLP became a significant fedayeen organization. Habash retained Nasser’s patronage, and PFLP recruits were trained in Egypt.

But where there is ideology, there shall be schism.

The PFLP soon split. The break came where it might be expected in an organization which attempted to make Syrian interests adhere to Egyptian interests. Habash and Jibril had different loyalties  and they quarreled. Habash and his friends in the ANM criticized Syria for not permitting fedayeen to cross into Israel from Syrian oil. The Syrians arrested and imprisoned him early in 1968. Finding himself in sole command of the PFLP, Jibril tried to force the PFLP to break with the ANM. But the Heroes of the Return and the Youth of Revenge would not betray their origins. So in October 1968 Jibril expelled both factions from the PFLP.

Habash was snatched by some of his followers while he was being transferred from one prison to another, and smuggled out of Syria into Jordan. Once they had him back, the two small groups expelled by Jibril declared that they were the PFLP and it was Jibril’s group that was expelled. Jibril formed a new organization called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC).

Another split away from Habash’s PFLP occurred when one of his comrades, a  Jordanian Bedouin Christian, Nayef Hawatmeh, who had joined the ANM while he was a student at the Arab University of Beirut. Sentenced to death for pro-Nasserite subversive activities in Jordan in 1957, he had escaped to Baghdad, where he led the Iraqi branch of the ANM. There he took part in an attempted coup d’etat in 1959, and was imprisoned until 1963 when the Ba’th Party overthrew the Qasim regime.  He changed his views from Nasserite to an extreme leftist revolutionary ideology. After working underground for  ANM in Yemen, he joined Habash in Jordan. But they too quarreled over ideological differences. With four comrades, Hawatmeh formed a group of his own called  the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP).

In 1968 all three groups – along with several others – joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had been invented by Nasser and founded by the Arab League under his auspices in 1964.  From then on, although Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian nationalist leader of the terrorist organization Fatah, was elected chairman of it in 1969, the Marxist revolutionary groups dominated the PLO.

Habash’s second-in-command Wadi’ Haddad plotted a series of aircraft hijackings  on international flights between July 1968 and September 1970. On September 6, 1970, the PFLP hijacked four commercial planes. Two them, one American and one Swiss, were forced to land on a neglected airfield in Jordan, named Dawson’s Field.  There the crews and passengers were held hostage in the planes in the heat of the desert for four days and four nights. Another American airliner was flows to Cairo airport, where the crew and passengers were let out and the plane was blown up. The fourth was an Israeli airliner on its way to London. The Arab terrorist on board was an Israeli woman named Laila Khaled, helped by an American named Patrick Arguello. Their hijacking attempt failed. The Israeli guard on board killed Arguello and arrested Khaled.  Arguello had wounded one of the crew, and in an attempt to save the injured man, the captain flew the plane to London, England being nearer than Israel, where according to instructions he should have returned in such circumstances. The injured man died. And Laila Khaled was detained by the British police – but not for long.

On September 9, a British place on a home flight from Bahrain was hijacked and the pilot forced to fly to join the other two planes on Dawson’s Field. The PFLP demanded that three of their terrorists imprisoned in West Germany, three in Switzerland who had killed an Israeli pilot, and Laila Khaled should be released, or the planes would be blown up next morning with crews and passengers aboard them. The release of fedayeen from Israeli prisons was also demanded. The Israelis refused to bargain with the terrorists, but the British, West German, and Swiss governments complied –  thus providing complete proof that hijacking, terrorism and blackmail paid. It was a signal that started a decade of such crimes.

The crews and passengers were released (some retained by the PFLP and imprisoned in a refugee camp), and then the planes were blown up.

King Hussein’s patience was already overstrained with the presence of the fedayeen groups in his kingdom, their intention being to take over his country. The PFLP had twice attempted to assassinate him. For him the Dawson’s Field events were the last straw. Starting on September 17, his soldiers and airmen rained hell down on the organizations’ camps, bases and headquarters. Thousands of Palestinians were killed. Syria tried to intervene with a tank invasion, but was repelled. Ultimately all the Palestinian refugees who survived the onslaught were expelled from Jordan. They moved en masse to Lebanon. Arafat’s Fatah created a secret organization Black September – the group that murdered the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.

Bruce Bawer writes:

Described variously as a blend of “Palestinian nationalism with Marxist ideology” and as “a Palestinian nationalist organization with different ideological outlooks at different times (from Arab nationalist, to Maoist, to Leninist)”, [the PFLP] has called for Israel’s destruction and international communist revolution.

Considered more radical than Fatah, it has, ever since its founding, routinely targeted civilians without remorse. During its early days, it was on friendly terms with Germany’s Red Army Faction (the Baader-Meinhof Gang) and received funding from the USSR and China.

The leaders of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang sought training as urban guerrillas in a PFLP camp in Jordan in early 1970. But the scheme was not a success. The Germans and the Arabs could not get along with each other. Each side accused the other of being cold and arrogant. Andreas Baader refused to undergo the commando training offered, through mud and under barbed wire, because he said such skills were unnecessary to an urban guerrilla. None of the men in the German group were able to train with the Arabs because there was too much antagonism between them. But the women did learn something. They were taught to handle pistols, particularly Firebirds,  and Ulrike Meinhof declared that learning how to lift weights and fall out of a fast-moving car was much more fun than sitting at a typewriter. The Arab  terrorists, who were training  may women despite the Mohammedan attitude toward women generally, found the Western women too domineering and less able to stand up to the training exercises than their own, and they liked neither Ulrike Meinhof nor Gudrun Ensslin. Baader, Meinhof, and their fellow factioneers were eventually asked by their hosts to leave, and they returned to Germany.

But Ulrike Meinhof was not done with Jordan. She planned to send her seven-year-old twin daughters, Bettina and Regine, to live in a refugee camp there and be trained along with Palestinian children to become “kamikaze” guerrilla fighters against Israel – possibly suicide bombers. (They were intercepted on their way and rescued by the writer Stefan Aust, who found them on an Italian beach, and returned them to Germany and the care of their father.)

The PFLP camp in Jordan to which the children were to have been consigned was bombed to rubble by King Hussein’s air force in one of his punitive raids.

Bruce Bawer continues:

In recent years the PFLP has been chummy with Iran. Half a century ago, the PFLP specialized in hijacking planes — it was the first Palestinian group to do so, and the first successfully to commandeer an El Al plane. That act, in 1968, is widely considered to mark the beginning of the modern era of international Islamic terrorism. …

Then came the hijackings to Dawson’s Field, after which –

 In 1972, a PFLP member took part in the Lod Airport Massacre, in which 28 people were murdered at what is now called Ben Gurion International Airport. In October 2001, it assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in retaliation for Israel’s killing of its top leader at the time, Abu Ali Mustafa (after whom the group’s militant wing is now named).

During the next few years, the PFLP focused on suicide bombings in Israel; more recently, it has kept busy firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

In November 2014, two PFLP associates murdered six people in a synagogue massacre in Jerusalem. On June 16 of this year, it collaborated with Hamas on a fatal attack in East Jerusalem; on July 14, it murdered two Israeli police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City and bragged that its “heroic operation” had successfully broken through “the security cordon imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on the city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, breaking the arrogance of the Zionist security which sees in the city and in Al-Aqsa an impenetrable fortress”.

Perhaps the PFLP’s most famous operative is Carlos the Jackal, the legendary Venezuelan terrorist, currently serving a life sentence in France. Another high-profile member is Leila Khaled, who has been called “the first woman hijacker in history” and who has been allowed in recent years to enter many Western countries, including Germany, Sweden, Austria, and South Africa, to deliver speeches, meet with fellow communists, and confer with supporters of movements that try to destroy Israel economically.

If it seems exceedingly inappropriate for these countries’ governments to afford Khaled such treatment, consider that the UN, the EU, and a number of European countries, including Germany, France, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, have funded non-governmental organizations with links to PFLP – among them Addameer, Al-Haq, the Alternative Information Center, the Health Work Committee, Stop the Wall, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. At least one of the groups in question, according to NGO Monitor, was founded and is run by the PFLP; others have convicted terrorists on their payrolls and/or have abetted PFLP and its members in one way or another. There has, however, been remarkably little media attention paid to the fact that at least some of taxpayer money donated by these Western countries has found its way into the PFLP’s coffers, and more than $300 million annually to the salaries of terrorists.

But of all the actions taken by Western governments and international organizations that have benefited the PFLP, none has come as close to legitimizing it as Germany’s decision to let it field candidates in this month’s elections. “For observers of terrorism in Germany,” wrote Benjamin Weinthal in the Jerusalem Post, “it is unclear why the ministry is reluctant to outlaw the Palestinian organization.” After all, it is not as if the Federal Republic of Germany has no power to ban parties; it outlawed the Volkssozialistische Bewegung Deutschlands/Partei der Arbeit (People’s Socialist Movement of Germany) in 1982 and the Freiheitliche Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (Free German Workers Party) in 1995.

Nor are today’s German authorities shy about silencing individuals for holding views they consider inappropriate.

But they are all individuals who dare speak against Arab and Islamic terrorism:

Gatestone Institute’s Soeren Kern noted in 2012 that German authorities were “monitoring… websites that are critical of Muslim immigration” and were prepared to shut them down. In 2014, Bavarian officials sought to gag critics of a new mega-mosque; in January of last year, the Washington Post reported that Germany had “reached a deal with Facebook, Google and Twitter to get tougher on offensive [read: anti-Islamic] content.” German police even raided the home of a critic of Muslim refugees.

A German court had given five months’ probation to a woman for her online comments “about an alleged rape of a German woman by an asylum seeker”. In June 2016, German police raidedthe homes of thirty-six additional people guilty of “hate posting” online; in July, they raidedabout sixty more homes.

It is hard not to see this as a strange, ironic, and tragic historical moment.

In living memory, Germany was transformed from a fearsome totalitarian power, bent on conquest and genocide, into a cornerstone of liberal democracy. Now, even more than many of its similarly misguided European neighbors, it is plainly headed in a direction that should give pause to every lover of Western freedom: even as it is increasingly cracking down on criticism of Islam, it appears prepared to give a genuine Islamic terrorist group the opportunity to win seats in its national legislature.

 

Jillian Becker    September 9, 2017

 

Note: I have quoted the history of the PFLP, largely verbatim, from my book, The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization ((St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1984). And the description of the sojourn of leading members of the Baader-Meinhof gang at a PFLP training camp in Jordan comes from my book: Hitler’s Children: the Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang (latest edition available as an ebook published by Endeavour Press in English and in German translation).

  • Mike

    Too much discussion and not enough nukes. That’s the problem with the West.

  • liz

    Marxism was bad enough to begin with. Fused with Islam it has become a monster worse than Stalin and Hitler combined. These countries that are inviting terrorists to not only invade and outpopulate them, but to have power in their governments, have been brainwashed to the point of insanity.