Julian Schvindlerman
Julian Schvindlerman

First Barghouti, then Khaled

These couple of weeks has been really good for Palestinian propaganda. First, The New York Times promoted Marwan Barghouti -a famous terrorist sentenced to five life terms for murdering Israelis- in its opinion pages. Then, the Municipality of Barcelona invited legendary Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled to lecture in the city.

The New York Times‘s decision to give Barghouti a platform and to present him as a “Palestinian leader and parliamentarian” -concealing critical information regarding his violent past and giving credence to a jailed militant´s allegations- truly marked a new low in the historically problematic relationship of the international media with Israel. That decision, however, harmonized with the Time‘s editorial psychology and its dark past. As author Laurel Leff has documented in her superb book Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, this influential daily offered a very poor coverage of the genocide of European Jews during World War II. Presumably, the Jewish owners of the newspaper, the Och-Sulzberger families, acted in this way out of concern that the newspaper would be accused of being partial and pro-Jewish. So bad was the bias that at its centenary, in 1996, the Times had to offer an apology (a rather laconic one): “The Times has long been criticized for grossly underplaying the Holocaust while it was taking place. Clippings from the paper show that the criticism is valid”. After publicizing Barghouti in this scandalous way, the NYT saw fit to publish a clarification. Titled “An Op-Ed author omits his crimes, and the Times does too” public editor Liz Spayd posted an online explanation from opinion editor Jim Dao about the matter. Curiously enough, Mrs. Spayd herself began her note on the defensive:

“Marwan Barghouti is an unusually popular political figure among Palestinians, especially for a man behind bars. He is a charismatic leader who has written three books and for many years has commanded an outsize presence beyond the Israeli prison where he is serving time. He was given five consecutive life terms after being convicted in an Israeli criminal court of premeditated murder for his role in terrorist attacks that killed five people, along with other crimes”.

Apparently, asking for sincere apologies is not the forte of this newspaper.

The next Palestinian terrorist to receive a “like” from a liberal quarter was Leila Khaled, guest of honor of the Third Literary Fair of Barcelona, ​​to be held in mid-May. The event, also known as “Fair of ideas and radical books” is sponsored by the Municipality of Barcelona, ​​which has already posted posters showing the face of the Palestinian hero on the city´s streets. Khaled’s visit is scheduled for May 14th, coinciding with the anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day. Her reputation precedes her. She was the first woman to hijack a passenger plane, a Tel-Aviv bound TWA flight, which was diverted to Syria. She then hijacked another plane, bound to New York, and managed to throw a hand grenade inside, which did not explode. On a smaller scale than “Che” Guevara, her image of a rebel with the Palestinian kaffiyeh covering her hair while holding an AK-47 has been reproduced ad infinitum in street graffiti and posters. She was part of the ultra-violent Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Of Leninist inclination, this group explained its actions in neo-Marxist and Maoist terminology. This might also explain the enthusiasm of Ada Colau, the mayor of Barcelona ​​of the extreme-left Podemos Party, in hosting her.

Khaled may have been one of the most prominent female Palestinian terrorists, but she was surely not the only one. Other fellow travellers were hijacker Amina Dahbou and Hebrew University bomber Rashida Abhedo. There were also anonymous women involved in “armed struggle”, such as the Palestinian woman suffering from cancer who recently tried to smuggle explosives from Gaza on her way to an Israeli hospital, or those Palestinian girls raped by Palestinian men during the last intifada to force them to redeem their honor in suicide attacks against Israelis. Palestinian nationalism has indeed empowered its women –with rifles and grenades, that is.

Such Western validation of Palestinian terrorists as that just granted to Marwan Barghouti and Leila Khaled throws us back to the seventies and eighties, when arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat was a prominent guest to the United Nations, the Vatican and European capitals. It is a painful déjà vu, and it will not be the last.

About the Author
Julian Schvindlerman is an Argentine writer and journalist specializing in Middle East affairs. He lectures on World Politics at the University of Palermo (in Buenos Aires) and is a regular contributor to Infobae and Perfil. He is the author of Escape to Utopia: Mao's Red Book and Gaddafi's Green Book; The Hidden Letter: A History of an Arab-Jewish Family; Triangle of Infamy: Richard Wagner, the Nazis and Israel; Rome and Jerusalem: Vatican policy toward the Jewish state; and Land for Peace, Land for War.