Khaled’s invitation to speak at publicly sparks disgust

  • MosheRaab
(JTA) As my calendar announced the approach of September, I began to relive an event that took place exactly 50 years ago. On 6 September 1970, my mother, my four siblings, and I were on a plane that was hijacked by terrorists.
by MOSHE RAAB | Sep 17, 2020

TWA flight 741 was one of three planes successfully hijacked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) that day. The hijacking of an El Al plane was foiled by onboard sky marshals.

At the time, I was a 14-year-old kid living in Trenton, New Jersey, whose only care was how the Baltimore Orioles were doing. This event changed my life, as well as the lives of the other 350 people who were on those planes.

I agonise over the subsequent acts of terror that have been committed all over the world ever since my personal experience. What cause can justify the threatening and taking of innocent lives?

Imagine the horror and disgust that I, my family, and other hijack victims experienced when we read that Leila Khaled, one of the hijackers directly involved in the 1970 attacks, had been invited by San Francisco State University (SFSU) to address a forum on gender, justice, and resistance.

Khaled is a convicted terrorist. She is a member of the PFLP. She is a symbol not of justice and resistance, but wanton terrorism and death.

Khaled spent only a few days in jail. After her failed hijacking of the El Al plane, she was transferred by the Israeli sky marshals to the British police and released in exchange for hostages when a fifth plane was hijacked to secure her freedom.

Had Khaled ever apologised for her role in the hijackings or taken steps to show that she is committed to nonviolent efforts to achieve her desired end, I wouldn’t object to her speaking at SFSU. People who genuinely learn often make the best teachers.

But even after 50 years, Khaled has never expressed remorse or disavowed her actions or those of her comrades.

The most distressing and disheartening thing, 50 years after this horrible experience, is that the world hasn’t eradicated this type of terrorism. As recently as January 2020, the PFLP (through Palestinian nongovernmental organisations) receives financial support of millions of dollars from European countries, the United States, Canada, Japan, UN-OCHA (the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), and UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund).

In theory, SFSU President Lynn Mahoney is correct in stating that a university is a place where different ideas are presented, discussed, and analysed so that individual conclusions can be drawn. But does that justify giving an unrepentant terrorist a forum to address students?

What will she teach them? The proper way to hijack an aircraft, based on her success in 1969, and what mistakes to avoid based on her failure in 1970?

When I was a student at university, I often faced new ideas that ran contrary to my beliefs. But these perspectives were presented by knowledgeable, respectable academics. Some were Nobel Prize winners. None were terrorists.

Neither Mahoney in her published response nor the university indicated that anyone would be presenting an opposing view, one that is against terrorism and radicalisation. I cannot imagine how Mahoney, or any decent person, can claim Khaled’s presentation will be an educational experience.

SFSU is no stranger to antisemitism. It has prevented the presentation of pro-Israel and Jewish ideas. In fact, SFSU has recently been sued by Jewish students who claimed that they were victims of systemic antisemitism. Not long ago, SFSU prevented then-Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat from speaking at a public event, and San Francisco Hillel was excluded from a fair on campus.

Inviting Leila Khaled to speak is a dishonour to all those who suffered at her and the PFLP’s hands, and it glorifies terrorism, which is unacceptable.

  • Moshe Raab is a software consultant who lives in Ma’ale Adumim, Israel, with his wife of 41 years. Along with his mother and four siblings, he was on board a plane that was hijacked by the PFLP on 6 September 1970.

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