BRUSSELS (JTA) – Leila Khaled, a Palestinian woman who was convicted of terrorism and advocates violence against Israelis, is slated to speak at the European Parliament about women’s rights.
Khaled, who was invited Tuesday to Brussels to speak by lawmakers representing the far-left Izquierda Unida party from Spain, was arrested in 1970 by Israeli sky marshals while carrying two grenades in an attempt to hijack an El Al flight from Amsterdam with a partner, whom the security officers killed. British authorities released her in exchange for hostages from another hijacking a month after her arrest.
She had already hijacked an American passenger plane in 1969, landing it in Damascus, where the two Israeli passengers aboard were arrested for three months before they were traded for Syrian prisoners of war in Israeli jails.
Khaled, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine group, which is blacklisted as a terrorist entity by the European Union, will be the keynote speaker at an event titled “The Role of Women in the Palestinian Popular Resistance,” according to a poster advertising the event.
The American Jewish Committee’s Brussels-based Transatlantic Institute condemned the invitation, saying it was “deeply concerned,” and urged the European Parliament’s president, Antonio Tajani, to prevent Khaled’s planned arrival.
In a statement, the director of the Transatlantic Institute, Daniel Schwammenthal, said it was an “utter disgrace that a convicted terrorist is given a platform in the European Parliament to spew her hateful message.”
Khaled’s terrorist group “has the blood of innocent victims on their hands,” Schwammenthal added. “It would be a sad irony if Parliament, only days after crucially setting up a special committee on terrorism, were to welcome and lionize as a ‘resistance fighter’ a convicted terrorist.”
Anders Vistisen, a vice-chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament and a lawmaker from Denmark, told JTA on Tuesday that in recent days he has urged the leadership of the European Parliament to prevent Khaled’s appearance.
“I was told the parliament’s leadership will neither invite Palestinian terrorists nor prevent them from speaking in parliament if other parties do invite them,” said Vistisen of the Danish People’s Party, which is a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
This policy means “Palestinian terrorists are free to be hosted in parliament quite regularly,” he said. “It undermines the credibility of the European Parliament.”