The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has announced that it will bring convicted terrorist Leila Khaled to South African next month for a speaking tour, drawing harsh condemnations from the country’s Jewish community.
Khaled, now 70, is a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and took part in two airplane hijackings between 1969 and 1970.
Arrested after the second incident, she was later freed in exchange for hostages held by the PFLP.
“By bringing Leila Khaled to South Africa, BDS aligns itself with savage gunmen who murder civilians in Paris, France, with terrorists who send 10-year old girls to bomb markets in Potiskum, Nigeria, and barbarians who butcher school children in Peshawar, Pakistan,” South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
In an email to supporters, the South African BDS movement termed Khaled an icon of the Palestinian struggle, showing an image of her clutching an automatic weapon and comparing her to late South African president Nelson Mandela.
“Many Palestinians including Leila Khaled are today considered terrorists like the ANC and Nelson Mandela were once classified as terrorists,” the group declared. “The picture of a young, determined looking woman with a checkered keffiyeh scarf, clutching an AK-47, was as era-defining as that of Che Guevara, Ruth First and other political figures from our recent past.”
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies responded by issuing a statement deploring the extension of an invitation to a “notorious plane hijacker” in the wake of terrorist attacks carried out in Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia.
The group also complained that the group’s characterization of Khaled portrayed terrorism as admirable and said it was “appalled that any organization, especially one purporting to be a human rights movement, intends bringing a known perpetrator of these acts to this country.”
Referencing chants of “kill the Jew” at past anti-Israel rallies and other activities by supporters of BDS, the Jewish communal body said “BDS-SA has conclusively demonstrated yet again that it has no interest in promoting peace, dialogue, reconciliation or understanding.”
In response, BDS national spokeswoman Kwara Kekana told the Post: “We don’t expect the SAJBD to understand the meaning of hosting someone like Nelson Mandela, the South African struggle icon, or Leila Khaled, the Palestinian struggle icon. Back in the 1980s the SAJBD were proud supporters of the apartheid regime that killed our people and today they are proud supporters of the Israeli regime that is killing innocent Palestinians…
Many Palestinians including Leila Khaled are today considered terrorists like the ANC and Nelson Mandela were once classified terrorists but our people consider, unlike the SAJBD, both Nelson Mandela and Leila Khaled freedom icons.”
In response, however, the SAJBD said whenever “BDS is painted into a corner, they trot out the usual tendentious apartheid comparisons, bowdlerized Mandela quotes and labeling of anyone who disagrees with them as racist.” The group added that to this day, the PFLP targets civilians and “while there were certainly casualties in the ANC’s freedom struggle, the targeting of civilians was never part of achieving their objectives.”
“BDS-SA is glorifying terrorism proudly using a graphic of Khaled with an AK47,” SAJBD national director Wendy Khan told the Post. “I hardly think that is an image Nelson Mandela would be proud of.”
Global Jewish organizations also condemned the BDS movement’s decision to host Khaled.
Dr. Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the speaking tour is indicative of the negative atmosphere toward the Jewish state in contemporary South Africa.
“Leila Khaled should be on the list of persons barred from the country, rather than an invited guest,” he said. “This issue will be another test of the local Jewish community’s ability to influence such issues, but it will be an very tough, uphill battle.”
Jeff Daube, the Israel director of the Zionist Organization of America, told the Post that Khaled’s invitation showed the BDS movement’s “true colors.”
“The invitation to arch-terrorist Khaled,” he said, “like the glorification of super-terrorist Dalal Mughrabi by the Palestinian Authority, allows us a window into these movements’ true goal – the dismantlement of the Jewish State of Israel.”
This article was originally published by Jerusalem Post and may be found here.