The Spanish government – and the city of Barcelona – are under fire for failing to thwart plans for PFLP terrorist Leila Khaled to speak at a radical book festival that starts in Spain on Friday.
Israel’s Ambassador to Spain Daniel Kutner told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday: “I hope the former airplane hijacker will not be allowed to set foot in Europe in general, and in Spain in particular. I raised the subject of her scheduled participation in an event in a city-managed venue with the higher authorities at Barcelona, conveying our position on the subject.”
The Jordanian-based Khaled is a convicted terrorist and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which has been designated by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization. She hijacked TWA Flight 840 in 1969 and a year later participated in the hijacking of EL AL Flight 219 as a member of Black September, the organization responsible for the massacre of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Fadi Hassan, president of the Basque Country Palestinian Community, wrote a letter reminding the Barcelona Council that Khaled is a terrorist. Hassan said he believes Khaled does not represents Palestinian women or the Palestinian people. The invitation blocks peace, he added, urging the council to pull the plug on its support of Khaled.
Mariona Soria, a spokeswoman for the Barcelona City Council, wrote in an email to the Post: “Mrs. Khaled comes to Barcelona invited by Festival Literal, an independent event. Barcelona City Council is not involved in the program of the festival and it’s not receiving her visit either. Festival Literal is considered one of the thousands of cultural events that Barcelona hosts during the year… The event has a €12,000 municipal subsidy, as much others in Barcelona.”
Soria continued, “Security and anti-terrorism policies are not municipal powers, but [they are] state [powers]. In that case, [the] Spanish state.” When pressed to say if the municipal government had notified state authorities, Soria declined to respond. Spain’s Foreign Ministry wrote in an email to the Post: “Mrs. Khaled’s name is not included on the EU’s list of terrorists. She is holder of a Jordanian passport and she has been granted a Schengen visa – not issued by Spain – that allows her to travel to Europe. The event to which the question refers and to which Mrs. Khaled has been invited does not have any institutional or political support from the government of Spain, which is totally alien to its organization. It is well known that Spain strongly condemns and has always condemned all acts of terrorism and violence, incitement and justification of violence, and any expression of radicalism that harms peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The only viable, just and lasting solution to this conflict is that of two states that live side-by-side in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.”
The Book Fair event, titled “Revolution Means Life,” is scheduled for May 12 through 14. Several queries from the Post to Literal Barcelona – fira d’idees & libres radicals, the NGO hosting Khaled, were not immediately returned.
Brooke Goldstein, an attorney and director of the Lawfare Project in New York City, told the Post: “Khaled’s visit to Spain is nothing but a propaganda tour aimed at promoting and glorifying terror, and those responsible for hosting her are providing material support to terrorism due to her ongoing affiliation with the PFLP. “Terrorists with blood on their hands have no right, and should not be allowed, to recruit sympathizers in Western democracies. The Lawfare Project is therefore deeply concerned with the security issues surrounding Khalid’s visit and will continue to work together with the relevant authorities to prevent this terrorist from achieving her goals in Spain or anywhere else she travels.”
The Spanish-based NGOs International League Against Racism and Antisemitism and B’nai B’rith Nahmanides Barcelona have initiated legal action to stop Khaled’s visit.
Angel Mas, an expert in Spanish-Israel relations from the pro-Israel Spanish group ACOM, told the Post: “The presence of terrorists such as Leila Khaled in Spain, a glorifier of violence and an active member of the PFLP – an outlawed organization in Europe – is an outrage. We call on the Spanish authorities to ban her insulting presence in our country, using the powers granted to our security forces and our courts.”
Mas added: “The fact that this terrorist was invited as a star guest to an event supported and sponsored by the Barcelona City Council demonstrates the dangerous drift of that city towards becoming a very hostile territory for Jews and Israelis. And the fact that Khaled’s visit and events in Spain are supported by the BDS [the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel] groups in the country is yet another proof of those groups close connections with international terrorism. These BDS gangs, disguised as NGOs, operate thanks to the millions in public subsidies provided by national and local authorities in Spain. The government of Spain must take immediate action to cease and penalize these behaviors.”
Khaled advocates BDS, as well as the use of violence against Israel and Israelis.
Ignacio-Wenley Palacios Iglesias, the lawyer for the Spanish office of the Lawfare Project, told the Post, “After the protests raised by Khaled’s visit, the government of the City Council of Barcelona – ruled by a coalition of Left and radical Left councilors – has attempted to put some distance from Khaled’s presentation at this self-described ‘radical book fair.’ This simply will not fly: Khaled’s visit is the central event of this book fair.”
Iglesias said the Barcelona governmental agencies involved “have very explicit duties of avoiding using public funds in projects or events intermingled with members of a terrorist group… The Lawfare Project has made sure that every relevant agency in Spain is aware that these records and accounts need to be monitored, audited, and in my opinion, frozen.”
The Barcelona City Council has provided a link to the Festival Literal and Khaled talk on its website.
Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.