The campaign to subject Israel to boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) is tainted by ties to the terrorist organization Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), researchers from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote Wednesday in The Hill.
Jonathan Schanzer, a former U.S. Treasury official who is now the think tank’s vice president for research, and research analyst Kate Havard reported that earlier this year, the pro-BDS organization Dream Defenders used a tour guide affiliated with the PFLP when it organized a tour of the West Bank.
The PFLP, which was founded in 1967 as a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group, is the second-biggest entity within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). It has been designated a terrorist organization by the State Department since 1997 and the European Union since 2002. Its members have carried out deadly attacks against Israelis for decades. In 2011, two members of the group massacred an Israeli family, including a three-month-old baby, in their West Bank home. It was also responsible for a shooting attack that killed five and wounded eight in Jerusalem in 2014. Schanzer and Havard noted that the PFLP has received increased funding from Iran, which the U.S. designates as the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
Ahmad Abuznaid, the son of a PLO diplomat and the executive director of Dream Defenders, has posted pictures of himself embracing Rasmea Odeh, a PFLP member who was convicted in a 1969 bombing of an Israeli supermarket, which killed two men. Odeh claims to have wrongfully been convicted, but she discussed her involvement in the bombing in a 2004 documentary.
Another pro-BDS group with ties to the PFLP is “The US Coalition to Boycott Israel,” which is also known as the “Coalition for Justice in Palestine.” The coalition’s website says that it is coordinated by Senan Shaqdeh, who, according to the PLO’s website, is a former PFLP “mountain fighter” in Lebanon. While it is unclear whether Shaqdeh is still affiliated with the PFLP, he has organized several BDS events and anti-Israel protests in both in Chicago and elsewhere in the United States.
BDS organizations in Europe have shown no compunctions about associating with PFLP members. Leila Khaled, who was involved in two PFLP airplane hijackings in the 1960’s and 1970’s, has been sent by the organization to speak at functions all around the world. Earlier this year, the researchers noted, “she visited the German organization Falestin Beytona, the Offices of the Communist Party of Sweden in Gothenburg, and the Austrian-Arab Cultural Center (OKAZ) in Vienna – all organizations that support BDS.” She was also hosted by the BDS movement of South Africa last year.
Khaled expressed support for the BDS campaign in a 2015 op-ed, but argued that something stronger was also needed: “Nothing but the Palestinian struggle and resistance in all of its forms, from refusing the orders of an occupation soldier to marching in protests to armed struggle, will liberate Palestine.”
After reviewing the record of connections of ties between BDS groups and the PFLP, Schanzer and Havard observed that “The BDS campaign in the United States broadly identifies as a nonviolent social justice movement. But, its connections to the PFLP, a decidedly violent group, are troubling.” They noted that while the BDS movement advocates economic warfare against Israel, it maintains its legitimacy by claiming that “it eschews violence.” But the BDS campaign’s ties to the PFLP “seemingly validat[e] the harshest accusations leveled against it.”
Schanzer’s research exposed another BDS-terror link earlier this year, testifying to Congress in April that many people formerly associated with the Holy Land Foundation, a charity whose leaders were convicted of giving money to Hamas, were among the leaders in the BDS campaign in the U.S. “Three organizations that were designated or shut down, or held civilly liable for providing material support for the terrorist organization Hamas … appears to have pivoted to leadership positions within the American BDS campaign,” he explained.
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