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Paying Homage To A Life-Long Terrorist Print E-mail

By Jay Bushinsky 
February 4, 2008

Perhaps it was because the Palestinian Authority believed the late George Habash, the doctor who became an arch-terrorist and orchestrated spectacular hijackings of airliners in the 1970's, meant well -- that he was spurred by the Marxist doctrine he espoused: the end justifies the means.

The founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who died in Amman, Jordan two weeks ago at age 82 was a vehement foe of territorial compromise with the Israelis. He contended that armed warfare by the Arab states was the optimal way to rid the Middle East of the Jewish state.

Despite his rhetorical extremism and resort to wanton violence, the Palestinian Authority's U.S.- and Israel-backed president, Mahmoud Abbas, declared three days of mourning for Habash, set up a mourners' tent for him in the PA's governmental compound and ordered Palestinian flags to be flown at half mast for the duration.

Incredibly, neither President Bush, the world's foremost foe of international terrorism, nor Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose armed forces are fighting to excoriate this scourge from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, saw fit to express dismay if not outrage at the tribute paid to Habash.

Nor did the American or Israeli leadership bat an eyelash when an Arab member of the Knesset, Jerusalem's Parliament, joined a memorial service at the Greek Orthodox church in the central Israeli city of Lod (formerly Lydda) for its native son.  The Knesset deputy and those present in the church called for Habash to be reburied in Lod.

A Palestinian journalist who excels in objectivity and frankness attributed Abbas' gesture to his "political weakness."  He attributed to Abbas' lack of popular support, implying that the underlying motives were to curry favor with the Palestinian Christians and to shore up his own nationalist credentials.

Abbas' reverence for Habash overlooked the fact that the PFLP leader split with the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PA's progenitor) when the late Yasser Arafat agreed to share pre-1948 Palestine with the Israelis.  Subsequently, he rejoined it as the spearhead of its internal opposition.

His espousal of airline hijackings as the most effective tactical means to his political end was epitomized in the simultaneous seizure of three airliners whose pilots were forced to fly to an obscure air strip in Jordan where they were blown up on the ground. The passengers and crew were allowed to disembark, but this glaring defiance of Jordanian King Hussein's regime triggered the so-called Black September of 1970 when the PLO's guerrillas were expelled from the kingdom.

Justifying these and other in-flight seizures of civilian aircraft over Europe, the Far East, the Persian Gulf and the U.S., Habash reportedly told the German magazine, Stern, in 1970: "When we hijack a plane it has more effect than if we kill 100 Israelis in battle.  For decades, world opinion has been neither for nor against the Palestinians. At least the world is talking about us now."

However, these escapades in politically-motivated public relations ignored the random killing of unarmed civilian victims that Habash' terrorist operations caused.  They included the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket and the assassination of an Israeli cabinet member.
 
As if Abbas' homage to Habash were not enough, the PA's representative in Washington, DC, opened a memorial book for mourners to sign at its U.S. office.  This incurred the wrath of Rep. Tom Lantos (D.,CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  The PA office rejected Lantos' criticism, but the outspoken legislator, a Holocaust survivor, stood his ground, basing his condemnation on moral grounds.
 
The origin of Habash's hatred of Israel can be traced back to the expulsion of ancient Lydda's largely-Christian Arab population, July 13, 1948.  This long-suppressed episode of Israel's War of Independence was described by the IDF officer who commanded it, then-Maj.

Yitzhak Rabin, in his memoirs.  Eye-witnesses, who included Keith Wheeler of the Chicago Sun-Times and Kenneth Bilby of the Herald-Tribune, termed it "brutal."  The Palestinian death toll was put at 335.  Authorized by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to clear central Israel of hostile Arabs (the nearby city of Ramle's Arab inhabitants also were forced to leave) those expelled from Lydda, mainly women and children, had to walk across open fields in the blazing heat often at gunpoint until they reached Beit Sira (now in the West Bank).
 
Habash, who was studying medicine at the time at the American University in Beirut, came home, witnessed the ouster and worked as a medical orderly there part of the time. However, he rarely if ever referred to this tragedy during his stint as the PFLP's supermo and did not highlight it as a rationale for its hijackings.
 
Assuming it did have a lasting influence on his attitude toward Israel and contributed to his call for its destruction, the means he chose to achieve this nefarious end cannot be justified on moral grounds. 

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