Israel urges Ireland to cancel speech by Palestinian terrorist

Minister Gilad Erdan sends Irish education minister protest letter, calls planned video address at Dublin club by plane hijacker Leila Khaled a ‘theater of the absurd’

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled speaks at an event in Beirut in January 2009. (CC BY 2.0, Sebastian Baryli, Wikipedia)
Convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled speaks at an event in Beirut in January 2009. (CC BY 2.0, Sebastian Baryli, Wikipedia)

Israel has lodged an official protest to Ireland over the invitation of Leila Khaled, a convicted Palestinian plane hijacker who has continued to advocate violence against Israelis, to speak at a teachers’ club in Dublin belonging to the Irish National Teachers’ Organization.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan sent the protest letter to Dublin’s education minister, Richard Bruton, demanding that he cancel Khaled’s appearance, Hadashot TV reported Thursday.

Khaled is scheduled to speak via video link in a public talk hosted at the club by the socialist groups Anti Imperialist Action Ireland and Lasair Dhearg.

“It is hard to understand why Ireland, which has also experienced many terror attacks, would agree to honor a terrorist at an educational event, who expresses solidarity with terror attacks and views them as a legitimate tool,” Erdan wrote.

“I implore you to cancel Khaled’s speech in Ireland and join the large number of countries banning terrorists from spreading their criminal messages and ideas,” Erdan added in the letter.

Khaled was arrested by Israeli sky marshals in 1970 during an attempt to hijack an El Al flight from Amsterdam along with an accomplice, who was killed by the security officers. She was carrying two grenades. British authorities later released her in exchange for hostages from another hijacking which occurred a month after her arrest.

She had previously hijacked an American passenger plane in 1969, landing it in Damascus, where the two Israeli passengers aboard were held for three months before they were traded for Syrian prisoners of war held in Israeli jails.

Khaled is also a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization which is blacklisted as a terrorist entity by the European Union.

The planned speech by Khaled in Ireland titled “The Nakba and the Great March of Return,” gained public attention in Israel when it was first reported Friday.

“Ireland and Israel share a history of mutual respect and understanding, especially considering that both cherish the ideals upon which they were founded: democracy, liberty, and independence,” Erdan told the Irish minister.

“Khaled carried out two hijackings of passenger planes and to this day has not expressed regret, and continues to openly call for Israel’s destruction,” he added.

“To understand the farce behind this act, one can only imagine what would have happened if Israel had invited Lawrence James Downey,” Erdan said, in reference to an Australian terrorist who in 1981 hijacked an Irish passenger plane flying from Dublin to London.

A mural of Leila Khaled in the West Bank, June 16, 2013. (Ian Walton/Getty Images via JTA)

Israel launched similar protests last September, when Khaled was invited to Brussels to speak at the European Parliament by lawmakers representing the far-left Izquierda Unida party from Spain, and at Madrid University and another Spanish venue days later.

In her Brussels address, Khaled attacked Israel and said that Zionists were worse than Nazis.

“You can’t compare the actions of the Nazis to the actions of the Zionists in Gaza,” she said. “The Nazis were judged in Nuremberg but not a single one of the Zionists has yet been brought to justice,” she added.

The European Parliament subsequently condemned her speech.

“I expect all European countries and the enlightened world to take a similar step to that of the European Parliament and announce that convicted terrorists who were part of a terror act are illegitimate and cannot be accepted as equals,” the Israeli minister wrote.

He said Ireland’s move wasn’t anti-Israel, but “an inhumane action which goes against morals and common sense.”

“I hope Ireland cancels this theater of the absurd,” Erdan concluded.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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