JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Palestinian two-time plane hijacker Leila Khaled condemned Friday the burning to death of a Jordanian pilot by the Islamic State group, but also compared it to the murder of an Arab teenager by Jewish extremists last summer.
“Those people who burned him are the same as the Israelis that burned Muhammed Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem,” Khaled said in South Africa, making a reference to the Palestinian teenager kidnapped and burned alive in east Jerusalem in July last year by three Jewish extremists charged with murder. The attack was allegedly in response to the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by a terror cell linked to Hamas in the West Bank.
Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh was captured by IS in December after his F-16 crashed in Syria while on a mission for the US-led coalition against the Sunni extremist militia.
A video purporting to show him being burned alive inside a cage emerged on Tuesday.
“We denounce this in all languages,” Khaled said of the incident.
Khaled said the attackers in both instances were from “the same origins, like the Nazis and the fascists who had no mercy for human life”.
“The IS has no religion,” said Khaled. “It’s has nothing to do with any religion, especially Islam… This is terrorism.”
Now 70 and living in Jordan, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) member Khaled hijacked a Trans World Airlines flight from Rome to Athens in August 1969, and an El Al plane from Amsterdam to New York in September 1970.
She was arrested by sky marshals during the second attack and the flight was diverted to Heathrow. However, the British government released Khaled a month later in a hostage swap.
She is in South Africa to drum up support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement which is seeking to isolate Israel economically and politically.
She received a warm welcome from the ruling African National Congress — much to the indignation of local Jewish organisations.
“Comrade Leila, this is your home,” said ANC member and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, wearing a keffiyeh around his neck.
“The ANC is wishing for a lasting solution in the Israel-Palestinian conflict… but we stand with the people of Palestine as the oppressed and we seek justice for them as we sought justice for ourselves.”
Although Pretoria maintains good relations with Israel, the country remains a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause.
As part of its backing, South Africa in 2013 imposed new rules requiring goods imported from occupied Palestinian territories display special labels.
The ruling ANC and its partners in the trade unions and Communist Party have also supported the boycotts against Israel, often comparing the country to the former racist apartheid state in South Africa.
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