Switzerland struck a secret deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization more than 45 years ago to prevent Palestinian terror attacks on its soil in exchange for diplomatic support, a new book claims.
According to the author, Swiss journalist Marcel Gyr, Switzerland was in turmoil after a spate of Palestinian terror attacks, including the February 1970 bombing of a Swissair flight from Zurich to Tel Aviv, which killed all on board shortly after takeoff. Gyr recounts that in the wake of the attacks in 1969 and 1970, then-foreign minister Pierre Graber contacted the PLO clandestinely and without informing his fellow ministers, the BBC reported Friday.
The revelations in Gyr’s book, due to be published next month, suggest that Graber agreed to release the terrorists charged with a February 1969 attack on an El Al plane at Zurich airport, in which the pilot was killed, and drop an investigation into the Palestinian bombing of the Swissair flight.
The first contact between the two sides came after the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked a Swissair flight in September 1970, along with two other flights, one British and one American. All three planes were diverted to Jordan, where some 300 passengers were held captive.
Graber, through a Swiss member of parliament, purportedly reached an agreement with the PLO to free those charged for the El Al attack in return the release of the hostages in Jordan. Furthermore, he agreed that Switzerland would “quietly shelve” the investigation into bombing of the Swissair plane, and make a diplomatic push for international recognition of the PLO.
Swiss German-language newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) named the MP as Jean Ziegler, a left-wing human rights activist. Graber died in 2003.
Ziegler, now 81, confirmed to Swiss radio that he had acted as a go-between for the foreign minister, but would not confirm that he had taken part in any secret meetings. He called the secret deal “immoral,” but said it had been justified for strategic reasons.
“This might be absolutely shocking, but the reward was that there were no more attacks,” Ziegler said.
The BBC also noted that there were no further Palestinian terror attacks in Switzerland after 1970, although they continued across the rest of Europe.
According to the BBC, the revelations have triggered a debate in Switzerland on when, if ever, it is appropriate to negotiate with a terrorist group. Much of the documentation on the affair is still classified.