The number one topic around the globe has been the world after Bin Laden and the appropriate ways for democracies to dispose of terrorists. From Washington, to Brussels, to Tel Aviv and Islamabad, pundits and average citizens have weighed in on the debate.
Sweden’s contribution to the question of how to deal with terrorism was to provide a welcome mat - in the form of a taxpayer-funded lecture tour - for the notorious Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) airplane hijacker, Leila Khaled.
Khaled literally burst onto the world scene in 1969 when she boarded TWA’s flight 840 in Rome with hand grenades taped around her waist. She stormed the cockpit, declaring she belonged to the Che Guevara Commando Unit of the Marxist-Leninist PFLP. Terrified passengers were held hostage and only released after Israel agreed to free Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons. One year later, she masterminded a new brutal hijacking after undergoing plastic surgery to conceal her identity.
In 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, The European Union through its European Council decided to include the PFLP on its list of terrorist groups.
The people of Israel are all too familiar with the savagery of the PFLP. It took responsibility for the 2001 assassination of Tourism Minister, Rehavam Zeevi. On Friday night, March 11th 2011, two PFLP members butchered the Fogel family in Itamar, including four-and eleven-year-old children and a three-month infant.
Ms. Khaled sits on the PFLP Central Committee and has not expressed regret for her involvement in terrorism. Because of her history of aiding and abetting terrorism, a police complaint was recently issued against her in Sweden for gross violations of international law.
But that came too late. During her tax-payer funded visit to Sweden, Khaled spoke at the May Day demonstrations of the Stalinist Swedish Communist Party and the Anarcho-syndicalist Trade Union Federation. She held publicly funded lectures at an Art Gallery and spoke on developments in the Middle East at the publicly- funded Södertörn
Incredibly, Khaled also participated at a seminar on political activism arranged by the Left Party represented in Sweden’s Parliament.
The organizers of her appearances had nothing but praise for the PFLP leader. Anna Ahlstrand, Project Manager at Konsthall C, which is funded by the government’s Arts Grant Committee, declared “she is an icon for many people”. Jonatan Habib Engqvist, Project Manager at the Governmental Arts Grants Committee that financed her tour described the arch terrorist as “a very established feminist thinker.”
Unfortunately, Leila Khaled isn’t the first member of a Palestinian terrorist group to get special treatment from Stockholm. In 2006, the Swedish consulate in Jerusalem, in contravention of EU regulations, granted a Schengen visa to Hamas’ Minister of Refugees, Atef Adwan. Such a visa makes it possible for the bearer to travel across 15 European Countries. That decision provoked protests from Israel, which said it lent legitimacy to Hamas, and from France, which had rejected earlier visa requests by Hamas leaders.
So far Sweden’s decision to grant entry to Khaled – a leading representative of an organization deemed a terrorist group by more than 30 countries, including Sweden, all EU Member States and the United States – hasn’t spurred protest from the US or other
But the decision to allow her into Sweden could have broader consequences. It comes at a time when many European nations want to take back direct control of their national frontiers. Indeed, the European Commission is currently debating the re-imposition of border controls within the so-called Schengen region.
Leila Khalid’s taxpayer-funded trip comes even as Swedish authorities continue to turn a deaf ear to repeated calls from the Jewish Community and the Simon Wiesenthal Center to fund security for Jewish institutions facing increasing anti-Semitism and global Islamist threats.
The irresponsible behavior of Swedish authorities will likely doom any future role in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Back in 2000, following a more even-handed Middle East policy under then Swedish PM Goran Persson, Stockholm did help facilitate Israeli Palestinian negotiations.
According to leaked WikiLeaks reports, Carl Bildt, the current Foreign Minister is characterized, as a “medium size dog with big dog attitude.” But his government hasn’t even bothered to present a veneer of neutrality when it comes to the Holy Land, as evidenced by the fact that not a single minister visited Israel during the Swedish EU Presidency.
On the Iranian front, Bildt distinguished himself as one of the EU leaders most opposed to increased sanctions against Tehran. The very same diplomat rushed to Istanbul in June 2010 to personally greet and have his picture taken with Swedish participants in the infamous Turkish Gaza Flotilla.
If Sweden is serious about opposing terrorism and promoting Mideast peace, it must reveal the circumstances behind Leila Khalid’s entry and departure from Swedish and EU Territory and who approved the allocation of taxpayers’ funds for a woman who stands for everything Osama Bin Laden lived and died for.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Daniel Schatz is a Visiting Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and is an expert on European and Scandinavian Politics