Did French Caribbean serve as Palestinian terrorists’ arms route?

That attack was described by then-French prime minister Raymond Barre as “a bomb set for Jews that killed four innocent Frenchmen.”

Jo Goldenberg's restaurant in Paris, site of a 1982 terrorist attack. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jo Goldenberg's restaurant in Paris, site of a 1982 terrorist attack.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
 August 9 marked the 37th anniversary of the Rue des Rosiers terrorist attack in the Paris Jewish Quarter – known as the Goldenberg Restaurant Massacre – which left six dead and 22 wounded. The attack was carried out by the notorious Abu Nidal Organization, the most common name for the Palestinian nationalist militant group Fatah-Revolutionary Council.
Goldenberg’s was the tail-end of 73 shootings and bombings across Western Europe that began with the October 3, 1980, bombing of the Synagogue of Rue Copernic in Paris. This writer accompanied Aliza Shagrir, who was visiting Paris from Israel, to the corner of Copernic. I walked on as she entered the street where she met her death. That attack was described by then-French prime minister Raymond Barre as “a bomb set for Jews that killed four innocent Frenchmen.”
The victims were a Spanish chauffeur, a Portuguese concierge, Aliza and an “innocent Frenchman” passing by on a scooter, plus 46 wounded, many of whom were French Jewish worshipers inside the synagogue.
Then-president Giscard d’Estaing was quoted as saying, “I lost my reelection at Rue Copernic,” as he had refused to return to Paris from a hunting weekend.
The Copernic suspect was identified in Canada and extradited to France for trial. After two years of detention with appeals still pending he was spirited back to Ottawa.
Three Goldenberg suspects were identified – one in Amman, a second in Norway, a third in Ramallah. All these respective jurisdictions have refused extradition.
The Israeli incursion into southern Lebanon in August 1982, in response to several terrorist attacks including the explosion of a bus on the coast, revealed Palestinian training camps for European terrorist groups. On one base, extreme-left French Action Directe had apparently complained against the presence of extreme-right FANE, created by neo-Nazi Marc Fredericksen. All fled back to Europe, where they suspended targeting Jews and, in need of money, began attacking banks, then businesses, political figures, embassies and military bases. Governments cracked down until groups such as French Action Directe, German RAF/Baader-Meinhoff and Italian Red Brigades were neutralized.
Now we learn from the French daily Le Parisien of August 8, of a scandalous revelation that following Goldenberg, the then-head of French Intelligence cut a deal with Palestinian terrorists, reportedly with the most brutal Abu Nidal, the very murderer of Goldenberg’s. The deal was apparently freedom of movement in France in exchange for a moratorium on violence on French territory.
THE SCOOP by Le Parisien has also re-awakened a dormant, closely related issue. After our public condemnation of the Goldenberg atrocity, I received a call from a French commercial pilot. We met. He described how Palestinian arms were reaching Europe.
He claimed that materiel was assembled off the coast of Venezuela, on Isla Margarita – today a free-trade zone controlled by Hezbollah – with a growing presence of Hamas, al-Qaeda and ISIS fugitives among an Arab community of some 12,000. Isla Margarita appeared in a report by the assassinated Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman as part of what is now called “Latin Arabia,” from Surinam to Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, the Argentine-Brazil-Paraguay Triple Frontier Region and Trinidad-Tobago.
The arms would be sent by boat to the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe or Martinique, also hosting communities of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians, especially those who had fled the Lebanon civil war in the 1970s and ‘80s.
“From these French territories, flights considered as domestic could freely arrive in Paris without security or customs controls,” claimed the pilot.
At the time, we turned to the Élysée Palace and were assured that president François Mitterand himself knew nothing of this deal.
A few days later, we learned that the “delegate general of Palestine” (aka “ambassador of Palestine”) to France, Ibrahim Souss – considered a master concert pianist rather than an agent of terror – was hauled into the Quai d’Orsay Foreign Office, allegedly to discuss the islands’ “traffic” issue.
If Le Parisien and our pilot source are correct, the arms supply to Abu Nidal through France into Europe could have been used in his terrorist organization’s subsequent deadly itinerary resulting in at least 400 murdered victims and many more wounded:
• November 23, 1985: EgyptAir Flight 648 hijacking and stand-off in Malta, 58 killed.
• December 27, 1985: Simultaneous shootings at the El Al ticket counters in Rome and Vienna airports, 20 killed, 138 wounded.
• September 5, 1986: Pan American flight 73 hijacking, 20 killed, 120 wounded.
• September 6, 1986: Attack against the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, 22 killed.
• July 11, 1988: Attack on a Greek cruise ship, 10 killed, 98 wounded. 
• December 21, 1988: Pan American flight 103 explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland, claimed by Abu Nidal among other suspects, 270 killed.
We salute Le Parisien and hope that its investigation will also include the arms-supply route with a call on the appropriate French authorities to consider punitive measures for such deals as a memorial gesture to the victims and their families.
The writer is director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.