PFLP in Germany

It’s not enough that the PFLP hasn’t been banned long ago for carrying out deadly attacks to advance its agenda of destroying the State of Israel.

August 31, 2017 21:44
3 minute read.
PFLP Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Palestinian members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) take part in a military show in Gaza . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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It sounds hallucinatory because it is: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis – including the 2001 assassination of tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi – will be running candidates for the German Bundestag.

It’s not enough that the PFLP hasn’t been banned long ago for carrying out deadly attacks to advance its agenda of destroying the State of Israel. Representatives of this organization, which openly advocates the use of the most despicable means to achieve its ends, are exploiting the democratic process to gain access to political power and legitimacy. And they are doing it in Germany, a country that should have learned from its own history how fragile democracy can be.

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It’s not that the PFLP has slipped under the radar and German authorities have made the simple mistake of oversight. As noted by Benjamin Weinthal, The Jerusalem Post’s European correspondent, MKs from Yesh Atid and German lawmakers have already appealed to German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière to ban Hezbollah and the PFLP in Germany.

But the ministry has refused. In a response to a question from Weinthal, the ministry attempted to shirk responsibility, claiming it was the federal election committee that decided whether or not to disqualify political parties.

However, de Maizière is well aware that he has the power to ban the PFLP. In November 2016 he was involved in the decision by the German government to ban the True Religion organization, because it acted as a “collecting pool” for would-be Islamists.

“The organization brings Islamic jihadists together under the pretext of the harmless distribution of the Koran,” de Maizière told reporters in Berlin, according to The New York Times, stressing that the authorities were acting against the group because of its work to foster violence, not because of its faith.

“A systematic curtailment of our rule of law has nothing to do with the alleged freedom of religion,” he said.

So why hasn’t de Maizière taken similar steps against the PFLP, which the US and the EU have banned as a terrorist organization? Don’t get us wrong. We do not take lightly the outright banning of organizations by liberal democracies of organizations – particularly when it is the executive branch doing the banning.

Such bans are a blow to basic rights such as freedom of association and expression. They undermine the judicial process by removing the need to prove harmful conduct or intent, and erode the role of the courts in judging criminal liability. And the concept of individual responsibility is thrown by the wayside. All the state needs to prove is that a person was actively involved in some way with a banned organization and he or she can be prosecuted.

But if the PFLP and those who support it do not qualify as terrorists deserving of restrictions on their political activity, we don’t know who does. First led by George Habash, the PFLP has gone from airplane hijackings and attacks on air terminals and buses in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to shootings and suicide bombings in the 2000s. Its most recent large attack took place in a synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, on November 8, 2014. Four worshipers and a policeman were killed with axes, knives and a gun, and seven were wounded.

Anyone actively affiliated with the PFLP should be outed for going beyond the pale of legitimate political activism, not allowed to run for a seat in the German legislature.

We don’t know what explains the very different reactions on the part of the German government to True Religion, which was banned, and the PFLP, which was not. Could it be that de Maizière and others in the German government view violence directed against Israelis through a different lens than similar threats directed at Germans? We hope not.

Even if de Maizière and others in the German government do not have much sympathy for Israelis and contextualize terrorism directed against them within the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they should know that terrorists tend not to sweat such distinctions. PFLP terrorists have no qualms murdering Germans or anyone else for that matter to further their goals. Is this the sort of ideology that should be given legitimacy in the Bundestag?

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