When it comes to extremism, there is no such thing as neutrality. Our experience shows that extremists say what they mean and mean what they say. If they say that they want to fight and defeat us, we should believe them. It would be irresponsible to take the easy road by pretending otherwise.
Those who have the responsibility to protect us, principally political leaders, can either stand firmly against extremists or they can do nothing. Doing nothing is not the same as neutrality; doing nothing encourages extremists to carry on their pernicious activities with impunity.
In October 2022, an extremist organization called Samidoun (an opaque de facto group ostensibly supporting the rights of Palestinian prisoners) held a rally in front of the European Parliament in Brussels. The rally's leader, Belgian resident and Samidoun's European coordinator Mohammed Khatib, called for the defeat of Israel, the European Union, and the United States “by any means necessary.” He said that Israel’s ambassador to Belgium should be afraid. He said that Zionists should be afraid. He said that the European Union should be afraid.
His words went beyond mere rhetoric. In Arabic, he revealed why we should be afraid: the Palestinian diaspora should be armed with “Kalashnikovs, bullets and rockets.” This is incitement to murder, as simple as that. No one should be surprised, since the rally was replete with banners celebrating murderers of men, women and children. Israeli men, women and children. Israel and all associated with it, such as the ‘colonial’ EU, are the hated ‘other’ which must be defeated using violence.
This is why the International Movement for Peace and Coexistence (IMPAC) reached out to MEPs and international experts to take part in a symposium at the European Parliament last month, attended by over 100 people. They heard from speaker after speaker how Samidoun is part of a tripartite alliance with the proscribed terrorist organization, PFLP, and the authoritarian regime in Iran. Samidoun is not just brazenly calling for violence – it is connected with those able to provide the means to achieve it.
One of the experts, Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum (ILF), cited their report detailing the close connections between Samidoun leaders and the PFLP. “For them, they are one and the same. We know that the PFLP is a proxy of the Iranian regime, which provides a terror group with money, weapons and logistics support. We know that Samidoun is an offshoot of the PFLP, whose senior leaders are PFLP members and receive instructions and money from them,” Ostrovsky said.
Former French intelligence officer Claude Moniquet, director of the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center, explained that words of hatred and incitement inevitably lead to actions, typically the degradation of monuments to physical or verbal aggression. “But at worst,” he went on, “they will lead, as has already been the case, to the commission of terrorist acts.”
The Members of the European Parliament hosting the event, representing 3 of the 4 largest political groups in the parliament, understand the danger. MEP Bert-Jan Ruissen (Netherlands) said that Samidoun and its connections to the PFLP should be investigated to see if legal steps can be taken.” Vice-Chair of the Committee on Security and Defense, MEP Lukas Mandl (Austria), identified what those legal steps need to be: “All the proxies and all the terror organizations must be designated as what they are: terror organizations.”
Progress is being made. Berlin just recently banned a Samidoun rally; Cologne cut one short following the usual inciting chants against Israel. Yet, this did not stop Samidoun's Mohammad Khatib from urging people at a booster rally in Brussels this past weekend to join the ‘Palestinian resistance’ as exemplified by Hamas, the PFLP, Lion's Den, and Hezbollah terrorist groups. All aim to murder Jews and destroy Israel. All despise our values. All are linked to Iran.
We are in a war, and time is running out. What is at stake are the values on which liberal Western democracy is founded - human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights. Our leaders need to be conscious of them, commanded by them and committed to them. Neutrality is not an option. As Imam Hassan Chalghoumi said, “Samidoun aims for the instability of Europe. Today it targets Israel; tomorrow, it is you and me.”
The EU must proscribe Samidoun since it is a clear and present threat to us all.
Nigel Goodrich is CEO of the International Movement for Peace and Coexistence (IMPAC), a Brussels-based international not-for-profit.