The African Christian Democratic Party has called on President Jacob Zuma to urgently withdraw the visa of Palestinian activist and double aircraft hijacker Leila Khaled who is due to visit South Africa next month on a speaking tour hosted by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
In an open letter to the President, dated January 15, 2015, ACDP MP and Whip, Cheryllyn Dudley commends Zuma for his public “anti-terrorism stand” and urges him to withdraw Khaled’s visa “to demonstrate your commitment to ensuring South Africa does not blatantly or inadvertently facilitate the work of extremist groups and terrorism which is plaguing Africa and the World”.
Khaled was the first woman to hijack a passenger plane in 1969. She was arrested after she took part in another airplane hijacking in 1970 and was later freed in exchange for hostages held by the PFLP.
The pending visit BY Khaled, 70, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) which is described as a terrorist organisation by the United States, Canada and the European Union, has been condemned by spokesmen for the South African Jewish community.
‘Aligning with terrorists’
“By bringing Leila Khaled to South Africa, BDS aligns itself with savage gunmen who murder civilians in Paris, France, with terrorists who send 10-year old girls to bomb markets in Potiskum, Nigeria, and barbarians who butcher school children in Peshawar, Pakistan,” South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
South African Jewish Board of Deputies national director Wendy Khan issued a statement saying: “By inviting Leila Khaled to this country, BDS-SA has conclusively demonstrated yet again that it has no interest in promoting peace, dialogue, reconciliation or understanding.”
In an email to supporters, the South African BDS movement termed Khaled an icon of the Palestinian struggle, showing an image of her clutching an automatic weapon and comparing her to late South African president Nelson Mandela. Khaled is described on Cape Town Muslim.com as “the poster girl of the Palestinian struggle”. The local Muslim website promotes the upcoming fundraising tour saying: “Khaled’s image flashed across the world after she hijacked a passenger jet in 1969 and made world history by becoming the first woman to hijack an airplane”.
Dismissing protests about its invitation to Khaled, BDS South Africa said: “Many Palestinians including Leila Khaled are today considered terrorists like the ANC and Nelson Mandela were once classified as terrorists,” reports Jerusalem Post.
In other reaction to Khaled’s planned tour, Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe, released a statement today saying “This visit by comrade Leila Khaled would further contribute to serve the purpose to bolster solidarity with the Palestine people’s struggle for their birthright.”
Global Jewish organisations have condemned the BDS movement’s decision to host Khaled, reports Jerusalem Post.
Dr Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said the speaking tour is indicative of the negative atmosphere toward the Jewish state in contemporary South Africa.
“Leila Khaled should be on the list of persons barred from the country, rather than an invited guest,” he said. “This issue will be another test of the local Jewish community’s ability to influence such issues, but it will be an very tough, uphill battle.”
Jeff Daube, the Israel director of the Zionist Organization of America, told the Post that Khaled’s invitation showed the BDS movement’s “true colors.”
- The full text of the ACDP Open letter to President Zuma reads:
Dear Mr President,
The ACDP commends you on your anti-terrorism stand and we call on you to urgently withdraw Leila Khaled’s visa. The ACDP is concerned that Khaled, a convicted and jailed hijacker, and member of the terror organisation Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has been granted a visa to visit South Africa to make a public speaking tour in February.
We also call on the Ministers of Home Affairs and International Relations to investigate the situation.
Before the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, President Zuma said after a terrorist attack on the Togolese soccer team in Angola that it “should serve as impetus for the African continent and the world at large to work even harder to rid the world of terrorist activity and violence wherever it surfaces”.
Last week Government joined the international community in condemning the terrorist murder of journalists of Charlie Hebdo and members of the public in Paris, and at an ANC rally in May, you declared that your party “condemns terrorism in every shape or form and from whichever quarter it comes”.
Given Government’s expressions of condemnation, we fail to understand how Khaled has been granted a visa.
This is an opportunity for you, Mr President, to demonstrate your commitment to ensuring South Africa does not blatantly or inadvertently facilitate the work of extremist groups and terrorism which is plaguing Africa and the World. We implore you to have the courage of your convictions and do the right thing.