She's been glorified in the leftist media as a revolutionary, the female Che Guevara. In reality, Leila Khaled, a failed bomber who cut her teeth on commandeering airplanes, is just an unrepentant terrorist with a wicked Jew-hating streak.
Fifty-one years after assuming the title of the world's "first female hijacker," Khaled should be locked up, shut down or on the run. Instead, she's set to receive a place of honor this month at a woke American college campus (or is that redundant?). She is to speak at a virtual event at San Francisco State University entitled: "Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance: A Conversation with Leila Khaled."
Khaled's transformation from Public Enemy to Justified Jihadist proves that all it takes to make that leap is a good public-relations strategy. This angers Jerry Richter, a New York City public-school teacher who, as a 9-year-old boy, was a passenger on a plane hijacked unsuccessfully by Khaled and an accomplice, a near-death trauma with which he still grapples emotionally.
"This event, coupled with the Holocaust, defined who I am today," Richter, now 59, tells me.
In 1969, Khaled, now 76, was an attractive 25-year-old self-styled freedom fighter who pledged loyalty to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union. A photograph of her in a kaffiyeh, brandishing an AK-47 rifle, was published widely.
She was part of a team of maniacs who forced TWA Flight 840 from Rome to Tel Aviv to divert to Damascus, Syria. No one was injured. That time.
Then, on Sept. 6, 1970, she and a comrade tried to hijack another jet, El Al Flight 219, as part of a day of concerted attacks on five planes. Richter, who was traveling home to the United States with his 11-year-old brother after spending the summer in Israel with family, remembers the flight stopping in Amsterdam to pick up more passengers.
"It was soon after we took off, and there was a commotion in the front of the plane. We nosedived," he says.
"I was sitting in the aisle seat and heard a couple of pops, which I later learned were gunshots. One was from the male terrorist, Patrick Arguello, who shot a steward in the stomach and then was quickly neutralized by an air marshal." Arguello, a Nicaraguan-American Sandinista, died.
"The woman terrorist, Leila Khaled, was on the floor, and I recall a large man on top of her. She managed to pull the pin out of the grenade." It was as if time stopped.
The device did not explode.
The plane landed in London, and Richter spoke by phone to his frantic mom and dad, Holocaust survivors.
British authorities released Khaled just weeks later in a prisoner exchange for civilian hostages kidnapped by her fellow PFLP members. She lives in Amman, Jordan, and remains an enthusiastic foe of Israel.
In a 2017 speech at the European Parliament, she trashed Zionists as being worse than Nazis. She blathered, "You can't compare the actions of the Nazis to the actions of the Zionists in Gaza," adding: "The Nazis were judged in Nuremberg but not a single one of the Zionists has yet been brought to justice."
Actually, unlike neighbors in Muslim-majority countries, Israelis suspected of causing questionable deaths are investigated and even punished by governmental authorities.
American institutions of higher education have long provided safe spaces for international anti-Semites to bloviate freely. Columbia University in New York hosted Iran's foul former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2007 and Malaysia's Jew-hating prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad just last year.
The event featuring Khaled is to be presented by San Francisco State University's Department of Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies headed by Professor Rabab Abdulhadi — a devoted anti-Zionist who has been accused of hate speech and harassment against pro-Israel students.
The talk has drawn fire from a number of Jewish groups, but school reps defend it on free-speech grounds.
"Having her speak at San Francisco State University dishonors the memories of all the innocents who have been murdered by terrorist organizations like the PFLP," says Richter. This is "a testament to the warped values that institutions instill in our youth."
Let's hope common sense prevails and this hate fest is scrapped.