Danielle Pletka’s extraordinary essay in the new issue of COMMENTARY answers the question: What can we do to stem the tide of anti-Semitism? Her answer—stop the flow of money that is financing extremism, especially on college campuses—routinely stumbles across a familiar organization name: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Indeed, just as we have seen the 2024 version of the New Left embrace the symbolism of its 1960s-era forebears, so too has the PFLP returned.

As Pletka noted, students at Columbia University received “resistance” training from an organization founded by a PFLP member (whose wife runs some of the training). Students at George Washington University used a PFLP liberation manual for a teach-in, and the group’s flags and posters have been found at several high-profile protest encampments. The PFLP, it should be noted, is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

Founded in the late 1960s, the PFLP took a revolutionary Marxist approach to Palestinian nationalism. It was always one of the larger Palestinian factions, though it came to international attention with its 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane. The passenger plane was taken to Entebbe, Uganda, where Israeli commandos staged one of the most famous rescue operations ever. Israel’s recent rescue of four hostages held by Hamas in Nuseirat has drawn comparisons to the Entebbe rescue.

As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, the PFLP arguably paved the path that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took, leading directly to the Oct. 7 slaughter. In the late 1970s and 1980s, the PFLP’s Ahmed Jibril—by that time running a splinter group called the PFLP-General Command—reorganized the conflict around hostage-taking and maximizing the Palestinians’ gain from lopsided prisoner swaps. He was partially responsible for igniting the first intifada and he was directly responsible for the fact that two other key Intifada leaders—one, the founder of Hamas, and the other, the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, both of which Israel is fighting in Gaza as we speak—were freed from Israeli jails in one of those prisoner exchanges.

Last month, in an unprecedented show of support to the terrorists responsible for the current bloody conflict, Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib gave a surprise speech at a Palestinian conference in Detroit that was endorsed and promoted by the PFLP, and for which the PFLP provided prominent speakers including the keynote. Tlaib’s enthusiastic embrace of a conference connected to a terrorist organization and celebrating the butchers of Hamas who currently hold American hostages turned surreal when she used her address to attack President Biden to the whooping and cheering crowd.

In truth, however, the PFLP’s big comeback was years in the making thanks to the secular canonization of two of its terrorists: Rasmea Odeh and Leila Khaled.

Khaled has become a left-wing icon in the manner of Che Guevara. She was involved in two hijackings, one in 1969 and one in 1970. She was captured carrying out the latter, a coordinated hijacking of four planes to be taken to Jordan, spurring a fellow terrorist to hijack a fifth plane a few days later in order to bargain for her release. The 1970 incident threw a lit match on the tinderbox of Palestinian-Jordanian tensions and led to what became known as Black September, when the Jordanian army was tasked with evicting the Palestine Liberation Organization from its territory. Outside the U.S., Khaled still draws crowds—and the occasional shoutout from progressive anti-Zionist academics like Marc Lamont Hill.

Rasmea Odeh, meanwhile, was still drawing crowds in the U.S. until she was deported in 2017. Odeh was convicted in Israel in 1970 for her participation in a bombing that killed two people. She was released in a PFLP prisoner exchange a decade later and eventually settled in the U.S. before her conviction for immigration fraud. Odeh was embraced by anti-Semitic activists like Linda Sarsour and in progressive and leftist spaces from The Nation to Jacobin to Harvard Law (and yes, of course, Marc Lamont Hill).

The PFLP was largely responsible for the strategic direction of the Palestinian national movement after 1967, when it argued that a long-term guerrilla war was the only way to offset Israel’s technological superiority. The PFLP’s approach, according to Palestinian intellectual Yezid Sayigh, was that “the Arabs should rely on their advantages of human and geographic depth to neutralize [Israel’s] superiority and drain its resources in a lengthy conflict.” That lengthy conflict continues, on American soil, to this day thanks to the progressive organizers, academic institutions, and members of Congress openly aiding the PFLP’s revival.

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