(March 22, 2016 / JNS)
By Stephen M. Flatow/JNS.org
The Turkish and Israeli authorities are still investigating the motives and plans of the Islamist terrorist who murdered three Israelis, two of them Israeli-Americans, in Istanbul last week. I can’t help but be reminded of another terrorist attack in Istanbul, 40 years ago this summer, in which Israelis and Americans were murdered.
On Aug. 11, 1976, terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (the PFLP) opened fire at the El Al Terminal in the Istanbul airport. They murdered four people and wounded more than 30 others, including two American women. One of the dead was 29-year-old Harold W. Rosenthal.
Now, it shouldn’t matter where Rosenthal lived, or what his job was, or even that he was an American citizen.
But the way the world works is that if somebody from a particular city is killed, people in that city naturally are more interested than if the victims were people from other cities. And employees of a particular company naturally take a greater interest in the fate of their fellow-employees than the employees of other companies. And American citizens who are harmed by terrorists abroad are entitled to certain rights and protections from the American government, which they would not receive if they were not Americans.
So let it be noted that Rosenthal was from Philadelphia; he had served on the staff of then-U.S. Rep. Hugh Carey (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale (D-Minn.). At the time of his murder, he was a senior aide to U.S. Senator Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.).
And here’s why that matters.
The PFLP is the second-largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). And the PLO is still headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the “moderate” chairman of the PA—which receives $500 million in American taxpayers’ money every year from the Obama administration.
Keep in mind that the Obama administration does not pretend the PFLP is moderate. It still includes the PFLP on the official U.S. list of foreign terrorist groups. The administration simply never talks about the fact that the PFLP is still part of the PLO, and it hopes nobody else will notice, either. Because if anybody ever pointed out—in the press, or in court—that the U.S. government is giving money to an entity (the PA) which is intimately connected to a terrorist group, well the administration would then face quite a bit of embarrassment–and maybe some legal problems, too.
The two terrorists who carried out the 1976 were caught. But they didn’t act on their own. They were trained, financed, and sent to Turkey by the PFLP. Yet the PFLP was never punished.
Rather than just waiting and hoping that the Obama administration will one day take some action against the PFLP for the murder of Harold Rosenthal, here are some concrete steps that others could take in the meantime:
—The City of Philadelphia has provided training to the PA security forces. It should announce that it will not provide any such training in the future, until Abbas expels the PFLP from the PLO.
—The House of Representatives and the Senate should demand that the PA seize the assets of the PFLP and use them to pay compensation to the Rosenthal family and the families of the other victims. And in the meantime, the House and Senate should deduct those funds from the annual $500 million that the U.S. gives the PA.
—Members of Congress should inform the PA that during their forthcoming visits to the region, they will not step foot in the PA capital, Ramallah, until the PFLP has been expelled from the PLO.
—The American Jewish community should make the fate of American victims of Palestinian terrorism a top priority. Since the 1960s, 140 Americans have been murdered, and nearly 200 wounded, by Palestinian terrorists. The families should be compensated, the killers should be extradited to the U.S. for prosecution, and, above all, the victims should be remembered.
I only hope that the victims of last week’s attack on Istanbul will not be so quickly forgotten, as Harold Rosenthal and the other victims of the 1976 massacre seem to have been.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.