Canada's counterterror clown show
It's not for me to say whether Khaled Barakat is a PFLP kingpin. But seriously. . .
I do want to be fair here. I spent a lot of time on this story, now out in the National Post: The curious case of Khaled Barakat. Do read it, and on Sunday this newsletter will contain as much of the inside story as I can comfortably disclose, for all subscribers. For paying customers there’ll be a hefty addendum with backstory that’s pretty macabre, along with some ripping spy-versus-spy type of stuff.
For now, what follows is how the story came to me and a couple of things I found especially weird when I was researching the piece, and why all this matters.
As I reported, the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network has been intimately linked for years with the PFLP, an organization that shows up on pretty well every terrorist list in the free world. I express no opinion about that here - read the story in the Post and decide for yourself - but those links have lately made things increasingly difficult for Samidoun.
But not in Canada. Two years ago, Mastercard, Visa and American Express cut them off. Last year, owing to its PFLP links, the Israelis listed Samidoun as a terrorist entity in its own right. Here’s the really weird part: Three days later, on March 3, 2021, Corporations Canada granted Samidoun an official registration under the federal Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. Samidoun has an office in Tehran, too. I expect the Khomeinists have extended Samidoun a similar courtesy.
You can see why Canada’s Jewish and Zionist advocacy groups would be a bit perturbed with all this. But they kept schtum anyway until earlier this year, when a response came from a senior official with Public Safety Canada that was, in effect, this: So, Jews, if you find yourselves threatened by these guys you can always call 911.
It was after that particular clunker that B’nai Brith came to me with correspondence expressing alarm sent to several federal cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, going back to January, 2020. Big thanks to B’nai Brith Canada for opening those files to me. I’m also grateful to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ researcher Becca Wertman-Traub. I’d like to thank some other sources, too but they’ll have to remain nameless.
As for why the Jewish community would be concerned about Barakat, Samidoun and their associations with the PFLP, I reckoned it should be more or less obvious. If it isn’t, here are some reasons.
A. Among the many armed Palestinian factions that have come and gone over the years, the PFLP never went away. B. The PFLP’s pedigree is unmatched in acts of international terrorism. C. The PFLP has never abandoned its violent opposition to any accomodation with Israel, and doesn’t always scruple to distinguish between Israel and Jews, anywhere. D. The PFLP’s cadres are known for stern discipline, clandestine front-group formulation and a proclivity for adventurist violence all over the world. E. The PFLP has been making quite a comeback lately.
Even the most casual observer of what we journalists like to call the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” will be familiar with the story of the Raid on Entebbe, the legendary Israeli Defence Forces operation in the summer of 1976. A reminder, if you’ve forgotten: IDF commandos flew 4000 kilometres and carried out a daring night-time rescue of the hostages from a hijacked Air France flight that Ugandan dictator Idi Amin had welcomed to the airport on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala. Only three of the 106 abducted passengers were killed in the IDF operation. The hijackers were all killed, along with 45 Ugandan soldiers.
That Air France hijacking was only the best-known PFLP operation. There have been dozens: suicide bombings, massacres in synagogues, the lot. The hijacking that ended in Entebbe was carried out in collaboration with the German terror groupuscule Revolutionaire Zellen - which drew no distinction between targeting Israel and targeting Jewish community leaders in Berlin and Frankfurt.
For all its pretensions to leftist internationalism, in its embryonic years the PFLP was a beneficiary of the Swiss financier Francois Genoud, an unrepentant Nazi. Genoud helped orchestrate a $5 million ransom payment the PFLP obtained for the release of the passengers on a 1972 Lufthansa flight hijacked to Yemen. A friend of PFLP military chief Wadie Haddad, Genoud also managed the financial affairs of Haj Amin el-Husseini, Adolf Hitler’s principal Arab ally. Genoud covered the defence costs in the 1960 trial of Adolf Eichmann, the senior Nazi overseer of the Holocaust captured by Israeli agents in Argentina. Genoud also paid the legal bills for the Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyon” convicted in France of dozens of crimes against humanity in 1987.
Another cause for the Jewish community’s concern involves the case of Mahmoud Mohammed Issa Mohammed. Convicted by a Greek court for his role in a PFLP hijacking and later released as part of a deal in another hijacking, Mohammed eventually made his way to Canada. It was 26 years after a Canadian immigration adjudicator first ordered Mohammed deported that the he was finally escorted out of the country in 2013.
Eclipsed over the years by the rise of Islamist terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, and the fall of its former backers in the Soviet Union, the PFLP remains hostile to what it considers the squishy and accommodationist Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank. As I noted in the National Post, the PFLP was left on the margins after the Oslo peace process that began in 1993. But that’s been changing over the past decade.
In the National Post I mention a 2019 Shin Bet raid on the PFLP’s offices in Ramallah where Israeli authorities say documents were uncovered suggesting that the close Canadian connections between the PFLP and Samidoun were of such concern that Barakat had been reprimanded. The PFLP is expected to maintain a plausibly deniable distance from its proxies.
Those raids in 2019 were prompted by the detonation of an improvised explosive device that killed 17-year-old Rina Shnerb. The authorities detained roughly 50 members of what Israeli intellgence calls a network built up around a revitalized PFLP. Shin Bet uncovered a significant amount of weapons and explosives in the roundup.
The PFLP’s resurgence began during the early innings of the Arab Spring nearly a decade ago. That’s when Tehran threw its resources behind Bashar Assad’s blood-soaked regime in Damascus, causing a rupture between the Khomeinists and the Sunni jihadist Hamas organization in Gaza - the outfit responsible for inciting all those riots at Al Aqsa in Jerusalem this past month. This created an opening for the PFLP, which is all in favour of riots, but has offered full-throated support for Assad’s Baathist regime.
As my friend Jonathan Spyer explains in this analysis for the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security: “The PFLP’s position on Syria was consistent and unambiguous: it strongly supported Assad throughout the war. When the regime re-took Aleppo in late 2016, the movement’s website declared the victory to be ‘the start of the retreat of the plot against our Arab nation and the thwarting of the reactionary imperialist Zionist plan.’”
So Hezbollah arranged meetings between the PFLP and the Khomeinists in Assad’s plush digs in Damascus, and away we go.
This is not ancient history. This week, Jews around the world observed Yom Hashoah, the remembrance of the Holocaust. Early on in this newsletter I tipped my hat to CIJA’s Becca Wertman-Traub. This is Becca:
And this is from the Global Imams Council, based in Najaf, Iraq, this week: “We congratulate the Jewish Communities of Canada on their country heading in the direction of joining countries like Germany, Austria, Greece, France, Belgium and the Czech Republic in prohibiting Holocaust Denial. Our Council vows to continue combating extremism, terrorism, antisemitism and Holocaust denial.” Full statement here (pdf).
And this is Friday evening. So Shabbat Shalom to my Jewish comrades, and to my Muslim comrades on this holy day, the last Friday of Ramadan: A happy & blessed Jumat Ul Wida.
I’ll be back with more about this, as I mentioned, on Sunday. The best stuff always goes to paying customers. So buy a sub, here.