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Profile: Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was a participant or observer in the following events:
Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel takes over the administration of the West Bank and Gaza. Whereas Egyptian President Gamal Abddul Nasser had been tough on Islamist militants (see 1954-1970), Israel is much more permissive. One of their first actions is to release Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from prison. Yassin, a charismatic radical Islamist and the future founder of Hamas had been jailed in 1965 during one of Nasser’s crackdowns. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 195] David Shipler, a former New York Times reporter, later recounts that he was told by the military governor of the Gaza Strip, Brigadier General Yitzhak Segev, that the Israeli government had financed the Islamic movement to couteract the PLO and the communists. According to Martha Kessler, a senior analyst for the CIA, “we saw Israel cultivate Islam as a counterweight to Palestinian nationalism.” In the 1970s, Yassin is able to form some Islamic organizations (see 1973-1978). In the 1980s, he forms Hamas as the military arm of his organizations (see 1987). [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 195, 197, 198]
Two of the airliners detonated by the hijackers at Dawson’s Field on September 12, 1970. [Source: Rolls Press / Popperfoto / Getty Images]The first major act of Middle East terrorism on a global scale plays out in Jordan. Militant Palestinian nationalists hijack four Western commercial airliners and fly the planes and their passengers—now hostages—to a desert airfield near Amman. After negotiations, they release the hostages and blow up the empty airliners for the news cameras. Jordan’s King Hussein responds by mobilizing his military for a showdown with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), a guerrilla organization based in his country. Hussein worries that Iraq or Syria might intervene on behalf of the PLO, and lets the US know that he would like US support in that event. Instead, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger makes the unlikely suggestion that Israel, not the US, step in to help Jordan if need be. President Nixon uses the incident to challenge the Soviet Union, warning the Soviets not to intervene if the US moves to prevent Syrian tanks from entering Jordan. Nixon often lets the Soviets and other adversaries think that he is capable of the most irrational acts—the “madman theory,” both Nixon and his critics call it—but Kissinger eventually convinces Nixon to support the idea of Israeli intervention. King Hussein secretly cables the British government to request an Israeli air strike, a cable routed to Washington via Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. Nixon gives his approval and Israel moves in. 3,000 Palestinians and Jordanians die in the subsequent conflict, dubbed “Black September” in the Arab world. Hussein loses influence and prestige among his fellow Arab leaders, and the PLO, energized by the conflict, moves into Lebanon. PLO leader Yasser Arafat takes undisputed control of the organization. Oil-supplying nations rally behind the Palestinian cause, and international terrorist incidents begin to escalate. [Werth, 2006, pp. 90-91]
Secretary of State James Baker tells President Bush that Israel has to negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Two weeks later, Baker urges Israel to withdraw its troops from the Palestinian territories it occupies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel must, he says, “lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of the greater Israel.” Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the right-wing leader of the Likud Party, is furious (see April 6, 1989). [Unger, 2007, pp. 113]
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti. [Source: Muslim World League Canada]The FBI secretly records top Hamas leaders meeting in a Philadelphia hotel. Five Hamas leaders meet with three leaders of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation charity (see 1989), including CEO Shukri Abu Baker and chairman Ghassan Elashi. A peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had just been made, and this group meets to decide how to best oppose that. It is decided that “most or almost all of the funds collected [by Holy Land] in the future should be directed to enhance [Hamas] and to weaken the self-rule government” of Palestinian and PLO leader Yasser Arafat. According to an FBI memo released in late 2001 that summarizes the surveillance, “In the United States, they could raise funds, propagate their political goals, affect public opinion and influence decision-making of the US government.” The FBI also learns from the meeting that Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk gave Holy Land large sums of cash to get the charity started. Holy Land will eventually grow to become the largest Muslim charity in the US. In a January 1995 public conference also monitored by the FBI, Holy Land CEO Abu Baker will be introduced to the audience as a Hamas senior vice president. One Hamas military leader there will tell the crowd, “I’m going to speak the truth to you. It’s simple. Finish off the Israelis! Kill them all! Exterminate them! No peace ever!” [New York Times, 12/6/2001; Emerson, 2002, pp. 89-90; CBS News, 12/18/2002] Investigators conclude at the time that some of Holy Land’s “key decision makers [are] Hamas members, the foundation [is] the primary US fundraising organ for Hamas, and most of its expenditures [go] to build support for Hamas and its goal of destroying Israel.” [Dallas Morning News, 12/5/2001] Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti is one of the attendees for Hamas. In 1995, he will be listed as an unindicted coconspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). In the early 1990s, he is the imam at a Jersey City, New Jersey, mosque where at least one of the WTC bombers regularly prays and where al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman often delivers incendiary speeches. An FBI report claims Al-Hanooti raised more than $6 million for Hamas in 1993 alone, funneling much of it through the Holy Land Foundation. As of the end of 2005, Al-Hanooti will still be an imam in the US and will continue to deny all charges against him. [Albany Times-Union, 6/30/2002] Chicago FBI agents Robert Wright and John Vincent try and fail to get a criminal prosecution against the attendees of this meeting. Instead, the attendees will not be charged with criminal activity connected to this meeting until 2002 and 2004 (see December 18, 2002-April 2005). Vincent will comment in 2002 that the arrests made that year could have been made in 1993 instead. One of the Hamas attendees of the meeting, Abdelhaleem Ashqar, will be not arrested until 2004 (see August 20, 2004), and other attendees like Ismail Selim Elbarasse have never been arrested. Elbarasse, a college roommate of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, will be detained in 2004 on the accusation of working with Marzouk to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hamas, but not charged. [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003; Baltimore Sun, 8/26/2004] Oliver “Buck” Revell, head of the Dallas FBI office at the time, will say after 9/11 that the US government should have shut down Holy Land as soon as it determined it was sending money to Hamas (even though raising money for Hamas is not a criminal act in the US until 1995 (see January 1995)). [Associated Press, 12/12/2001]
Entity Tags: Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mousa Abu Marzouk, Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, Yasser Arafat, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Oliver (“Buck”) Revell, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Abdelhaleem Ashqar, John Vincent, Ismail Selim Elbarasse
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Palestinian Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat goes to Gaza as outlined by the Oslo peace agreement (see September 13, 1993). The next day, as many as 100,000 right-wing protesters vent their spleen at Arafat, the peace process, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Jerusalem’s Zion Square, chanting, “Rabin is a homo!” and “Rabin is the son of a whore!” Near a huge banner reading “Death to Arafat,” Israeli Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu attacks the “blindness” of the Rabin administration for precipitating “the destruction of the Jewish state.” Netanyahu tells the crowd: “Arafat, who is personally responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews and non-Jews, this war criminal, is being hoisted aloft by the government of Israel.… What Arafat truly wants is not an Arab state beside Israel, but an Arab state in place of Israel.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 137]
Israel’s Knesset approves Oslo II (see September 13, 1993), a complex set of agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) on the future of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. For Israeli law student Yigal Amir (see September 13, 1993), this is the last straw. He has already made three half-hearted attempts to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, but as of now he commits himself to carrying the deed through. For his part, Rabin continues to ignore warnings (see Early 1995) from Israeli intelligence and media reporters alike trying to alert him to the danger he is in from radical fundamentalists. [Unger, 2007, pp. 140]
The Oslo peace accords between Israel and Palestine (see September 13, 1993) break down, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat accusing one another of noncompliance. Netanyahu has not implemented the first scheduled withdrawal of Israeli settlers from the West Bank, and the second is well overdue. The New York Times’s Anthony Lewis lays the blame squarely on Netanyahu: “There is and always has been only one way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: land for peace. And the Netanyahu government has now made it clear that it has no intention of withdrawing from enough of the land Israel occupies in the West Bank to make a deal imaginable.” When the White House pressures Netanyahu to restart the peace process, he turns for support to America’s Christian Right (see January 19-23, 1998). [Unger, 2007, pp. 156]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Washington three days before his scheduled meeting with President Clinton and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat to discuss the stalled peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians (see Early 1998). Before meeting with Clinton and Arafat, Netanyahu meets with conservative televangelist and political activist Jerry Falwell—and a thousand of Falwell’s most devoted followers. “I put together one thousand people or so to meet with Bibi [Netanyahu] and he spoke to us that night,” Falwell later recalls. “It was all planned by Netanyahu as an affront to Clinton.” Falwell promises to mobilize 200,000 pastors across the United States to “tell President Clinton to refrain from putting pressure on Israel.” Falwell’s guest at the proceedings, fellow televangelist John Hagee (who will soon give $1 million to the United Jewish Appeal in hopes of hastening the Biblical “End Times”), tells the crowd that the Jews’ return to the Holy Land is prophecy of the “rapidly approaching… final moments of history.” Hagee then leads the crowd in a frenzied chant of “Not one inch! Not one inch!”—how much land they intend to see Israel give the Palestinians. When Netanyahu discusses the rally with the press four days later, he merely says: “I talk to liberals, I talk to conservatives, I talk to Jews, I talk to non-Jews. These meetings reflect the fact that Israel enjoys support from diverse circles in the United States.” But Richard Haass, a former Bush National Security Council official, says Netanyahu is playing political hardball. “This was a way for [Netanyahu] to push back,” Haass says. “If the White House was trying to make Mr. Netanyahu pay a price domestically for his lack of cooperation, essentially Mr. Netanyahu was sending a return signal: ‘Two can play at this game. I can spend more time with your political opponents and this is something that can come back and bite you.’” [Unger, 2007, pp. 156-157]
German newspaper Der Spiegel reports that Assem Jarrah, a second cousin of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah, is a spy who has worked for at least three different governments. Assem was born and raised in Lebanon, and moved to Greifswald, East Germany, in 1984.
Assem's Alleged Spy Links - According to German intelligence records, one year later he started working for the Stasi, the East German state security service. By 1986, he was also working for the Libyan government, spying on opponents to the Libyan government and “possible CIA front agencies.” He kept East German intelligence informed on what he was doing for Libya, so he was allowed to continue as a double agent. He also had contacts with Abu Nidal’s organization in East Germany and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). After German unification in 1989, he began working for Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the West German intelligence service, and he continued to work for it at least until the mid-1990s. He also went into business for himself, exporting medical equipment and “allegedly even far more sensitive goods into Arab countries.” One of his German handlers tells Der Speigel: “Jarrah played us all for fools. He… had tons of cash, women—simply everything.” Assem denies that he ever spied for anyone.
Connection to Ziad - It is unclear how exactly close Assem was to Ziad Jarrah, but his business card was found in the wreckage of Flight 93. Ziad Jarrah allegedly flew that plane on 9/11 (September 12, 2001 and Shortly After and September 24, 2002). Der Speigel says that Assem “knew his cousin well, as they had both sometimes lived in Greifswald and had celebrated there together often.”
Denouncing Ziad - On September 17, 2001, several days after Ziad Jarrah was publicly named as one of the 9/11 hijackers, Assem spoke to German officials and said that he was certain Ziad was part of the 9/11 plot. He claimed that Ziad went to Pakistan or Afghanistan in 1999, and when he came back, he yearned to die a martyr. These comments made Assem the only one in Ziad’s extended family to accuse Ziad of being a martyr, and other family members are suspicious and upset. One relative complains, “Assem sells information for money, all the same whether it is true or not.” [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/16/2002] Curiously, Ziad Jarrah allegedly had two other cousins working as spies, also starting in the 1980s (see 1983-July 2008).
Progressive media watchdog site Media Matters reports that conservative radio host Bill Cunningham, who hosts a popular Cincinnati call-in show, accuses Democratic candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) of wanting to “gas the Jews.” In what is apparently intended to be a comedic skit, Cunningham tells a co-host: “This Obama guy loves the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization]. Can’t you figure that out?… Obama wants to gas the Jews, like the PLO wants to gas the Jews, like the Nazis gassed the Jews.” Co-host Scott Sloan, playing a fictional Jewish character called “Randy Furman,” tells Cunningham that he is making the accusation because “you just don’t like one-half-percent black people, that’s your problem.” [Media Matters, 10/25/2008] Two weeks before, Cunningham told listeners that Obama may be the Antichrist (see October 10, 2008).
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