Leaders of the left-wing American Jewish group J Street on Oct. 17 embraced a Palestinian terrorist who was responsible for blowing up Israelis and Americans in downtown Jerusalem.
According to the official Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency “Wafa,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami and a small group of his colleagues visited the Ramallah headquarters of the PA, and met with Palestinian leaders. It was a warm encounter, with the two sides lavishing praise on one another.
Wafa reported that the Palestinian side consisted of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas and five other senior Palestinian officials. One was PA Minister of Civil Affairs (and Fatah Central Committee member) Hussein al-Sheikh.
Don’t recognize the name? Allow me to refresh your memory.
Thursday, March 21, 2002, was a pleasant early spring morning in Jerusalem. King George Street, in the heart of the city, was packed with shoppers. Suddenly, a Palestinian suicide bomber struck. The explosion left three people dead, and more than 100 wounded. One of the fatalities was Tzippi Shemesh, who was five months pregnant with twins.
Among the wounded were a number of Americans. The force of the explosion hurled U.S. citizen Alan Bauer 20 feet. Two screws that were packed into the bomb ripped clear through his left arm. His 7-year-old son, Jonathan, suffered severe shrapnel wounds and fell into a coma. Jonathan subsequently underwent numerous operations to remove nails and screws from his head, including one that was lodged in his brain. Needless to say, he was left with permanent injuries.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is the military arm of Abbas’s Fatah movement, openly claimed responsibility for the bombing. In fact, it was that bombing that moved the U.S. State Department to finally put the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade on its official list of terrorist groups.
Members of the Shemesh family filed suit against the PA and, as a result, details of those who were involved in the attack became public. Earlier this year, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that the PA was responsible for the bombing. In its ruling, the court cited closed-door testimony provided by Israeli intelligence officials who named names—including “senior Fatah official Hussein al-Sheikh, who met the suicide bomber and two other operatives and gave them money and two hand grenades to carry out the bombing.”
So Al-Sheikh literally put hand grenades into the hands of the bomber and his assistants, in order to murder innocent people, and financed their attack. Which, according to American and Israeli law, makes Al-Sheikh equally guilty of the murders and maiming of their victims.
The passage of time has not diminished Al-Sheikh’s affection for those who murder Israelis and Americans. Here’s what Al-Sheikh posted on his Facebook page on March 8, 2015, concerning Dalal Mughrabi, who murdered Gail Rubin, the niece of Sen. Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.), and 37 Israelis in a 1978 attack:
“In the Palestinian memory there are women before whom it is impossible not to stand in honor and admiration. For March 8 (International Women’s Day), thousands of blessings for the soul of heroic female Martyr (Shahida) Dalal Mughrabi, and to all of the Palestinian female Martyrs, as well as the female prisoners, the mothers of the prisoners and Martyrs, the wounded women, the working women, and all women of Palestine who stand firm and deal with the hardships and difficulties of life alongside the men.”
Even before the Jerusalem court ruling, the American government was aware of Al-Sheikh’s terrorist background. Several years ago, a scheduled meeting between Al-Sheikh and U.S. diplomats at the American Consulate in Jerusalem was canceled when U.S. officials realized Al-Sheikh’s connection to the bombing.
Yet there were the leaders of J Street two weeks ago, in Ramallah, shaking hands, embracing, and heaping praise on Al-Sheikh and his comrades. On a man directly involved in shedding Israeli and American blood.
If J Street’s leaders knew about Al-Sheikh’s background before the meeting, and chose to embrace him anyway, then they have lost the moral right to be treated as respected members of the American-Jewish community.
If J Street’s leaders didn’t know about Al-Sheikh before the meeting — if they didn’t do the most basic homework to find out just whom they would be hugging — that would be incredibly careless and irresponsible. But they can help make up for that horrible mistake by publicly calling on the PA to extradite Al-Sheikh to the United States for prosecution.
The ball is in J Street’s court.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” will be published later this year.