By Stephen M. Flatow
After January’s Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris, the Obama administration pledged to assist the French authorities in every way possible. Now it has a chance to make good on that promise.
The French government recently issued arrest warrants for three Palestinian terrorists involved in an earlier attack on a Jewish restaurant in Paris-and one of them is being sheltered by the Palestinian Authority (PA). That earlier attack should be of particular interest to the United States government, since two American citizens were among the victims.
On August 9, 1982, Palestinian terrorists firing submachine guns and hurling hand grenades attacked lunchtime diners at the Jo Goldenberg Restaurant, in the Jewish quarter of Paris. Six people were murdered, 22 wounded. Among the fatalities were two women from Chicago: 66-year-old Grace Cutler and 31-year-old Ann Van Zanten, a curator at the Chicago Historical Society.
If the names Grace Cutler and Ann Van Zanten are not familiar to you, don’t be surprised. They are among the more than 100 Americans who have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists since the 1960s but have been almost completely forgotten. They are not even mentioned on the U.S. State Department’s website, where rewards are offered for information leading to the capture of killers of Americans abroad.
Sadly, the State Department has never shown any serious interest in bringing Palestinian killers to justice. Evidently it fears that putting such terrorists behind bars in America would anger the PA and create a crisis in American-Palestinian relations. And so justice remains trampled in the dust.
The only instance in which the U.S. government issued an arrest warrant in such a case was in the wake of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro, and the murder of wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer. That, however, was before the U.S. had a relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization and before the PA existed.
Eight years later, the Oslo accords were signed, the PA was established, and the U.S. began pouring $500 million per year into the new Palestinian regime. As part of the deal, veteran terrorists such as Achille Lauro mastermind Mohammed Abbas were declared “moderate” and permitted to move to PA-controlled territory.
When members of Congress protested, the Bill Clinton administration lamely claimed that the statute of limitations had expired on prosecuting Abbas. The Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service weighed in, with a detailed report in 1996 which concluded that since Mohammed Abbas was fugitive from justice, the statute of limitations did not apply. Unfortunately, neither Congress nor the American Jewish leadership pursued the issue.
As the years passed, and the number of American victims of Palestinian terrorism increased, Jewish leaders began to take an interest in the issue. In August 2002, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations officially called on the U.S. government to demand that the PA surrender suspects in such attacks. The George W. Bush administration ignored that request and so far, the Obama administration has, too. But it remains the official position of the organized Jewish leadership.
Now, the French authorities have forced the issue by issuing arrest warrants for the three killers in the 1982 Jo Goldenberg attack. The suspects’ names were not announced, but their places of residence were. One lives in Ramallah, the capital of the PA. Given the enormous size of the PA police, security, and intelligence forces-among the largest per capita in the world-it is inconceivable that the PA does not know how to find him.
If PA President Mahmoud Abbas is not prepared to hand the terrorist over to the French, the U.S. should issue its own warrant for his arrest, since Americans were among those murdered. If Abbas claims that the PA police are unable to locate him, the FBI should send its agents to Ramallah to search for him. And the organized Jewish leadership should do everything in its power to galvanize the Obama administration to act.