The Marxist-Leninist Militants Linked to the Jerusalem Synagogue Attack
It’s not clear at present which, if any, Palestinian militant organization was behind Tuesday’s attack at an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem. The incident led to at least four deaths, including those of three Israeli-American citizens.
But the two men who carried it out are now believed to have ties to the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group. Udai Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu Jamal, said to be cousins, were shot dead by police after they burst into a synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, wielding axes, knives and guns. The Islamist group Hamas praised the attack but did not take credit for it. Israeli authorities have authorized the demolition of the assailants’ homes in east Jerusalem, a tactic they believe will dissuade other militants.
The PFLP dubbed the attack a “heroic operation,” according to Reuters. The latest communique on its English language Web site is dated from Nov. 13; in it, the organization urges an “escalation of uprising” in the West Bank and Jerusalem, a city which has seen a sharp rise in tensions between Arabs and Israeli Jews in recent months.
The group is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and other Western countries, but its ideology has very little in common with Hamas, whose jihad against Israel has blown hot and cold over the past two decades. Its legacy is a reminder of the older, secular nature of Palestinian militancy against Israel and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since the 1960s.
The PFLP was founded in 1967 by George Habash, a Palestinian Orthodox Christian animated by the pan-Arabism of then Egyptian President Gamel Abdel Nasser and the insurgent socialism that inflamed anti-colonial struggles in many parts of the world at the time. At its peak, the PFLP was one of the leading factions within the Palestinian Liberation Organization, alongside the Fateh party of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, the beleaguered current president of the Palestinian Authority.