TEL AVIV (Aug. 29)
Authoritative sources claimed today to have information that a number of European airlines flying to Israel are paying blackmail money to Arab terrorist organizations to protect their aircraft from hijacking and damage. The sources claimed that payments, amounting to millions of dollars and pounds sterling, were negotiated between the terrorists and the airlines without the involvement of their respective governments and were secretly deposited in bank accounts of terrorist groups.
Recipients, according to the sources, were two terrorist factions–the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by Dr. George Habash, and the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by Ahmed Jibril. At least two payments were made to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the umbrella body of terrorist groups, headed by El Fatah chief Yassir Arafat, the sources said.
Official circles here declined to comment on the charges and they were emphatically denied by airline representatives in Tel Aviv. However, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Dayan made a similar charge when he addressed the second International Congress of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists in Jerusalem on Aug. 21. Dayan said “Some airlines are paying sums of money to the terrorists for immunity,” but he did not elaborate or mention any airline.
10 AIRLINES NOT AFFECTED BY TERRORISM
According to the sources, with the exception of one airline, no planes of the companies paying blackmail have been targets of Arab terrorists. The sources mentioned no airlines by name. It was pointed out, however, that 10 of the 16 foreign airlines serving Israel have not been affected by terrorist activities. These are: Turkish Airlines Tarom Rumanian Airlines, Alitalia, British European Airways (BEA), the Dutch KLM, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), BOAC, Canadian Pacific, Cyprus Airlines and Air France.
Air France and Alitalia have been immune apparently because of their governments’ policies, sources said. France has taken a consistently pro-Arab stand in the Middle East, and Italy has, in the past, released Arab terrorists caught red-handed with arms and explosives.
Two cases of airline payments to terrorist groups are public knowledge. Lufthansa, the West German airline, paid $5 million for the release of a jumbo jet hijacked to Aden, and Japan Air Lines deposited money in a vain effort to save a hijacked jumbo jet that was blown up in Libya. Israel’s El Al has been the victim of 16 attacks or hijack attempts by Arab terrorists. Other targets have been TWA, Pan American, Sabena, Austrian Airways and Olympic.
Political circles here indicated that Israel was not likely to use the information on blackmail payments officially because it lacks juridical evidence. Sources said that apparently the airlines involved thought it was cheaper to pay blackmail than to cover the expense of an effective security network.