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Leila Khaled, the Terrorist who Hijacked the Heart of the Left



“Leila Khaled never harmed a single human being.” This sentiment echos through the various progressive spaces, time and time again as talk of revolution, struggle, and justice for women is the topic. Leila Khaled has cemented her icon-like status the day she hijacked a passenger plane, TWA Flight 840, in 1969, and then in 1970, an El Al Flight 219, one of the four simultaneous Dawson’s Field hijackings, as part of the campaign of Black September in Jordan.


When you search Leila Khaled, vast majority of articles you’d find are incredibly faltering and equally nauseating in their whitewashing of Palestinian terror. Reading this interview by Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, under ‘Special report: Israel and the Middle East’ section, made my stomach churn.

The strange adoration of her looks:

“In a way, the whole story is in the ring. The iconic photograph of Leila Khaled, the picture which made her the symbol of Palestinian resistance and female power, is extraordinary in many ways: the gun held in fragile hands, the shiny hair wrapped in a keffiah , the delicate Audrey Hepburn face refusing to meet your eye. But it’s the ring, resting delicately on her third finger. To fuse an object of feminine adornment, of frivolity, with a bullet: that is Khaled’s story, the reason behind her image’s enduring power. Beauty mixed with violence.”

The bizarre, highly unlikely, tales of her endurance, that echo the super human abilities told of the likes of Kim Jong-un:

“The surgeon just made a few differences to my nose and my chin,” she says. “But it worked. No one recognised me.” She elected to have surgery without a general anesthetic; because, as she said in her autobiography: “I have a cause higher and nobler than my own, a cause to which all private interests and concerns must be subordinated.”

And the final word that leaves the reader with a sweetened version of the martyr:

Would she still die for the Palestinian cause? She draws on her long cigarette, and turns to face me after some silence. “Of course.” She shakes her head, smiling, cigarette burning in her hand. “Of course.”

Leila’s disdain for her fellow western revolutionaries can only be seen as a call for an armed and violent struggle. Khaled laments: “We found it very amusing that they (western activists) honestly believed they were making a ‘revolution’ if they undressed in public, seized a university building, or shouted an obscenity at bureaucrats”. In a 2014 interview, Khaled suggested that the Second Intifada — which saw 1,137 Israelis killed and 8,341 injured — failed because it was not violent enough. She rejected peace talks that were disrupted by Palestinian terror, and have continued her support and leadership in an organization, till today, responsible for murder of Jews, and Palestinians in Israel, Syria, and around the world.

On the 2000 peace talks: “You know, it’s a process, but it’s not a peace process. It’s a political process where the balance of forces is for Israelis and not for us and they have all the cards to play with and the Palestinians have nothing to depend on, especially (when) the PLO is not united. There’s a big discussion and a big split in the Palestinian society. You know, the Palestinians were scattered all over and still they are, but they were united under (the) PLO programme, the programme that calls for the right to return and self-determination and establishing a State with Jerusalem as its capital. All Palestinians were united on this cause, but when the negotiations began, the Palestinians divided, some with and some against. We are from the other side, against the whole process. Two countries, Egypt and Jordan, signed treaties with Israel which makes it very difficult for us to gain our rights.”

In an Interview for The Daily Maverick, in 2015, Khaled was asked about the different tactics, political orientations and objectives of the various Palestinian groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, where does her group, PFLP, fit? She responds that Hezbollah is a “sister party, yes… Many differences afterwards, but now we are all in the trench of resistance and we should be there all together.” And what of Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority? Would she feel warm towards them?


Khaled responds, “No! They are — I recognise Abbas as the president, but he did not learn from the negotiations. He is sticking to the idea that life is negotiations, but not for all issues — like the Palestinian issue. We learned from the negotiations of the ANC and the Vietnamese… The first thing they [the Vietnamese] said was ‘withdraw’ and when the Americans said no, the first time [negotiation session] was for five minutes, but they were on the ground changing the status quo. Nelson Mandela was in prison while they negotiated, but there was struggle on the ground. Now, Mr Abbas and Mr [Saeb] Erakat went to the Security Council and they asked for the end to occupation in 2017, but the change was not on the ground.”


In the same interview, Khaled argues that Isis is an American creation, supported through Turkey with arms from Israel. She argues Isis was supported by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, America’s allies “who planned the thing”.


Khaled is a member of the same organization that recently took credit for the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb by Samer Arbid, the alleged leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist cell, near Dolev in August, 2019. Arbid worked for a European-funded NGO linked to BDS, NGO. Arbid, 44, considered one of the PFLP’s top officials in Ramallah, was previously arrested for preparing PFLP explosive devices during the Second Intifada, where the PFLP took part directly and indirectly in 147 bombing attacks on Israelis.


On May 30th, 1972, three members of communist group the Japanese Red Army (JRA), who were enlisted by the PFLP, exited Air France Flight 132 from Rome, in Lod International Airport in Israel, pulled out machine guns from violin cases, opened fire and threw grenades indiscriminately at the crowds of people. The gunmen killed 26 people: 17 Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico, one Canadian citizen, and eight Israelis, and 80 people were injured. Among the Israelis killed was renowned scientist Aharon Katzir, whose brother, Ephraim Katzier became president a few years later.


The group claimed responsibility for the 2001 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, and the 2011 home invasion and knife attack on the Fogel family of Itamar in the middle of the night that left both parents and three children, including a three-month old infant, dead. Five PFLP members were arrested as accomplices. The PFLP also claimed responsibility for the 2014 massacre in a synagogue in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, where six people were murdered with a gun, axes, and a meat cleaver. Emily Benedek, wrote a comprehensive profile of Khaled for The Times of Israel where she details the truth behind the legend. A truly must read.


To understand the wide net of terror Khaled is connected to, one must account for the various fractions under the command of the PLO. Since its inception, the PFLP has worked and cooperated with other groups like:


* Fatah, the terror group who carried out The Coastal Road massacre of 1978 and planned by Abu Jihad. The massacre was an attack involving the hijacking of a bus on Israel’s Coastal Highway in which 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were killed, and 71 were wounded. As well as quarter of the bombing attacks between 2000–2005.

Western pedantry relies on the secular marxist cloak the PFLP and Leila Khaled present, in order to justify their relentless support for the woman who never killed anyone. It is nothing but a smokescreen when these groups, and Khaled herself, call for the unification of their groups with the likes of Hamas and PIJ, and the mere existence of AAMB under Fatah.

This was evident in a 2010 meeting at the PFLP offices where 15 terror groups from both the religious and secular arms, came together to reconcile their differences and direct their efforts in a cooperative violent effort against Israel. As stated by PFLP leader Rabah Muhana, following the meeting, “An atmosphere of placing national interest ahead of factional interest had prevailed. All of the factions agreed on the urgent need to end division in order to confront the occupation.” The meeting came at the foot of an Egyptian initiative for reconciliation between the parties and what was being termed a “restoration of national unity.”


At present, two major groups exist within the terror organizations in Palestine. The religious, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), is a fundamentalist Islamist, represented by Hamas and PIJ. The secular camp falls under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and includes Fatah and the PFLP. Unlike Fatah, though, which uses some Islamic imagery, the PFLP operates solely as a Marxist-Leninist organization.

Soviet influence on Middle Eastern politics and their carefully crafted concept of antizionism, is particularly documented in Russian exile Pavel Stroilov book, Behind the Desert Storm, reviewed by Claire Berlinski. Stroilov fled Russia in 2003 after stealing 50,000 top-secret Kremlin documents from the Gorbachev Foundation archives, where he was working as a researcher.

“Though not as good as the Gulf oil fields, Israel would also be a big prize. It was the only democracy in the region, the strongest military power in the pro-Western camp and, indeed, the bridgehead of the Western world. Even more importantly, the very process of crusading (or jihadding) against Israel offered fantastic political opportunities. A besieged Israel effectively meant millions of Jewish hostages in the hands of the comrades, and the threat of genocide could intimidate the West into making great concessions in the Gulf or elsewhere. On the other hand, by making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the central problem of the Middle East, the Soviets could exploit Arab nationalism, anti-Semitism, and even Islamic religious feelings to mobilize support for their policies. Indeed, under the banner of Arab solidarity, the socialist influence in the region grew far beyond the socialist regimes and parties.” Gen. Alexander Sakharovsky, then head of the KGB’s intelligence arm, explained this to his East European colleagues: “[T]errorism should become our main weapon.” Sakharovsky boasted that airplane hijackings were his own invention; he decorated his office with a world map, covered in flags, each marking a successful hijacking. Though the PLO managed to unite various terrorist organizations, “the supreme headquarters of the whole network was, of course, the Kremlin,” Stroilov writes, and “the evidence accumulated at this point leaves no doubt that the whole system was invented by Moscow as a weapon against the West, and the PLO was a jewel in their crown.”

In 1978 Khaled left Lebanon to study history in the Soviet Union, where she met her second husband, a medical student and fellow PFLP member, Fayez Hilal. But two years after she began her studies, she was back in Lebanon working at the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office. Khaled, an ardent communist revolutionary, expressed public admiration for Lenin, Fidel Castro and Che, Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il Sung, among others.

Leila Khaled became involved in the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) and a member of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Her image as a feminist, is puzzling at best. It is an invention and wishful thinking on the side of western feminists. Khaled rejected her feminist image in an interview to Ibrahim Alloush of the Free Arab Voice: “Other women from some parts of the world tell us that we can unite on the issue of our sexual oppression. Everywhere you look in the text, or the program of action, you’ll find the word ‘sex.’ You’ll find sex here, and you’ll find it there. It’s there to discuss sexual abuse one time, then again to discuss sexual tourism. The point is to de-politicize the question of women, and affirm that women can unite just as women.”


She also told The Guardian that “sexual abuse is the problem of individuals, regardless of how rampant, whereas occupation is the problem of whole peoples.” Khaled sees women’s emancipation through the lens of a Marxist revolution. When society changes, women’s issues will be no more.


Perhaps the most telling comment made by Khaled is when a civil war broke out in Syria, and her allegiance was to the regime and it’s army. In 2011, the PFLP-GC was based in Yarmouk and supported Syria’s Ba’ath Party and Assad. In a demonstration by anti-Assad Palestinian residents, PFLP-GC members opened-fire on the crowd, killing 14 Palestinians and wounding 43, after some demonstrators burned offices of the Front. On August 3rd, 2012, over 21 civilians were killed when the Syrian Army shelled Yarmouk. On December 16th, 2012, Syrian Army jets bombed Yarmouk. Activists reported that a school and mosque sheltering refugees were hit, killing 23 civillians. On January 17th, 2013, 12 people were killed and 20 wounded during fighting in Yarmouk.


When asked directly about Yarmouk, the Palestinian refugee camp, in 2013, she said: “FSA with Al Qaeda and gangs attacked the camp, loot the houses of Palestininans and the offices of the Palestinian political groups. The raids were forcing them to retreat from the camp, and when we demanded Syrian government to stop the raids, they did. But we also called FSA to retreat from the camp but they break their promises. And killed Palestinians who want to return their home”.


Yarmouk remained besieged and sporadic clashes continued. As a result of the Syrian forces siege, approximately 200 people were believed to have died of hunger in 2014. In 2002, there were 112,550 registered refugees living in Yarmouk, today, only 100–200 Palestinians are left.


Leila Khaled sets herself as a revolutionary fighter for Palestinians, but not against the Syrian army or even the PFLP-GC bombing and killing of her people. Leila Khaled is hailed as the woman who never hurt anyone, yet the death of thousands through two intifadas were not successful in her mind due to not enough violence. Leila Khaled is a feminist icon who has nothing to say of Muslim women under Islamic law apart from believing a marxist revolution will solve all of our problems, and Israeli occupation is more oppressive to women than the ruling powers dictating these women’s lives daily. Leila Khaled is a secular marxist who has no issue talking openly and publicly about uniting the PLO, which includes extremist religious forces who are responsible to thousands of civilians deaths on both the Israeli and Palestinian side. It is time for the left to find better heroes.

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