Leila Khaled: Fighting for Palestine (Revolutionary Lives)
Dubbed "the poster girl of Palestinian militancy," Leila Khaled's image flashed across the world after she hijacked a passenger jet in 1969. The picture of a young, determined looking woman with a checkered scarf, clutching an AK-47, was as era-defining as that of Che Guevara.
In this intimate profile, based on interviews with Khaled and those who know her, Sarah Irving gives us the life-story behind the image. Key moments of Khaled's turbulent life are explored, including the dramatic events of the hijackings, her involvement in the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, her opposition to the Olso peace process, and her activism today.
Leila Khaled's example gives unique insights into the Palestinian struggle through one remarkable life – from the tension between armed and political struggle, to the decline of the secular Left and the rise of Hamas, and the role of women in a largely male movement.
Sarah Irving provides a fine portrayal of a compelling and mysterious figure from a tumultuous period in Palestinian history, mixing biography and historical critique to deliver a valuable insight into Leila Khaled's character as well as her extraordinary appeal as a revolutionary icon.
-- Nicholas Blincoe, co-editor of Peace Under Fire: Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement
About the Author:
Sarah Irving is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Electronic Intifada, Guardian Online and New Internationalist. She has held editorial roles at Red Pepper Peace News and Ethical Consumer magazine. She is author of the
• Bradt Guide to Palestine (2011) and
• co-author (with Sharyn Lock) of Gaza: Beneath the Bombs (Pluto 2010).
Palestine separated from its roots in the Arab Nationalist Movement for a number of reasons. The ANM’s structure consisted of increasingly autonomous “regional commands” in each country and in 1964, with the new, politically conservative PLO presenting itself as the voice of the Palestinian people, a “Palestine Regional Command” was set up under George Habash to retain the allegiance of ANM supporters in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon and Syria. According to some histories of the
laughed at him he lashed out with his booted feet, knocking her out. She then claims that, as she came to, she watched an air marshal walk up to a wounded and bleeding Arguello, stand on his hips, and fire four bullets into his back.26 Other accounts also state that air marshal Moti (Mordechai) Bar-Levav “finished emptying his seven-bullet clip into Arguello Irving T01992 01 text 49 02/04/2012 08:26 50 Leila Khaled and Kol karate-chopped the back of Arguello’s neck, apparently breaking
being escorted by Mrs Lesley Cooke of Pimlico” were being kept.43 The British public were also apparently interested in Leila; she received bundles of letters, including both hate mail and marriage proposals. She wasn’t allowed to reply to British correspondents, but she was permitted to write to her family.44 Finally, on September 30, after weeks of negotiations between the British government and the PFLP, the Jordanian authorities and the other countries with civilians on the hijacked planes,
Khaled was released. Flippant to the end, she told David Frew, “I like this hotel, it is awarded ten stars; the service is very good and I will ask my comrades to come here.” That Christmas, she sent him and some of the other police guards cards featuring mock plane tickets and photographs of the exploded aircraft at Dawson’s Field. Even getting her out of Ealing was complex; she was told to walk straight out of the door and lie down in the back of the waiting Land Rover (or by some accounts a
style with that of Arafat. “He discusses and then takes the position of the majority,” she claims. “He was a wise kind of man, very enthusiastic and also charismatic in his way. He would listen very closely when you talked to him, and then give an answer. I never saw him shouting or screaming. He once said to me ‘when you get angry you have to use your anger against the main [problem], which is the enemy, so you shouldn’t be angry or nervous as long as Palestine is occupied.’” “He was always very