Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 18 Rabi uth Thani 1436/09 February 2015

Beyond the plane hijackings that catapulted Leila Khaled to world attention, and earned her unflattering expletives aplenty, the struggle for the liberation of Palestine continues. That, in fact, is the reason why Khaled – now aged 70 – joined the liberation struggle back in the 1960s, before the Al-Naksa, which took place just two decades after the Al-Nakba that is often seen as the onset of the Israeli-imposed subjugation and apartheid that continues to this day.

It is against this set-up that Khaled is in SA today on a fund-raising tour to advance the struggle against the Zionist-powered subjugation, that ensued in 1948, when some 800,000 Semites of Palestinian streak were expelled from their lands by fellow Semites and non-Semitic immigrants from Europe inspired by the Theodore Herzl “ethnic cleansing” project. The Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanction Movement, which invited this revolutionary Khaled – whose arrival drew anger from the Herzlesque lobbies – seeks to rally the world against Israel’s apartheid policies.

Speaking to Sabahul Khair on Cii, Khaled noted that the hijackings were never a means but a short-term tactic to draw the world’s focus to the plight of the oppressed Palestinians. “We were obliged to do something to be heard,” she said, stressing that not a single civilian was ever harmed. “We had to release, also, our prisoners – especially the women. Between 1967 and 1969, they were put in prison and were under torture. This was the main goal, to release prisoners from Israeli jails. We had to ring the bell so the whole world would hear (our plight).”

Hailing from a political family, this freedom fighter was involved in the struggle, from a tender 15, while still at school. When the 1967 al-Naksa came, she was already a member of the Arab National Movement. The end of that same year saw the emergence of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which she soon joined, then got assigned to hijack a Boeing 747 in 1969. Khaled and her comrade, Salim Issawi, diverted the Roma-Athens plane to Damascus – the capital of Israel’s neighbour, Syria.

Khaled, was driven to the armed struggle by the realisation that the Palestinian cause for human rights and liberty from the yoke of oppression “had been neglected for a long time after 1948. The Zionists had occupied the whole of Palestine,” she said, arguing the people of Palestine. She and scores of her kinsmen live in exile while millions of those who remain on their ancestral land are squashed into two Bantustans: Israel-controlled West Bank and Gaza Strip, the world’s largest open air-prison and abattoir. As per Herzl’s doctrine, Palestinians are seen as “lice” and “subhuman” or denied, as a community, by all types of political Zionists and hence the holocaust.

“The main motive for me was the injustice we were living with after the Nakba (of 1948) – the suffering of being a refugee out of your country, out of your homeland. We lost even our dignity so we had to fight for it. Before we tried to force it by demonstrations and speaking about the right of return and our dream to go back to our homeland but we did not get anything. Then it was high time to take arms and to go for it, to fight for the goals of our struggle [which was] to liberate our land, and liberate ourselves as well,” the guerilla pointed out.

umm Abdillah, Radio Islam Programming | 2015.02.10 |19 Rabiul Aakhir 1436



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By all accounts Leila Khaled is a revolutionary icon. By her own account however she is not the sum of “Palestine” nor the solution to the Palestinian struggle. As a rational, educated and Muslim adult I admire the 71-year-old activist and her feral spirit – however – I wouldn’t want her to address my son at school, nor am I comfortable with hijacking being glorified before South African schoolchildren and youth, writes umm Abdillah.


Marxist freedom fighter Leila Khaled, most infamous for hijacking not one, but two planes is currently on tour in South Africa promoting boycotts and sanctions against the State of Israel. Her tour has been well received among South Africa’s ruling party, the (SACP), and our communist-dominated coalition of labour unions, COSATU. It’s natural that Zionist groups are up in arms. The South African Board of Jewish Deputies released a statement strongly opposing her visit. It has labeled the move by BDS to host Khaled as nothing more than “importing terrorism and glorifying violence.”


Even if we were to ignore the Israeli lobby, the (Zionist) Jewish Board of Deputies, there is some merit to the argument of rashly and indiscriminately importing external terror logic. Let us for a moment focus merely on South Africa. The recent spate of armed and violent attacks in South African townships; violence as an answer to poor service delivery; violence against children, violence as an answer to marital problems; violence as a response to drug, alcohol and sex addictions, and violence to quell violence. Botched car hijackings have killed thousands on our soil – would we ever glorify that? You could argue no passengers died in those plane hijackings. They were just lucky. My son and his classmates deserve to learn how to deal with problems first in this country, and then in every country in a non-violent manner first. They need to learn how to use words and their democratic rights meaningfully. They need to understand hijacking a plane or a car is abnormal – an abnormal response to abnormal circumstances. This is their right, regardless if Muslim or not, whether Palestine matters to them or not. At the risk of sounding anti-BDS, which I’m not, South Africans reserve the right to support Palestine without being told who or what element of the struggle to iconise.


That said however, no South African is oblivious to the military role played by Umkhonto we Sizwe in disbanding apartheid. In the 1950’s it became clear to some members of the ANC and the SACP that passive resistance and non-violence were not working. After warning the South African government in June 1961 of their intent to resist further acts of terror if the government did not take steps toward constitutional reform and increase political rights, MK launched its first attacks against government installations in December 1961. It was subsequently classified as a terrorist organisation by the South African government and the United States, and banned. How do we expect our youth to understand global politics, when we can’t even explain the role of the MK in the struggle for freedom in SA? List the countries that trained MK cadres for example? What did they gain? Why did they do it? People claim to understand the nature and reasons for armed conflict, but often its merely bluff. By Sharpeville standards, every week involves rash violent protests in South Africa. These often involve schools, universities and schoolchildren. Sure, Palestine is close to our hearts, and before the retort – “but Palestine is sacred in the Quran” – yes, Palestine: not plane hijackers!


Leila Khaled underwent no fewer than six cosmetic operations on her face since 1969 – after her first hijack of a TWA plane. She elected to have surgery without a general anaesthetic; 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.”


When someone says something as surreal as that, it’s a reminder that Leila Khaled is from a very different time: an age when hijacks were a political tool of the moment, when extreme risk and foolhardiness were admired and romanticised. Despite our past history, is she the role model young South Africans need right now?


Although there have been plane hijackings from 1931 to the present, their peak period was 1968-72. During that period there were 326 hijacking attempts worldwide, or one every 5 to 6 days. These included 137 attempts by individuals who boarded flights in the United States, or one such attempt every 13.3 days. Newspapers, television, and other mass media constantly carried stories about aircraft hijackings, and it was often suggested that the motivation to hijack planes spread from individual to individual as a result of the media coverage.


Indeed plane hijackings were the bell to ring in that era. It brought global attention to the Palestinian plight. That era has passed — and Leila’s strength, enduring personality and current activism is to be lauded. She overcome patriarchal restrictions of Arab society; she got divorced and had the courage to remarry; she had children in her late 30’s; she rejected vanity by having her face reconstructed for her cause. This is reason enough to appreciate her. She reflects our firm anti-ISIS stance, (the ISIS we’re being sold at least). As an adult however, I have the privilege of weighing her life accomplishments soberly. Our kids and youth on the other hand merely feel and experience contagion. All they read, see and hear is “HIJACKER”. They believe we’re glorifying and rewarding a HIJACKER. And yes, listening to a former plane hijacker doesn’t mean our kids are dumb enough to hijack an arbitrary plane, but they deserve to understand contexts. From what I’ve seen and experienced in my beloved, yet violent country – even some adults don’t.


The views expressed in this article are not necessarily representative of Radio Islam.