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Interview with Leila Khaled: 'BDS is effective, but it doesn't liberate land'

PFLP hijacker Leila Khaled talks about the acts that made her a household name, the current states of resistance, feminism and religious coercion in Palestinian society, and gives a new take on long-buried tales of assassinations and betrayal within the ranks of the PFLP.

By Paula Schmitt

By the time she was 28, Leila Khaled had already hijacked two planes and held dozens of passengers hostage. Her image appeared on the covers of news magazines, her face was plastered on the walls of student dorms; she become a pop phenomenon, and an inspiration for TV and film characters.

A few days after the death of her brother-in-law and one day before the funeral of her cousin, the 70-year-old Leila combined ingredients in a bowl, making sure the proportions were just right. Careful with the mixture, she poured it in a special, heat-resistance plastic bag, and then added the main ingredient before shutting all of it within a temperature of 250° Celsius. The scents of the baked chicken spread around her Amman apartment, making for a strange addition to an interview on armed struggle, terrorism and politics.

Leila Khaled at her home in Amman, posing with the famous picture of her holding a Kalashnikov rifle, and a T-shirt made by Mlabbas exclusively for her. (Photo: Paula Schmitt)

Leila Khaled at her home in Amman, posing with the famous picture of her holding a Kalashnikov rifle, and a T-shirt made by Mlabbas exclusively for her. (Photo: Paula Schmitt)

Leila has no regrets about her choices. For her, what she did was fair and justified. In fact, it was a duty. She often quotes Che Guevara with corroborating lines, but Leila didn’t need a guerrilla to help her rationalize her acts. Even Gandhi, everyone’s favorite pet dove, said, “where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.” For Leila, the role of refugee is “contemptible” and “humiliating.” Between two imposed options, that of submissively walking to collect a blanket and a ration card, and that of taking up a Kalashnikov, she chose the latter.

She explains that “the plane hijackings were tactical. Just for a short time, just to ring a bell for the world and make people ask the question: why?” It seemed to have worked. Even the stewardess of the first flight hijacked by Leila said on camera: “It’s still a shame that it’s the way that it is — that the Palestinians don’t have a country.” The PFLP is now against hijackings. In fact, it has banned the practice since 1976, the reason why Wadie Haddad was expelled from the Front.

In her autobiography, Leila herself tells of how one hostage, an old lady, wet her pants out of fear. In the award-winning documentary “Leila Khaled: Hijacker,” director Lina Makboul, herself a Palestinian, questions whether Leila’s actions were good or bad for their people. “She said something like, ‘this action stained your struggle,’” Leila tells me, more surprised than offended. And in her book, she quotes a Syrian colonel who told her: “This action is not fedayeen-like. It is terrorism.”

“No, that’s not terrorism,” she tells me. “I am a victim of oppression and occupation; we, as a people, have the right to resist by all means.” Then she reminds me again that no one died.

But what if, hypothetically, what if someone had died of a heart attack on that plane out of fear, for example?

“I’d be sorry for that, very sorry, and I’d apologise to his family. I know there was panic, but at the same time I tried to comfort them, not to let them be in panic and so on, and in reality they reached out to the press and no one had a heart attack or anything.”

Just someone who wet her pants.

“Yeah, but I mean, there were very strict instructions not to hurt anyone, especially the passengers, they are not the ones we targeted, our goal was to release the prisoners from Israeli jails, especially the women who were there, they were sentenced to life many times, and to show our comrades and brothers and sisters in jail that you are not alone, we are behind you, we are freedom fighters. This would give more strength to other freedom fighters when they are arrested, so they can face their prosecutors and at the same time they know beforehand that they will be one day released by their comrades”.

I ask if she agrees that sometimes the victim becomes the victimizer.

“Yes. Like the Israelis”.

A graffiti stencil inside a Bethlehem-area checkpoint featuring the image of Leila Khaled. (Photo: Katsumi3/CC)

A graffiti stencil inside a Bethlehem-area checkpoint featuring the image of Leila Khaled. (Photo: Katsumi3/CC)

‘Violence is the mainstream’

Leila was born in Haifa in 1944 and was made to flee on April 13, 1948. It was only four days after her birthday, but it wasn’t celebrated then, and has not been ever since – that April 9th was the day Palestine mourned the first anniversary of the Deir Yassin massacre.

Leila’s fight for Palestine is not due to an old, ancient attachment to her land. Her parents are not even Palestinian, but Lebanese. It is a love of justice that moves her. Like Ghassan Kanafani, she also hit a turning point during childhood when she suddenly understood her situation. Kanafani, in a painful and beautiful letter written to his son, describes the moment he realized his condition, the instant after “the disgrace of escape” when at 10 years old he witnessed the men of his family giving up their weapons to become refugees.

“Do not believe that man grows,” he wrote. “No; he is born suddenly – a word, in a moment, penetrates his heart to a new throb. One scene can hurl him down from the ceiling of childhood on to the ruggedness of the road.”

In her biography “My People Shall Live”, Leila recounts a similar experience, when she went to pick oranges from a nearby grove after her arrival in Lebanon, still thinking those were her oranges.

“Darling, [her mother said] the fruit is not ours; you are no longer in Haifa; you are in another country.” Before she rushed into the house to wipe her tears and hide her shame, she looked at me with motherly firmness saying: “Henceforth you are forbidden to eat oranges that are not ours.” With child-like acceptance I nodded my head, but her words still echo. For the first time I began to question the injustice of our exile.”

And also like Kanafani, Leila refused to give up her weapons. She herself was helped by another hijacking, led by a man she never met, and who was not even a member of the PFLP, according to her. While detained in the Ealing police station in London, she was one day surprised to know that someone was demanding her release. “The plane was hijacked by a single man, a Christian Palestinian all by himself.” I asked his name. “Marwan. I don’t know the surname. He hijacked that plane.” The man was not armed. “He deceived the crew. He had his bathing suit underneath and he pulled the elastic and said that was an explosive belt. At that moment, just the day after the collective hijackings, who would say no or dare to doubt him? He said ‘I want to go to Dawson’s field in Amman.’ He called and said ‘I want someone from the PFLP.’ He called Ghassan Kanafani from the plane. So Kanafani called Amman saying there’s another plane for you. People couldn’t believe him. They asked Wadie Haddad [if he had anything to do with that] and he said no, we were not planning for that. I myself was surprised when Mr Frew [chief superintended of the Metropolitan Police in London] told me that the plane had been hijacked. That’s why the British had agreed to release me afterwards, because of their hijacked plane.”

But while the PFLP now considers hijackings unacceptable, violence for Leila is a legitimate weapon. “Resistance doesn’t happen only through violence, but violence is the mainstream.”

You mean the main type of resistance?

“It’s the mainstream. There are several types: political resistance, the popular one, like going to the streets, demonstrating. When our women are embroidering our dresses, this is resistance.”

Leila Khaled in Beirut, January 18, 2009. (Photo by Sebastian Baryli/CC by 2.0)

Leila Khaled in Beirut, January 18, 2009. (Photo by Sebastian Baryli/CC by 2.0)


“BDS, of course, on the international level it is very effective. But it doesn’t liberate, it doesn’t liberate land. If there’s BDS all over the world, and the people are not resisting, there will be no change. BDS helps us to continue the struggle and to isolate Israel, and then the balance of forces changes here. It’s very important for us in the international level to have more people having campaigns, because it means the narration of our story is now on that level, people will ask ‘why are they going for the BDS?’ Now, there’s an experience, and it’s not something theoretical we are speaking about – the BDS during the apartheid era in South Africa, it helped the people who were holding arms. But if they were not holding arms it may have affected them politically, but it would not have liberated, not on the ground.”

You think you can win the war this way?

“In Vietnam, poor people defeated the Americans.”

That was in a different world, before the advent of drones.

“Whatever! There’s a fundamental equation: where there is occupation there is resistance. Nobody can change this. This is basic, it’s natural; you cannot change the sun and make it rise from the west. This is the truth; it is natural. When you are under oppression you resist.”

And how do you see people who choose not to resist, who are against violence?

“Like Mahmoud Abbas. He is not gaining anything. He puts conditions and Israel ignores them. Israel doesn’t give him any hint that they will accept a single one of his conditions. Let me tell you. Arafat went to Oslo and signed [the agreement]. What did Israel do? They confined him in Muqata in one room and killed him.”

Do you know that for a fact?

“Do you remember Sharon and Bush when they had that famous meeting in Washington? Sharon was telling Bush he wanted to kill Arafat. Bush said,‘he is very old, you don’t need to.’ And then Sharon said, ‘maybe god needs our help.’”

Indeed, such a meeting did take place, and the dialogue had the same gist. Uri Dan, an Israeli journalist and close friend to Ariel Sharon, describes the meeting in his book Ariel Sharon: An Intimate Portrait.

“On April 14, 2004, Sharon was finally able to extricate himself from the promise that he had involuntarily made to the American president in March 2001 – not to touch Yasser Arafat. Sharon was at the White House; George W. Bush advised him to leave the destiny of the Palestinian leader in the hands of divine providence, and Sharon replied, half joking and half serious, that providence sometimes needs a helping hand. Without giving Sharon the green light to eliminate Arafat, the president didn’t try to impose further commitment on him, either.”

Fighting for a single democratic state

Hijacked airplanes on the ground at Dawson's Field in Jordan during the PFLP press conference, September 7, 1970.

Hijacked airplanes on the ground at Dawson’s Field in Jordan during the PFLP press conference, September 7, 1970.

I ask her about Hamas, elected by Israel as its enemy par excellence, a more suitable nemesis in a conflict where religion is the law, impossible certainties are the currency, and igno-arrogance is a founding principle. “Hamas believes that Palestine is a sacred place that belongs to the Muslims, and this contradicts our thoughts, the PFLP’s. But now the discussion is not about ideology, it’s about liberation. Anyone who fights Israel is on the same trench as we are.”

Leila approves of what she calls the new “strategic alliance” between Hamas and Fatah. “It’s a good step, we have been calling all the time for that, to end this division, because it harms us. But we are very cautious. This is not the first time. Many times they negotiated and…” She stops herself, uncertain of how to finish the sentence.

It is said that George Habash, the founder of PFLP, once stated that if he were allowed back to his house in Lydda, he would not expel the Jewish people living there but would instead build another floor to accommodate them. In her autobiography, Leila speaks of a Palestine that “we shall recover and make into a human paradise for Arabs and Jews and lovers of freedom.”

Leila wants one country for everyone. “We want the right to self-determination and to establish our own independent state on the Palestinian land. We didn’t say two-state solution, this is a new expression, I don’t accept the two-state solution. The historical goal is to have a democratic state in Palestine.”

A state called Palestine?

“Yes. Maybe we can even change the name, that’s not a problem. The problem is that people have to be there, to decide the future of this country.”

Leila’s autobiography had harsh words for the Hashemite Kingdom and King Hussein, and Jordan’s cosy relations with Israel. “Hussein’s actions could not be separated from those of the U.S. and Israel”; “Hussein retaliated by shutting off the camps’ water and electricity – a deed he was going to repeat in September with devastating effects on the poor”; “the Hashemite despot”; “Hussein’s barbaric onslaught against the resistance”; “Hussein had been urged for months by the U.S. embassy in Amman to ‘have it out’ with the Palestinians”; “the corrupt elements that stood behind Hussein and his CIA ‘advisers’”; “Hussein was savagely shelling the camps of ‘his subjects,’ under the pretext that an assassination attempt had been made on his life”; “more than one thousand people were sacrificed in honour of Hussein’s throne.”

But when talking to me this time, more than 30 years after her book was published, Khaled was cautious. I asked if she felt safe being here. “To an extent, yes, because there’s an agreement between Israel and Jordan not to use Jordan as a place for following other people.”

You mean that Jordan would protect you against assassination?

“Yes. But they don’t allow me to be active.”

Your book was written many years ago, you could have changed your mind regarding Jordan. Feel free to say you are not willing to talk. But from reading your book, Jordan seems for you almost as big an enemy as Israel.”

“No. Let me tell you. We have the following written down in a document: our enemies are Israel, the Zionist movement, imperialists. Because from the beginning we have to say who are our enemies very clearly, so that people don’t think today they are our enemy and tomorrow they are our friends. […] No, I don’t say that Jordan is an enemy, no.”

Betrayal from within

I ask Leila how many targeted assassinations were conducted by the PFLP, killings against people whom they really think deserved it. She tries to remember. “Ze’evi,” she says, referring to Rehavam Ze’evi, then the Israeli tourism minister and a leader of the most rightwing Knesset faction, who advocated population “transfer” and referred to Palestinians as lice and cancer.

That’s it?

“There was also a Mossad agent in London. Seif is his name. He was killed in his house, his wife was there.” I am still not satisfied. “There was also a woman from the Mossad, in Greece.”

I tried to confirm the information on the “Seif” hit but couldn’t. Leila could be referring to Joseph Sieff, who suffered an alleged assassination attempt by Carlos the Jackal in 1973 but who wasn’t killed.

I then ask Leila about the opposite – how many PFLP members have been targeted by the Mossad. And here comes a nugget that contradicts everything I’ve read about the death of her sister. According to several news outlets and at least three books, Leila’s sister was killed in a case of mistaken identity on Christmas Eve in 1976 with her fiancé, both murdered at home. The intended target would have been Leila and her husband, and the culprit would have been the Mossad. But an anonymous source at the PFLP told me that the killer was not the Mossad, but “the third man” in the PFLP, a certain Abu Ahmed Yunis. “He was stealing arms, stealing money,” said the source. According to the source, “this was not a case of collaboration; only corruption.

And in one meeting they [Leila’s sister and her fiancé] threatened to speak about his corruption. So before a big meeting he sent his people and shot both of them. They made a committee of investigation, led by Ali Mustafa, and the trail led to this guy, they caught him, interviewed him, put him in jail and they decided he should be hanged. Yasser Arafat at that time sent a group to Abu Ali Mustafa saying ‘please don’t do it, because if you do it, this will be like condemning the whole Palestinian revolution.’ Then this guy told those Arafat people to go to Yasser Arafat and tell him they have to clean their house first. Nobody is blaming us because we are cleaning our house. Each house has its dirty side, and we must clean it.”

I asked Leila to confirm the story and she said it was true, “but he was not the third man. We didn’t have that type of ranking.” Yunis would be executed a few months later.

In my research I could find no corroborating record of that story, and the only book I encountered that mentions Yunis’ existence puts the time of his death several years after the killing of Leila’s sister.

“He was influential,” Leila says, “he was our representative in the common leadership between Palestinians and Lebanese at that time. He felt that my sister was criticising him, his behaviour. Her husband was, too. That was on the eve of Christmas. It was me and her and her fiancé, we were going to Tyre to my mother’s house to celebrate. He was responsible for me. He told me and others, ‘don’t sleep in your houses tonight.’ He sent people to kill them.”

Leila says she never managed to cope with that. “A comrade to kill another comrade…” she says, shaking her head. “I told our comrades that he should be executed or else I would kill him. And he was executed, he and the one who fired the shots.”

According to Leila, the Mossad also didn’t perform one of the most cinematic assassinations ever attributed to it. The story has it that Wadie Haddad, an ex-PFLP leader, was killed in 1978 in the German Democratic Republic by eating poisoned Belgium chocolate sent to him by the Mossad. “That’s not true,” says Leila. “I knew him very well and he didn’t like chocolate. He had cancer.”

Indeed, Leila’s assertion is substantiated by one of the Stratfor emails leaked by Wikileaks in 2012. It shows a conversation between two private intelligence contractors, David Dafinoiu, president of NorAm Intelligence, and Fred Burton, Stratfor’s VP of counter-intelligence.

From     david@dafinoiu.com

To           burton@stratfor.com

Hello Fred,


On Wadi Haddad: contrary to Aharon Klein and other publications on “behalf of” Mossad officers, the killing of Haddad by Mossad with poisoned chocolate is just a nice fiction story. Haddad was indeed on the Mossad assassination list and a “Red Page” order was given on his name along with other names such as Kamal Adwan, Hussein Abad Al-Chir, Mohammed Boudia, Abu Daud and others.

However, he died from leukemia that he suffered for a long time. The version of Mossad’s assassination played good for all the parties, presenting Wadi as a hero and Mossad as an assassins organization that the terrorists should be afraid of.

‘I represent Palestinians, not women’

After her first hijacking in 1969 at the age of 26, Leila chose to go under the knife to change her face and perform a second hijacking without being recognised. While the doctor complained that plastic surgery was meant to beautify, not deform, Leila called the operation a minor sacrifice for her cause, and put it in context in an interview to Jennifer Jajeh. “Women change their faces, their lips, and all these plastic surgeries to beautify themselves, but they didn’t beautify their minds. I did that. Beautified my mind.”

Leila Khaled portrait made of 3,500 lipsticks by Amer Shomali, February 28, 2012. (Photo by Amer Shomali) After Khaled hijacked two airplanes while still in her twenties, her image appeared on the covers of news magazines, her face was plastered on the walls of student dorms; she become a pop phenomenon, and an inspiration for TV and film characters.

Leila Khaled portrait made of 3,500 lipsticks by Amer Shomali, February 28, 2012. (Photo by Amer Shomali) After Khaled hijacked two airplanes while still in her twenties, her image appeared on the covers of news magazines, her face was plastered on the walls of student dorms; she become a pop phenomenon, and an inspiration for TV and film characters.

All of that made her an icon of feminism, which she rejected with her usual rationality, summarizing it quite efficiently 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.”

Leila has her own sense of priority. “I represent Palestinians, not women,” she once said. I tell her women in Gaza under Hamas were not allowed to participate in the marathon.

“That’s not our problem now,” she says. “It’s the problem there, and it is a problem faced even by us there. Hamas is trying to Islamicize the society, and of course, a lot of women, because they are under their control, are now wearing the hijab, whereas before they didn’t. I went there and asked them ‘why do you accept that?’”

Leila answers the question herself, suggesting that God, the ineffable, can be even less intangible than the solution to the Palestinian plight. “People have been looking for reparation for years. They’ve tried the nationalists, they’ve tried Nasser’s regime, they’ve tried Fatah, they tried the PFLP and they never got anywhere.”

But Leila’s fight, like that of the PFLP, has nothing to do with religion. When one visits the headquarters of the Jordanian Popular Democratic Unity Party in Amman, a PFLP branch, the most striking thing is hanging on the wall: a type of revolutionary drawing of a man and a woman duly fitted with shackles and machineguns. What is conspicuous about this drawing, and would be so for anyone who has lived in Jordan, is that the woman not only doesn’t wear a veil, but she is naked, along with the man. Another contextual shocker comes from the pamphlet announcing the candidates for the syndicate of pharmacists in a country whose Sharia court just decreed that women not wearing the veil are unfit to testify. Among the ten candidates on the pamphlet, two are women, and neither is wearing a hijab.

Drawings on the wall of the PFLP's Amman offices (Photo: Paula Schmitt)

Drawings on the wall of the PFLP’s Amman offices (Photo: Paula Schmitt)

And while some may argue with Leila’s distinctions between representing women or Palestinians, it’s refreshing to see how she chose her own battles, refusing to be a prisoner of political correctness and often not even aware of it. In one passage in her autobiography, she describes a dialogue with the chief of police at the “Ealing Hilton.” Exasperated by her refusal to answer his interrogation, Mr Frew reminds her he got gray hair. “That’s not from me,” she says. “That’s because you have a nagging wife.”

But Leila has, indeed, long conceded that Palestinian women suffer different types of oppression:

“The persecution of our women is compounded, not just cumulative,” she told Alloush. “She is oppressed nationally as a Palestinian under occupation or in exile. This is the primary facet and cruelest form of her oppression. The second facet is her socio-economic exploitation as a member of the social class she belongs to. Last but not least, she is oppressed as a woman because our societies are sexist.”

In her autobiography Leila is sometimes merciless against what she calls “the shackles of superstition and backwardness” in the Arab world. In fact, she names her enemies quite clearly, and at that time they were not only “Israel, the Zionist movement, imperialists” but also “Arab backwardness.”

Do you still believe in pan-Arabism?

“What do you mean by pan-Arabism?” she rejoins, sounding as if it was the first time she heard the term.

That the Arab world should be united.

“We are Arabs. We have all the same history, the same language. We were divided by the colonisers.”

What about the Christians?

“I didn’t speak about religion. Christians have the same history. We were all colonised after the First World War.”

I ask her about the Mutasarrifiyya, a semi-autonomous, Christian-ruled area in Mount Lebanon allowed under the Ottoman Empire since the 16th century, often remembered with longing by some Lebanese Christians.

“But it wasn’t according to religion before. It was a fruit of colonization. After the First World War the Arab world was divided among the colonizers who defeated the Ottomans. We were colonized by the khilafi, the khalifas, that was colonization.”

I change the question to the present.

“What would you say to the statement that determining that all Arabs are equal is a type of…” I want to say racism but I don’t. “When you propose to homogenise all the Arabs under pan-Arabism… isn’t that an imposition as well?

“In Brazil, you have different ethnicities, but you are a country. There are differences from a city to another. I don’t rely on the regimes, I rely on the people. And there are differences even within those places. You go to the United States, each city is different from the other. There is an agreement among Arab countries in the Arab league that we have a common market. In Europe they are different peoples, but they are united.”

You mean united in a strategic alliance, right? Is that what you mean? Economy, military power, natural resources?

“Yes, of course, that’s what I mean.”

I quote a passage from her autobiography where she says that “underdeveloped people live by fate.” We talk for a while and I say I will understand if she’d rather leave her opinions on religion confined to her book.

“I don’t criticize religion publicly – but I don’t believe in it”.

If Leila still has a god of sorts, it is Marxism. She calls herself a dialectical-materialist, and believes Cuba and Venezuela have the best governments in the world. I tell her Cuba’s is an oppressive regime, and that some of their athletes “representing” the country in the Pan-American Games tried to hide and demand political asylum in Brazil. I ask her to explain why most books and newspapers are forbidden in the island. Leila says Cuba has to act like that to “protect its people against American imperialism.” When I ask if she’d consider the governments of Norway, Denmark and Sweden as examples of good governance, Leila says yes.

I ask her if she regrets anything, if she gave her own sense of morality, that self-doubting side-glance mentioned by Schopenhauer.

“I regret that I didn’t continue my studies,” she says. “I tried to continue. In 1978 I went to the Soviet Union. I wanted to study history. But we were called, the PLO called all students who went on scholarships by the PLO to come and participate in the revolution in Lebanon. I went there and the war broke out.”

We talk about how religion, or religiosity, has often been used to mask moral corruption. For her, groups fighting in Syria like Jabhat al-Nusra are working for Israel, not on purpose, but as a result of their actions. “I think they are mercenaries, paid by Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and having Islam as a big slogan.” She believes the war in Syria is part of a bigger plan.

“The whole project of the Americans and Israel is to redraw the Middle East. We read and heard them speaking of the Greater Middle East. Even Shimon Peres has a book about it.”

I ask what she thinks of the Saudi regime.

“Saudi Arabia is ruled by the Americans. Look what happened. They were angry because Qatar was given a role for the last five or six years. Now they changed. So Qatar was asked, the emir was asked to resign, but this one, this emir, was the one who was negotiating with the Taliban, he was trained to make settlements among gulf countries.”

You mean he is as bad as the previous one?

“Yes, with a smiling face.”

I mention Sheikha Moza, the Qatari royal who is said to own vineyards in Israel.

“She goes to Netanya in the summer,” Leila says. “She was there in 2006,” the year Israel attacked Lebanon.

Has Palestine been betrayed, left alone?

“No, we are not alone. You are with us.”

Paula Schmitt (@schmittpaula) is a Brazilian journalist, Middle East correspondent, author of the non-fiction book, Advertised to Death – Lebanese Poster-Boys, and the novel Eudemonia.

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    1. Rab

      “Leila was born in Haifa in 1944 and was made to flee on April 13, 1948.”

      Um, the flight of the Arabs from Haifa was caused and enforced by Haj Amin al-Husseini’s men. Read Benny Morris “1948.”

      “Leila’s fight for Palestine is not due to an old, ancient attachment to her land. Her parents are not even Palestinian, but Lebanese.”


      By the way, could the writer ask Leila why she is so adamant about “democracy” in a country not called Israel but maybe not Palestine, but on the territory of Israel while she doesn’t care about democracy in Jordan which has millions of Palestinians living there? Shouldn’t she clean up her own backyard first and demonstrate that real democracy can even exist in an Arab state before demanding the Israel become another Arab state and potentially lose its existing democracy?

      Reply to Comment
      • Squidward

        What has Benny Morris said about Haifa in 1948?

        “The Haganah mortar attacks of 21–22 April [on Haifa] were primarily designed to break Arab morale in order to bring about a swift collapse of resistance and speedy surrender. […] But clearly the offensive, and especially the mortaring, precipitated the exodus. The three-inch mortars opened up on the market square [where there was] a great crowd […] a great panic took hold. The multitude burst into the port, pushed aside the policemen, charged the boats and began to flee the town, as the official Haganah history later put it”.

        Doesn’t sound voluntary to me….know your history

        Reply to Comment
        • YitzhakS

          “The Palestinians were responsible for escalating the war – a move that cost the Jews thousands of lives and Palestinians their homes. By their own behavior, Palestinians assumed the role of belligerents in the conflict, invalidating any claim to be hapless victims. Explains scholar Benny Morris:

          “One of the characteristics of the Palestinian national movement has been the Palestinians’ view of themselves as perpetual victims of others: Ottoman Turks, British officials, Zionists, Americans – and never to appreciate that they are, at least in large part, victims of their own mistakes and iniquities.”

          Reply to Comment
        • Rab

          Are you joking? Are you so busy reading some propaganda sites that you actually ignore what’s right there before your eyes?

          The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited By Benny Morris, page 198:
          Muslim notables…intimidated and ordered their fellow Christian notables…to reject a truce or anything smacking of surrender and acquiescence in Jewish rule, and to opt for evacuation. No doubt, the shadow of 1936-1939 and the memories of Husseini terrorism against opposition/Christian figures loomed large in their mind.

          He then continues:
          But if the weight of the evidence suggests that the initial order to evacuate had come from the local leadership, there is a surfeit of evidence that the AHC [The Arab Higher Committee, controlled by Husseini] and its local followers endorsed it…egging on the continuing evacuation. Lipincott [according to Morris, this man became intense anti-Israeli, so his history is not tarnished by a love of Jews or Israel] wrote, “Reportedly AHC ordering all Arabs to leave.”

          Morris then provides 5 other sources all saying the same thing. The AHC is ordering Arab flight from Haifa. He adds, “‘But for these rumors and propaganda spread by the National Committee members remaining in the town’ many of these Arabs ‘would not have evacuated Haifa’ according to the British Army’s 257 and 317 Field Security Section.”

          The Hagana wrote in one of its briefings to leadership (page 199):
          “The present Haifa Arab leadership, while speaking to our people of bringing life back to normal, their practical policy is to do the maximum to speed up the evacuation…Higher Arab circles relate that they have received explicit instructions to evacuate the Arabs of Haifa. The reason for this is not clear to us…The (Arab) masses explain the order to evacuate Haifa as stemming from (the prospect that) Transjordanian forces intend to commit wholesale massacre [against Jews, obviously]…”

          I could continue and continue and continue. I also haven’t quoted Morris 1948 because it’s not on Google Books. But the point is that, sure, there was a battle with the Hagana and there was shelling, but Haifa was a big city and it had a large Arab population. There were probably 5 times as many Arab fighters as Jewish ones at the beginning of this fight, but the Hagana beat them and there are a number of reasons, including the main ones which are that the Arab leaders fled early on. Then, those remaining, essentially forced the main body of Haifa Arabs to leave entirely. And they did this in numerous ways over a period of weeks, including the use of thugs, not just scare tactics, to compel Arabs to leave.

          I know, I know, what can you do? Poor Leila Khaled has been hijacking the wrong planes and attacking the wrong people all along. Aside from having her family simply move back to Lebanon and live normally, she could then have targeted the Husseini family. Instead, she pays them homage as she does with the Arafat tall tale. That’s right, Arafat who is Haj Amin’s nephew.

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        • Vadim

          History is bit more complex that a copy-paste from Wikipedia.

          Here’s a report of the British police. http://www.mideastweb.org/haifa1948.htm

          I’ll quote – “At a meeting yesterday afternoon Arab leaders reiterated their determination to evacuate the entire Arab population” and “Traffic started to move normally around the town and people returning to the places of business filled the streets. In fact, Haifa presented a more normal appearance than it had done for a long while. Some Arabs were seen moving among the Jews in the lower town and German Colony area and these were allowed free and unmolested passage.”

          Benny Morris also said – “There was no Zionist ‘plan’ or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of ‘ethnic cleansing'”

          Just because you found a little piece that fits your worldview doesn’t turn it into an absolute truth or give you a right to say “know your history” to someone.

          This is of course nothing compared to the historical liberties taken by Leila, I especially liked “Arafat went to Oslo and signed [the agreement]. What did Israel do? They confined him in Muqata in one room and killed him.”

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        • Rab

          Your Wikipedia quote intentionally misleads by ignoring the Haganah’s intent. If you go to the book itself (The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited By Benny Morris, page 200) you will read, just prior to the “precipitated” quote:

          “The Haganah mortar attacks of 21-22 April were primarily designed to break Arab morale in order to bring about a swift collapse of resistance and speedy surrender. There is NO EVIDENCE that the commanders involved hoped or expected that it would lead to mass evacuation…”

          You shouldn’t rely on Wikipedia and then tell others to read their history.

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          • Philos

            Oh for Pete’s sake, didn’t you get the memo from hasbara HQ?

            “Don’t answer questions about Haifa and deflect argument to the massacre of Jewish medics on Jerusalem highway. There’s too much evidence confirming Their narrative with senile old geezers recently bragging about it and the release of British FO documents with witness statements corroborating the Pape and Morris accounts. Remember hasbara warriors: deflection is more effective than engagement. Am Yisrael Hai and Kahnae Was Right!”

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          • Rab

            Just wait, my first response, which quotes a number of sources has yet to post. It’s okay that this is a sensitive spot. Who do you blame? The Arabs who started the civil war against a minority in their midst? Their leaders who either fled or drove them to ruin? The Arab states and their promises and failures?

            Oh, wait, we’ll blame it on the Zionists. That’s right, even though they AGREED to partition the land, and take about half of the 20% of the land the Jordanians hadn’t already gotten, they were attacked and drawn into a war by the side that REJECTED partition. And when that side lost, and then lost everything because they weren’t prepared for the fight or their mediocre leadership and the vain, false promises of their Arab brethren, all of a sudden the blame was supposed to be the Zionists’.

            And then, when the new state became home to hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim land, the Arabs still had the gall to blame the outcome of ’48 on the Jews and demand restitution for their own mistakes.

            Cut out the Palestinian propaganda already. The fact is there never needed to be a war or refugees. Put that on the Arabs. Just like today, by the way, where the Palestinians could have had a state by 2001 but prefer to claim all of Israel instead.

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          • Palestinian

            A “civil war” between the indigenous population and colonialists from another continent is NOT a civil war ….wait it wasnt even a war ,it was well-planned deliberate ethnic cleansing.

            Read Benny Morris …

            Reply to Comment
          • Philos

            You should qualify that statement with “Read Benny Morris before he recanted and begged to be let back into the establishment”

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          • Tzutzik

            “You should qualify that statement with “Read Benny Morris before he recanted and begged to be let back into the establishment”


            When Benny Morris says what anti-Zionists like to hear, Benny is good.

            When Benny Morris says want anti-Zionists don’t like to hear, then he is just “establishment” and he is not to be believed.

            That is not trolling. That is being delusional.

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          • Palestinian

            Fortunately he can’t take back his words..

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          • Philos


            Trolling is fun. I see why you guys like it so much

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          • Tzutzik

            “Trolling is fun. I see why you guys like it so much”

            If a troll is someone who accepts both the pro-Israel/anti-Arab and the anti-Israel/pro-Arab things that Benny Morris says then I am a troll.

            But what does one call those who selectively quote Benny Morris to support only their own dogma? I call them dishonest.

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        • Tzutzik

          “Doesn’t sound voluntary to me….know your history”

          But what WAS voluntary was the rioting and the attack and murder of innocent Jews on the roads within a day of the UN vote to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish state one Arab state.

          The rest just followed. Blaming the Haganah for responding to Arab riots is like blaming gravity for killing someone who is thrown off the balcony of a skyscraper instead of blaming the murderer who threw the victim out.

          In case you miss the analogy, these are the roles:

          1. The murderer = The rioting Arab mobs and their leaders who incited them.

          2. Gravity = The Haganah which responded to Arab attacks on Jews.

          3. The victims = Both Arabs and Jews who died or got maimed as a result of an unnecessary war that the Arabs started against the Jews

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    2. IlonJ

      “We are Arabs. We have all the same history, the same language. We were divided by the colonisers.”


      Now look at the map. Israel represents 0.5% of the land that Arabs own. There is no democracy in any Arab owned lands. Yet Leila pretends that her fight is to create democracy in Israel which according to her is not democratic because it is the only place in the Middle East where the Jewish people are the majority.

      That is just pure unadulterated BS. If her fight would really be for democracy, she would fight for democracy in the 99.5% of the lands where Arabs are the majority and there is no democracy.

      The truth is that she chose to fight Israel instead, because she just does not want to accept that we the Jewish people have a right to have a state of our own. We unlike Arabs, according to her, have no right to be free and choose our own destiny on 0.5% of the land. According to Leila, the Arabs must have 100% of the land and we the Jewish people are entitled to 0% only. Yet according to some people she is the freedom fighter, not the would be oppressor. Nice!

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    3. Noam

      Dear +972 editor, I ask this as a leftist and somebody who finds much interest in your site, not a right wing troll.

      This is indeed an interesting article. I have nothing against it. But, honestly, would you also feature an interview with a self-absorbed, self-righteous, nationalist Israeli?

      Would you consider publishing an interview with a soldier in Hebron that explains why he believes he has every legal and moral duty to serve there? One that has no qualms about the occupation and sees it as a “tactical” means to defeat the Palestinians?

      Would you feature an interview with an old-school Likudnik that claims to be a liberal but PASSIONATELY defends his alliance with Habayit Hayehudi, Yariv Levin, Danny Danon and Lieberman?

      These are quite precise reflections of Khaled’s positions. These are HER views, not yours of course. And this portrait of her self-righteousness, her dogmatism and her lack of intellectual integrity makes for an interesting read.

      But would you publish the opposite?
      The content would be just as interesting and thought provoking, and just as obnoxious.

      Reply to Comment
      • Noam – thanks for this comment. Indeed, Laila’s views represent herself, not +972. We will be willing to post any interesting material that would further people’s understanding of the Israel/Palestine issue and the different forces on the ground.

        When we heard interesting views from the Israeli right or mainstream, we published them as well. I did several pieces, for example, on the rightwing’s version of the one state solution.

        However, we try to focus on what is lacking in the mainstream conversation, and there is no shortage of Israeli dogmatism on just about any mainstream platform, not just in Israel. At the same time, Palestinian voices are hardly heard or understood. this is why we don’t feel a special urgency to publish conservative Israelis. You will never have problems finding them.

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        • Ginger Eis

          With all due respect, Mr. Noam Scheizaf, you lie! Here is why:
          (a) Your “pieces, for example, on right-wing’s version of the one State solution” are YOUR “pieces” and NOT the writings of a soldier in Hebron, a religious/secular nationalist in any of the Israeli cities, towns and villages in Judea and Samaria. (b) Said “pieces” of yours containing “right-wing’s version” are all written in YOUR own likeness to fit YOUR own distorted world view and political agenda. The poster is very clear re the question you need to answer, i.e. ‘would you publish articles from e.g. religious/secular nationalists (and we are NOT even yet talking about extremists that want Palestinians deported or dead)that explains why they believe that they have every legal and moral duty to populate, cultivate, multiply and prosper in Judea & Samaria? The Israelis that have no qualms about the so-called “occupation” and sees it as a “tactical” means to secure the Land/State Of Israel and save Jewish lives?’ The question posed is NOT whether or not you would incorporate “right-wing versions in your pieces”, because you already do that abundantly – in your own disingenuous ways.

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        • Ginger Eis

          Mr. Scheizaf, your claim that “(…)Palestinian voices are hardly heard or understood. this is why we don’t feel a special urgency to publish conservative Israelis. You will never have problems finding them” is at best unsupported by facts and at worst an outright lie. Hers is why: .(a) http://journalism.wikia.com/wiki/Coverage_of_the_Israeli-Palestinian_conflict; (b) http://www.ifamericansknew.org/media/bias.html; (c) On youtube anti-Israel videos from Palestinians and their supporters outnumber pro-Israel videos by a margin of more the 10-1! (d) Besides, ALL Arab- and Muslim media outlets are united in their hateful, penchant opposition to Israel and support for their fellow Arabs and Muslims. These outlets make up at least 45 – 55% of the world media; (e) Beyond that, almost ALL major Western media outlets are biased against Israel – according to studies. And there are more documented evidence that prove you wrong. Indeed, Mr. Scheizaf, “Palestinian voices” are verifiably more, louder AND “understood” BUT not in the unhealthy way you desperately wish said voices to be understood. Most of mankind is not stupid! Distorting reality and engaging in a systematic propagation of hate and lies disguised as journalism (as +972, among others, does) does not necessarily translate into being right and making “Palestinian voices understood”. Most of mankind “understands” the Palestinians and their apologists, but has decided to reject their hate, lies and genocidal intentions! This will not change regardless of how many more screeds, diatribes and incendiaries you print against Israel.

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    4. Vadim

      Aside from the celebrity status of Leila, what else is interesting in this interview?

      Despite what Noam said, I don’t see anything interesting in this voice. Ask a typical Israeli to describe the typical Palestinian worldview and you’ll get something similar. No self criticism and no willingness to compromise, only self-righteousness and delusion.

      In some sense, it does the Palestinian cause more harm than good.

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    5. Paula Schmitt

      Dear Shu Her, thank you for the Sieff tip. I hope the editors will be adding that soon as a possible explanation. Also, thanks to Tony Williams for pointing at the Gandhi mispelling.
      Thanks everyone for engaging in the discussion.

      P.S. I think resistance is a duty. And I think the zealots in Massada would agree with Leila. Maa salama.

      Reply to Comment
      • IlonJ

        “P.S. I think resistance is a duty. And I think the zealots in Massada would agree with Leila. Maa salama.”

        I thought your article mentions that Leila Khaled is Lebanese?

        When Leila Khaled was active, Israel was not occupying Lebanon.

        So if she was resisting, then she was resisting as an Arab. Yea right … At that time there were about 150 million Arabs lining up against about maybe 5 million Israelis? Both sides were backed up by super powers, Israel by the US, the Arabs by th Soviets. So if anything, I would say that Israel was resisting the Arab onslaught. But why bother with mere details?

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      • Ginger Eis

        “I think resistance is a duty. (…). Maa salama.”

        Well, there you have it, folks. This thing called “Paula Schmitt” just confirmed in her own words that she is a terrorist masquerading as a journalist. Her raging hate has finally taken over and forced her to come out of the closet. Shame on +972 for providing platform to terrorists and terrorism, helping them justify murders and spread their evil seeds. Shame!

        Reply to Comment
        • Paula Schmitt

          Your ignorance is sad.
          Here, as a little enlightenment, check a list of Irgun attacks. Mind their preference for bombs in buses, marketplaces and cinemas. Enjoy.

          Reply to Comment
          • Rab

            Paula, speaking of ignorance, did you intentionally only link to Irgun attacks while ignoring Palestinian Arab attacks on Jews during the same years or was that intentional?

            Of course, the similarity between then and now is that the Arab terror on Jews was accepted by the mainstream and encouraged by their leadership while Jewish attacks on Arab civilians were discouraged and denounced by most Jews and their leaders, just as it is today.

            I find that pro-Palestinian activists have to constantly prevaricate and mislead to make their case. Why do you suppose that is?

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “check a list of Irgun attacks”

            And before the Irgun attacks there was the massacre of Hebron’s Jews in 1929. And the Arab revolt of the 1930s in which hundreds of Jews were murdered and maimed by Arab irregular forces. No matter how far you want to go back to history you will find that Arabs started the murder of Jews. Eventually Jews said ENOUGH and we came up with a response. But you, Paula, and people like you only seem to want to remember our RESPONSE.

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    6. al thor

      This woman wants to paint the syrian revolution as a saudi one. Such shameless creature. Someone forgot to tell her that the conflict started in 2011 and not in 2014

      Does this crazy woman know that palestinias have been starved and tortured in assad jails?


      Reply to Comment
    7. Ginger Eis

      The defeat of Leila Khaled

      “[Leila] Khaled’s mission was to hijack an El Al flight, which was en route to New York from Tel Aviv via Amsterdam. The plan was for Khaled and her accomplice, Patrick Arguello, to pose as a married couple and take control of the aircraft. As the plane approached the English coast, the pair rose from their seats and, brandishing guns, made their way to the cockpit. As they reached the flight deck the pilot thrust the aircraft into a steep nosedive throwing the terrorists off their feet. Simultaneously, the co-pilot pulled out a gun. Startled by both of these acts, Arguello threw a hand grenade down the aisle of the plane. Fortunately the grenade failed to explode. Arguello was then shot dead by an El Al sky marshal. Khaled was overpowered by male passengers and flight crew and beaten as she tried to retrieve her own grenades, which had been secreted inside her brassiere”.

      Leila Khaled, Israel defeated you comprehensively and ended your murder-carrier in ‘Murder Inc.’ You are alive today because Israeli sky marshals are the most moral in the world and as such let you live. American-, British and French sky marshals are not so nice.

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    8. Stan Squires

      I am from Vancouver,canada and I heard Leila Khaled speaking through Skype at UBC university about a year ago and recently this year 2014 in Belgium.At both times she gave an updated account of conditions in Palestine and what people around the world are doing in support of Palestine.In the past Leila Khaled did what was necessary to expose Israeli apartheid.In Cuba,Nicaragua and other countries people did the same things to free their countries from oppression.Bernidette Devlin McAliskey from Northern Ireland got a lot in common with Leila Khaled.She stood up to British Imperialism in the 1970s and 80s.At the present time she is still fighting to get Ireland united and for Republican prisoners.It is women like Leila Khaled and Bernidette Devlin Mcaliskey that are needed to get freedom for Palestine and Northern Ireland.

      Reply to Comment
      • Paul Bee

        I do not remember Bernadette devlin hijacking aeroplanes ?

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    9. Mary Hughes Thompson

      A remarkable woman. A true hero.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Isabella Steel

      Dear Ms Schmitt,

      I read this article about Leila Khaled with much interest. I am studying at University and have been commissioned by The ISIS magazine to write an article about Khaled, with particular focus on whether her role in the hijacking of the TWA Flight 840 in 1969 constituted an act of terrorism (and indeed how ‘terrorism’ is/should be defined).

      I just wondered whether you have any contact details for Khaled which you might be able to give to me/direct me towards?

      With many thanks and best wishes,

      Isabella Steel

      Reply to Comment
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