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Leila Khaled

Leila Khaled

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Leila Khaled is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

 (PFLP). She is currently a member of the Palestinian National Council
Palestinian National Council
The Palestinian National Council is the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization and elects its Executive Committee, which assumes leadership of the organization between its sessions. The Council normally meets every two years. Resolutions are passed by a simple majority with a...

. She has been called the "poster girl of Palestinian militancy."

Khaled came to public attention for her role in a 1969 hijacking
TWA Flight 840 (1969)
TWA Flight 840 was a Trans World Airlines flight from Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport in Rome, Italy to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, that was hijacked on 29 August 1969...

 and one of four simultaneous hijackings
Dawson's Field hijackings
In the Dawson's Field hijackings five jet aircraft bound for New York City were hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine...

 the following year as part of the Black September timeline
Black September in Jordan
September 1970 is known as the Black September in Arab history and sometimes is referred to as the "era of regrettable events." It was a month when Hashemite King Hussein of Jordan moved to quash the militancy of Palestinian organizations and restore his monarchy's rule over the country. The...

.

Early life


Khaled was born in Haifa
Haifa
Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher...

, then part of the British Mandate for Palestine. Khaled's family fled to Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 during the 1948 Palestinian exodus
1948 Palestinian exodus
The 1948 Palestinian exodus , also known as the Nakba , occurred when approximately 711,000 to 725,000 Palestinian Arabs left, fled or were expelled from their homes, during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the Civil War that preceded it. The exact number of refugees is a matter of dispute...

, leaving her father behind. At the age of 15, following in the footsteps of her brother, she joined the radical pan-Arab Arab Nationalist Movement
Arab Nationalist Movement
The Arab Nationalist Movement , also known as the Movement of Arab Nationalists and the Harakiyyin, was a pan-Arab nationalist organization influential in much of the Arab world, most famously so within the Palestinian movement.-Origins & Ideology:The Arab Nationalist Movement had its origins in a...

, originally started in the late 1940s by George Habash
George Habash
George Habash also known by his laqab "al-Hakim" was a Palestinian nationalist. Habash, a Palestinian Christian, founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which pioneered the hijacking of airplanes as a Middle East militant tactic...

, then a medical student at the American University of Beirut
American University of Beirut
The American University of Beirut is a private, independent university in Beirut, Lebanon. It was founded as the Syrian Protestant College by American missionaries in 1866...

. The Palestinian branch of this movement became the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

 after the 1967 Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

.

Khaled also spent some time teaching in Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

, and in her autobiography recounted crying the day she heard that John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 had been assassinated.

The hijackings



On August 29, 1969, Khaled was part of a team that hijacked TWA Flight 840
TWA Flight 840 (1969)
TWA Flight 840 was a Trans World Airlines flight from Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport in Rome, Italy to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, that was hijacked on 29 August 1969...

 on its way from Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, diverting the Boeing 707
Boeing 707
The Boeing 707 is a four-engine narrow-body commercial passenger jet airliner developed by Boeing in the early 1950s. Its name is most commonly pronounced as "Seven Oh Seven". The first airline to operate the 707 was Pan American World Airways, inaugurating the type's first commercial flight on...

 to Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

. She claims she ordered the pilot to fly over Haifa
Haifa
Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher...

, so she could see her birthplace, which she could not visit. No one was injured, but the aircraft was blown up after hostages had disembarked. According to some media sources, the PFLP leadership thought that Yitzhak Rabin
Yitzhak Rabin
' was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995....

, then Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i ambassador to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, would be on board. This was, however, denied by Khaled and others. After this hijacking, and after a now famous picture of her (taken by Eddie Adams
Eddie Adams (photographer)
Eddie Adams was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American photographer and photojournalist noted for portraits of celebrities and politicians and his coverage of 13 wars.-Combat photographer:...

) holding an AK-47
AK-47
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

 rifle and wearing a kaffiyeh was widely published, she underwent six plastic surgeries on her nose and chin to conceal her identity and allow her to take part in a future hijacking, and because she did not want to wear the face of an icon.

On September 6, 1970, Khaled and Patrick Argüello
Patrick Argüello
Patricio José Argüello Ryan , known as Patrick Argüello, was a Nicaraguan American who was shot and killed while attempting to hijack El Al Flight 219 in September 1970 as part of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's Dawson's Field hijackings.-Youth:Argüello was born in San...

, a Nicaraguan, attempted the hijack of El Al
El Al
El Al Israel Airlines Ltd , trading as El Al , is the flag carrier of Israel. It operates scheduled domestic and international services and cargo flights to Europe, North America, Africa and the Far East from its main base in Ben Gurion International Airport...

 Flight 219 from Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

 to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 as part of the Dawson's Field hijackings
Dawson's Field hijackings
In the Dawson's Field hijackings five jet aircraft bound for New York City were hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine...

, a series of almost simultaneous hijackings carried out by the PFLP. The attack was foiled, when Israeli skymarshals
Israeli Security Forces
Security forces in Israel include a variety of organizations, including law enforcement, military, paramilitary, governmental, and intelligence agencies.-Military:...

 killed Arguello before eventually overpowering Khaled. Although she was carrying two hand grenades at the time, Khaled said she had received very strict instructions not to threaten passengers on the civilian flight. (Patrick Argüello
Patrick Argüello
Patricio José Argüello Ryan , known as Patrick Argüello, was a Nicaraguan American who was shot and killed while attempting to hijack El Al Flight 219 in September 1970 as part of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's Dawson's Field hijackings.-Youth:Argüello was born in San...

, the co-hijacker, shot a member of the flight crew).

The pilot diverted the aircraft to Heathrow airport in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, where Khaled was delivered to Ealing
Ealing
Ealing is a suburban area of west London, England and the administrative centre of the London Borough of Ealing. It is located west of Charing Cross and around from the City of London. It is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan. It was historically a rural village...

 police station. On October 1, the British government released her as part of a prisoner exchange. The next year, the PFLP abandoned the tactic of hijacking, although splinter movements would continue to hijack airplanes.

Later life


Khaled has said in interviews that she developed a fondness for the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 when her first visitor in jail, an immigration officer, wanted to know why she had arrived in the country without a valid visa. She also developed a relationship with the two policewomen assigned to guard her in Ealing and later corresponded with them. Khaled continued to return to Britain for speaking engagements until as late as 2002, although she was refused a visa by the British embassy in 2005 to address a meeting at the Féile an Phobail
Feile an Phobail
Féile an Phobail , also known as the West Belfast Festival is a community arts organisation known for its August Féile . The organisation is prominent for its promotion of Irish and international culture...

 in Belfast, where she was invited as a speaker. Eventually she managed to speak to people at the Belfast Féile through a video link

Khaled is wary of the Arab-Israeli peace process. According to her, "It's not a peace process
Peace process
Peace process may refer to:* in general:** Peacebuilding** Conflict resolution* specifically:** Northern Ireland peace process, efforts from c.1993 to end "the Troubles"...

. It's a political process where the balance of forces is for the Israelis and not for us. They have all the cards to play with and the Palestinians have nothing to depend on, especially when the PLO is not united." She has become involved in politics, becoming a member of the Palestinian National Council
Palestinian National Council
The Palestinian National Council is the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization and elects its Executive Committee, which assumes leadership of the organization between its sessions. The Council normally meets every two years. Resolutions are passed by a simple majority with a...

 and appearing regularly at the World Social Forum
World Social Forum
The World Social Forum is an annual meeting of civil society organizations, first held in Brazil, which offers a self-conscious effort to develop an alternative future through the championing of counter-hegemonic globalization...

.

Witnesses say that in the late 1970s she studied history at Rostov University (USSR) but never graduated. She simply vanished in the early 1980s. There were rumours that she left for Lebanon to fight against the Israeli army invading Lebanon at that time.

She is married to the physician Fayez Rashid Hilal, and today lives with their two sons Bader and Bashar in Amman, Jordan.

She was the subject of a film entitled Leila Khaled, Hijacker. The documentary film "Hijacker – The Life of Leila Khaled", directed by Palestinian filmmaker, Lina Makboul, premiered in November, 2005 at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.

In 2011, Khaled went on a speaking tour in Sweden, including speeches at May Day demonstrations of the Communist Party
Communist Party (Sweden)
The Communist Party is a Marxist-Leninist political party in Sweden.1970-1977 it was known as the Communist League Marxist-Leninists and during 1977-2004 it had the name Communist Party Marxist-Leninists ...

 and the Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden
Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden
Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden is an anarcho-syndicalist trade union federation in Sweden. Unlike other Swedish unions, SAC organizes people from all occupations, including the unemployed, students, and the retired...

, a public Art Gallery, Södertörn University College
Södertörn University College
Södertörn University College is a public university college located in Flemingsberg, which is located in Huddinge Municipality, and the larger area called Södertörn, in Stockholm County, Sweden. In 2009, it had 6,300 full-time-students...

 and a seminar arranged by the Left Party
Left Party (Sweden)
The Left Party is a socialist and feminist political party in Sweden, from 1967 to 1990 known as the Left Party – The Communists .On welfare issues, the party opposes privatizations...

.

In popular culture

  • The song Like Leila Khaled Said from The Teardrop Explodes
    The Teardrop Explodes
    The Teardrop Explodes were an English post-punk/neo-psychedelic band formed in Liverpool in 1978. Best known for their Top Ten UK single "Reward" the group originated as a key band in the emerging Liverpool post-punk scene of the late 1970s, the group also launched the career of group frontman...

    ' 1981 album Wilder is a love song to Khaled. Songwriter Julian Cope
    Julian Cope
    Julian Cope is a British rock musician, author, antiquary, musicologist, poet and cultural commentator...

     said it was a love song to her "cos I thought she was so beautiful. But I know that the whole thing was like bad news."
  • The 10th song named "Leila Khaled" by the Danish Rock band Magtens Korridorer
    Magtens Korridorer
    Magtens Korridorer is a band from Denmark started in 1995 in Copenhagen. The band is described as a mixture of rock and poetic post-punk. The band consists of Johan Olsen , Rasmus Kern , Niklas Schneidermann , Terkel Møhl and Anders Ramhede .-History:The band made a demo tape in 1996, which...

     in their 11-track album Friværdi released on 26 September 2005.
  • It is claimed that the character of savage warrior Leela
    Leela (Doctor Who)
    Leela is a fictional character played by Louise Jameson in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. Leela was a companion of the Fourth Doctor and a regular in the programme from 1977 to 1978...

     from Doctor Who
    Doctor Who
    Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC. The programme depicts the adventures of a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor who explores the universe in a sentient time machine called the TARDIS that flies through time and space, whose exterior...

     was named after Leila Khaled.
  • Mentioned by Fun-da-mental in "Mother India" widely distributed in the United States by Starbucks coffee in the"Love India" CD (2010)
  • She was the subject of an eponymous one-person show in 2011, played by Israeli actress J. Bassilis.

Interviews


Further reading

  • "I made the ring from a bullet and the pin of a hand grenade" by Katharine Viner, The Guardian, January 26, 2001
  • "The guerrilla's story", BBC, January 1, 2001
  • Khaled, Leila. My people shall live: the autobiography of a revolutionary. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973, ISBN 0-340-17380-7
  • MacDonald, Eileen. Shoot the Women First
    Shoot the Women First
    Shoot the Women First is a 1991 book by Eileen MacDonald.The book, a collection of interviews, is based on the author's encounters with female terrorists. Her book analyzes the subjects, their reasons, and their modus operandi...

    . London: Arrow Books, 1992, ISBN 0-09-913871-9
  • Snow, Peter, and Phillips, David. Leila's Hijack War: The True Story of 25 days in September. London: Pan Books, 1970, ISBN 0-330-02810-3