Leila Khaled is a member of the Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). She was born on the 9th April 1944 in Haifa, Palestine. She and her family fled to Lebanon during the 1948 Nakba Catastrophe leaving her father behind.
At the age of 15, following in the footsteps of her brother, she joined the radical Arab Left Nationalist Movement, originally started in the late 1940’s by George Habash. The Palestinian branch of this movement became the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after the 1967 Six-Day War.
Khaled came to public attention for her role in a 1969 hijacking of the TWA Flight 840, to publicise Israeli abuse towards Palestinians. On its way from Rome to Athens, they diverted the plane to Damascus. She ordered the pilot to fly over Haifa, so she could see her birth place, which she could not return to. No one was injured, but the aircraft was blown up after hostages had disembarked.
After this, 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 6th,1970, Laila and Patrick Arguello, a Nicaraguan, attempted the hijack of Israeli El-al flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York as part of the Dawson Field hijackings, a series of almost simultaneous hijackings carried out by the PLFP.
The attack was foiled, when Israeli sky marshals killed Arguello before eventually overpowering Khaled. Although she was carrying two hand grenades at the time, Khaled had received very strict instructions not to threaten passengers on the civilian flight. The pilot diverted the aircraft to Heathrow airport in London, where Khaled was delivered to Ealing 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 Laila developed a fondness for the United Kingdom 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 in Belfast, where she was invited as a speaker.
She is now married to the physician Fayez Rashid Hilal, and today lives with their two sons Bader and Bashar in Gaza, Palestine. 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. In 2011, Khaled went on a speaking tour in Sweden, including speeches at May Day demonstrations of the Communist Party and the Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden.
Why we should remember Laila Khaled?
She fought against Israel to liberate her country, stop the human rights abuses committed against Palestinians on a daily bases and retaliate the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine Laila Khaled will always be remembered as a freedom fighter against the oppression of her country’s people.
She fought against Israel and Imperialism and for the Liberation of Palestine.
Why is Israeli violence different from Palestinian violence?
The Israeli violence is different from the Palestinians violence because the Palestinians are defending themselves against an illegal occupation and are retaliating to the daily crimes and aggression committed by the racist Israeli occupation whereas Israel attacks Palestinian civilians unreasonably in order to illegally control Palestinian land and resources.
How influential is Leila Khaled today?
Has the former militant activist given up on the political struggle for a free Palestine? No, not at all. She remains well known, especially in Lebanon. She is a member of the Palestinian National Council, representing the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
She is frequently invited to other countries to talk about the Middle East conflict and on the situation of women in the occupied territories. She even criticized Arafat as corrupt and undemocratic on Al-Jazeerah.
This was a very courageous move for a woman.
Why did you feel you absolutely had to meet with your one-time “idol”?
She struggled hard to remain unbiased and impartial when shooting . Just think about it for a moment. Here is a 24-year-old woman, who, armed with a submachine gun and hand grenades, boards an airplane and hijacks it. Then she undergoes six plastic surgery operations on her face just so she will be able to hijack the next plane.
I absolutely wanted to meet this woman and ask what motivated her!!!!!