Leila Khaled: In Her Own Words

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October 02, 2020

Leila Khaled is a longtime active leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and is well-known for her role in the hijacking of two civilian airliners, TWA Flight 840 in 1969 (bound for Tel Aviv from Rome) and El Al flight 219 in 1970 (traveling from Amsterdam to New York City).

In 1997, PFLP was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States Department of State, which cites the group as having carried out “large-scale international attacks in the 1960s and 1970s, including airline hijackings that killed more than 20 U.S. citizens.” PFLP is also responsible for numerous terror attacks against Israeli civilians in Israel and the West Bank, including a bomb attack that killed 17-year-old Israeli Rina Shnerb in 2019 and a shooting and meat cleaver attack that claimed the lives of four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue in 2014.  

Khaled is also a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Palestinian National Council (PNC) and is widely viewed as a feminist icon within the Palestinian national movement.

In recent interviews, Khaled continues to promote the view that the Palestinian national movement should use “armed struggle” to achieve its goals:

  • 2016 interview with EuroNews: [link]
    • “I chose arms and I believe that taking up arms is one of the main tools to solve this (Palestinian-Israeli) conflict in the interest of the oppressed and not the oppressors.”
  • 2015 interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC): [link]
    • 23:50: “I’m just saying that: don't expect, except one choice for us [Palestinians] is resistance and resistance by all means, including armed struggle. This is the only way that we can liberate our land.”
  • 2015 interview with The Star (South Africa): [link]
    • "I am in the politburo of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)."
    • Interviewer: “What is the current position? Your organisation said it was responsible for the attack on the Jerusalem synagogue in November that left five worshippers dead.”
    • Khaled: “We are a part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). We’re among the founders of PLO. The programme of PLO calls for achieving the rights of Palestinians even by armed struggle. We’re a part of this, but of course, there have been some differences between us and the programme.”
  • 2014 interview with The Palestine Chronicle: [link]
    • “No liberation is achieved without resistance…People taLeila [sic] Khaled about popular resistance. It does not only mean demonstrations. Using arms is also popular. We have people who are ready to fight.”
    • “I am ok with using all means of resistance. We cannot say that non-violent resistance alone will achieve our rights. We are facing an apartheid State, Zionism as a movement, the Americans, and in general, the West, which supports Israel. When the balance of forces changes, then we can start thinking about negotiating.”
    • “My actions [plane hijackings] were my contribution to my people, to the struggle. We did not hurt anyone. We declared to the whole world that we are a people, living through an injustice, and that the world had to help us to reach our goal.”
  • 2014 +972 Magazine interview: [link]
    • “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.”
    • "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...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.”