Leila Khaled Hijacker

Leila Khaled started her resistance with many labels like “the first Palestinian female guerilla” and “the first female hijacker” when it was hard just to imagine an female Arab freedom-fighter. The Arab military and its leader Nasser, who fought under the banner of Arab socialism, were defeated by the Israel Defense Forces in 1967 and it led to the colonization of Palestine by Israel. Leila Khaled, who had believed that the Arab’s hero, Nasser, would give freedom to Palestinians, realized at that time that freedom is never given by others, but earned by oneself. Therefore she put herself out on the front of an armed struggle.

In this film, you can see the hostages having interviews with the media right after being released by the hijackers, saying that the hijackers were very polite and nice to them. It comes from not only the aim of hijacking, which, from the start, was to get the global attention and then to make a breakthrough, but also a policy of PFLP, Khaled’s organization, was to “never harm hostages”. Actually only her colleagues got killed or hurt during the two operations she had done.

But Leila Khaled rose as an icon of ‘terrorism’ after the two operations. I think her fame as the first female hijacker and the serial hijacking operations by other factions made this kind of image.

The director, Lina Makboul, said that Leila Khaled used to be her idol as a Palestinian-Swedish girl when she was young. As she grew up, however, she faced questions by her Swedish friends about why Palestinians had chosen terrorism instead of negotiation to get their freedom and saw the Palestinian’s reputations smeared. She came to Lebanon to meet Leila Khaled wanting to know whether her heroin regretted what she had done before. In Lebanon, however, she found that Khaled was unchanged, but she herself had changed because she obtained identity as a European, who likes ‘communication and negotiation’.

Interestingly enough, there is only one artificial scene in this documentary in which Khaled stands gazing at the camera on the rooftop in the wind. To see it brought ‘Angelus Novus’ to mind which was seemingly irrelevant to this scene. I don’t mean sad wind blowing, but it seems to me that she was gazing at the camera, audience, and even history itself, saying ‘I am not wrong’.

The film includes various interviews, even with the Israeli pilot and crew who were part of the hijacking, and I think this is the strength of this film. I assume that if she were ‘just a Palestinian director’, it would be impossible to interview them. I am curious how she introduced herself to those interviewees, and whether she said that she’s a Palestinian-Swedish.

One’s personal history can be shown meaningfully only when we see it together with social history. This film does not intend to handle the general history of Palestine ─ I ‘m not saying that it should ─ it shows social history enough to understand Khaled’s choice and her present at least. Khaled, her family, her neighbours, and most of Palestinians became refugees during the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. She witnessed the absolute defeat of Arab countries by Israel. However this film does not reveal her personal pain, like her sister being killed instead of her, which is a point that I agree with. I think it’s better not to mention this in this film.

I want to speak about terrorism. I want to argue more later in other writing, but I want to make it clear that I think military resistance is one of the tactics for freedom fighting, and the actual matter is when and how we can use it properly as part of overall resistance. We can evaluate both Palestinian military resistance and Khaled’s resistance in this point, but I can’t agree with the idea that the military resistance equals terrorism, and terrorism equals violence, and violence is always bad whatever the situation.

Leila Khaled did not regret her military resistance at the time of filming, but I heard that she changed her mind. Forbidden to go back to Palestine by Israel, she is living in
Lebanon with two sons and her husband. To see her saying that her sons would be in jail if they were in Palestine accused of throwing stones, I felt she resembled ordinary Korean parents who think their children are typical models for others. Leila Khaled who doesn’t want to be filmed when she’s ugly, who says to Lina the director to hurry up and have a baby, and who says that she does not regret what she’s done. I could enjoy the various aspects of the revolutionary through this film.

* We have film screening at 3pm in Seoul Women’s Plaza, located near DaeBang Station, line number 1. We will provide subtitles in both Korean and English. Please come and join us. 😀

Seoul Women’s Plaza
345-1 Daebang-dong
Dongjak-gu, Seoul, South Korea