FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Tale From a Time of Heroes

There was once a time not so long ago when the world seemed to be full of revolutionary heroes.  These heroes were both men and women.  The actions and accompanying commitment of these individuals inspired millions of others to join movements and organizations dedicated to a vision of social justice and freedom that understood colonialism and racism to be their primary opposition.  From Martin Luther King, Jr. to Rosa Parks; from Huey Newton to Assata Shakur; and Che Guevara to Leila Khaled, the list of such individuals is too great to recount here.  Their enemies included secret and not-so-secret police, intelligence agencies dedicated to their murder, and governments both liberal and reactionary whose lot lay with the imperial powers in Washington, London and elsewhere in the North.  The presence of such men and women made them targets for those opposed to their vision.  Simultaneously, the fact of their stature provided them with a media presence created a public awareness of their cause which helped recruit adherents and supporters.

During the first Gulf war I worked with an antiwar group in Olympia, WA.  There was a young woman named Leila of Syrian heritage in the group.  It was during a conversation about the Palestinians that the subject of Leila Khaled came up.  After five minutes of conversation or so, Leila mentioned that she was named after Khaled.  I knew that Khaled’s youth, beauty and media savvy had made her a media favorite during the hijackings and other actions she had participated in.  I also remembered the spray painted silhouettes of Khaled that appeared on the walls of squats and at the Goethe Universitat in Frankfurt.  However, this young woman was the first person I had met who was named in her honor.

Recently, Pluto Press published a small biography of Leila Khaled as part of its Revolutionary Lives Series.  It is titled Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian LiberationAuthored by Sarah Irving, a freelancer who has written about environmental and Palestinian issues, this biography looks at Khaled’s life from its beginnings in a Palestinian village occupied by the Israelis to her current activism.  Culling information from her biography My People Shall Live, newspaper and journal articles spanning her life and recent interviews, Irving’s book takes a comprehensive look at a life fully-lived.

For those who remember the hijackings Khaled participated in, Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation brings those events back to life.  In addition, she provides the reader with Khaled’s insights and descriptions of how those hijackings unfolded.  Khaled also touches briefly on her emotions during those actions.  Irving describes the determination of Khaled’s enemies to kill her, a determination that resulted in her sister and sister’s fiancée being murdered by mistake.  She also describes the life of Khaled’s family as refugees and relatives of a revolutionary wanted by Israel and a myriad of other governments.  The Palestinian movement Khaled first entered was quite different than that which exists now.  Religious elements had minimal influence.  Indeed, the primary divisions in the movement arose in the political/economic arena.  The primary organization, Al Fatah, was what was then termed a bourgeois nationalist movement, while the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) defined itself as a Marxist one.  Khaled was (and is) a member of the latter, but seems to have been only minimally involved in the internecine warfare that occasionally erupted between the factions.  Her discussion of the influence of Muslim culture in the Palestinian movement and how it effects the role of women in the Palestinian struggle is an important part of this book and worthy of further exploration.  This is especially true given Khaled’s long history in the movement and her lifelong insistence on the need for women to be involved.  A sidebar to this discussion is her telling about incidents where some of the men pretending to be strict enforcers of the hijab in Gaza following Hamas’ victory turned out to be informers for the Israeli military.  This story points out the potentially reactionary nature of a nationalism that depends on cultural elements to define it while rejecting anticapitalist economic analyses.

Khaled discusses the current situation in Palestine.  In her opinion, the Oslo accords should never have been signed.  The continued control of Palestinian economic, social and daily life by Israelis and their paid police insures the perpetuation of the Occupation.  Her opposition to the Accords is often characterized by her enemies as being an opposition to peace.  Khaled’s response is simple.  When there are no more Israeli soldiers, police, and other agents of the Tel Aviv government occupying the territories, then there will be peace.  Until then, the struggle continues.  As if to emphasize this, some events arranged by Irving’s publisher to announce the book to the British reading public have been cancelled because of threats of violence.  This fact proves Khaled’s continuing relevance, while also intensifying the need to publicize the book.

The struggle of the Palestinians is a different looking struggle than it was when Leila Khaled’s name first became known to the world.  Yet, it is the same struggle.  Heroic figures like those mentioned above do not seem to be part of that struggle right now.  However, their stories are important and need to be told.  Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation does a great job of telling one such story.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press.  He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
Elliot Sperber
Aunt Anna’s Antenna
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail