Leila Khaled to the SWP: ‘nothing can end the conflict but armed struggle’
Leila Khaled is most famous for hijacking aircraft in the 1970s on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Palestinian faction that was responsible (pdf) for over 30 actual or attempted terrorist attacks against Jewish or Israeli targets outside Israel from the late 1960s until the 1990s (but primarily in the 1970s); many of which targeted civilians, and some of which took place in the United Kingdom.
After her career as a hijacker ended Khaled became a senior figure in the PFLP. In 2001, after the PFLP assassinated Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi, Khaled told the media on behalf of the PFLP that “There are no red lines in confronting the enemy. All lines are opened to strike the enemy wherever it is.”
The PFLP has been subject to EU and UK financial sanctions since 2001, as part of international efforts to prevent terrorist financing.
Khaled has not been able to enter the UK since being denied a visa in 2004. Consequently last summer, when the Socialist Workers Party invited Khaled to speak at their Marxism 2012 festival, she had to do so via Skype. The Marxism 2012 programme describes Khaled as an “incredible freedom fighter” and notes her ban from the UK (p.6).
The SWP have made an audio recording of her talk available online so we can hear what Khaled told her adoring fans amongst the membership of the Trotskyist groupuscule, and it appears that her appetite for violence is undimmed.
At 48:12 she is asked by Muhammad from Gaza “what do you think the role of armed struggle can play nowadays in the context of Israel and Palestine? Do you think that Palestinians can again use armed struggle as a means of ending the Israeli occupation?” Khaled replies:
During my studies and to my knowledge, I didn’t know any people has liberated themselves either from colonisation or from other kinds of oppression except by a revolution and armed struggle (applause). And history taught us that when oppression and injustice is the law, then resistance is the [unclear] and it is our [unclear]. With occupation like the Zionist occupation of Palestine, nothing can end this conflict except by revolution and armed struggle. On the other side I understand that peaceful measures or peaceful movements are important but they are not the mainstream. The mainstream between the occupants and those who are occupied is armed struggle. Israel is occupying us with force, with arms, and occupation is terrorism. To end terrorism you have to use revolutionary violence. And revolutionary violence means arms (applause).
She is later asked (at 59:49) by an unnamed British audience member “as a radical progressive revolutionary and as a woman, what your view is of Hamas and Hizbollah?” Khaled replies:
The components of a society is a big diversity and this diversity of the components brings up the representatives of such diversity. But what for me – it’s not now in our situation it is not he issue of ideology, it is the issue of resisting occupation. As long any party, whether it has a different ideology than mind but is resisting this occupation then we are in the stage of liberation which means that all proponents of different ideologies can have a national front to face the enemy, whoever it is. So as long as Hizbollah or Hamas or whoever has the Islamist roots are looking for the liberation as a goal of the people then we are in the same trench. Why when they come to power and they want to Islamise, for example, the society then this is a big contradiction and we will oppose it. But as long as the goal is to liberate the country and using arms and resisting, then it’s OK with me (applause). Hizbollah defeated Israel in 2006 (applause).
Hamas and Hizbollah, like the PFLP before them, make no distinction between civilians and military targets when conducting their “armed struggle”. Hizbollah, like the PFLP, have a record of attacking Jewish targets around the world. The military wings of both organisations are proscribed terrorist groups in the UK.
This is the context for Khaled’s comments to a British audience supporting Hamas and Hizbollah “using arms and resisting” , and her view that “nothing can end this conflict except by revolution and armed struggle”.
It is also the context for the applause her comments receive from the audience.
And finally, it is the context for the disgust with which many British Jews will view the SWP’s endorsement of terrorist violence.