Leila Khaled is a famous female Palestinian freedom fighter born in the city of Haifa 1944. She and her family had fled to Lebanon during the time period of the 1948 because Palestine was being attacked by Israel, expelling the Palestinians from their homes. However Khaled’s father remained in Haifa to fight the Arab-Israel war trying to get his home back. A year before this event Israel started to take over the Palestinian land bit by bit, until now Israel has taken over majority of the land leaving very little of what was initially Palestine. In fact Palestine in this day and age is no longer a state. It is officially referred to as the West Bank.
The war with the Israelis and how they had forced Leila Khaled and her people out of their country created rage and anger within her of course who would not feel in this way. This made Leila join the Arab Nationalist Movement an organisation uniting the Arab countries together.
Khaled was extremely eager to return to her hometown of Haifa. The president of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser stated if Israel threatens Palestine then Egypt is ready for war against Israel. This raised Khaled’s hope of returning to her motherland. Little did she know on June 5th Israeli fighter planes struck the Egyptian air force whilst it was on ground demolishing everything. The promise of the president meant absolutely nothing this is where she realised is something was going to be done she had to do it herself. Bravery seemed to be embedded in her whole family, her father was fighting in Palestine, her older brother was heavily associated with the Arab National Movement and now she is planning to do something which no woman had ever though of doing to get her country back.
In 1969 Khaled was part of a cluster called ‘The Hijackings’ where they skyjacked a plane (TWA Flight840) which was intended to fly from Leonardo Da Vinci International airport in Rome, Italy to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Highjack of TWA Flight 840 is what made the world notice Leila Khaled.
Khaled is the first ever woman to Hijack a plane in history strapped with 4 grenades around her waist and a pistol gun she boarded the plane. This is what has made her become an Idol for the Palestinian people. The hijacked plane eventually landed at Damascus Airport, Syria. Khaled instructed the pilot to fly over Haifa so she could see her beloved hometown. She had intimidated them with a hand grenade and removed the pin to show it was not a replica, and if the pilot did not cooperate the plane would be blown up. The main reason this flight had been hijacked is because the Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yitzhak Rabin was supposed to be on board but was not. Leila wanted to bring this assassin who is responsible for many deaths of Arab women and children to a friendly Arab city to conduct a fair trial. Khaled and her companion were detained by the Syrian police and three weeks later released. Although they did not achieve their mission, the hijacking still became a success. Khaled and the Palestinians became world famous because foreign reporters start reporting on the situation on the Middle East.
How is it that a woman carried out such a dangerous activity, which is usually conducted by men? Leila Khaled at that time was a very attractive young women no doubt about it, how come she displayed masculinity in her character with these act. According to Simone de Beauvior the French philosopher, she claims “one is not born a woman, one becomes one” meaning gender is socially constructed. From this we can understand why Leila Khaled was presenting a masculine personality this is due to her association with the Arab Nationalist Movement that is chiefly formed with Palestinian men fighting for the country.
In the earlier days in 20th century people used to form movements based upon social class conflicting with each other for rights and other things as Alain Touraine explains in his book The Self Production of Society 1977 and in this day and age it differs from the past because modern movements are mainly founded for civil war as in the case of Leila Khaled and the Palestinian movement.
Below is a picture of the brave Leila Khaled painted on the Jerusalem on the Palestinian side.
Writen by: Jay Alom