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Leila Khaled

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Leila Khaled
ليلى خالد
Leila Khaled (cropped).jpg
Khaled at the Beirut International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples, and Alternatives, 2009
Born (1944-04-09) April 9, 1944 (age 78)
OrganizationPopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Known forPro Palestinian militancy
MovementArab Nationalist Movement

Leila Khaled (Arabic: ليلى خالد, Arabic pronunciation: [ˈlajla ˈxaːled] born April 9, 1944) is a Palestinian refugee[1] and member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Khaled came to public attention for her role in the TWA Flight 840 hijacking in 1969 and one of the four simultaneous Dawson's Field hijackings the following year as part of the campaign of Black September in Jordan. The first woman to hijack an airplane,[2] she was later released in a prisoner exchange for civilian hostages kidnapped by other PFLP members.[3][4]

Early life

Khaled was born in Haifa, Mandatory Palestine, to Arab parents.[5] Her family fled to Lebanon on 13 April 1948 as part of the 1948 Palestinian exodus,[5] leaving her father behind. At the age of 15, following in the footsteps of her brother, she joined the pan-Arab[6] Arab Nationalist Movement, originally established in the late-1940s by George Habash, then a medical student at the American University of Beirut.[7] The Palestinian branch of this movement became the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after the 1967 Six-Day War.

Khaled spent some time teaching in Kuwait and, in her autobiography, recounted crying the day she heard that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.[8]

The hijackings

Khaled in Damascus after her release from the United Kingdom in 1970

TWA Flight 840 (1969)

On August 29, 1969, Khaled was part of a team that hijacked TWA Flight 840 on its way from Rome to Tel Aviv, diverting the Boeing 707 to Damascus. According to some media sources,[3] the PFLP leadership thought that Yitzhak Rabin, then Israeli ambassador to the United States, would be on board; he was not. She claims she ordered the pilot to fly over Haifa, so she could see her birthplace.[9] No one was injured, but after the passengers disembarked, the hijackers blew up the nose section of the aircraft. After this hijacking, and a photograph of her (taken by Eddie Adams) holding an AK-47 rifle and wearing a kaffiyeh was reproduced in many publications, she underwent six plastic surgery operations on her nose and chin to conceal her identity and allow her to take part in a future hijacking, and because she did not want to wear the face of an icon.[10][11]

El Al Flight 219 (1970)

On September 6, 1970, Khaled and Patrick Argüello, a Nicaraguan–American, attempted to hijack El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York City as part of the Dawson's Field hijackings, a series of almost simultaneous hijackings carried out by the PFLP. The attack was foiled when Israeli skymarshals killed Argüello before eventually overpowering Khaled. Although she was carrying two hand grenades at the time, Khaled said she had received very strict instructions not to threaten passengers on the civilian flight. However, while being overpowered, she withdrew the safety pin from one of the grenades and rolled it down the aisle towards the economy class passengers; miraculously it did not explode and thus cause general de-pressurisation and the probable crash of the plane.[9] Argüello had shot Vider, a member of the flight crew, twice, and the pilot Uri Bar-Lev therefore refused orders to return to Tel Aviv in order to bring Khaled to justice.[12]

The pilot diverted the aircraft to Heathrow Airport in London, where the two skymarshals were smuggled on the tarmac to another El Al aircraft waiting for takeoff to Tel Aviv. Vider was rushed to hospital with minutes to live and Khaled was delivered to Ealing police station. On October 1, the British government released her in exchange for hostages taken in a further hijacking.[13]

Later life

Khaled in Sweden in 2011

Khaled has stated in interviews that she developed a fondness for the United Kingdom when her first visitor in jail, an immigration officer, wanted to know why she had arrived in the country without a valid visa. She also developed a relationship with the two policewomen assigned to guard her in Ealing and later corresponded with them. Khaled continued to return to the UK for speaking engagements until as late as 2002, although she was refused a visa by the British embassy in 2005 to address a meeting at the Féile an Phobail in Belfast, where she was invited as a speaker. Eventually she managed to speak to people at the Belfast Féile through a video link.[14]

According to Khaled, there is not an Arab-Israeli "peace process. It's a political process where the balance of forces is for the Israelis and not for us. They have all the cards to play with and the Palestinians have nothing to depend on, especially when the PLO is not united."[7] Khaled also supports the Kurdish political movement surrounding the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and drew attention to the similar fate of the Palestinian and the Kurdish people[15][16] She has become involved in politics, becoming a member of the Palestinian National Council and appearing regularly at the World Social Forum.[17][18][19][20]

She is married to the physician Fayez Rashid, and lives with their two sons Bader and Bashar in Amman, Jordan.[21] She is irreligious.[22]

She was the subject of a film entitled Leila Khaled, Hijacker,[23] directed by Palestinian filmmaker Lina Makboul, premiered in November 2005 at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.[24]

In 2011, Khaled went on a speaking tour in Sweden, including speeches at May Day demonstrations of the Communist Party and the Central Organisation of the Workers of Sweden, a public art gallery, Södertörn University College and a seminar arranged by the Left Party.[4]

In November 2017, Khaled was refused entry to Rome, Italy at the Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, and was forced to return to Amman, Jordan as she is a member of a group considered a terrorist organization by the Italian government.[25]

In mid September 2020, Khaled was scheduled to speak at a virtual Zoom conference at San Francisco State University hosted by Rabab Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa. Following lobbying by the Jewish coalition group "End Jewish Hatred," Zoom Video Communications along with YouTube and Facebook, prevented the conference from using their video conferencing software and platforms, citing compliance with U.S. export control, sanctions, and anti-terrorism laws.[26][27][28]

In popular culture

Khaled graffiti on the Israeli West Bank barrier near Bethlehem
  • She was the subject of an artwork portrait made entirely out of lipsticks, "The Icon", created by artist Amer Shomali using 14 colors, and 3,500 lipsticks.[29]
  • The song Like Leila Khaled Said from The Teardrop Explodes' 1981 album Wilder is a love song to Khaled. Songwriter Julian Cope said it was a love song to her "cos I thought she was so beautiful. But I know that the whole thing was like bad news."[30]
  • The second CD of Julian Cope's 2012 album Psychedelic Revolution is named "Phase of Leila Khaled". The first CD is named "'Phase of Che Guevara". The album's lyrics contain several references to political demonstrations, terrorism and suicide bombers. The accompanying booklet also contains a photo of Leila Khaled.
  • As of 2018, she is commemorated in a mural at the International Wall on the Falls Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The mural is based upon the photograph of her by Eddie Adams, holding an AK-47 and with the Palestine flag behind her. Her image along with an image of Irish Republican, Oglach Charlie Hughes says "Our Struggle continues".
  • The name of Sandton Drive in Johannesburg, South Africa was controversially changed to Leila Khaled Drive by vote of the city council on the 29 November 2018.[31] The American consulate in Johannesburg is located on the street.[32]
    Image of Leila Khaled on International Wall in the Falls Road neighborhood, West Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • The 10th song of the album Friværdi, released on 26 September 2005 by the Danish rock band Magtens Korridorer, is entitled "Leila Khaled".[33]
  • Writer Chris Boucher has said that he named the character of savage warrior Leela from Doctor Who after Khaled.[34]
  • Khaled is mentioned by Fun-da-mental in "Mother India", on the Love India CD (2010) widely distributed in the United States by Starbucks.[35]
  • The album Olive no Ki no Shita de, released in 2007 by the Japanese rock singer Panta, features a song entitled "Leila's Ballade". This song's lyrics were written by former Japanese Red Army member Fusako Shigenobu and her daughter Mei Shigenobu.[36] In 2012, Khaled was invited to a ceremony for the 40th anniversary of the Lod Airport massacre by a Japanese far-left group in Kyoto,[37] at which Panta performed the song in front of Khaled.[38]
  • Leila Khaled: Hijacker is a 2006 documentary about Leila Khaled by Swedish-Palestinian filmmaker Lina Makboul.[39]


  1. ^ "'I Had to Be the Voice of Women': The First Female Hijacker Shares Her Story". VICE. August 29, 1969. Archived from the original on September 28, 2020. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  2. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/news/1.635856 Archived 2016-02-17 at the Wayback Machine "Notorious Palestinian Plane Hijacker to Promote BDS in South Africa"
  3. ^ a b MacDonald, Eileen (1991). "Leila Khaled". Shoot the Women First. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-679-41596-3.
  4. ^ a b Cooper, Abraham; Schatz, Daniel (2011-03-11). "Something rotten in Sweden - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews". Ynetnews. Ynetnews.com. Archived from the original on 2014-12-30. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
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  6. ^ "Jordan Times". Jordan Times. Archived from the original on 2015-11-25. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  7. ^ a b "Leila Khaled: in her own words". Aviation Security International. Archived from the original on August 27, 2008.
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  9. ^ a b "I made the ring from a bullet and the pin of a hand grenade". Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2007-06-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), The Guardian, January 26, 2001
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  11. ^ "I made the ring from a bullet and the pin of a hand grenade". The Guardian. London. 2001-01-26. Archived from the original on 2020-11-28. Retrieved 2016-12-17.
  12. ^ Public Broadcasting Service, Hijacked website, "Flight crews and security". PBS. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-03-11.
  13. ^ UK National Archives, Government papers, "Hijack Story" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2015-01-22.
  14. ^ "News". An Phoblacht. 2015-10-01. Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  15. ^ "Iconic liberation activist at HDP congress: Long live Palestine, long live Kurdistan!". www.duvarenglish.com. 24 February 2020. Archived from the original on 2020-06-08. Retrieved 2020-06-08.
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  17. ^ "Past IPSC Events". Archived from the original on 2012-09-11.
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  19. ^ "Página inicial" (in Portuguese). Forumsocialmundial.org.br. Archived from the original on 2007-06-09. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  20. ^ "PNN | Palestine News Network". 2015-10-24. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  21. ^ "Interview by Sana Abdallah". Archived from the original on 2006-09-03. Retrieved 2006-09-03.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link), United Press International, July 21, 2003
  22. ^ "Interview with Leila Khaled: 'BDS is effective, but it doesn't liberate land' | +972 Magazine". 972mag.com. 17 May 2014. Archived from the original on 2016-03-12. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  23. ^ Murphy, Maureen Clare (2007-04-09). "Violence or nonviolence? Two documentaries reviewed". Electronic Intifada. Archived from the original on 2007-09-11. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  24. ^ "Hijacker". Leila Khaled. Archived from the original on 2016-01-15. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  25. ^ "Leila Khaled respinta a Fiumicino". Il Giornarle D'Italia. 29 November 2017. Archived from the original on 29 November 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  26. ^ Flaherty, Colleen (27 September 2020). "Zoom Draws a Line". Inside Higher Ed. Archived from the original on 27 September 2020. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  27. ^ Greschler, Gabriel (22 September 2020). "Zoom will not host S.F. State event featuring Leila Khaled". J. The Jewish News of Northern California. Archived from the original on 25 September 2020. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  28. ^ Osman, Nadda (24 September 2020). "Zoom criticised for cancelling webinar with Palestinian activist Leila Khaled". Middle East Eye. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  29. ^ "Leila Khaled Portrait Made of 3,500 Lipsticks | Oddity Central – Collecting Oddities". Oddity Central. 2012-03-21. Archived from the original on 2014-02-20. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  30. ^ "Wilder - The Teardrop Explodes". Archived from the original on July 16, 2004.
  31. ^ Mabotja, Kgopi (1 December 2018). "Fight over renaming of Sandton Drive after Palestinian Leila Khaled | Saturday Star". www.iol.co.za. Archived from the original on 2018-12-09. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  32. ^ Sackstein, Howard (6 December 2018). "The American Consulate at 1 Leila Khaled Drive?". Politicsweb. Archived from the original on 2018-12-09. Retrieved 2018-12-09.
  33. ^ "iTunes - Everything you need to be entertained". Apple. Archived from the original on 2017-09-22. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  34. ^ Commentary track (07m09s) on original DVD release (2000) of Doctor Who's The Robots of Death
  35. ^ Tony Mitchell (2001). Global Noise: Rap and Hip Hop Outside the USA. Wesleyan University Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780819565020. Retrieved 2015-10-29. leila khaled fun -da-mental.
  36. ^ "ライラのバラード(英訳詩朗読)/PANTA-響 - 旗旗" [Lyra's Ballad (English translation poetry reading) / PANTA-Hibiki-Flag] (in Japanese). Bund.jp. Archived from the original on 2014-08-11. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  37. ^ "(明大)中東フォーラム2012―アラブ民衆蜂起とパレスチナ解放【ライラ・ハリドさん来日】 - 旗旗" [(Meidai) Middle East Forum 2012-Arab People's Uprising and Palestine Liberation [Leila Khaled Visits Japan] - Flag Flag] (in Japanese). Bund.jp. Archived from the original on 2014-08-11. Retrieved 2014-08-01.
  38. ^ "リッダ闘争40周年 ライラハリドさん来日 パレスチナ連帯京都WeekEnd 23 - 旗旗" [40th Anniversary of the Ridda Struggle Laila Khalid Visits Japan Palestinian Solidarity Kyoto WeekEnd 23 --Flag Flag] (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2013-04-13. Retrieved 2013-03-11.
  39. ^ Makboul, Lina (2006-01-28), Leila Khaled: Hijacker (Documentary), Uri Bar Lev, Moshe Dayan, Shadia Abu Ghazali, Margareta Johnson, First Hand Films, Sveriges Television (SVT), Tussilago, archived from the original on 2020-10-18, retrieved 2021-02-21


Further reading