Palestinian resistance icon, Leila Khaled, spoke to red. media and shared her thoughts on why, an Intifada has already begun inside occupied Palestine. She speaks to the importance of the changing international power dynamics, the core issues of the Palestinian struggle, and why armed resistance has returned to the occupied West Bank.
Leila Khaled was a prominent figure in the history of the Palestinian struggle, an icon who fought under the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (P.F.L.P.) banner. She and her family were displaced from their home in Haifa, when she was only four years old, during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, making her a survivor of what is known in Arabic as the Nakba (catastrophe).
Do you see a shift in regional power dynamics?
You know, our people initiated the first Intifada and they used stones because they didn’t have anything else to use. The whole world heard us and began to ask the question, why? And they came to visit, to see the facts of this struggle. Some of them said, those who came from South Africa, that Apartheid in South Africa was less fascist than the Apartheid that they saw in Israel. At the same time, I think the world is changing now due to the Ukraine issue. Russia, China, India, and Latin America are turning the tide against the United States and its European supporters. The issue of a people who are occupied by another. How can they accept the longest colonization in the 20th century? Particularly now we are in the 21st century.
We offered a solution, to build a democratic State, under the condition that the refugees go back, according to UN resolution 194, this is our right to depend on. But the world now particularly the West, isn’t interested. This is because the United States is afraid of what’s happening on the other side of the world.
The Western media are controlled by a murderous Empire. It’s a strong media, they just hide the facts of what’s going on in this region, especially in Palestine.
After the Second World War, there were changes. The two blocs were the capitalists in the United States and the West, and on the other side, the Soviet Union. Now with this war, it’s like a third World war. So, there will be changes in the world and we think that we can get some benefit out of it, because injustice cannot prevail.
Do you think another Intifada is likely to occur in the near future?
You know, this is now an Intifada, but in a different way. People have the means that give them the strength to continue, and now this is an Intifada. There are [armed] groups here, groups there, and they are coordinating between them among themselves the cities. The first one was in Jenin, and the massacres are going on in Jenin. Now there is also another group in Nablus, the Areen al-Asoud, or the Lion’s Den. This has become a new way to raise our voices and to face Israel. Now there are groups in different cities and the Israelis are unhappy with it.
I mean, look what happened to the prisoners in the jails. They are attacking them with gas bombs.
And they don’t have anything to fight with. Now there are more than 5,000 prisoners, and every day it increases, the numbers in military prisons. So, the prisoners, when they are attacked all the time by the jailers, go on a hunger strike. And this will affect the image of Israel in the world. And this is also the start of an Intifada, in prisons as well.
How important is the question of Land and the legacy of 1948 to the current escalation inside Occupied Palestine?
The core issue of the Palestinian question is the land, and who is sovereign over it. As well as the people and their return to Palestine. So we have Land Day, which is to declare, every year, that this land was stolen from us as Palestinians. The Israelis don’t want to acknowledge that they not only occupy but stole the land from Palestinians.
So now it’s narrative, who is saying the right narrative for this cause? First of all, about the uprisings, the different uprisings, and about 1967 when Israel occupied all of Palestine, including also the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Sinai from Egypt.
Still, Israel denies our rights to our land. We think that our right to return to Palestine is guaranteed by the United Nations Resolution 194, which was actually a condition for Israel to be recognized by the international community in the United Nations. To accept the return of the Palestinians who were kicked out of Palestine by force.
Throughout history, the mainstream means of struggle has been armed struggle.
Due to the balance of forces, after the Second World War, Israel was recognized by the United Nations, and it’s now a state and the refugees are still in exile. So, if we don’t deal with these core issues, we cannot speak about our narrative that we were kicked out of our land, which is the Palestinian land. Still, the refugees are looking forward to going back to it. All of us, all of the Palestinians are not allowed to go back, including myself and my family, who are not allowed to.
Let me tell you that the Zionists worked hard to get our land. We had uprisings before 1948 against Zionist immigration to Palestine. Our problem isn’t with Jews, we had Jews before in Palestine. They were Palestinians. This was before the occupation, before the attack against the Palestinians in 1948 that forced them out of their homes.
What is your perspective on the media’s representation of Palestinians?
The Western media are controlled by a murderous Empire. It’s a strong media, they just hide the facts of what’s going on in this region, especially in Palestine. Palestinians are considered enemies, not people living on their land. Whether in the Gaza Strip, West Bank or in 1948 occupied territories, they deal with us as their enemies. They deal with us as a demographic problem.
Even their way of describing the Palestinians. We are a bump. We are not a people. At the same time, all of those whom we saw in the media, in Tel Aviv, were demonstrating in their hundreds of thousands, you couldn’t’ find one who would say, let’s stop the occupation. You won’t find any of them that think this way. They are demonstrating about the judicial system changes, but they are all against us; their government and their culture, they are educated to always think of the Palestinians as a threat to Israel. Why? Who is killing people every day in Palestine? Every day they arrest people, demolish houses, and confiscate lands. Last month there were two meetings to discuss, in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh, lowering the level of violence. These were meetings between the Americans, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. What happened afterward in Hawara? It was under fire, and we heard a minister in this government Fascist Israeli government call on destroying Hawara completely.
How do you compare Israeli forces’ handling of anti-Netanyahu protesters to their treatment of Palestinian demonstrators?
The police were not given the order to shoot them, only to arrest them, yes, but never to shoot. This is even when they declared that some of the police were injured, but they wouldn’t’t shoot them. Of course, they shouldn’t. And even in Israel, they shouldn’t do that, because when people demonstrate about these issues, they have the right to do so. So, until now, I think what happened obliged Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, to change his mind, but he was maneuvering, he didn’t say, “I will stop the reforms”, he said to postpone it and he wants to gain from this, to make dialogue with different parties in Israel. So, to go back to the question, they deal with Palestinians as only a threat. While this thing happened, it was a real threat, but they faced it with a different means.
Why do you think the armed resistance in the West Bank has increased this year?
A Palestinian cannot go from one place to another except through checkpoints. Sometimes he is told that he cannot go to university as a student or to work or return home. Those young people, the younger generation, find that they go to university and can be arrested, then when they are released have to find work, even after they study, they often find that there’s no way. So, they go with the way of revolution in the world.
Throughout history, the mainstream means of struggle has been armed struggle. In Vietnam, what happened? The United States destroyed all of Vietnam, but they were steadfast. This is not a Palestinian invention, the armed struggle, it was everywhere in the world where people were occupied or controlled by oppressive governments. And people want to fight for their rights. So, you know, the Israelis may have burned many of our houses up until now, they control the people by checkpoints, and people cannot leave, cannot go out and come back to their homes. They are also harassing them in these places. In Jerusalem they are making hell. Life is hell there now, every day, arresting, attacking people at night while they are sleeping. They don’t allow them to go to the Mosque, especially during Ramadan. So, people don’t have anything to do except fight. This is the fundamental thing when you are attacked, you want to defend yourself. So, you defend yourself with any tools that can hurt the one who is attacking you.
In this case, the occupiers of Palestine, and their governments, since they were established have until now dealt with us as numbers. Just as the Nazis when they dealt with others, believing their race is pure, the Zionists deal with us like this and they believe that God had promised them the land, as if God has a real estate company. These ideas are used to make the people feel like they are pursuing a courageous path after they were killed in the Holocaust and so on. This is the story they use to educate the people in the West with also, and it is a narrative supported by the United States and the West in general. They claim they never want to see this racist killing again, but then, look at what happened when Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich called for the Israeli government to burn down the Palestinian town of Hawara. He said this in France. What was the French reaction? They only said they didn’t like it, but they didn’t deny the minister the chance to speak after he said that a small village should be burnt and erased from the earth. This is the way until now, that this injustice is still tolerated in different countries, and we have to go to our supporters, the progressive people because they feel our pain, our suffering. There is no other way to address this than to spread our message to them, because we cannot buy statements in our support. We cannot liberate one house in Jerusalem, or in Sheikh Jarrah, or in Gaza. We cannot accept this, because we are faced by reactionaries and fascists, the way they deal with us.
What makes this Israeli government different from previous ones?
All the governments were fascist, but this government is the most fascist. Even the Israelis, those who are against this government, say that it’s a threat. Many, many voices, many journalists, have spoken about the government as a threat to Israel. Before we were speaking about threats from the outside, now the test is from inside and before they were about to reach maybe a civil war, but whenever they have these problems they say, look, we have the Iranian threat, we have the Palestinian threat, we have Hezbollah, so they unite.
Do you think that this Israeli government has further expansion plans?
I think the Zionist project is not only for Palestine. Israeli finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, was in France. He had a big map with Jordan as a part of Israel, and the Jordanians were very angry about it, even the Parliament asked the government here to dismiss the Ambassador of Israel, but they didn’t do it. I think that the whole issue now is about who is going to win, we think that we don’t have any other choice except to fight for our rights to our country, for our lands, for our houses that they are now demolishing. And the Zionist project is designed to make Jerusalem a Jewish city to kick out the Palestinians. Like what happened when settlers came to take their houses in Sheikh Jarrah, and some of them were taken. Nobody in Israel said anything.
I think that throughout history, for great issues, they needed time to reach the goals of people’s struggles. This is why for generation after generation, we have been struggling. We didn’t stop. We never stop because we are under a terrorist regime and an apartheid regime. The word apartheid was never spoken before, but now it is mainstream. Now, some of the leaders of the governments of Israel, say it’s “our big mistake that we let some of the Arabs stay”. I think the only way is to face the fascist governments of Israel as they continue the oppression by attacking and confiscating land, as well as building more settlements.