Books

The first book that many people might be interested in is Leila Khaled’s autobiography, My People Shall Live, ‘as told to’ Lebanese academic George Hajjar. This was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton in 1973, and therefore only covers the first 25 years or so of Khaled’s life, but offers insights into her motivation to become politically active, as well as the experiences of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon in the first fifteen years after the Nakba. The book is long out of print and second hand copies are generally very expensive, but scans (of varying accuracy) are available from various places on the web, including:
OnePalestine.org (html page) here
And here’s the PDF, originally (I think) from the SocialistStories site, which has since taken it down here.

Khaled was also interviewed in the late 1980s, when she still lived in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, by journalist Eileen MacDonald. This formed the basis of a chapter in MacDonald’s 1992 book Shoot the Women First, on female terrorists and fighters. During the research for my own biography of Leila Khaled, she informed me that she had not been allowed to see MacDonald’s chapter on her before it was published, and that she felt that it did not always quote her correctly.

US feminist Robin Morgan devoted a chapter to Leila Khaled and another to women and their relationship to the 1970s/80s Palestinian resistance in her volume on women and military violence, The Demon Lover: On the Sexuality of Terrorism. This isn’t at all sympathetic to Khaled – Morgan sees most women engaged in nationalist armed struggle as traitors to their gender or dupes of male leaders – but it is an interesting (if sometimes frustrating) discussion. The 1989 book was re-released in 2001 in the wake of 9/11.

In November 1970 then ITN journalist Peter Snow – now well-known to the British public for his election night ‘swingometer’ – managed to crank out a short book in just a few weeks, giving a chronology of the autumn’s major hijackings by the PFLP, including the failed attempt by Khaled and Patrick Arguello to hijack an El Al flight from Amsterdam. ‘Leila’s Hijack War,‘ again long out of print, is tabloidy in its approach but includes interesting interview material with passengers from the hijacked planes, some of who found themselves in the middle of a civil war between Palestinian guerrillas and the Jordanian Hashemite monarchy.

David Raab, a Zionist American-Israeli, was a 17 year old passenger on one of the flights hijacked by the PFLP in 1970. His 2007 book Terror In Black September is, perhaps understandably, deeply unsympathetic to the PFLP and has some factual inaccuracies, but gives an interesting insight into the experiences of the hostages.

In 1970 Bassam Abu-Sharif was a senior PFLP spokesman and one of the main figures at Dawson’s Field. He later left the PFLP and worked alongside Yasser Arafat to instigate various ‘peace’ negotiations, but his 1995 autobiography, Tried By Fire, includes interesting descriptions of daily life for PFLP operatives – including Leila Khaled – in Beirut in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Somewhat geeky in tone, Stanley Stewart’s Emergency: Crisis on the Flight Deck, is a collection of accounts of non-fatal serious air incidents – including the tale of the two hijackers who were supposed to accompany Leila Khaled and Patrick Arguello on their ill-fated 1970 El Al hijacking, and who, having been denied boarding, snatched a Pan Am jumbo jet instead. A blow-by-blow account, with technical detail!

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