I am Laila Khalid, a Palestinian refugee for 75 years and a member of the Central Committee of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, currently residing in Jordan (Oman). These are my introductory words, shared in a recent interview following the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel by Hamas and the subsequent Israeli counter-attack.
During the interview, I emphasized that the Israeli attacks, purportedly targeting Hamas, affect innocent civilians, including children and women. I referred to it as genocide and dismissed the Israeli minister's claim that "Gaza will become smaller after this war." According to me, the global support for the Palestinian cause signifies that Gaza's resilience extends worldwide, despite the challenges faced by our people.
I am renowned for my role in hijacking two Israeli planes in 1969 and 1970, demanding the independence of Palestine. These actions marked a turning point, drawing global attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Born on April 9, 1944, in Haifa, Palestine, my childhood was marked by insecurity and fear due to conflicts between different groups, British forces, and the Zanis military.
In 1948, at the age of four, I, along with my mother and siblings, moved to South Lebanon due to escalating violence in Haifa. The memory of arriving at my maternal uncle's house and being told not to touch the oranges because "your oranges are in Palestine" has stayed with me, instilling a deep sense of longing for my homeland.
Palestine's transformation into Israel displaced many, creating refugees who sought shelter in neighboring countries. The promise of a homeland for Jews led to the displacement of existing inhabitants, and the plight of Palestinian refugees persists to this day.
The Arab-Israeli war in 1967 further complicated the situation, with Israel occupying territories. In 1959, I joined the Arab Nationalist Union, following my elder brother's footsteps. Despite facing financial challenges, I briefly attended the American University of Beirut in 1963 before working as an English teacher in Kuwait. In 1969, I joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and underwent military training in Jordan.
My first major mission involved hijacking a plane in 1969 to draw attention to Palestinian prisoners and the broader issue. Despite facing criticism, the operation successfully shed light on the Palestinian cause. In 1970, a second mission to hijack a plane from Germany to New York faced challenges, resulting in the death of my comrade, Patrick Argiola. The failed attempt, however, contributed to raising global awareness.
Facing media scrutiny, I challenged stereotypes of Arab women, emphasizing the equality of men and women in the fight for freedom. Despite accusations of terrorism, I asserted that resisting occupation was the true fight for justice.
Now, at 79, I continue my political activism, advocating for Palestinian women's rights and playing a leadership role. My life story has been documented in various forms, including a biography titled "My People Shall" and a documentary called "Laila Khalid Hijacker." Married to Dr. Fayaz Rashid with two sons, my family resides in Oman, where I remain committed to the ongoing struggle for Palestinian rights.
(In preparation for this article, internet articles, YouTube and documentaries have been used.)
I want to just say, "Thank you," if you are still reading so... Thank you. I know this is kind of rambling at this point. It means a lot if you are willing to read this and maybe even some of my other pieces, especially the ones that I ended up linking in this piece. I want to add an even bigger thank you to some of my friends that write on Vocal and read (and sometimes heart) my pieces. It means so much to me.
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