Wednesday, 16 March 2011
YOUNG YEMENI-ENGLISH SISTER SPEAKS ON LEILA KHALED
Speech by Alaa Hambala, at the 'Women United in the Intifada' event*
Mon 14 March 2011, Ladbroke Grove, West London
[youtube footage of the whole event coming soon, keep posted to Sons of Malcolm in the coming days]
When I was offered the opportunity to speak at this event by Sukant I instantly asked the question well what exactly do I speak about? Having very little knowledge about women’s role in the Palestinian struggle made it challenging for me to connect with the topic in question. It was then proposed that if I wanted to familiarise myself with women’s role in the Intifada I would have to do some research on a lady called Leila Khaled.
I have now come to realise that this woman is the epitome of what it means s to be a woman involved in the Palestinian struggle. As a young Arab female I connected with this woman on so many levels when I read her biography. But before I tell you what I learnt let me give you a brief outline on this extraordinary woman’s life.
Leila was born in Haifa in 1944. Her and her family fled to Lebanon as a result of the British mandate which declared that Palestine should be the “national home of the Jewish people”. Having left her homeland at the tender age 15, she knew what it was like to feel like an outsider in a land which she did not know. This alienation instilled in her a powerful will to return to the land of her childhood where her Palestinian forefathers lived in peace amongst one another regardless of religious differences. She knew that Zionist ideology would never allow for this instance to happen which spurred on her interest in joining the PFLP (popular front for the liberation of Palestine) an organisation which is recognised amongst many to be an essential part of the intifada due to its use of strategic direct action in the 60’s and 70’s.
Leila grabbed international headlines after participating in several aircraft hijackings during this time period. She is now considered to be the face of women’s struggle in Palestine and till this very day she proceeds to fight for her people’s right to return to their country through the means diplomacy.
What struck me about this woman is that she broke cultural barriers down which often saw men as the only ones capable of fighting. She refused to let the fact that she was a woman affect her utmost desire to defeat the aggressor. She strikes me as an outspoken powerful character that would lay down her life for her cause. Looking at the way the western media presents women across the Middle East we can see that women are represented as feeble passive creatures. Leila is a prime example of how to overcome the label which the west places on us and not only that but to challenge this ideology by all means necessary.
I’ll end this with a few thought provoking words from Leila khaled herself:
“Through our war of liberation we shall acquire political awareness of the facts of this age, and we shall throw aside delusions and learn the values of facts… through the war of liberation..will come the realisation of the value of time, organisation, accuracy, objective thinking and importance of collective action… and knowledge of the value of the human being; the freeing of women…from the bondage of decadent habits and customs. Our long-term national war of liberation implies our fusion in a new way of life and our starting point on the road of progress and civilisation.”
* Women United in the Intifada is the third of a series of events initiated by Sons of Malcolm and friends which salutes the 10th anniversary of the eruption of the Second/Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000.
The first in this series was on October 2nd with 300 people in attendance discussing Solidarity and Internationalism with the strategic approach of 'we will not liberate Palestine, Palestine is liberating us'. The second in the series was on November 6 at the Venezuelan Embassy entitled 'Outbreak of the Intifada: Turning back the Empire', which explored how the Intifada was the first big offensive which has led to the on-going demise of empire. This meeting received a a lot of opposition from the zionists in their press as this event represented the growing unity of anti-imperialist and Third Worldist forces in the midst of the empire: London. Despite the protests of the zionists, the meeting was a great success with 100 people in attendance.
This third event, which is jointly organised by a network of media and cultural activists (including Team Fight The Oppression (Team FTO), Lizzie's Liberation, Straight Talk, Beat Knowledge and other individuals and groups) entitled Women United in the Intifada, seeks to learn, explore and give full respect to all the female strugglers and martyrs in the Intifada. The main approach to this question is stressing that unity is paramount between those from different political factions, traditions and outlooks; that the Intifada showed Palestinian women and girls united, and that unity was one of the primary strengths of the Intifada.