Who’s afraid of Leila Khaled? (and why she should be allowed to speak in Australia)

March 13, 2024
Nasser Mashni
Nasser Mashni, president of Australia Palestine Advocacy Network. Photo: Peter Boyle

Zionist organisations and right-wing media are campaigning to silence Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled from addressing events here and overseas.

Labor said Khaled would be denied a visa and now there is a push to prevent her from even addressing the Ecosocialism 2024 conference in June by video link. The conference is being organised by Green Left and Socialist Alliance.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Khaled’s video presentation at a Palestine solidarity function in Birmingham, England, had to be abandoned following threats from Zionist groups and local authorities.

Meta took down the GL Facebook page on March 11 after two short videos, taken from one of our recent interviews with Khaled, had been published.

The excuse for such political censorship is, as the Executive Council of Australian Jewry alleged in its letter to the government, allowing Khaled to speak “would be likely to have the effect of inciting, promoting or advocating terrorism”.

This is nonsense. Khaled has visited Britain on multiple occasions over the last few years. Israel gave her a visa to visit the West Bank in 1996. She has also visited Sweden and South Africa and, on one of her multiple visits, met Nelson Mandela.

Mandela, once also labelled a “terrorist” by the West, welcomed her warmly.

Khaled told GL the real reason for the censorship is to “make us shut up about what Israel is doing in Gaza and the West Bank today”.

Nasser Mashni, Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) president, said the group supports Khaled’s participation at Ecosocialism 2024. He said with “plausible genocide in Gaza, it is essential to hear the voices of important historical figures.

He said the “well-organised opposition to Khaled being allowed to speak” is based on acts which took place more than 50 years ago.

“Khaled was the face of the Palestinian rebellion in the 1960s, when she led the hijacking of two aircraft to protest the withholding of Palestinian rights to self-determination.” No passengers or crew died during either of the hijacks in which Khaled was involved.

He said requests to deny Khaled a visa “reflect rank hypocrisy”.

“Israel’s record of disproportionate violence against Palestinians dwarfs any damage done by young Leila Khaled’s protest in the 1960s.”

Mashni said Israel has “inflicted far greater suffering daily in Gaza and, weekly, in the West Bank since then, let alone its annihilation of Gaza during the past five months”.

It was also hypocritical for Labor to grant a visa to former Israeli Defense Forces general Doron Almog, accused of war crimes, for a speaking tour raising funds for the United Israel Appeal.

Almog is alleged to have been involved in the murder of Palestinian civilians, including three boys and a pregnant woman, and the razing of 59 homes in Rafah and narrowly evaded arrest in the UK for his crimes.

“Denying Khaled’s visa is yet another example of anti-Palestinian racism and the suppression of the Palestinian story; we must stand up against racist pressure to silence Palestinian voices,” Mashni said.

Jews Against the Occupation ’48 also condemned the campaign to stop Khaled speaking. “It is another attack on the right of Palestinians to tell their story.”

Veteran journalist, academic and writer Jake Lynch said: “We should be listening to [Khaled’s] insights as Australians wake up to the extent of complicity by our own government in genocide, ethnic cleansing and apartheid.”

Stuart Rees, Professor Emeritus at the University of Sydney, co-founder of its Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and founder of the Sydney Peace Foundation also supports Khaled’s right to speak.

“I have just examined and published Israel’s record as a terrorist state, beginning in 1948 with the slaughter by terrorist gangs … The leaders of those terrorist gangs, Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin, became prime ministers of Israel.

“The violence perpetrated by their regimes and by subsequent Israeli governments dwarfs the violence which the young Leila Khaled, in the 1960s, conducted for the freedom of her people.”

Suzanne Berliner Weiss, activist, author of Holocaust to Resistance: My Journey said she was proud to support Khaled’s right to speak.

As a “survivor of the Jewish Holocaust carried out by the German Nazis” she said she was “saved by the solidarity of many individuals and a whole community who protected Jews and others marked down for death.

“The world’s peoples did not know of the mass murder being committed, although their governments knew, were silent and thus complicit.

“Another crime was initiated in 1947 with the Nakba, the catastrophe, when the Israeli government with military might, expelled over 750,000 indigenous Palestinians from their homeland.

“This crime continues to this day in the name of the Jewish people — without their consent.

“The world’s peoples did not know the extent of the Palestinian misery, but were rudely awakened in 1969 by the courageous Leila Khaled. She demanded freedom, dignity, equality, and peace for the oppressed Palestinians.”

[Statements in support of Leila Khaled's right to speak can be read here.]

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