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Posts Tagged ‘Leila Khaled

Documentary: How Western media covered Israel Gaza attack?

Only two English-language journalists, Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros, reported from Gaza as it suffered an all-out attack from Israel in late 2008 and early 2009. The War Around Us is a powerful new documentary through the eyes of these two reporters.

Sarah Irving, posted in The Electronic Intifada on 15 June 2012:

 In The War Around Us, reporter Sherine Tadros reflects on the roles and responsibilities of journalists during wartime. 

“Directed by Abdallah Omeish (Occupation 101), The War Around Us is 75 minutes long.

Tightly focused and intentionally restricted in its scope and aims, it follows in chronological order the course of the conflict, intercut with post facto interviews with Mohyeldin and Tadros.

At the time, both were reporting for Al Jazeera English. Mohyeldin was based in Gaza, but Tadros was there on an assignment to cover reactions to the election of US President Barack Obama.

With apparently free access to Al Jazeera footage of the attack, as well as images from the Palestinian news agency Ramattan, the film is extremely graphic and disturbing.

Scenes include that of a mother and her two dead children lying side-by-side on a hospital floor; another man screaming with grief as the body of his little girl flops on a blanket; young men lying in the courtyard of a police station hit by Israeli air strikes, each with one hand raised as they say the final prayers of the dying.

A victim of the horrific burns inflicted by illegal white phosphorous munitions (made in the US, fired by the Israeli military) lies in a hospital bed; huge pools of blood lie clotting on the steps of a school in Jabaliya refugee camp run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA).

Icy fury

Less graphic but equally devastating is the interview footage.

Rima, a beautiful and intensely dignified young mother, tells Tadros how her children no longer say they are afraid of dying — they just want to make sure that they die along with her so they’re not left alone.

John Ging, then a leading figure in UNRWA, speaks with icy fury as desperately needed food supplies burn behind him.

And 16-year-old Ahmad Samouni’s face writhes in pain: He is describing how he was lying for days surrounded by the bodies of his family, waiting for the Israeli army to allow ambulances to fetch him.

Many viewers think they are perhaps inured to the kind of violence we regularly see on YouTube and activist media.  Watching news media footage — where cameramen have often risked their lives to chase the most graphic images, and which has been edited and soundtracked for intensity and impact — for over an hour is hard to stomach, even now.

It is a relief that the film intercuts the material from the attack on Gaza with extended interviews with Mohyeldin and Tadros.

The two reporters reflect on the roles and responsibilities of journalists in such a situation, on their “anger” at finding that they were the only mainstream Western journalists reporting from inside Gaza, and on the personal impacts of covering such a horrific story.

“Where was the outrage?”

Mohyeldin, already a seasoned conflict reporter when he was posted to Gaza, is the more political one in his comments. He is patently furious at the Western media for their failure to adequately deliver to their audiences the truth of what he calls in the film “a story of great shame to humanity.”

American and British news channels “neglected the story and then had the audacity to question the only journalists on the ground … they tried to spin it in a way that would marginalize or diminish what was happening.” Mohyeldin went on to condemn the “silence of the international community. Where was the outrage?”

Tadros’s comments are more personal. A newcomer to frontline reporting, she is frank in saying that she will never put herself in that position again.

Hugely affected by the mothers and children she interviewed — in their homes and hospital beds — she recounts how, coming home to London after the attacks, she couldn’t hold her one-year-old nephew because she imagined blood seeping through his clothes. She also describes vividly the difficulty of facing death day after day, not from one’s own perspective, but from that of the family, thousands of miles away, who are powerless to help.

Tadros admits that during the attacks, Mohyeldin found her to be a “princess.”

But behind-the-scenes footage shows a drained, haggard woman working 19 hours a day, snatching sleep on an office floor, desperate to achieve her role of showing the human impacts of a conflict which much of world was seeing only from Western reports in southern Israel or the insidious lies of Mark Regev and Avital Leibovich, chief mouthpieces for the Israeli government and military.

Specific aim

Ayman Mohyeldin, in a question and answer session following a screening of the film in Amman, acknowledged criticism of the documentary for its focus on two mainstream journalists, rather than telling the story from a Palestinian perspective.

Although Mohyeldin has a Palestinian mother, he doesn’t labor this as a claim to authenticity. Instead, he insists that the film has a very specific aim — to speak to Western audiences, to use himself and Tadros, two Western journalists of Arab origin, as a bridge to the sympathies of Western viewers, and to “make people question their own media for not telling [the truth about the attacks].”

Ultimately, The War Around Us is a damning critique — from within the industry — of the Western media’s reporting of Palestine, as well as a powerful tool in the hands of Palestine solidarity campaigners.

There is no way to walk away from this film not feeling angry and deeply distressed, but also with a visceral and fundamental grasp on the depth of Israel’s denial of the Palestinian right not only to life and liberty but, in Ayman Mohyeldin’s words, “of the right to aspire.”

Apparently, Israel started the genocide after it managed to “coax” all Gaza-based foreign correspondents to vacate the region…

For details of future screenings of The War Around Us, see http://thewararoundus.com.

Sarah Irving is a freelance writer. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06.

Sarah is the author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine and co-author, with Sharyn Lock, of Gaza: Beneath the Bombs.

“Heading to Haifa: Want to see my home up close”: Who is Leila Khaled?

No, nothing is written for Leila, nothing is Maktoub for Laila: She will not die a refugee!

It is August 29, 1969.  Leila Khaled and her Palestinian comrade Salim Issawi, another refugee from Haifa, hijacked TWA 840 plane from Rome airport to Tel-Aviv as destination.  The purpose was to take Yitzhak Rabin prisoner and be tried in front of a Palestinian tribunal for crimes against humanity.  Rabin (Ambassador in the USA then) had missed the plane.

Leila and Salim are carrying hand grenades. The Captain and pilot tried several times to redirect the plane to Tripoli (Libya) where the US has a military base. Leila was trained to reading the gauges (the plane has enough autonomy for more than 5-hour flight), and she would correct the flight course.

Leila order the plane to El-Ladd airport.  The smart-ass pilot corrects Leila: “You mean Lod airport in Israel?” “No, it is al Ladd, a name known for millinea, and it is not this stupid Zionist State won’t change it”

Leila orders the pilot to descend at 12,000 feet.  The Israeli air traffic controller is summoned not to mention TWA 840 but call it PFLP, and he finally agreed to obey after the Captain warns him that there are 140 passengers on board.

The controller refuses the landing of the plane and two Israeli Mirage planes are accompanying the civilian plane to prevent it from descending below 12,000 feet.  Leila orders to resume the descent and the Mirage jets made room.

Without warning, Leila orders the pilot to head north to the city of Haifa: “I want to see my home from up close” said Leila.

The plane circled the city twice and was ordered to head to Damascus, where it landed softly. After the passengers exited safely, Leila blew up the cockpit of the plane, and surrendered to the Syrian police.

Three passengers were Israelis and were exchanged for 71 Syrian and Egyptian prisoners three months later.

Life was pleasant in Haifa before April 9, 1948, the 4th birthday of Leila Khaled.

Leila lived in a house on Stanton Street, by the Jewish quarter of Hadar Hacarmel.  On that date of 1949, the Palestinian family of Leila had to vacate the city and seek refuge in Lebanon: Israel has entered the city and 80,000 more Palestinians living in Haifa did the same trip.

The family settled in a camp in Tyre called Bourj al Chemali, where 7,000 Palestinians refugees from Haifa crowded it.  Since that date, Leila would refuse to celebrate her birthday, a day of mourning for her, the nakba for her family.

In 1958, Leila and her sister Nawal are sent to a boarding school in Saida, run by Evangelists, though a Moslem teacher made her memorize verses of the Coran, as Leila was learning to read.

In 1963, at the age of 19, Leila is attending the American University of Beirut (AUB):  Her brother Mohammad, working in Kuwait, paid her tuition.  Her father preferred to pay the tuition of her brother who failed his high school public exam.  Leila could not finish her university degree for lack of financial support and ended up in Kuwait in 1966.

Leila joins the Palestinian Resistance Movement, the main faction of Fateh.

Yasser Arafat is still not ready to train women for military exercises, and Leila tells him that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), headed by Georges Habash, trained both genders and sent them in active duties. She said: “We’ll meet again“, and went ahead and joined the PFLP.

It is September 6, 1970.  Leila does it again and hijacked the Israel El Al plane at the airport of Schiphol (Holland).  Her comrade is Patrick Arguello, originally from Guatemalla and run by dictator Somoza at the time. Patrick had no idea who was his companion boarding as his wife Maria Sanchez.

The attempt failed. Patrick is shot dead and Leila is interrogated by the British police. Leila endures 3 hours of interrogation and kept repeating: “I am the leader of the hijack.  My name is Leila Khaled and a member of the PFLP and from the unit of Rasmieh Odeh, a Palestinian woman prisoner“.

She declare that she want to be considered a prisoner of war.  Scotland Yard officer said: “England is not at war with the Palestinians”. And Leila replies: “Yes, England is at war with us since the declaration of the Balfour document in 1917, promising a homeland for the Jews, in return of a handful of silver coins to prosecute the war against Germany.  England carried out this promise, and is directly responsible for the displacement of million of Palestinians, robbing us from a State and inflicting humiliation, miseries, and indignity on us for decades.” (I developed a bit on that answer).

Four hours later, the officer returns and said: “Three more planes have been successfully hijacked and landed in the Zarka in Jordan.  They want your liberation in return of the passengers.”

In April 1996, Leila is crossing the Allenby Bridge to the West Bank.

A “peace” deal was struck between Rabin and Arafat in Oslo.  The Israeli soldier is interrogating Leila before crossing the border. Leila tells him: “Yes, I belong to a Palestinian organization, I do not agree with this peace deal, and yes I want peace with the Jews. My profession was hijacking Israeli planes. No, I don’t want this peace where I cannot return home without an Israeli soldier interrogating me. Remember young man: I am Leila Khaled.”

“We are refugees, we’ll die refugees” would frequently repeat Leila’s father.  No, nothing is written for Leila: She will not die a refugee. Leila is currently living In Amman (Jordan) by the Jordanian intelligence agency and is married with two kids. She is a member of the Palestinian National Council, and of the Palestinian Women General Union.

Note 1: Article inspired by a chapter of the French book “12 women of the Orient who changed History” by Gilbert Sinoue.

Note 2:  Leila Khaled published her autobiography “My people shall live” in 1973.

Note 3:  After the successive triple hijacking to Zarkat, the Jordanian Monarch Hussein chased out the Palestinian factions into Lebanon, and Lebanon witnessed three decades of bloodshed and calamities.


adonis49

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