Interview with Leila Khaled
Imperialism’s two failures: Iraq and Lebanon
Published Oct 12, 2006 9:12 PM
Palestinian resistance leader
Khaled in 1972.
Following are excerpts from an
interview conducted with
Palestinian resistance leader Leila Khaled by Samia Halaby of the Defend
Palestine Coalition, LeiLani Dowell of Workers World newspaper, and Sara
Flounders of the International Action Center
during a fact-finding delegation
to Lebanon Sept.
Q: In Gaza during
the time [of the war on
Lebanon], the offensive was very
Leila Khaled: It was
more intense in Gaza because all the focus was on Lebanon. Israel has done three
massacres, big massacres, in the north of Gaza, where they destroyed everything
and it’s now an isolated
They call the people in their
houses and tell them: “We’re going to bombard the house, leave it.
You have half an hour to leave.” So people leave. They wait and wait, but
no bombardment. They go back to the house and stay there for one week, and then
it is bombarded, and they are killed.
whenever people receive such a call, they leave, but when they see that the
house is still there, they go back. Again, they call them: “We told you to
leave, why are you still here? You have five minutes to leave now. We gave you
half an hour last time, now it’s five minutes.” Some did not believe
that they wanted to bombard the houses, and they stayed there, and they were
This is the way they deal with
the Palestinians in Gaza. It’s terrible. Anytime I call our comrades
there, they say, “They are turning our lives into hell.” Gaza is a
very small area, densely populated, wherever they hit they will kill, and
destroying the houses means that the people cannot find anywhere else to live.
There are tents there now; this is during the last three years. The borders are
closed, people cannot receive any kind of aid, even the money; if you want to
send money for them, there are new laws at the
In Gaza, they want the people to
starve, and to be killed, and to reach to the extent that they would say,
“Any solution, we accept it.”
In Lebanon they distributed the
pamphlets from the airplanes, saying that Hezbollah is not for you, Hezbollah is
working for Iran and not for you. This is the psychological war also. But the
people were not responding to them.
Why do you think the Israelis stopped
This time they
lost, because this is the first time they witnessed rockets going into the
cities in Israel. From the first week, they were bombarding Lebanon and
Hezbollah was retaliating by bombarding the cities and the villages. One and a
half million Israelis left the Galilee. I called my relatives and they said this
is the first time in 58 years that they are going and leaving.
What are the dangers now? What’s likely to happen
This war I think is a turning
point in the area, because Israel cannot again launch another war. Yesterday
there were demonstrations in Tel Aviv for an investigation committee. This is
the sixth war with the Arabs, but this is the first time that they felt they
could be hurt.
I think that although we
know very well that Hezbollah is supported by Syria and Iran, I think that this
is legitimate also. Why not have allies in the area? Israel has the most
powerful country supporting it.
politically they will try to make big contradictions in Lebanon itself, on the
governmental level, on the parliamentarian level, but they cannot do that on the
mass level, because people—even those who lost their sons or
husbands—they say it’s for our land, and they have this ideology
that they are fighting for their land. We have seen many people on the ruins of
these houses, and they say, “Okay, we can rebuild them, it’s not the
first time.” They say, “We know the enemy, it’s not the first
I did not mention that all
the Lebanese people showed high solidarity with the displaced, in different
parts of Lebanon, where there are Christians, the Druze. The majority Shia
cities were all bombarded, so people fled to the other neighborhoods, and this
was the first time that we have witnessed this unity among the people. There was
not criticism against Hezbollah or the Shia sect during the
But during the war, the
Palestinians came out from the camps and were asking the Lebanese to come and
live with them in their houses in the camps. And Lebanese people were telling
the media, this time we knew that we have brothers and sisters there. The
Palestinians say this is our duty, all the time the Lebanese protected us, and
it’s time for us to do our duty towards them when they are in
They bombarded around the camps
but not in the camps. They don’t want anything to unite the Lebanese and
the Palestinians. They selected targets outside the camps, and not inside the
Some people have said that this was a test
by the U.S. to see how the reaction would be on the ground from an attack on
Syria and Iran.
I myself don’t
expect that the U.S. administration could attack Iran. In Iraq, America failed
to establish what they wanted from the war. They are taking the oil, but not in
an easy way.
At least in the near
future, I don’t see that Israel is going to do the work again. But of
course, such an administration, they are crazy enough to do anything. Now what
they are trying to do is to catch the Middle East from both sides, from Iraq and
Sudan. They tried to hit in Lebanon, not as a test, but as a weak point in the
area, but they failed.
Now in Israel
there’s discussion and criticism of the political level and the military
institution. We know always that the military institution is the real government
of Israel, and not the political level, although historically speaking the
generals were always the prime ministers of Israel. This time Olmert or Peretz
wanted to prove themselves as generals, but they did not, and so there’s
big discussion and a big split in
Some observers said that Israel
played this war on the expense of the Americans, played it, but they failed.
Now, these two failures, in Iraq and in Lebanon, I think won’t let them
think of another war. And now in Afghanistan it’s coming up
As a Marxist, how do you view
Hezbollah came out from
the Amal movement, which was established in the 1980s. The Shia in Lebanon were
always dealt with as a minority, very oppressed and the poorest people.
Hezbollah came out in 1987 because they had many contradictions with the
leadership of Amal. They had a new vision towards how to deal with Lebanon and
with Israel. And they have this principle: that we have to resist on the popular
They learned the lessons from
mistakes that we, as Palestinians in Lebanon, made. They didn’t show their
weapons, as we used to do. We had open bases in the South; they didn’t do
that. They did not have training camps; nobody knows where they were trained.
They’re very well organized people. We had people with their arms and
uniforms in the South and the cities, anyone could tell that they were fighters.
Now nobody knows who is a fighter.
the cease-fire, when Nasrallah called the people to go back to the South, we
were that morning in one of the schools with the displaced people. That
afternoon they were carrying their things and going. We asked them, “Where
are you going?” and they said, “We are going to our villages,
although the roads are very dangerous, cluster bombs are still there, some of
these unexploded rockets.” The people—I’m talking about the
people— are very well disciplined. They went directly, and they said,
“Our leadership asked us to
This shows that the relation
between Hezbollah and the people is very strong, and people feel that it is for
their benefit and for their interest, although there are some villages totally
leveled, and some where even the houses that remain are not useful for
Hezbollah considers itself a
part of the resistance in the area against the common enemy, against Israel,
against America. This they declare every time, and they called for talks with
different groups, and they went for the talks. There were many, many sessions
before the war.
The party is very well
organized and trained and to the masses they have a strong relation. Every house
in the South feels that this party is as their sons, as their daughters. They
have schools, medical centers, training centers. Now many of the schools are
destroyed, but they’re going to
Just after the war, Nasrallah
declared that they are going to compensate the people, so that they can live in
dignity. I think it’s a culture, for all human beings to live with
dignity. And he stresses that—now we have won the war, although the
country was destroyed, but we kept our dignity, we are free people. He speaks to
the people, to their minds and their hearts at the same
There are political parties in the
area, especially in Lebanon, who said why can’t we live in peace with
Israel? Now this war showed that it’s very difficult to coexist with them,
and this is very dangerous, because we, as Palestinians, from the very beginning
called for a one-state solution, that Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians can live
all together peacefully on the same land and on a democratic basis. This is our
vision to the end of this conflict, but we have seen that still the Israeli
society is not ready for that.
a religious ideology, which I feel is dangerous. But when it comes to resisting
the imperialist projects in the area, you don’t speak about ideology, you
speak about resistance. Resistance is the concept, whether the origin of it is
religious or not. That’s why they targeted Hezbollah, because it’s a
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