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Op-eds

The American consulate at 1 Leila Khaled Drive

  • Howard  Sackstein
An ANC motion to rename Sandton Drive after the notorious plane hijacker Leila Khaled passed in the Johannesburg City Council with the support of the EFF on 29 November.
by HOWARD SACKSTEIN | Dec 06, 2018

The victorious armchair revolutionaries may well have won a psychological victory in their ongoing efforts to support Palestinians in their struggle against Israel, but their efforts to try to offend Israel may portend a devastating backlash for South Africa.

Khaled rose to fame in 1969 when she became the first female to hijack an airplane. On 29 August 1969, Khaled and an accomplice, Salim Issawi, hijacked an American civilian aircraft, TWA flight 840, from Rome to Tel Aviv while flying in Greek airspace.

The Boeing 707 aircraft carried 120 civilian passengers and seven crew. Khaled would later explain that she thought Israeli Ambassador to the United States and subsequent Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, would be on the flight, he wasn’t. But on the plane was American diplomat, Thomas David Boyatt. Boyatt was held hostage for six days.

Although no one was injured in the hijacking, Khaled and her accomplice blew up the front nose of the TWA plane while it was stationary on the ground in Damascus.

While the crew and passengers were released by the Syrian government after the incident, the Damascus regime detained the six Israeli passengers and held them captive until December that year. Khaled and Issawi walked free.

Now infamous as a terrorist for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Khaled and her Nicaraguan accomplice, Patrick Argüello, went on to hijack El Al flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York on 6 September 1970.

This hijacking was part of an attempt by the PFLP to hijack four civilian aircraft in a single day. This series of events became known as the Dawson’s Field hijackings, after the airfield where two of the planes landed in Jordan. Also taken that day were American TWA flight 741, Swissair flight 100 from Zurich, and American Pan Am flight 93.

Khaled and Argüello boarded the El Al plane using Honduran passports, and once the plane reached British airspace, they attempted to storm the cockpit using guns and grenades.

Pilot Uri Bar Lev, realising that a hijacking was in progress, put the plane into a steep nosedive causing everyone standing in the craft to fall to the floor.

Argüello threw his hand grenade at the passengers down the isle of the aircraft. Mercifully, the grenade failed to explode. Argüello drew a pistol and shot air steward Shlomo Vider.

The commotion gave enough time to an El Al security officer to shoot Argüello. He subsequently died from his wounds. With the help of fellow passengers, Khaled was subdued. The flight was diverted to Heathrow Airport in London, where Khaled was arrested.

Three days later, as part of an operation to free Khaled, a British Airways, BOAC flight 775 was also hijacked, with Khaled’s release one of the hijackers’ demands. In October 1970, Khaled was released by British authorities in exchange for hostages in a subsequent hijacking.

To name a road after a plane hijacker who targeted civilians is a puerile attempt by the ANC and the EFF to slap Israel in the face. However, by doing so they are bound to offend British – and more importantly American – sensibilities deeply.

When the Jewish South African-born, newly-nominated United States Ambassador Lana Marks arrives in Pretoria to assume her role as American envoy to South Africa, she may well discover that the American consulate in Johannesburg is situated at the address of 1 Leila Khaled Drive. This will not sit well with her or her bosses in Washington.

In a world where the struggling South African economy is begging the US and Europe for investment, jobs and assistance with economic growth, the renaming of Sandton Drive makes South Africa look like a petty tin-pot revolutionary state unfit for any serious consideration.

If we are to try and resurrect the South African economy, which has been looted by the lackeys of the ANC and the EFF, we will need to recognise that the world has changed since the era of the Cold War.

Those who would have found the cutesy shenanigans of the ANC and the EFF appealing have all lost power, and in the new world order, South Africa, Cuba, and Venezuela stand out as the lonely voices of a revolution that has long been lost.

  • Howard Sackstein has a BA in International Relations, an LLB degree and a masters degree in Political Advocacy and International Conflict Resolution.

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