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From the Vaults: New Left Review I/67, May-June 1971

New Left Review first appeared in 1960 and was designed to be the political journal of choice for the intellectual left. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is a Marxist-Leninist Palestinian terrorist organisation. They are most famous for hijacking numerous passenger aeroplanes in the 1970s: Pan Am, BOAC, Swiss Air, Lufthansa and TWA were all targeted. In order to do this, they had the active help of a leading Nazi sympathiser.

The editorial committee of New Left Review must have been very proud to obtain an interview with Ghassan Kannafani, the editor of PFLP’s newspaper and a leading member of this Marxist-Leninist terrorist organisation, as they allowed him a lot of space for his views. This interview (subscription required) was published in the May-June 1971 issue.

New Left Review commenced the interview by commenting that a number of the criticisms against the hijackings were “bourgeois criticisms.” They asked Kannafani about the hijackings.  In his responses he stated:

First of all, I appreciate the fact that you reject bourgeois moralism and obedience to international law. These have been the cause of our tragedy. Now, I would like to answer your questions. I want to talk in general about this kind of operation. I have always said that we don’t hijack planes because we love Boeing 707s. We do it for specific reasons, at a specific time and against a specific enemy….

You mustn’t isolate the hijackings from the total political context….

As for the hijackings, their psychological importance was much greater than their military importance, at this stage of the revolution. Now, if we had been at the final stage of the revolution, or even at the advanced first stages of the revolution and we had hijacked planes, I would have been the first to denounce it. But in the preparatory phase of the revolution, military operations have their psychological importance.

I think that, generally speaking, these operations were correct. Maybe we made some tactical mistakes. Perhaps we should have made the whole Palestinian resistance share much more in responsibility for them, and then if they had decided two hours later to release the planes, perhaps we should have released them. Maybe we should not have been so stubborn. But you can’t imagine what this all meant to the people at that time. [Emphasis added].

So now you know: if you ever feel like hijacking an aeroplane, murdering little children or sexually abusing 26 young female members of your Marxist-Leninist political party and someone has the audacity to criticize you for these actions, put on your best sneer, a sneer that it is worthwhile practising in advance in the mirror, and denounce your detractor as a bourgeois moralist.