BBC R4 gives a platform to terrorist Leila Khaled

The attempted hijacking of El Al flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York by Leila Khaled and Nicaraguan Patrick Arguello of the PFLP on September 6th 1970 lasted some three minutes and twenty seconds according to a reconstruction later carried out by the Israel Security Agency.

On October 21st 2013 BBC Radio 4 gave Leila Khaled a platform lasting almost the same length of time from which to promote her unchallenged narrative of the event in a fifteen-minute programme titled “Hijack!” (available here or here on iPlayer) which forms part of Fergal Keane’s series “Terror Through Time”, previously discussed on these pages. 

Terror Through Time Hijack

Keane states:

“Leila Khaled fled with her family from her birthplace of Haifa after the Israeli victory in the war of 1948. She was imbued with the determination to strike back against Israel.”

As is well documented, Khaled’s opprobrium would of course have been better directed against the Arab leaders who instructed their population to leave Haifa – even before the fighting had reached that area.

At 04:25 listeners can hear Khaled laughing about the stringent security measures now necessary on all flights as a result of terrorism. At 04:33 Keane says:

“But the operation already had problems. Two PFLP members had missed the flight, leaving just Khaled and Arguello to seize a jet that was protected by armed Israeli guards.”

In fact the other two members of the terror cell had not “missed the flight” but were prevented from boarding it by Israeli security. Maariv flight 219

Khaled then says:

“After half an hour we stood up and I took the hand grenades and with my teeth I opened them. The minute we stood up and screamed, they began to shoot – all the security men from behind us.”

So listeners are led to believe that she and her accomplice were shot at immediately after having “stood up and screamed”.  According to the ISA reconstruction however, it was Arguello who fired the first shot, wounding flight attendant Shlomo Vider when the latter tried bare-handed to prevent him from approaching the cockpit. A female flight attendant managed to get to the back of the plane where one of the two air marshals on board (the other was in the cockpit at the time) was sitting – unaware at that point that a hijacking attempt was ongoing – and he then moved to the front of the aircraft where Khaled and Arguello were situated. The air marshal, together with the wounded, unarmed flight attendant, tried to overpower Arguello and the air marshal shot Arguello. The air marshal then overcame Khaled and, together with a passenger, managed to find the grenade’s pin and neutralize it.

Keane however allows Khaled to present an unchallenged version of events according to which she becomes the victim of an “attack”.

“I said OK, you don’t want to open [the cockpit door], so I made like this – one hand up, one hand down – with the hand grenades. I count for three: if you don’t open I will explode the plane. I said it, but I didn’t want to explode the plane. They did not open the cockpit. In a minute they had two attack me from behind and I fainted.”

Towards the end of the item, Keane remarks that:

“In the space of a few weeks, a fascinated news media had cemented her [Khaled’s] position as an icon of terrorism”

Most licence fee-payers would probably find it highly regrettable that by providing a platform for the unchallenged propaganda of terrorists, the BBC continues to embellish that “icon”. 

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5 comments on “BBC R4 gives a platform to terrorist Leila Khaled

    • At least the BBC admitted she was a terrorist.

      True, rather than the title, ‘Terror through Time,’ one would expect the terror-friendly BBC to describe Arab terrorism in its habitually muted fashion; but ‘Militancy through Time’ doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

  1. “Khaled… begged the Palestinian militants to let her join the armed struggle.”

    (Interesting choice of the same language used for those fighting SA apartheid.)

    “…was hijacked as PFLP sympathisers moved to pressure Britain into setting Khaled free.”

    (Yes, they were concerned types, offering tea and sandwiches.)

    “Jordan was caught up in a vicious power struggle with the Palestinian militants who’d based themselves there since the Six-Day war of 1967.”

    (Of course they were doing a bit more than that; they were launching terror attacks into Israel and slaughtering Israeli civilians, but the BBC doesn’t want to know about that or let anyone else know about it.)

    “…a fascinated news media had cemented her position as an icon of terrorism.”

    (I guess there’s an inadvertent admission there of the role the media plays in glorifying terrorism.)

    “…the age of the romantic revolutionary; it’s long before Munich, the attacks on civilians, which of course completely discredit that notion.”

    (Interesting sentiments to be allowed in a BBC programme, but of course there is a glaring inaccuracy there. Arab attacks on Jewish civilians had been widespread even before the establishment of Israel and had been a frequent occurrence from 1948 – 1970, when Khaled and company hijacked the planes.)

    “But Khaled’s acomplice had left a steward badly wounded and they had terrorised a planeload of people.”

    (Ah, the dreaded word at last, near the end of the clip.)

    “Do you regret any part of what you did in those days.”

    (He’ll have to tread a bit more carefully if he doesn’t want to lose his job at the BBC.)

    “..other governments would prove tougher. There were dramatic rescues, like the extraordinary Israeli operation at Entebbe.”

    (This guy is really going to have to watch what he says.)

    Verdict: The clip demonstrates the typical BBC agenda of glorifying Arab terrorism and using the mildest possible terms to describe it, lest the terrorists take offence. But in mitigation there is at least a direct challenge to Khaled, to try to unearth a conscience of sorts in a Palestinian terrorist. And praise for an Israeli attack on terrorist hijackers? That’s almost breaking new ground for the BBC.

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