The following text is the foreword, by translator and editor Ioanna Radaiou, of Resistance for a Free Palestine, of the new Greek-language edition of “My People Shall Live,” the autobiography of Comrade Leila Khaled originally published in English in 1973:
During the preparation of this edition, the main question raised was if publishing in Greek a four-decades-old book has any meaning. The original English edition is now days extremely rare and expensive to obtain a printed copy. This fact alone indicates the value of the Greek edition, which provides the opportunity to preserve a historical document, a personal narrative of the facts following the Palestinian Nakba in 1948, by one of the greatest icons of Palestinian resistance, Leila Khaled.
The narrative challenges the mainstream depiction of that time regarding the establishment of the State of Israel, revealing that Palestine was not an empty corner in the world where Israelis settled peacefully. It was a country where Jews and Arabs were living together – until the latter were killed or exiled, lost their fortunes, their homes were destroyed and whole towns and villages were demolished. Hundreds of thousands became refugees and up to now, Israel doesn’t recognize their right to return to their homeland.
The fact is that the establishment of the State of Israel was, from the beginning, a colonial project which served to guard the interests of the imperialist forces in the Arab world. Furthermore, the creation of Israel was used to soothe the consciences of those who did not prevent the holocaust by the Nazis.
Since then, things have not changed much. In the book we can detect a repeating pattern, not only in the Middle East but in whole world. Israel still enjoys economic and military aid, despite international condemnation for the violations of the Geneva Conventions, the war crimes, the illegal siege of the Gaza Strip. International institutions have failed or don’t want to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against humanity, and through their silence have been turned into accomplices in crime. Mainstream media emphasize the right of Israel to defend its borders as the “only democracy in the Middle East”. On the other hand, media depict Palestinians as terrorists and aggressors, instead of the victims they truly are. The international community continually interferes – militarily and politically – whenever it thinks that its interests are being threatened. And in the internal field, the Palestinian Authority is ready to sacrifice the Palestinian people and accept any agreement from the occupying force.
Reading Leila Khaled’s description of her life as a refugee and her feelings is like hearing the voices of the refugees from Syria today. How they feel for losing their homes and their lives at the hands of a war they did not choose, being prisoners in refugee camps, hopeless. To know that the same countries responsible for the destruction of their country, don’t want them. These countries are shutting their ears as they do to the voices of Palestinians for justice. They are the same countries that in 1947 voted for the Partition Plan of Palestine.
We can identify ourselves with Leila, when she describes false aspirations and feelings of anger, frustration, hope and disappointment. These emotional stages –common to Palestinians and to us- led to the consciousness that no external help will liberate her country. It’s her responsibility and duty, as it is for all the Palestinian people.
This consciousness is the driving force of Palestinians. For seven decades now, they continue to struggle and they know that their struggle won’t be easy. It’s not only the military occupation they have to face, but also the economic, social and political control of their country by a third party, which has created facts on the ground with the Wall and the illegal settlements, altering the meaning of a sovereign Palestinian state with territorial integrity.
One of the biggest problems of the Palestinian cause now days is “normalization”, a situation which tends to establish the occupation as normal. Many governments and business cooperate with the State of Israel, shutting their eyes to the military occupation, the continuing and intensive violation of human rights, the invasions in Gaza Strip and the confiscation of the Palestinian wealth. Greek governments are not an exception. By signing agreements in military, economic, touristic and energy levels, they give their absolution to an apartheid state, in contradiction to the feelings of Greek people, who are by the side of the Palestinians.
Palestinian people know that their struggle is just and while they are often ignored by governments, the people of the world support them. Moreover, there is no more sacred fight than the one of liberating your homeland by any form of occupation, of a people’s right to independence and self-determination.
Leila Khaled’s book “My People Shall Leave”, four decades after, still is relevant and educational. Leila continues to inspire as an icon for her sacrifices, strength and determination. Today, and as the “Jerusalem Intifada” is on stage, young, every day people come to surface and they will have their own important role to the Palestinian cause. Because Palestine still pave the path of revolution to any people who struggle for their freedom.