“When a people are oppressed, they should resist with all of the resources available to them.” These were the words of famous Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled addressing journalists at a press conference in Spin Street, as part of the Cape Town leg of her South African tour. Khaled and guest speaker Mcebisi Skwatsha both said during their time fighting in their respective struggles, the fight was to restore peace and bring about equality.
Skwatsha said when he signed up to become a fighter for Umkhonto we Sizwe, two iconic photographs were presented to them: one of Ché Guevara and the other of a 25 year old Leila Khaled holding her AK-47 rifle.
“As a member joining MK back then, you were told it was a matter of life and death; but the cause was a noble one. And back then being inducted didn’t mean you paid, you were trained in the use of an AK-47. And besides our own leaders, two other people stood out for us, Ché Guevara, and comrade Leila carrying her rifle.
“We didn’t fight because we wanted war, we fought because we wanted peace. Back then they called us terrorists, but is it not ironic that the chief terrorist then, became the first democratically elected president of this country? And the ‘terrorists’ then, look at what they have done, the difference they have made over the last twenty years,” Skwatsha said.
Skwatsha said the support MK and other liberation movements received from their Palestinian counterparts kept them motivated. He said Khaled’s story inspired them to learn restraint, and to understand the use of violence and its effects.
“Was she a lunatic? No, she had all the means to kill people, but she chose not to. She had the reason, the motivation, but she hurt no one, all she wanted to do was ensure that the people of the world knew that the people of Palestine are suffering.”
Khaled said although she is a firm believer of peaceful resistance and movements like BDS, she still believes when individuals or groups are oppressed they should resist their oppressor with all their might and all that is available to them.
Referring to the hijacking that brought her name into infamy among supporters of Israel, she said:
“All we wanted to do was tell people that Palestinians are being oppressed. We had examples of others fighting their oppressors, why couldn’t we, when people are being put down by another group they must fight, they have every right to fight when the other group is acting out violently against them.” VOC (Andriques Che Petersen)