Esther Walker
Esther Walker

Inspired by Violence? KCL Action Palestine & Ghassan Kanafani

Esther Walker is a final year History BA student at King’s College London, she is part of the KCL Israel Society Committee and is the Camera on Campus Fellow at King’s.

The literary work of Ghassan Kanafani is lauded by various anti-Israel activists and was recently praised by the King’s College London Action Palestine (KCLAP) society, who published a celebrated commentary on Kanafani by Lebanese public intellectual Elias Khoury, close to the anniversary of the former’s birth. Khoury himself has been accused of “Holocaust inversion” and historical negationism in his novel Children of the Ghetto: My Name Is Adam, which addresses an Antisemitic canard about a massacre in Lydda (modern-day Lod) which some claim never happened.

Kanafani was a Palestinian activist and novelist whose work had a significant impact on the thought and military strategy of anti-Israel Arab organisations. Khoury describes Kanafani as a “militant, political writer and essayist, literal innovator and preeminent Palestinian novelist”. His politically fuelled writings remain among the most influential in modern Arab literature and have spread far and wide, via their translation into 17 different languages in over 20 countries. Employed as a teacher and writer in 1952 until his death in 1972, Kanafani was writing at a significant turning point in the history of the Middle East. Following the outstanding Israeli military success in the 1967 Six-Day War and the absolute demise of pan-Arabism, Palestinian activists felt abandoned by their Arab neighbours and in Khoury’s own words had to “rely on their own efforts in the resistance struggle”. This period saw a significant rise in terrorism partly a result of the increasing number of factions that stemmed from the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) – including the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), of which Kanafani was a leading member.

Many have tried to disassociate Kanafani as a figure with the Lod Massacre, but this distancing is inaccurate and unwise. Kanafani’s involvement must not be forgotten. On May 30th 1972, three members of the Japanese Red Army were recruited by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-External Operations (PFLP-EO). These recruits attacked Lod Airport, the predecessor to Ben Gurion International Airport, and murdered 26 innocent people and injuring 80 others, including a group of Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico. At the time of the attack, Kanafani was the spokesperson of the PFLP. The group claimed responsibility for the attack and Kanafani justified the actions of the terrorists. 

Despite not necessarily yielding a gun or a knife himself, Kanafani’s literary works have undoubtedly justified and inspired brutality – the Lod Massacre being just one example. For example, Khoury’s commentary highlights how, “the Palestinians are knocking, not just with their fists, but with their lives and bullet-ridden bodies” in which he deduced and justified the Palestinian ‘need’ for violence in Kanafani’s work. Khoury stated that Kanafani taught him that the “writer becomes part of the vast expanse of suffering that surrounds Palestine, and prolongs its history beyond what the pen can sustain”, this shows Kanafani’s perceived role in the Palestinian “struggle” and reveals the weakness of the Palestinians fight – a prolonged conflict based on falsities and a warped history.

The Facebook post was not intended as a historical examination of Kanafani, but rather as a romantic ode to his legacy, with the post titled “Remembering Ghassan Kanafani”. The article by Khoury, himself a questionable commentator, and the direct quotations from Kanafani glorify his legacy and the spilt blood he inspired in life and in death. KCLAP has once again proven to be a society vehemently bent on demonising Israel at all costs, even going as far as to actively promote and glorify antisemitic conspiracy theorists such as Khoury, and the intellectual mouthpieces of terrorism such as the late Kanafani. 

About the Author
Esther Walker is an MA student at the IDC Herzliya, where she is a Pinsker Centre Fellow; she is studying Conflict and Diplomacy. Esther is a History BA graduate of King's College London, and is a former KCL Israel Society committee board member, she has completed fellowships at CAMERA on Campus, StandWithUs and the Tikvah Fund.
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