Ghassan Kanafani was a Palestinian Author and more notably a leading member for the Popular front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP is a secular Marxist-Leninist organization founded by a friend of Kanafani, George Habbash. The PFLP declared that its goal was to "create a people's democratic Palestine, where Arabs and Jews would live without discrimination, a state without classes and national oppression, a state which allows Arabs and Jews to develop their national culture." Kanafani was known as the spokesperson for the organization, therefore the face of the PFLP. So when the group claimed responsibility for the Lod Airport Massacre in 1972, a target was placed on his back.
Overview of Lod Airport Massacre
In May 30 1972 three members of the Japanese Red Army (recruited by the PFLP) fired shots inside Lod Airport (now known as Ben Gurion International Airport). 28 people were killed, including 17 Christian pilgrims from Puerto Rico. The primary organizer of the attack was PFLP member Wadie Haddad, but it was noted that he had continued on with the operation without the PFLPs knowledge. Though the truth is unknown on whether the PFLP only claimed responsibility or helped carry out and fund the attack.
Who was Ghassan Kanafani before PFLP?
- Born in 1936 to a middle class Palestinian family in Akka
- Father was a lawyer who opposed the British occupation and the migration of Jewish immigrants. He had been arrested multiple times in Ghassan's youth.
- During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Ghassan and his family were forced into exile (Nakba). Settling in Damascus.
- In 1952, Kanafani completed his secondary education. Receiving a teaching certificate for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)
- Also in 1952, he enrolled in the University of damascus
- In 1953, He met Dr. George Habash who introduced him to the world of politics.
- In 1955, Kanafani was expelled from the University for affiliating with the Movement for Arab Nationalists (MAN) which Habash had introduced him to.
- Between 1956 and 1960, he relocated multiple times and finally settled in Beirut in 1960.
- He began writing for the MAN affiliated newspaper al-Hurriya where he began showing an interest in Marxist philosophy.
- In 1961, he met Anni Høver who would later give birth to his two children.
- He would go on to write under multiple names for different papers between 1961 til 1967 when he joined the PFLP
Kanafani's Role in PFLP
Kanafani took part in founding the PFLP in 1967. The founder being his friend George Habash, he was able to offer his input many times and by 1969 he was in the process of drafting the PFLP program. The program solidified the organization's message as being one that is aligned with Marxist-Leninist ideology. It was a change of strategy from what the Arab world had been doing at the time, mainly Pan-Arab Nationalism. Through his political writings, he was able to have considerable influence on the Arab world. Kanafani became the official spokesperson for the organization and was in charge of all of its’ media activities later becoming the editor of al Hadaf (the official newspaper of the PFLP). He was very clearly never on Israel's good side, but after claiming that hijacking and violence were “the voice of the PFLP” at a press conference he became a red flag on the government's radar. Leading him to be the main target after PFLP claimed responsibility for the Lod Airport Massacre.
On July 8 1972, Ghassan Kanafani was with his seventeen year old niece, Lamees Najim, in Beirut. They both had gotten into Kanafani's vehicle, and as he turned the ignition a grenade was set off that in turn detonated a 3 kilo bomb located behind the bumper of his car. The explosion incinerated and killed both Kanafani and his niece. Mossad, the national intelligence agency of Israel, claimed responsibility for the assasination as part of their assasination campaign that was sanctioned by the Israeli cabinet. They later sent letter bombs to the director of the PLO research center and the editor of the PFLP newspaper. Following the assasination, Lebanon's “The Daily Star'' shared an obituary for Kanafani.
"He was a commando who never fired a gun, whose weapon was a ball-point pen, and his arena the newspaper pages.”
Ghassan Kanafi is buried in Beirut and was survived by his two kids Fayiz and Laila, as well as his wife Anni Høver.
About the Author - Majd Nuwarah is a Palestinian-American Actor, Writer, and Knafeh connoisseur. At just 18 years old, Majd has traveled to many different countries where he has been able to experience all kinds of cultures and people, which in turn helped inspire his love for writing and acting. You can follow Majd on Instagram.