NEWS & ANALYSIS

The American Consulate at 1 Leila Khaled Drive?

Howard Sackstein says move to rename Sandton Drive after a plane hijacker is deeply counter-productive

An Al Ja’ama motion championed by the ANC to rename Sandton Drive after the notorious plane hijacker, Leila Khaled, passed the Johannesburg City Council with the support of the EFF on 29 November. The victorious armchair revolutionaries may well have won a psychological victory in their ongoing efforts to support Palestinians in their struggle against Israel, but their efforts to try offend Israel may portend a devastating backlash for South Africa.

Leila Khaled rose to fame in 1969 when she became the first female to hijack an airplane. On 29 August 1969, Leila Khaled and an accomplice, Salim Issawi, hijacked an American civilian aircraft, TWA flight 840, from Rome to Tel Aviv while flying in Greek airspace.

The Boeing 707 aircraft carried 120 civilian passengers and 7 crew. Khalid would later explain that she thought Israeli Ambassador to the United States and subsequent Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin, would be on the flight, he wasn’t. But on the plane as a passenger was American diplomat, Thomas Boyatt. Boyat was held hostage for 6 days.

Although no one was injured in the hijacking, Leila Khaled and her accomplice blew up the front nose of the TWA plane while it was stationary on the ground in Damascus.

While the crew and passengers were released by the Syrian government after the incident, the Damascus regime detained the 6 Israeli passengers and held them captive until December that year. Khaled and Issawi walked free.

Now infamous as a terrorist for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Khaled and her new Nicaraguan accomplice, Patrick Arguello, moved on to hijack ElAl flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York on 6 September 1970. The hijacking was part of an attempt by the PFLP to hijack 4 civilian aircraft in a single day, a series of events which became known as the Dawson’s Field hijackings, after the airfield where two of the planes landed in Jordan. Also taken that day were American TWA flight 741, Swissair flight 100 from Zurich and American Pan Am flight 93.

Khalid and Arguello boarded the ElAl plane using Honduran passports and once the plane reached British airspace, they attempted to storm the cockpit using guns and grenades. Pilot Uri Bar Lev, realising that a hijacking was in progress, put the plane into a steep nosedive causing everyone standing in the craft to fall to the floor. Arguello threw his hand grenade at the passengers down the isle of the aircraft. Mercifully, the grenade failed to explode. Arguello drew a pistol and shot air steward Shlomo Vider. The commotion gave enough time to for an ElAl security officer to shoot Arguello, he subsequently died from his wounds. With the help of fellow passengers, Leila Khaled was subdued. The flight was diverted to Heathrow airport in London, where Khaled was arrested.

Three days later, as part of an operation to free Khaled, a British Airways, BOAC flight 775 was also hijacked, with Leila Khaled’s release one of the hijackers demands. In October 1970, Khaled was released by British authorities in exchange for hostages in a subsequent hijacking.

To name a road after a plane hijacker who targeted civilians was a puerile attempt by the ANC and the EFF to slap Israel in the face, but by doing so they are bound to deeply offend British and more importantly American sensibilities.

When Jewish former South African newly nominated American Ambassador, Lana Marks, arrives in Pretoria to assume her role as American envoy to South Africa, she may well discover that the American consulate in Johannesburg is situated at the address of 1 Leila Khaled Drive. This will not sit well with her or her bosses in Washington. Americans tend to not celebrate terrorists who hijack their aircraft, strange that.

In a world, where the struggling South African economy is begging the USA and Europe for investment, jobs and assistance with economic growth, the renaming of Sandton Drive, makes South Africa look like a petty tin-pot revolutionary state unfit for any serious consideration.

If we are to try resurrect the South African economy, which has been looted by the lackeys of the ANC and the EFF, we will need to recognise that the world has changed since the era of the cold war.

Those who would have found the cutesy shenanigans of the ANC and the EFF appealing have all lost power, and in the new world order, South Africa, Cuba and Venezuela stands out as lonely voices of a revolution that has long been lost.