MK vets welcome controversial Leila Khaled visit

Johannesburg - The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association on Thursday welcomed Palestinian activist Leila Khaled's planned visit to South Africa.

"This visit by comrade Leila Khaled would further contribute to serve the purpose to bolster solidarity with the Palestine people's struggle for their birthright," said chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe in a statement.

Khaled was expected to speak at various events next month as a guest of Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) to help in its fundraising efforts.

On Monday, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies said it was "appalled" that the organisation was inviting a "notorious plane hijacker" to the country.

Khaled was the first woman to hijack a passenger plane in 1969.

"By inviting Leila Khaled to this country, BDS-SA has conclusively demonstrated yet again that it has no interest in promoting peace, dialogue, reconciliation or understanding," national director Wendy Kahn said in a statement.

Wrong message

She said the organisation was sending out the wrong message while the world was "confronting the scourge of terrorism".

BDS reportedly said Khaled was in the same league as political figures such as Che Guevara and South Africa's Ruth First and Nelson Mandela. They defended the group's decision saying it was not promoting violence.

Khaled is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In 1969 she was part of a team that hijacked a passenger plane flying from Rome to Athens.

After the incident she underwent plastic surgery to conceal her identity and allow her to take part in another plane hijack attempt in 1970.

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