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News > World

Ghassan Kanafani, the Palestinian Revolutionary Killed by Israeli Intelligence

  • Ghassan Kanafani

    Ghassan Kanafani | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Published 8 July 2017

“The Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary, wherever he is” Ghassan Kanafani.

45 years ago, the Palestinian revolutionary and novelist Ghassan Kanafani was assassinated by Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency.

Kanafani, a novelist who first deployed the notion of “resistance literature” in the context of Palestine, was also a leading member of the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

His journalism and writings were deeply rooted in Arab-Palestinian culture, and inspired a whole generation both during and after his lifetime.

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On July 8, 1972, Kanafani was living in the Lebanese capital, Beirut when he was killed in a car bomb explosion along with his teenage niece.

Mossad later claimed responsibility for the attack.

His killing by the Israeli secret forces was in response to the Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion International) massacre on May 30, 1972.

26 people, including 17 Puerto Ricans, were killed by members of the Japanese Red Army who had been enlisted by the PFLP in the assault.

At the time, Kanafani was the official spokesperson for the PFLP, and also edited the group’s weekly magazine al-Hadaf.

"Forty-fifth anniversary of the martyrdom of the great Palestinian writer, member of the political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine", the PFLP tweeted in honor of Kanafani.

Long before his assassination, Kanafani’s personal experiences set the stage for his interest in Marxism and his quest for the liberation of Palestine.

Born in 1936 to a father who was active in the national movement that opposed the British occupation of Palestine, he and his family became refugees in Syria after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, joining the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians forced from their homelands.

It was while working in refugee camps that Kanafani began writing his novels, and he later took an interest in Marxist philosophy and politics while living in Beirut.

“My political position springs from my being a novelist. In so far as I am concerned, politics and the novel are an indivisible case and I can categorically state that I became politically committed because I am a novelist, not the opposite,” he had stated at one point.


First part of the movie "The Deceived", based upon the novel "Men in the Sun" by Kanafani.

When his interest in communism grew, he turned away from pan-Arab nationalism, and towards the Palestinian struggle.

“The Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary, wherever he is, as a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses in our era,” he said.

Most of his fictitious works focused on the lives of Palestinians and the challenges they faced living under Israeli occupation.

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Having worked as an editor for a number of media outlets throughout his short life, Kanafani won multiple awards for his works both during his life and posthumously.

His obituary in Lebanon's The Daily Star shortly after his death stated, "He was a commando who never fired a gun, whose weapon was a ball-point pen, and his arena the newspaper pages.”

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