From Ghassan Kanafani to Walid Daqqah: Assassination, Imperialism, Resistance and Revolution

On the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Palestinian revolutionary leader, intellectual, writer and artist, Ghassan Kanafani, and his niece Lamis Najem, in Beirut by a Mossad car bomb in 1972, Kanafani’s revolutionary direction, critical eye and focus on the popular forces and working class of Palestine are perhaps more relevant today than they have ever been.

We mark this anniversary while the resistance in Jenin refugee camp turned back the occupier’s destructive war machine, while the sons and daughters of the Palestinian popular classes organize, fight and resist in the villages camps and prisons of occupied Palestine, in the refugee camps surrounding the occupied land, and everywhere in exile and diaspora. And on this occasion, it is clear just why the Zionist regime targeted him — and the politics he represented — for assassination.

Ghassan Kanafani was targeted for assassination as part of a comprehensive policy of the Zionist regime to eliminate the leaders, spokespeople and revolutionary voices of the Palestinian liberation movement, a policy that continues to the present day. Kanafani’s assassination was followed shortly by that of Mahmoud Hamshari, Basil Kubaisi, Wael Zuaiter, Kamal ‘Udwan, Mohammed Yousef al-Najjar, Kamal Nasser, Mohammed Boudia, and many others, a policy that has continued with the assassination of Wadie Haddad, Khaled Nazzal, Abu Jihad, Fathi Shiqaqi, Abu Ali Mustafa, Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Samir Kuntar, Basil al-Araj and many others. From the Elbit drones used in Gaza and Jenin to assassinate leaders and resistance fighters today, to the continued targeting of Iranian and Arab scientists who serve national priorities and the resistance, the assassination policy is a linchpin of Zionist strategies of control.

The Palestinian prisoners’ movement is not exempt from the policy of assassination. From the killing under torture of Ibrahim al-Rai, to the systematic medical neglect targeting Palestinian prisoners today, the occupation regime does not require a “death penalty” in law to target Palestinian prisoners for assassination. Just two months ago, Palestinian hunger striker and prisoners’ movement leader, Sheikh Khader Adnan, was systematically denied medical treatment on his 86th day of hunger strike: an assassination behind bars. The occupation regime continues to detain his body.

Right now, there is a Palestinian revolutionary, intellectual and writer behind bars who is facing the assassination policy of the Zionist project: Walid Daqqah. Like Kanafani, Daqqah’s role in the Palestinian liberation movement, and the prisoners’ movement in particular, spans the political and intellectual, engaged in a revolutionary project for the liberation of Palestine. Walid Daqqah has been imprisoned for over 37 years for his role in the Palestinian resistance in 1986. Today, as global left publishers wrote in a statement demanding his freedom:

“He is a voice of the people, a voice that the Occupation fears and hopes to silence. But though his body is behind bars, his voice has broken free through his novels, essays, and letters, which have nourished and motivated the Palestinian prisoner movement, the resistance, and the international solidarity movement in all corners of the world.”

He has been diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare bone marrow cancer that requires specialized treatment, including a bone marrow transplant. Since December 2022, he has suffered a stroke, developed pneumonia, had a portion of his lung surgically removed, and undergone multiple infections, all while being denied the care he needs — and the freedom that he requires.

Despite the fact that his sentence expired on 24 March 2023 and he is now serving a two-year penalty for smuggling a mobile phone, he has been repeatedly denied early release by multiple Zionist courts and review panels, even as he continues to be transferred back and forth between civilian hospitals and the notorious Ramleh prison clinic, called “the slaughterhouse” by Palestinian prisoners. His family have stated that these decisions are “permission for his execution,” and, indeed, we are watching the Zionist assassination policy carried out in real time inside the prison system, with the weapon of medical neglect.

On the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Ghassan Kanafani, now is the time to take action to free Walid Daqqah and to stop the latest assault of the occupation regime. Kanafani, a committed internationalist, urged all to confront imperialism everywhere — just as the Palestine Actionists are doing in Britain, fighting imprisonment to dismantle the Zionist war machine, a battle supported by the Palestinian prisoners’ movement. The imperialist powers are partners in the crimes against Walid Daqqah, all Palestinian prisoners, and the Palestinian people as a whole — which makes actions everywhere critically important. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network urges all to join in the events being organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement between 7 and 15 July, and to take up the struggle to free Walid Daqqah — to honour Ghassan Kanafani, and to stop the assassination of another Palestinian revolutionary in the gunsights of the occupier.


Ghassan Kanafani, Resistance and Revolution

Ghassan Kanafani, born in Akka, Palestine, on 9 April 1936, was forcibly exiled from Palestine with his family in the 1947-48 Nakba, first to Lebanon and then to Syria. After he was dismissed from Damascus University for political reasons, he taught in Kuwait before returning to Beirut as part of the Arab Nationalist Movement, the pan-Arab revolutionary movement founded by Dr. George Habash. The ANM transformed into the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Kanafani co-founded, becoming the editor of Al-Hadaf magazine and an international spokesperson of the Front.

While serving the revolution as a political leader and representative, he also designed and drew many of the Front’s early political posters. A revolutionary Marxist-Leninist, Kanafani was greatly inspired by Arab, African and Asian liberation movements, and played a major role in the development of the “Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine.”

Kanafani was a revolutionary intellectual, the first to use the term “resistance literature” to describe Palestinian writing, even as he produced it. His creative writing, alongside his political work, brought the struggles and revolutionary potential of the Palestinian working and popular classes to the forefront, as did his studies and political analysis. Throughout his writing, editing and mentorship, he remained a committed revolutionary and organizer committed to the defeat of Zionism, imperialism and Arab reactionary forces serving the interests of the former, and to the liberation of all of Palestine, from the river to the sea.

However, Kanafani’s revolutionary vision did not limit itself to the borders of Palestine. He was an Arab revolutionary, dedicated to Arab unity and liberation from the ocean to the Gulf, with a keen interest in the development of Arab forces throughout the region to confront imperialism and achieve true self-determination and liberation. Kanafani and his comrades sparked and nurtured Arab resistance from Lebanon to Oman, developing revolutionaries like Georges Abdallah, imprisoned in France for over 38 years. Today’s rising resistance throughout the Arab nation and the region more broadly, particularly the Lebanese resistance that expeled the occupier in May 2000, continues to point a necessary path to victory for Palestine and for the region as a whole.

Ghassan Kanafani was a dedicated internationalist, a Marxist-Leninist who led in shaping the foundational relationships of the Front in the 1960s and 1970s with African, Asian and Latin American movements as well as with the emerging revolutionary forces in Europe, Japan and throughout the imperial core.

Kanafani’s famous quote on internationalism remains an urgent call to action today: “Imperialism has laid its body over the world, the head in Eastern Asia, the heart in the Middle East, its arteries reaching Africa and Latin America. Wherever you strike it, you damage it, and you serve the World Revolution…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.”

Kanafani’s work is not an artifact of history or an intellectual exercise but a call to revolutionary action, to revolutionary engagement with culture, with political organizing and with resistance and revolution, at the Palestinian, Arab and international levels. As we remember Kanafani today, and as we struggle to bring an end to the policy of assassination, it is clear that the road forward is a revolutionary, anti-imperialist approach. It is also clear, more than ever, the bankruptcy of the path of Madrid and Oslo, represented by the Palestinian Authority and its “security coordination” with the occupation regime, that abandoned Jenin to the invaders while arresting and imprisoning resistance fighters, is the same reactionary enemy exposed in Kanafani’s political and creative writing, and exposed constantly by his political and organizational practice.

As Khaled Barakat, Palestinian writer and co-founder of the Palestinian Alternative Revolutionary Path Movement (Masar Badil), writes today:

“The 51st anniversary of the martyrdom of the writer Ghassan Kanafani this year coincides with the victory of the Jenin camp in the seemingly impossible battle led by the youth of the Brigades…The anniversary coincides with the resistance tent raised on a high southern hill in Lebanon, as a sign of victory, spreading awareness, light and challenge, and overlooking occupied Palestine. It is the resistance tent that heralds return and liberation…

The memory of Kanafani’s martyrdom…comes to say: Something great is being born now in the tunnels and tents of the valiant resistance in the south of Lebanon, in Gaza, and in Jenin, and there is a bridge and an embrace that extends between the south of Lebanon and all of Palestine: a small tent, from which the great Arab liberation project will be born, from the ocean to the Gulf.”

On this anniversary, the vision is clear, emerging from the camps, from the resistance, and from the prisoners’ movement, leading and fighting behind bars, and all led by the sons and daughters of the working class and popular forces: All of us have the responsibility to take up the challenge — to strike imperialism, to damage it, and to serve a liberated Palestine and a world revolution.