عز الدين القلق
Ezzedine Kalak was born in 1936 in Haifa to Mohammad Said Kalak and Fatima Mahmoud al-Yahya. He had three brothers—Burhan, Amin, and Abdel Qader—and four sisters—Maysar, Jihad, Yusr, and Safiyya. His father named him after Shaykh Ezzeddin al-Qassam, who was the first to ignite the Great Palestinian Revolt of 1936–1939.
Kalak started primary school in Haifa, before the Nakba forced him, along with his family, to become refugees; they went to Damascus. He continued his studies there, first at the Ibn Khaldun junior high school and then at al-Midan Secondary School. After obtaining his baccalauréat [high school diploma] with a concentration in science, Kalak joined the Faculty of Sciences at Damascus University. He forged friendships with a number of Syrian intellectuals who were prominent in their fields, such as film critic Said Murad and writer Shawqi Baghdadi. He actively participated in the literary group Wahi al-Qalam (The Inspiration of the Plume) and developed a passion for theater, music, and visual arts. In 1956, he published a collection of short stories in Syrian newspapers, and in 1961, he published translations of short stories from American and Chinese literature.
During his studies at Damascus University, Kalak became a member of the Syrian Communist Party, which was suppressed by the authorities of what was then the United Arab Republic. His membership let to his imprisonment for about three years in the Mezzeh prison, from 1959 to 1961. After his release, he resumed his university studies and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the Faculty of Sciences in 1963. After that, he traveled to Saudi Arabia, where he worked for two years as a science teacher at al-Yamama high school in Riyadh.
In 1965, Kalak moved to France to continue his postgraduate studies. He first studied French language in Rennes and Poitiers and then enrolled in the University of Poitiers, from which he earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry. While living in France, Kalak joined the Fatah movement. He was also elected president of the French chapter of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), and so began his militant life, going from city to city in France to educate people on the Palestinian cause and the legitimacy of the Palestinians’ struggle. He held seminars, organized teach-ins, gave talks, and published bulletins. His public activity caught the attention of Israel’s supporters in France.
After settling in Paris, Kalak worked in broadcasting for a while at Radio Monte Carlo, where he was in charge of preparing and translating the news bulletin. In 1970, he worked with supporters of the Palestinian cause from North Africa and the Levant on a committee to promote the Palestinian struggle and to start the magazine Fidaʾi [Resistance fighter]. He also started working with Mahmoud al-Hamshari, the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in France, to raise the level of awareness about the Palestinian cause in France, especially in left-wing circles.
After al-Hamshari was assassinated by Israeli intelligence, Kalak was appointed as PLO representative in France in early September 1973; until then, the PLO had not acquired official recognition by the French government. He set about his work as a diplomat, as a political organizer, and as a voice for Palestine in the media. He forged many friendships in France and in the rest of Europe and made ties with various political parties and movements, especially pro-democratic ones on the left. His engaging personality and mastery of French and English enabled him to expand the solidarity movement with the Palestinian people’s struggle in France, whose media at the time was overwhelmed by Zionist propaganda voices.
In 1975, the French government authorized the opening of an official liaison and media bureau for the PLO in France. Kalak then set up his own office inside the Arab League delegation’s headquarters in Paris, located on Haussmann Boulevard in the eighth arrondissement. This office quickly became a beehive constantly buzzing with work in support of the Palestinian cause.
Kalak participated in many conferences in Europe and Africa, the most important of which was the conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Madrid, during which he met King Juan Carlos of Spain as part of the Palestinian delegation. This meeting led to the Spanish government authorizing the opening of an official PLO office in Madrid. Kalak was the first Palestinian official to be invited to the Elysée Presidential Palace in Paris to attend the ceremony held by President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing in honor of his guest King Khalid of Saudi Arabia in early 1978.
Despite the major responsibilities he had to shoulder as a diplomat and media personality, Kalak retained a passion for knowledge and working in the field of culture. He enrolled as an auditor in the École Pratique des Hautes Études and sought to document Palestinian culture and heritage by collecting Palestinian postage stamps, postcards, and posters. He also established a department for Palestinian cinema within the PLO office in Paris and succeeded in attracting a collective of progressive young French filmmakers called the Vincennes Group to work with him. Shortly after he was assassinated, they made a documentary about him titled with his name.
On August 3, 1978, Kalak was assassinated, along with his assistant Adnan Hammad, in the PLO office in Paris by two young men whom the PLO leadership accused of belonging to the splinter faction Fatah–the Revolutionary Council, the organization led by Sabri al-Banna (Abu Nidal), which had broken away from Fatah in 1974. They were arrested by the French police, put on trial, and sentenced to fifteen years in prison in March 1980. They were released after serving half of their sentence.
The assassination of Kalak triggered major reverberations in both the Arab world and the international community. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an official statement about his killing, which included this acknowledgment: “He always worked to conduct a constructive dialogue with the French authorities.” Most French newspapers lauded his character and the role he played. Large throngs of people, both French and foreigners, who considered themselves friends of the Palestinian people came to pay their final respects to his body at the Grand Mosque of Paris, and among the large crowd that participated in the final prayer for the deceased were accredited Arab diplomats in Paris. His body was then transported to Damascus, where a massive funeral was held for him, attended by tens of thousands of Palestinians and Syrians, after which he was buried at the martyrs’ cemetery in Yarmouk refugee camp. The martyr’s eulogy was given by PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat.
The death of Ezzedine Kalak, when he was in the prime of his life, was a blow to the PLO; it lost an outstanding diplomat, a prominent scholar, and a true militant for the Palestinian cause. Kalak followed in the footsteps of his comrade Mahmoud al-Hamshari in laying the first building blocks for Palestinian political organizing and media advocacy in France. He successfully attracted a wide range of French politicians, intellectuals, trade unionists, and media personalities to the Palestinian cause.
"شهداء بلا تماثيل" (قصص قصيرة). منشورات فلسطين الثورة، 1978
[Martyrs without statues (short stories)]
L'affiche palestinienne: Collection d’Ezzedine Kalak. Paris: Le Sycomore, 1979.
Palestinian Posters: The Collection of Ezzedine Kalak.
Palestine: Cartes Postales de la Collection de Ezzedine Kalak. Le Caire: Arab Graphic Center, 1980.
Abdul Hadi, Mahdi, ed. Palestinian Personalities: A Biographic Dictionary. 2nd ed., revised and updated. Jerusalem: Passia Publication, 2006.
Bôle-Richard, Michel. “Les assassins d'Ezzedine Kalak ont été condamnés à quinze ans de réclusion criminelle.” Le Monde, 10 March 1980.
“Ezzedine Kalak: portrait d'un militant.” Beyrouth : Département de l'information extérieure, Organisation de libération de la Palestine, 1978.
الريماوي، إيهاب. "الشهيد عز الدين القلق دبلوماسي الثورة في أوروبا". وكالة وفا، 7 /8/2019.
Ezzedine Kalak Website (in Arabic): http://ezzedinekalak.com/with-ezzedine
Palestine Liberation Organization (I)
The Reemergence of the Palestinian National Movement