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Carlos the Jackal: Terrorist or Freedom Fighter?

by Chris Sullivan
28 October 2013 18 Comments

Some serious questions about the global portrayal and true story of the Jackal as a ruthless hit-man...

‘It’s great when you’re..oh, forget it…’

On watching director Olivier Assayas quite superb movie, Carlos, that tells of the life and times of the so called terrorist and hit man, Carlos the Jackal, AKA Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, I was confronted with one overwhelming reality which was that your man was not the pay for kill ‘terrorist ‘ that so many newspapers dubbed him as, but a man who fought and killed for what he believed in. As a member of the Popular Front For The Liberation of Palestine, he fought against what I believe to be the tyrannical weight of the US backed Israeli Zionist fascist right wing and their terrorist arm the Mossad who, for so long, have exercised a genocidal attack on their Palestinian neighbours, and he risked his life in doing so.

In effect he was a soldier and, just like the French resistance of WW2, was fighting a guerrilla war. Consider this – had the Germans won would the French resistance be viewed as the freedom fighters they were or terrorists? I think the latter. And what were Fidel Castro or Che Guevara–freedom fighters or terrorists?  And what is worse: a man who goes out and murders those who commission the annihilation of unarmed civilians or those that send in tanks to obliterate communities of innocent women and children? I know the answer.

The problem with any historical document is that those in power are the ones that sanction the publication of said history (which is in fact his story – that is the story approved by of the conquerors or those in control) and, as such, men like Carlos get the worst end of the stick. Still imprisoned in La Sante prison in suburban Paris for the murder of three cops who tried to arrest him, Ramirez is still not regarded as a soldier fighting a legitimate battle for a thoroughly brutalized country, but as a terrorist. Yet he has allies. In November 2009, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, defended Ramirez Sánchez during one of his speeches and maintained that his compatriot was an important “revolutionary fighter” who supported the cause of the Palestinians and was unfairly convicted.

And what is worse: a man who goes out and murders those who commission the annihilation of unarmed civilians or those that send in tanks to obliterate communities of innocent women and children?

“They accuse him of being a terrorist, but Carlos really was a revolutionary fighter,” Chavez claimed during a televised speech to socialist politicians from various countries, who applauded. But enough of my pontificating, it’s a great film with a gobsmackingly superb turn by Edgar Ramirez in the title role, aided by ridiculously excellent performances by every single cast member. It features a superb script by Dan Franck and Assayas, great cinematography by Denis Lenoir and Yorick Le Saux and is superbly executed to the last inch. Assayas admitted that, as far a exact scenario is concerned, some of the movie is speculation but he does get the man’s motivation and underlines the reality that Carlos, contrary to the stories written by the press at the time, was not going out and killing any Joe Schmo for bundles of readies. He had a political agenda which, in light of Israeli president Sharon’s ethnic cleansing in the subsequent years is entirely legitimate and justifiable.

Even Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, has admitted that Israel has conducted state-sponsored genocide against the Palestinians for decades and intensively in Gaza. Now that baffles me. You’d think that after WW2 and Auschwitz and the gas chambers the Israeli’s would be somewhat more empathetic. But no… they’re certainly not.

Carlos is now available on DVD in two versions – the 5 hour original Canal + mini-series or a two-hour theatrical version.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Joe Schmo 5:03 pm, 30-Nov-2010

A film review thinly disguised as an anti-semetic rant ? Nice.

James Brown 5:37 pm, 30-Nov-2010

An interesting book on the subject is 'To The End of The Earth' by David Yallop who goes into great detail about the background of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez. Two things strike you from reading the book.. one that Yallop spent the whole book on the trail of the wrong suspect. When he realises this three quarters of the way through it kind of undermines some of his perceptions of what went on. Keeping that in mind it's also apparent that by assuming the name Carlos the Jackal he was seen as far more effective and notorious than he actually was. The accounts of the terrorist attacks portray him as a bit of a deadly incompetent. Well worth a read.

chris sullivan 5:51 pm, 30-Nov-2010

There's a massive difference between an anti semitic rant (which you incorrectly spelled Mr.Schmo) and opposing the actions of the Israeli government.Director Julian Schnabel, whose mother was the president of Hadassah -the Women's Zionist Organization of America, just spent 2 years making the film , Miral (which opens December 3rd)that, based on the book of the same name by Rula Jebreal, is a sustained and deliberate attack on the policies of the Israel government.Many, many Jewish writers, historians and political commentators have criticized Israel's actions since 1948- so are they anti-semitic ? As Ilan Pappe (an Israeli historian)said, most Israeli's would be shocked if they were given the list of atrocities conducted by the government and its army - - so is he anti semitic also ?

Mr Patrick 11:57 am, 1-Dec-2010

It's a great film though it did start to drag towards the end. I may invest in the 5 hr version on DVD. I'm aware that much of it was speculation, but I'd very very surprised if the Revolutionary Cells really did listen to the Dead Boys when driving around.

Kevin 2:55 pm, 2-Dec-2010

Freedom fighters do not kill innocent people. Terrorists do.

RiptheMichael 9:41 pm, 2-Dec-2010

What's anti semetic about this? Having an opinion about a government's policy does not a racist make!

Heebee-jeepies 3:03 am, 20-Feb-2011

What a ridiculous review that somehow turns into an attack against Israel. Call me crazy, but when I read a review I actually want to know what the movie is about, not the childish political opinions of the writer. Just in terms of little history, to say the Israelis have long attacked the Palestinian people is a misreading of history. It was the Palestinians that rejected the UN Partition plan in 1947 (as well as indulged in regular terrorist attacks before then) and then launched an attack against the nascent state of Israel. That they then lost the war is like the Germans crying for their suffering and refugees after causing WWII. Oh and by the way, Ilan Pappe is hardly an objective historian...

Mr Patrick 11:55 pm, 23-Apr-2011

What's anti-semitic about this review is that Chris chose to ignore the fact that Carlos spent most of his time fighting against Jordan rather than opposing Israel. There is no mention at all of the Black September slaughter anywhere in this review.

alex julian 11:36 pm, 5-Jul-2011

Genocide.....very bizaare given the Palestinian population numbers. In that case the arabs have been committing genocide for years given they slaughter their own for years on end.

Josef K 1:34 am, 2-Oct-2011

Oh dear, Mr Sullivan, you really don't know what you're talking about, do you? State-sponsored genocide? Give me a break. Comparing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the destruction of European Jewry by the Nazis is crass, offensive, historically illiterate and plain stupid. As for your opening paragraph, stop throwing around incendiary terms that you clearly don't understand. Read some history and grow up. For the record, Schnabels' heavy-handed film, Miral, cuts both ways. It also quite awful, the director seemingly having been compromised by his romantic relationship with the author.

Simon 4:25 pm, 25-Oct-2012

You seemed to entirely miss the point of the film, he was a terrorist not a freedom fighter, there can be no comparison between him and the french resistance, had germany won WW2 we would be living under an oppressive and fascist state, making your point irrelevant, but i digress. The film showed that he was not neccesarily as previously described a "hitman" who indiscriminately killed for money but was essentially an ego driven tyrant, who wasn't fighting for any noble cause, merely because he enjoyed it. But it is my opinion that the only reason you wrote this inflammatory review was to give yourself a basis to express your views on isreal.

NickM 4:41 pm, 13-Jan-2013

Another self-righteous, trendy whiteboy slinging labels like ‘fascist’ and ‘terrorist’ at Israel. Get back to the luxury of worrying about your haircut and clothes, and leave the politics to people who have a grasp of history.

Sharpy 11:46 am, 12-Feb-2013

There is a lot of anti and pro Israel stuff on this article and in fact any time Israel is mentioned everybody starts calling out the other as the wrong doer. Lets both honest, this shitstorm of a mess would not have happened if they both were culpable. Everybody is right, because they are both innocent people led by cruel petty leaders. Carlos killed innocent people who were unrelated to and uninvolved with Israel and Jordan. That makes him a terrorist and a murderer and he deserves to be treated as such. And not a hero to be put on t-shirts for middle class englanders who dont understand why...

myleftboot 9:08 am, 13-Feb-2013

Not a terrorist? Tell that to the families of the 3 French policemen.

Harry Paterson 9:28 pm, 13-Feb-2013

Nice to see some independent thinking, Chris, and an interesting read. Couple of other points; getting tired of any criticism of Israel's disgusting oppression of the Palestinians being dubbed 'antisemitic.' Zionism is a vile ideology and merits all the slagging it gets. Terrorist or freedom fighter? Some nob on the thread reckoned freedom fighters don't kill innocent people. Every invasion the Yanks have conducted has been in pursuit of 'freedom' and 'democracy' or so they'd have us believe, and millions of innocents have died as a result. Finally, the only difference between the two is one has state power, the other doesn't.

Beezer 2:23 am, 28-Oct-2013

Throwing a grenade into a busy restaurant and killing/injuring dozens of innocent citizens indiscriminately = terrorist. This article (and the movie) = an awful case of historical revisionism.

JD 6:10 pm, 28-Oct-2013

I disagree on the anti-Semitic charge but this clearly is a thinly veiled attempt to express a political opinion. I particularly like the 'US backed Israeli Zionist Fascist right wing' statement, those few words tell me as much about Mr Sullivan as I need to know! Its almost as if the mere fact of something being 'US backed' makes it sinister (I shall be viewing Disneyland Paris with a new level of suspicion in future), and I also find it interesting how the term 'Zionist' is now almost a charge of being a part of some sort of malignant international conspiratorial society. It is definitely a heavily negatively charged term, when in reality it is just the idea that the Jews as a community would only be able to survive if they were to have their own nation state, which if you look back through history is easy to see why many Jews feel that way. For what its worth I do accept that atrocities are committed against the Palestinian people and their lies must an utterly miserable struggle from one day to the next, and that the conflict itself is open wound that is infecting the world helping to fuel further suffering. But is also a useful motif for those with sinister intentions to use to rally the ill-informed and those looking for something to be angry about. I would take the solidarity shown by the likes of Chavez with the people of Palestine with a pinch of salt, it is a politically convenient tool for an 'anti-establishment' world leader to use to express his radical credentials. I suspect that if history had taken a different course and the Jews were still a stateless diaspora spread across the world and often subjected to discrimination and abuse in the countries who will tolerate them, then theirs might well be the (dare I say it) fashionable cause for those leaders outside of the established community nations to rally to. There is my 50p worth!

Sabado Malangara 10:39 pm, 23-Jan-2014

Carlos, like Alexander The Great, is a great warrior leader of his time. Aware of the usurist evil occupying our world & not afraid to take up arms & execute Exemplary Global Strategic Genius to advance beneficial change in our world against established criminal usurists. The pro-semitic imbeciles who give prescripted comments are ignorant of the fact that Israel's founders were all 'terrorists' too. But, upon reflection, all pro-Israelis are atavistic racists, bigots & usurist criminals. Carlos, The Whole World Loves You. XXX.

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