Ghassan Kanafani was born in Acre, Palestine in 1936. He received a French missionary school education in Jaffa, but following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War his family was forced into exile. They fled to Lebanon, and later settled in Syria as Palestinian refugees. Kanafani completed his secondary education in Damascus, receiving a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) teaching certificate in 1952. He enrolled in the Department of Arabic Literature at the University of Damascus and later joined the Arab Nationalists Movement (ANM), a pan-Arab organization led by George Habash. Kanafani was expelled from the university in 1955 because of his political involvement. He moved to Kuwait, where he worked as a teacher.
Kanafani edited the newspaper “Al-Ra’i” (The Opinion) and wrote political essays under the pen name Abu Al-Ezz. He moved to Beirut in 1960 to edit the ANM newspaper “Al-Hurria” (The Liberty). Further editorial roles followed, and in 1967 he became the spokesman of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
He published 18 books and wrote hundreds of articles, focusing on the Palestinian people’s struggle. His first novel, Rijal Fee Al-Shams (Men in the Sun, 1964), examined the migration of Palestinians. In 1973, it was adapted for film as Al-Makhdo’aoon (The Deceived); the film was later selected as one of the 100 most important international political movies. He also wrote plays, such as The Door (1964) and short stories for children.
Kanafani won the International Organization for Journalists’ Award in 1974,the Lotus Award in 1975, and the Order of Jerusalem for Culture and Arts in 1990. These were all posthumous awards, however. Kanafani was killed by a car bomb, thought to have been planted by Israel's Mossad, on 8 July 1972 in Beirut.