Palestine Liberation Organization

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The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (Arabic: منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية or Munazzamat al-Tahrir al-Falastiniyyah) is a political and paramilitary organization of Palestinians dedicated to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the region historically known as Palestine. From the organization's establishment in 1964 until the end of the 1980s the main targets of the organization were political representation of the Palestinian people and armed struggle in the state of Israel until the destruction of Israel. In 1993 the leader of PLO recognized in the state of Israel in an official letter to the prime minister of Israel. In response Israel recognized PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In 1969, Yasser Arafat became the Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and remained so until his death in 2004. He was succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen.)

The PLO emblem shows the Palestinian flag above a map of the land of Palestine (roughly, present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)
The PLO emblem shows the Palestinian flag above a map of the land of Palestine (roughly, present-day Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip)



Founded in 1964, the PLO has a nominal legislative body, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), but most actual political power and decisions are controlled by the PLO Executive Committee, made up of 15 people elected by the PNC. The PLO incorporates a range of generally secular ideologies of different Palestinian movements committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence and "liberation", hence the name of the organization. The Palestine Liberation Organization is considered the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and holds a permanent observer seat in the UN General Assembly.

It was led by Yasser Arafat since 1969 until his death in 2004. Since then the PLO is chaired by Mahmoud Abbas.

The PLO includes Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Palestinian People's Party, the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), the Popular Struggle Front (PSF) and As-Sa'iqa as well as other minor groups.



The Arab League on Cairo Summit 1964 initiated the creation of an organisation representing the Palestinian people. The Palestinian National Council convened in Jerusalem on 29 May 1964. Concluding this meeting the PLO was founded on 2 June 1964. Its Statement of Proclamation of the Organization [1] declared "... the right of the Palestinian Arab people to its sacred homeland Palestine and affirming the inevitability of the battle to liberate the usurped part from it, and its determination to bring out its effective revolutionary entity and the mobilization of the capabilities and potentialities and its material, military and spiritual forces".

Due to the influence of the Egyptian President Nasser the PLO supported the nasseristic 'Pan-Arabism' - the ideology that the Arabs should live in one state. The first executive committee was formed on 9 August, with Ahmad Shuqeiri as its leader.

In spite of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the Arab states remained unreconciled with Israel's creation and the proposed partition of Palestine in 1948. Therefore the Palestinian National Charter of 1964 [2] stated: "The claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history or with the true basis of sound statehood. ... [T]he Jews are not one people with an independent personality because they are citizens to their states." (Article 18), and "This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area." (Article 24)

Leadership by Yasser Arafat

The defeat of Syria, Jordan and Egypt in the Six Day War of 1967 destroyed the credibility of the states that sought to be patrons of the Palestinian people and weakened Nasser significantly. The way was opened for Yasser Arafat, who advocated guerilla warfare and who successfully sought to make the PLO a fully independent organisation under the control of the fedayeen organisations. At the Palestinian National Congress meeting of 1969, the Fatah gained control of the executive bodies of the PLO. At the Palestinian National Congress in Cairo on February 3, 1969 Arafat was appointed PLO chairman. From then on, the Executive Committee was composed essentially of representatives of the various member organisations.

Black September in Jordan

Main article: Black September in Jordan

The PLO suffered a major reversal with the Jordanian assault on its armed groups in the events known as Black September in 1970. The Palestinian groups were expelled from Jordan, and during the 1970s the PLO was effectively an umbrella group of eight organizations headquartered in Damascus and Beirut, all devoted to what they called armed resistance to either Zionism or Israeli occupation, using methods which included attacks on civilians and guerrilla warfare against Israel.

Ten Point Program

In 1974, the PNC approved the Ten Point Program formulated by Fatah's leaders which calls for the establishment of a national authority over any piece of liberated Palestinian land, and to actively pursue the establishment of a secular democratic binational state in Israel/Palestine under which all citizens will enjoy equal status and rights regardless of race, sex, or religion. The Ten Point Program was considered the first attempt by PLO at a peaceful resolution, though the ultimate goal was "completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory, and as a step along the road to comprehensive Arab unity".[3]

At times, the PLO contained other groups which have since left the organization for various reasons, such as the radical group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) splinter group within the PFLP, left in 1974 in protest of the Ten Point Program.

The PLO in Lebanon and the Lebanese Civil War

Main article: Lebanese Civil War

In the mid-1970s, Arafat and his Fatah movement found themselves in a tenuous position politically. The PLO's Rejection Front opposed Arafat's growing calls for diplomacy from the mid-1970s, perhaps best symbolized by his support for a UN Security Council resolution proposed in 1976 calling for a two-state settlement on the pre-1967 borders and his Ten Points Program, which was denounced by the Rejection Front (and vetoed by the United States). The population in the Occupied Territories, for their part, saw Arafat as their only hope for a favourable resolution to the conflict, especially in the aftermath of the Camp David Accords, which Palestinians had seen as a blow to their aspirations to self-determination; on the other hand, Israeli leaders, who had their own designs for the Occupied Territories, resented Arafat's popularity and increasing diplomatic credibility. Meanwhile, Abu Nidal, a sworn enemy of the PLO since 1974, assassinated the PLO's diplomatic envoy to the European Economic Community, which in the Venice Declaration of 1980 had called for the Palestinian right of self-determination to be recognized by Israel. The sponsors of the assassination were never conclusively identified, but it was at any rate clear that Arafat's diplomatic machinations were not universally welcomed.

In the Lebanese Civil War the PLO first fought against the Maronites, then against Israel, then, finally, against the Syrian supported Amal militia. From 1985 to 1988 Amal besieged Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to drive out supporters of Arafat. Many thousands of Palestinians died of fire and starvation. After the Amal siege ended there was a great deal of intra-Palestinian fighting in the camps. (see War of the Camps)

Opposition to Arafat was notably fierce not only among radical Arab groups but among many on the Israeli right as well, including Menachem Begin, who had stated on more than one occasion that even if the PLO accepted UN Security Council resolution 242 and recognized Israel's right to exist, he would never negotiate with the organization (Smith, op. cit., p. 357). This contradicted the official United States position that it would negotiate with the PLO if the PLO accepted resolution 242 and recognized Israel, which the PLO had thus far been unwilling to do. Other Arab voices had recently called for a diplomatic resolution to the hostilities in accord with the international consensus, including Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat on his visit to Washington in August 1981 and Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia in his 7 August peace proposal; together with Arafat's diplomatic manoeuvres, these developments made Israel's argument that it had "no partner for peace" seem increasingly problematic. Thus, in the eyes of Israeli hard-liners, "the Palestinians posed a greater challenge to Israel as a peacemaking organization than as a military one" (Smith, op. cit., 376).

Tunis & Algeria

In 1982, the PLO relocated to Tunis after it was driven out of Lebanon by Israel during Israel's six-month invasion of Lebanon.

On October 1, 1985, in Operation Wooden Leg, Israeli Air Force F-15s bombed the PLO's Tunis headquarters, killing more than 60 people.

First Intifada

Main article: First Intifada

In 1987 the First Intifada broke out in the occupied territories. The Intifada caught the PLO by surprise [4], and the leadership abroad could only indirectly influence the events while a new local leadership, the Unified Intifada Leadership comprised of many leading Palestinian factions, emerged. When King Hussein of Jordan proclaimed the administrative and legal separation of the West Bank from Jordan in 1988, the Palestine National Council adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in Algiers proclaiming an independent State of Palestine. The declaration made reverence to UN resolutions without explicitly mentioning Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. A month later Arafat declared in Geneva that the PLO would support a solution of the conflict based on these Resolutions. Effectively the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist within pre-1967 borders, with the understanding that the Palestinians would be allowed to set up their own state in the West Bank and Gaza. The United States accepted this clarification by Arafat and began to allow diplomatic contacts with PLO officials. The Proclamation of Independence did not lead to a Palestinian State, although over 100 states recognised the "State of Palestine".

Oslo Accords

In 1993, the PLO secretly negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel. The accords were signed on 20 August 1993. There was a subsequent public ceremony in Washington D.C. on September 13, 1993 with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. The Accords granted the Palestinians right to self-government on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank through the creation of the Palestinian Authority. Yasser Arafat was appointed head of the PA. Although the PLO and the Palestinian Authority are not formally linked the PLO dominates the administration. The headquarters of the PLO were moved to Ramallah on the West Bank.

On 9 September 1993, Arafat issued a press release stating that "the PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security". Some factions within the PLO and the PA, who used to seek peaceful coexistence with Israel while creating a Palestinian state within the West Bank and Gaza, have lost popular support due to the reoccupation of PA controlled areas in the West Bank.

Numerous leaders within the PLO and the PA, including Yasser Arafat himself, have declared that the State of Israel has a permanent right to exist, and that the peace treaty with Israel is genuine, though members of the PLO have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against Israelis since the Oslo Accords. Some Palestinian officials have stated that the peace treaty must be viewed as permanent. A majority of Israelis believe Palestinians should have a state of their own. At the same time, a significant portion of the Israeli public and some political leaders (including the former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) express doubt over whether a peaceful, coherent state can be founded by the PLO and call for significant re-organization, including the elimination of all terrorism, before any talk about independence.

Second Intifada

Main article: Al-Aqsa Intifada

The PLO in the United Nations

The United Nations General Assembly granted the PLO observer status on November 22, 1974. On January 12, 1976 the UN Security Council voted 11-1 with 3 abstentions to allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization to participate in a Security Council debate without voting rights, a privilege usually restricted to UN member states.

After the Palestinian Declaration of Independence the PLO's representation was renamed Palestine. On July 7, 1998, this status was extended to allow participation in General Assembly debates, though not in voting.

In numerous Resolutions by the General Assembly the PLO was declared the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People. This was recognised by Israel in the Oslo Accords from 1993.

PLO National Charter

The text of the Palestinian National Charter as amended in 1968 contains many clauses calling for the destruction of the state of Israel. In letters exchanged between Arafat and Rabin in conjunction with the 1993 Oslo Accords, Arafat agreed that those clauses would be removed. On 26 April 1996, the Palestine National Council voted to nullify or amend all such clauses, and called for a new text to be produced. A letter from Arafat to US President Clinton in 1998 listed the clauses concerned, and a meeting of the Palestine Central Committee approved that list. A public meeting of PLO, PNC and PCC members also confirmed the letter in Clinton's presence, and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted this as the promised nullification. Nevertheless, a new text of the Charter has never been produced, and this is the source of a continuing controversy. Critics of the Palestinian organizations claim that failure to produce a new text proves the insincerity of the clause nullifications. One of several Palestinian responses is that the proper replacement of the Charter will be the constitution of the forthcoming state of Palestine. The published draft constitution states that the territory of Palestine "is an indivisible unit based upon its borders on the 4th of June 1967".

The 1968 PLO Charter endorses the use of violence, specifically "armed struggle" against what they call "Zionist imperialism." Article 10 of the Palestinian National Charter states "Commando (Feday’ee) action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness, and the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution. It also requires the achieving of unity for the national (watani) struggle among the different groupings of the Palestinian people, and between the Palestinian people and the Arab masses, so as to secure the continuation of the revolution, its escalation, and victory."

Important members of the PLO

In addition to Arafat, the PLO has many other well known leaders. One of them is the Palestinian Christian Hanan Ashrawi. She is a Professor of Literature at a West Bank university who has contributed to the understanding of English literature among the Palestinians and developed and compiled that people's own literature. By doing so, Palestinian identity and development has been furthered, consistent with the basic principles of the PLO.

Allegations of terrorism

Successive Israeli governments have considered the PLO to be a terrorist organization both because of its conflict with Israeli military forces and because the PLO has targetted and killed Israeli civilians within its territory and abroad. Israel cites multiple examples of terrorist actions carried out by or controlled by the PLO:

In order to settle a wrongful death lawsuit, the PLO has paid an undisclosed sum to the daughters of Leon Klinghoffer, who in 1985 was murdered aboard the cruise ship Achille Lauro during a hijacking by the Palestine Liberation Front.

Until the 1993 signing of the Declaration of Principles between the PLO and Israel in Washington, the US government listed the PLO as a terrorist organization .

Palestinian supporters and some international jurists consider some attacks on the Israeli military legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation [5]. Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions (1949), which has not been universally accepted in whole as international law, particularly not by Israel and the United States offers support for this view. However, almost all international opinion considers targeted attacks on civilians to be terrorist acts.

Statements made by PLO

The PLO has a wide diversity of opinions within it, some more peaceful than others. The opinions expressed by some PLO members do not necessarily reflect the organization as a whole.

On fighting against Israel:

"We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. . . . We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem." --Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO (in front of an Arab audience in Stockholm in 1996)
"Whoever thinks of stopping the uprising before it achieves its goals, I will give him ten bullets in the chest." --Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO
"I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter's gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." --Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO (November, 1974, while speaking at the United Nations)
"We know only one word: jihad,jihad, jihad.When we stopped the intifada, we did not stop the jihad for the establishment of a Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem. And now we are entering the phase of the great jihad prior to the establishment of an independant Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem...We are in a conflict with the Zionist movement and the Balfour Declaration and all imperialist activities." --Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO (During an October 21,1996 speech at the Dehaishe refugee camp)

On accepting Israel:

"Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian covenant." --Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO (in the exchange of letters with Israel on 9 September 1993)
"Israel must not demand that the PLO alter its covenant, just as the PLO does not demand that the Jewish nation cancel the Bible." --Ziad Abu Ziad, senior PLO official (in a speech to the American Jewish Federation, 23 October 1993)
"Palestinians are no strangers to compromise. In the 1993 Oslo Accords, we agreed to recognize Israeli sovereignty over 78 percent of historic Palestine and to establish a Palestinian state on only 22 percent." -- Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian negotiator, 5 August 2000
In his 22 April 2004 interview with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Arab, the PLO minister still living in Tunisia Farouk Kaddoumi said that the PLO charter was never changed so as to recognize Israel's right to exist. "The Palestinian national charter has not been amended until now. It was said that some articles are no longer effective, but they were not changed. I'm one of those who didn't agree to any changes." He said also: "...the national struggle must continue. I mean the armed struggle... Fatah was established on the basis of the armed struggle and that this was the only way to leading to political negotiations that would force the enemy to accept our national aspirations. Therefore there is no struggle other than the armed military struggle... If Israel wants to leave the Gaza Strip, then it should do so. This means that the Palestinian resistance has forced it to leave. But the resistance will continue. Let the Gaza Strip be South Vietnam. We will use all available methods to liberate North Vietnam." (Source: [6])

"If you are asking me, as a man who belongs to the Islamic faith, my answer is also "From the river to the sea," the entire land is an Islamic Waqf which can not be bought or sold, and it is impossible to remain silent while someone is stealing it ..." -- Faisal Husseini (1940-2001), Fatah leader and PA Minister for Jerusalem, 'Al-Arabi' (Egypt), 24 June 2001. [7]. Similar statements made in the newspaper 'As-Safir' on 3 March 2001 page 23 of the report [8]

On whether the PLO police force will work with Israel against terrorism:

"The Joint Security Coordination and Cooperation Committee set up under Article II hereunder shall develop a plan to ensure full coordination between the Israeli military forces and the Palestinian police..." -- from the agreement signed by Israel and the PLO in Cairo on 4 May 1994 (paragraph 2a of Annex I to the agreement)
"Anyone who thinks the Palestinian police will try to prevent attacks outside the borders of the autonomous area is making a bitter mistake." --- Sufian Abu Zaida, a leader of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction in Gaza (Maariv, 25 April 1994)
"If there are those who oppose the agreement with Israel, the gates are open to them to intensify the armed struggle." -- Jibril Rajoub, PLO security chief for the West Bank, during a lecture at Bethlehem University (Yediot Aharonot, 27 May 1994)

On the right of return of Palestinian refugees:

"I recently read an interview with an elderly Palestinian woman living in the Ein el Hilwa camp in Lebanon. Tightly gripping the rusted key to her family's farm near Jaffa, she asked her interviewer how she should explain to her grandchildren, who had known only the stench of the camp's open sewers, what it was like to wake up to the scent of fresh lemons." -- Elia Zureik, a Professor of Sociology at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada, Advises the Palestine Liberation Organization on Refugee Issues
"800,000 Palestinians among those who left after 1967 will come back in the transitional period, which is five years. Those who left in 1948 will come back after the declaration of the Palestinian independent state." -- Nabil Sha'ath, head of the PLO delegation to the talks with Israel in Taba (Al-Hayat, 28 September 1993)
"In my opinion, the refugees problem is more important than a Palestinian state" -- Faruk Kadumi, general secretary of the Fatah council (Kul Al-Arab, 3 Jannuar 2003)

On why the PLO signed the Cairo agreement with Israel:

"The money is the carrot for signing the peace agreement with Israel. We have signed." -- Hassan Abu Libdah, deputy chairman of the PLO's Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction (The New York Times, 10 June 1994)

On Palestinian statehood:

"Palestinians believe that Jerusalem should be a shared, open city; two capitals for two states." -- Faisal Husseini, senior PLO representative in Israel, 3 July 2000
"Gradually, stage by stage, we will reach an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital." -- Faisal Husseini, senior PLO representative in Israel (Beirut Times, 16 September 1993)
The Palestinian flag "will fly over the walls of Jerusalem, the churches of Jerusalem and the mosques of Jerusalem." -- Yasser Arafat, Former Chairman of the PLO (Jordanian TV, 13 September 1993)

Leaders of the PLO

See also

External links

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