Palestinian Liberation Organization

.. ering honour. Far from uniting behind the Palestinian cause as words might indicate, every Arab state in practice discriminated against Palestinians living in its midst and had differing slants upon the PLO. This was due to its nature as an umbrella organization, the PLO comprises a number of resistance organizations. These organizations entered the PLO as groups retaining their ideological and organizational identity. Consequently, PLO institutions are structured to reflect proportional representation of each organization in addition to the few independent members.

This has turned PLO politics into coalition politics. The flux of events between 1967 and 1982 offered Palestinians several chances to demonstrate en masse in favour of the PLO, if they had been so inclined. But they refrained, not due to fatalism or cowardice, but because they may be willing to pay lip service to Arafat, not much more than that. Whether Palestinians outside the Occupied Territories would in fact accept the legitimacy of the PLO as their representative was put to test in Jordan in 1970. Jordanian frontiers were the result of British map-making, which left half of the country’s inhabitants Palestinian by origin.

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The rapid financing and arming by Arab power holders of Arafat’s mercenaries offered these Palestinians in Jordan a chance to repudiate King Hussein and declare themselves nationalists for the new cause. Unexpectantly, Arafat’s power challenge threatened to replace King Hussein with a PLO state in Jordan. After 18 months, while tensions were running high, the PFLP hijacked international airliners, three of which were brought at gunpoint to Jordan. Taking advantage of this anarchic jockeying between rival Palestinian groups, King Hussein ordered his army to subjugate the whole movement. Palestinians in Jordan and on the West Bank gave evidence of their real feelings by denouncing the PLO and PFLP activists to the authorities and occasionally even helping to round them up.

David Pryce-Jones observed that “wherever they live, they observe for themselves that the PLO is a means to enrichment and aggrandizement for the unscrupulous few, but death and destruction for everyone else”. Everywhere Palestinians have little alternative but to cling to this identity, as they continue to seek what freedom they can from power holders of different identity. In Syria, any Palestinian who attempted to form some independent grouping would be seen as a dangerous conspirator and summarily disposed of. This left many with no choice but to remain silent. Fatah itself was split by power struggles initiated by a growing number of young Fatah activists who were trying to gain positions of power in local society, in the process challenging the older generation of Fatah leaders. They felt entitled to positions in the structures Arafat was trying to create.

The newest generation of people not only refuse to be cajoled or coerced, but also have acquired political organizing and networking skills in neighbourhoods, refugee camps, Israeli jails, and above all, in the political bodies created during the Intifada (uprising). The problem of factionalism has plagued the PLO from its formation. However, instead of adopting a policy of inclusion to accommodate the general goals of the people, he excluded not only the opposition but also the local Palestinians who had acted as his proxies before his return. He had promised he would be the leader of all Palestinians, but acted only like the President of his trusted lieutenants. Instead of speaking of tolerance and political pluralism, he spoke of respect for his authority.

On top of this, Arafat’s leadership was questioned. Arafat was criticized for filling his posts with loyalists whose professional qualifications are below average and whose reputations are tarnished. Other appointments brought more and more Palestinians to the conclusion that Arafat was mired in the past, and that he would continue to follow the policy plans he had formed long ago. The Chairman’s primacy within the PLO had been seriously compromised as a result of the secret negotiations that had led to the September 13, 1993 agreement with the Rabin government. The relationship with the masses that the charismatic Arafat had enjoyed was diminished by the concessions he made to Israel.

In modern day politics, he still remains a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, as does the PLO. But he faces much opposition. On the left various socialist groups think Arafat is too close to business and banking interests and too willing to negotiate with Israel or cooperate with America. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is one of these. It is led by George Habash, a Christian doctor.

It opposes any negotiations. On the right some Islamic groups feel the PLO is too willing to cooperate with socialists and is too willing to negotiate with Israel. They feel there should be a united Palestine where Jews could live but which would not be governed by Jews. The largest of these groups is called HAMAS, the Islamic Resistance Movement. Several Palestinian radicals have their own military organizations.

Abu Nidal is one of these. He is bitterly and violently opposed to the PLO for what he sees as its moderate positions. He has carried out airplane bombings and attacks on civilians and has tried to assassinate Arafat. He opposes any negotiation with Israel. He is probably funded by Iraq.

In the latest turn of events, Yasser Arafat has decided to scrap the anti-Israeli section of the PLO charter calling for its destruction. Some have said that this is due to Israeli pressure in the peace process, which demanded the change before new talks and settlements. Shimon Peres has called it the “most important ideological change of the century”, but it is sure to upset the Islamic fundamentalists, and those in the PLO who desire a completely pro-PLO solution. While there is so much contention and opposition to PLO decisions, the PLO cannot be called the sole representative of the Palestinian people, although it has a large following. BIBLIOGRAPHY 1.

David Pryce-Jones: The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs Harper Perennial, New York, 1991 2. Peter Calrocovessi: World Politics since 1945 (5th Ed) Longman Group, New York, 1987 3. Kamal Kirisai: The PLO and World Politics Frances Pinter, London, 1986 4. Muhammad Muslih : Arafat’s Dilemma Mr Kwok’s notes.