Friday, May 13, 2016

People Taking Charge: The Palestine Liberation Organization


Palestine National Security Forces

"It would be my greatest sadness to see Zionists do to Palestinian Arabs much of what the Nazis did to the Jews." - Albert Einstein

"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians." - Nelson Mandela

"You can call me what you want, but I cannot act like nothing is going on." - Kent Allen Halliburton

       The Palestine Liberation Organization, or the PLO, was established in 1964 and has been the embodiment of the Palestinian nationalist movement ever since. At its first summit meeting in Cairo that same year, it was the Arab League that initiated the creation of an organization representing the Palestinian people. Not much later, the Palestinian National Council convened in Jerusalem on May 28, 1964. On June 2, 1964, at the conclusion of this meeting the PLO was formerly founded. Its stated goal was the liberation of Palestine through armed struggle. It was designed to be broad national front, or an umbrella organization, comprised of multiple organizations involved in the resistance movement, from political parties and popular social and military organizations to independent personalities and figures from all sectors of life. At the Arab Summit, in 1974, the PLO was recognized as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Since this time, the PLO has represented Palestine in organizations like the United Nations, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, among many others. In addition to its broad national and political goals, the PLO has taken on many social responsibilities, such as the provision of public health services, public education, and family relocation services, among many others. However, the ultimate goal of the PLO is still declared to be the achievement of the national goals of the Palestinian people; which means, directly, it is their goal to achieve the independence of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital.


        The ideology of the PLO was formulated in 1964, the same year, of course, as its founding. This ideology is outlined in the Palestinian National Covenant. The document is an intentionally combative and directly anti-Zionist statement dedicated to the restoration of the Palestinian homeland. Interestingly enough, the original document makes no reference to religion. In 1968, the covenant was replaced by a comprehensively revised version. The primary concept in the PLO's fundamental ideology is that foreign backed Zionists unjustly expelled the Palestinians from Palestine and established a Jewish state in its place without the consent of the people that they removed. Further, they justified this forced removal under the pretext of having historic and Jewish ties with Palestine, which the Palestinians did receive sufficient proof of. The PLO also demanded that all Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their ancestral homes. They expressed this in Article 2 of the Covenant, where they state, ″Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit." This meant for them, at the time that there is was place for a Jewish state in Palestine. Right up until 1993, the only promoted option was for the Palestinians was armed struggle. However, in 1993, the PLO signed the Oslo Accords, a peace agreement with Israel. This agreement was supposed to secure negotiation and diplomacy as the only methods of communication between Palestine and Israel. It has, obviously, not been successful.


         The PLO is constitutionally secular, as its dominating faction, the Fatah, but they are often individually contrasted to their more religious factions like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. All, however, represent a predominant Muslim population. The majority of Palestinians are Muslim. However, in the occupied territories, there are about fifty thousand Christian Palestinians and small percentage of Jews. This is among a population of about four million six hundred thousand total Palestinians in the occupied territories. There are roughly another half million Palestinian nationals dispersed around the world. This does not account for the descendants of exiles, who have since taken citizenship in other nations. The National Covenant, as mentioned, has no reference to religion because it was specifically intended that the PLO be secular. However, under President Arafat, the Fatah dominated Palestinian Authority, founded in 1994 to comply with the Oslo Accords, adopted the 2003 Amended Basic Law, which stipulates that Islam is the sole official religion in Palestine and that the principles of Islamic Sharia Law are basis of all legislation enacted by the PA. The constitution that was written up by the PA, but never adopted, contains the same provisions. At the time, the Palestinian Legislative Council, essentially the PA's Congress, did not include a single Hamas member, who many associate with the institution of Sharia Law. The draft Constitution was formulated by a Constitutional Committee, which was appointed with the tacit approval of the PLO. The 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords, however, deliberately detached the Palestinian population in the occupied territories from the PLO and the Palestinians in exile by creating a Palestinian Authority specifically for the territories. A separate parliament and government were even established. Mahmoud Abbas was one of the architects of the Oslo Accords. Many Palestinians, both at home and abroad, have question his actions since, even though he is the current President of the PA.


        Many in the PLO opposed the Oslo Accords, but both the executive committee and the central council approved the agreements, though by narrow margins. This marked the beginning of the PLO’s decline, as the PA came to replace the PLO as the primary Palestinian political institution. Political factions within the PLO that had opposed the Oslo process were marginalized. It was only after Hamas won the PA parliamentary elections in 2006 and 2007 that the PLO resurfaced. After Hamas took over the governing body Gaza in 2007, Abbas issued a decree suspending the PLC and some sections of the Palestinian Basic Law. He then appointed Salam Fayyad as Prime Minister. Traditionally, the PLO managed to overcome the separation by keeping the power of the PLO and the PA in one hand, Yasser Arafat. As of 2002, Arafat held the titles Chairman of the PLO, Chairman of Fatah, and President of the Palestinian National Authority. He also controlled the Palestinian National Security Forces. Abbas retains control of Palestine in a similar manner now, which is how he stopped Hamas from taking over the whole of the Palestinian government in 2007.


        The Palestinian Liberation Front was founded by Ahmed Jibril and Shafiq al-Hout in 1961, and enjoyed strong Syrian backing. In 1967 the PLF merged with two other groups, the Arab Nationalist Movement, also known as Heroes of the Return, and the Young Avengers, to form the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP was led by former ANM leader George Habash, but in April 1968 Jibril split from this group to form the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), which returned to the strongly pro-Syrian position of the former PLF. This eventually led to a reestablishment of the PLF because Jibril's PFLP-GC followed Syria into battle against the PLO in 1976 during the Lebanese Civil War. The two factions actually fought each other in open conflict. It was only after mediation by Yassir Arafat that the two organizations were able to reconcile. On April 24, 1977, survivors from both factions formed the new PLF. They chose Muhammad Zaidan, also known as Abu Abbas, and Tal'at Ya'qub as their new leaders. Sporadic fighting between members that did not wish to accept did continue. This included a bombing of the PLF headquarters in August of the same year. Unfortunately, two hundred people lost their lives.


        The leadership of the PLF was active in the PLO and Abu Abbas acted as their representative to the PLO's executive committee. Immediately following the PLO's signature of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which the PLF strongly opposed, Abu Abbas was convinced to abandon violence, and he acknowledged Israel's right to exist. The movement maintained offices in the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, and Iraq, but its activities dwindled. The organization has not disappeared, but its home territories, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, its support has dwindled. The center of its strength lied in Lebanese refugee camps, where coordinated with the Fatah party of the Palestinian government to organize resistance fighters against the Syrian Regime and various Syrian backed militant bands. In November of 2001, fifteen members of a PLF cell were arrested by Israeli authorities. Some of those captured had received military training in Iraq. The cell had been planning attacks against Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the Ben Gurion airport. The cell had already been involved in other violent activities including the murder of Israeli civilian Yuri Gushstein. During US bled, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Abu Abbas was captured in April of 2003, by US forces. He died, on March 9, 2004, reportedly of natural causes, while in US custody. It has been reported that some members of the PLF have since made their way into the ranks of ISIL.


        Hamas, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organization  It has a social service wing, Dawah, and a military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and, since 2007, has been the governing authority of the Gaza Strip. Hamas was founded in 1987, soon after the First Intifada, a Palestinian revolt against Israeli occupation, broke out. It was as an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and originally, did not hold an aggressive position against Israel. In fact, in the beginning, they were actually hostile with the PLO. Co-founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin, stated in 1987, and the Hamas Charter later affirmed in 1988 that Hamas was founded to liberate Palestine, including all of modern day Israel, from Israeli occupation. They also vowed to establish an Islamic state in the area that is now Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. The group has stated in the past that it might accept a ten year truce deal, but this was only if Israel agreed to withdraw to the 1967 borders. They also had to allow all surviving Palestinian refugees from the 1948 expulsion, as well as any of their descendants who wished to, to return to what is now Israel. Hamas' military wing objected to the offer, even the agreement would not technically mean that they had formally recognized Israel or ceded ground in their fight for liberation. To this day, no such truce has been made, and it is quite clear that Hamas knows very well that the conditions of its truce offer will never be met by Israel. That is, perhaps, the point.


        The military wing of Hamas has launched attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. Tactics include suicide bombings, and since 2001, rocket attacks. Hamas's rocket arsenal, though mainly consisting of short-range homemade Qassam rockets, also includes long-range weapons that have reached major Israeli cities including Tel Aviv and Haifa. The attacks on civilians have been condemned as war crimes and crimes against humanity by human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch. In the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas won a decisive majority in the Palestinian Parliament, defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party. Following the elections, the Quartet (the United States, Russia, United Nations, and European Union) made future foreign assistance to the Palestinian Authority conditional upon the future government's commitment to non-violence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements. Hamas rejected those changes, which led to the Quartet suspending its foreign assistance program and Israel imposing economic sanctions on the Hamas-led administration.


        Having explored the present condition of the Palestinian cause, let us briefly review why they are in that condition. On May 14, 1948, in Tel Aviv, Jewish Agency Chairman David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the State of Israel, establishing the first Jewish state in 2,000 years. In an afternoon ceremony at the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Ben-Gurion pronounced the words “We hereby proclaim the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine, to be called Israel,” prompting applause and tears from the crowd gathered at the museum. Ben-Gurion became Israel’s first premier. Beginning in 1929, Arabs and Jews openly fought in Palestine, and Britain attempted to limit Jewish immigration as a means of appeasing the Arabs. As a result of the Holocaust in Europe, many Jews, fleeing the Nazis, illegally entered Palestine during World War II. Radical Jewish group, then, employed terrorism against British forces in Palestine, which they thought had betrayed the Zionist cause. At the end of World War II, in 1945, the United States took up the Zionist cause. Britain, unable to find a practical solution, referred the problem to the United Nations, which in November 1947 voted to partition Palestine, and asked the United States to lend military support. The Jews were to possess more than half of Palestine, although they made up less than half of Palestine’s population. The Palestinian Arabs, aided by volunteers from other countries, fought the Zionist forces, but by May 14, 1948, the Jews had secured full control of their U.N -allocated share of Palestine, as well as, some additional Palestinian Arab territory.


        So, here is what the Palestinians are faced with. A foreign international governing body, the United Nations, of which they were not a part, voted, in 1947, to arbitrarily partition their country. Further, the United Nations then handed half of the country over to European immigrants, next to none of whom knew the local language, Arabic, understood the local customs, or had ever even set foot in Palestine in their entire lifetimes. Then, the United Nations, backed by the United States and Great Britain, backed these foreign settlers with military might, and assisted them in the formation of a national government that did not involve the Palestinian people. This, however, was not the end of the situation for the Palestinians. Not only had a foreign power invaded their country and set up a foreign backed government, they now supported the expulsion of the local population from those towns and villages that were within the arbitrarily set boundaries established by those foreign powers, and this was done with the force of tanks, bombs, and guns. Those Palestinians that were not killed, either went into exile or were forced to settled in Gaza, the Golan Heights, or the West Bank. Since then, most of settlements in the Golan Heights and the West Bank have eliminated. Further, since 1948, nearly five and half million Palestinians have lost their lives and another seven million have been forced to abandon their homeland for destinations all over the world. Worse, the body count and refugee lists are still growing. How is this not an international human rights crisis?


        The very simple and quick answer is that the powers that be do not want it to be considered a human rights issue, so it isn't. The next question, then, is why is that? Let us take a stroll down history lane. In the middle of 1942, Adolf Hitler's Afrika Corps was on a dead run across North Africa. They were headed for the oil fields of the Middle East. In the north, they were trying to reach the oil of the Caspian Sea region. In Africa, Great Britain and the United States halted his advance. In the north, it was the Russians who did the job. Post World War II, a world hungry for oil looked upon the Middle East with greedy eyes. The now, Western Powers, decided to cooperate, but they needed an ally in the region. Hah! No one in this region was going to willingly help their former colonial masters! So, the Western Powers, with the United States and Great Britain leading the way, latched onto the Zionist Movement, and helped set up the State of Israel, which they, then, gave their full military and political backing. Before World War II, the governments the United States and the majority of the European nations did not give a damn about Jews or a State of Israel. They did not care until they needed it to help them get natural resources. Essentially, Israel has been nothing more than a tool of the Western economic powers. It serves as a buffer state to ensure that Western economic and military interests have a fall back point, just in case things get hairy elsewhere in the Middle East. Worse, it is the Palestinians that have had to suffer the consequences. Who, among us, would not be ready to go the same extremes, as have the Palestinians, if we were subjected to the same conditions with which they have had not contend for, now, nearly seventy years?


        So, considering the number of Palestinians that have lost their lives since 1948 and the outright theft of land that took place, this should be a serious international human rights issue! There is another reason, aside from the powers that be and oil arguments, why it is not, though. The arrow points straight at politics and propaganda. For the past, nearly, seventy years, anyone who has spoken out against the atrocities that have been committed against the Palestinians, has been labeled anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, or even a Holocaust denier or Conspiracy Theorist. For many years that has been enough for people to keep silent. Well, not so much anymore. First of all, lets dissolve the completely backwards assumption that calling out Israel for their actions in Palestine is Anti-Semitic. First, most of the Jews that suffered in the Holocaust, were European Jews, which means that their Semitic blood was actually drastically diluted. Studies have shown that only about ten percent of all European Jews were actual full blooded Semites. This basically just means most Jewish families mixed in with populations that they did business with, who were not Semitic. Second, the Palestinians are Arabs, and the Arabs are Semites just like the Jews, or Hebrews, as they originally called themselves. Further, most of the Jews presently in Israel come from these mixed families whose Semitic blood is drastically diluted, where as, the Palestinians are still living in their ancestral homeland. They are the true Semites in this situation. Who are the ones that are being truly anti-Semitic? That would be the Israelis. Look at the photos below. Which of these two men is actually a full blooded Semite from Palestine?


        If this makes a person anti-Israel that is a fair assessment, but that is not grounds to call them a Holocaust Denier or Conspiracy Theorist. It is a very distinct reality that the National Socialist German Workers Party, otherwise known as the Nazis, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, supervised the forced labor, starvation, and gruesome deaths of over six million European Jews. It is also known that the Jews were accompanied by the Roma, anyone of Slavic ancestry, homosexuals, the mentally and physically disabled, the elderly, and many more. These people were funneled through over seventy facilities across Europe, the most notoriously famous facility being Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were forced to endure conditions that most people could not conjure up in their worst nightmares, let alone their waking hours. One's soul should cringe at the thought of the pains endured at the hands of the Nazi doctors who were conducting human experiments. This was a serious crime against humanity and anyone that tries to legitimately deny that it happened needs to dealt with harshly. Having said this, one must also very clearly state that the nearly seventy year long occupation of Palestine, by a foreign invader back by a foreign military power, has resulted in the very real deaths of over five million Palestinians and the forced exile of over seven million more of them. One must also note that the present condition of Gaza is like that of a massive outdoor prison, or Concentration Camp. The State of Israel is committing crimes against humanity on the same scale as was committed against them and their ancestors. The tragic irony in this situation is mentally painful, but it is a reality. To offer some final perspective, consider this last historical fact. Around five percent of the Palestinians that have been either killed or exiled since 1948, were religious Jews.

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