The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (Arabic Munazzamat al-Tahrir Filastiniyyah منظمة تحرير فلسطينية ) is a political and paramilitary organization of Palestinian Arabs dedicated to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state to consist of the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, with an intent to destroy Israel. From 1969 the PLO chairman was Yasser Arafat until his death in 2004 when he was succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen.) In recent years the official goal has been redefined to consist of only the West Bank and Gaza Strip, although substantial parts of the organization do not abide by the new definition.
Founded in 1964, the PLO has a nominal legislative body of 300 members, the Palestinian National Council (PNC). Actual political power and decisions are controlled by the PLO Executive Committee, made up of 15 people voted in by the PNC. PLO ideology can be found in its constitution, the Palestinian Covenant, which was created in 1964. This covenant was amended in 1968; this version is made up of 33 articles. The original intention of the PLO was to establish a state of Palestine, which was called for in the Palestinian National Charter. Many articles in the Charter were publicly abrogated in 1993, but a new official text has not been produced.
In the 1970s the PLO, was 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. The PLO includes Fatah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), the Arab Liberation Front (ALF), the Popular Struggle Front (PSF) as well as other minor groups. It has at times contained other groups which have since left the organization for various reasons, such as:
- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) broke away in 1974 accusing the PLO of moving away from the goal of destroying Israel outright in favor of a binational solution
- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) splinter group within the PFLP, left in 1974 together with the PFLP for the same reasons
The PLO and its former leader Yasser Arafat had since become the generally accepted organization of the Palestinian people and its desire to have a nation of its own. The PLO has observer status in the United Nations.
The PLO was founded on June 2, 1964. The first executive committee was formed on August 9, with Ahmad Shuqeiri as its leader.
At the Palestinian National Congress in Cairo on February 3, 1969 Arafat was appointed PLO leader.
In 1974, three PLO members took over an elementary school in the Israeli town of Ma'alot and massacred 21 children with hand grenades and machine guns.
The United Nations General Assembly granted the PLO observer status on November 22, 1974. On July 7, 1998, this status was extended to allow participation in General Assembly debates, though not in voting.
On January 12, 1976 the UN Security Council voted 11-1 with 3 absentions to allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization to participate in a Security Council debate without voting rights, a privilege usually restricted to UN member states.
In 1982, the PLO relocated to Tunis, Tunisia after it was driven out of Lebanon by Israel, during Israel's six-month invasion of southern Lebanon.
In 1988, the Palestine National Council adopted a resolution calling for the implementation of applicable United Nations resolutions, particularly, Resolutions 242 and 338. Some Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist within pre-1967 borders, with the understanding that they would be allowed to set up their own state in the West Bank and Gaza. A significant minority within the PLO at this time still held the view that a future Palestinian state would include the territory of Jordan, an area that was part of Palestine administered by the United Kingdom from 1917 till 1922.
In 1993, the PLO secretly negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel. The accords were signed on August 20, 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 and the PLO came to dominate the administration. The headquarters of the PA (and thereby Yasser Arafat and the PLO) were established in Ramallah on the West Bank.
On September 9, 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.
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.
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.
Criticism of the PLO
According to the Israeli writer Yaacov Lozowick, "[i]t was not the Palestinians themselves who decided to create the PLO after their defeat in 1948; The Arab League set it up in 1964 to attack Israel. For years, Palestinian independence was off the Arab agenda; now it was back. Inventing the PLO was a prelude to war, not a result of it; the goal was to destroy Israel, not to rectify the misfortune of the Palestinians, which still could have been done by the Arab states irrespective of Israel." (Source: "Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars", p.126)
The text of the Palestine 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. 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".
Successive Israeli governments have also considered the PLO to be a terrorist organization in the past — and perhaps still do — because of its violent acts against the Israeli military and security forces, and against civilians. Successive Israeli governments have considered all Palestinian violence to be terrorism, including guerrilla attacks on Israeli soldiers inside or outside territories under Israeli occupation.
In contrast, Palestinian supporters and some international jurists would consider attacks on the Israeli military legitimate armed resistance to Israeli occupation, in accordance with international law and Protocol 1 to the Geneva Convention (which applies in "armed conflicts against alien occupation" and gives lawful combatant status to non-uniformed guerrillas who display their arms openly during military operations).
During the al-Aqsa Intifada, the PLO leadership has maintained connections with its military wing, the Fatah, parts of which (the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in particular) are held responsible for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as guerrilla attacks on the IDF and Israeli security forces. The Israeli government alleges that the PLO has harbored and sponsored Fatah militants. "At least 600 members of various Palestinian Authority security services have been killed since the beginning of the intifada more than four years ago, most of them while participating in violence against Israel, a senior PA security official revealed Sunday" "Most of these men doubled as security officers and members of armed groups... The fact that they had received paramilitary training as policemen was an asset because they were able to implement the tactics they learned in the fighting with the Israeli army."  (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107659938099&p=1101615860782),  (http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=24003) Some PLO and PA administrative buildings were raided or demolished by the IDF. This has undermined the PA's ability to function properly in the West Bank. The PA infrastructure in the Gaza Strip remains essentially intact.
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 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, August 5, 2000
- In his April 22, 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:  (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1082606041893&p=1078027574121))
On the goals of the Peace Process:
- "When we are asking all the Palestinian forces and factions to look at the Oslo Agreement and at other agreements as "temporary" procedures, or phased goals, this means that we are ambushing the Israelis and cheating them. However, the truth is that we are doing exactly what they are doing. The proof for that is that they are aware of, and are not trying to hide, the fact that there is nothing that unites them more around the territory which extends from the Nile to the Euphrates, than their slogan, which was taken from the Torah, and reads: 'These are the borders of the greater land of Israel.'...
- "We are [acting] exactly like [the Israelis]. In 1947, in accordance with [the UN] Partition Plan, they decided to declare statehood on 55% of the land of Palestine, which they later increased to 78% during the War of 1948, and then again [increased it] to 100% during the War of 1967. Despite all that, they never attempted to make secret of their long-term goal, which is "Greater Israel" from the Nile to the Euphrates. Similarly, if we agree to declare our state over what is now only 22% of Palestine, meaning the West Bank and Gaza - our ultimate goal is [still] the liberation of all historical Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, even if this means that the conflict will last for another thousand years or for many generations...
- "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), June 24, 2001.  (http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP23601). Similar statements made in the newspaper 'As-Safir' on March 3, 2001 page 23 of the report (http://www.jcrc.org/israel/npr/NPR%20Report%20FINAL%201-19-03.pdf)  (http://www.isranet.org/issues_of_the_day.htm)
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 Husseni, senior PLO representative in Israel, July 3, 2000
- "Gradually, stage by stage, we will reach an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital." -- Feisal 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, Chairman of the PLO (Jordanian TV, 13 September 1993)
On the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad:
- "We never been different from Hamas. More, Hamas is a national movement and a part of the national movement. In the strategic sense, we are no different from Hamas." -- Faruk Kadumi, general secretary of the Fatah council (Kul Al-Arab, 3 January 2003)
Legal Action against Palestinian Liberation Organization
On July 5, 2004, a federal court in the United States issued a default judgement against the Palestinian Authority and the PLO regarding the Ungar's claim that the Palestinian Authority and the PLO provide safe haven to Hamas. The default judgement was issued when those organizations refused to comply with discovery requests and refused to make Yasser Arafat, and other PLO leaders, available for questioning. Previously the court found Hamas guilty in a civil lawsuit regarding the 1996 murders of Yaron and Efrat Ungar near Beit Shemesh, Israel. Hamas has been ordered to pay the families of the Ungars $116 million.
Leaders of the PLO
History and Overview
- Fatah (http://www.fateh.net/) the most significant organization within the PLO
- Brief history (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/para/plo.htm) of the Palestine Liberation Organization by Global Security (http://www.globalsecurity.org/)
- Statement of Proclamation of the Organization (1964) (http://www.palestine-un.org/plo/doc_three.html)
- Palestinian National Charter (1968) (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/plocov.htm) published by The Avalon Project (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/avalon.htm) at Yale Law School
- Palestinian National Charter (1968) (http://www.palestine-un.org/plo/pna_three.html) published by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations (http://www.palestine-un.org/)
- PLO Political Program (http://palestine-un.org/plo/doc_one.html) Adopted at the 12th Session of the Palestine National Council Cairo, 8 June 1974 published by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations (http://www.palestine-un.org/)
- Decisions and Actions related to the Palestine National Charter (1996) (http://www.palestine-un.org/plo/pna_one.html) published by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations (http://www.palestine-un.org/)
- Unofficial Translation (http://www.palestine-un.org/plo/cc.html) of the Statement by the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization 1996 document above
- Draft constitution (2003) (http://www.mopic.gov.ps/constitution/) as published by the Palestine National Authority Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Collection (http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/Terrorism/plotoc.html) of Documents, Biographies and other information on the Palestine Liberation Organization published by the Jewish Virtual Library (http://www.us-israel.org/)
- The Palestinian Vision of Peace (2002) (http://www.nad-plo.org/eye/opeds16.html) as stated by the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (http://www.nad-plo.org/)