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PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION. The recognized representative of the Palestinian people, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964 in Jerusalem. Its first leader, the lawyer Ahmad Shuqayri, was a close ally of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the PLO was very much under the influence of Egypt during its earliest years. The PLO was founded in response to a number of factors, including the growing salience of the Palestine question in inter-Arab politics, the increasing friction between the Arab states and Israel over water diversion projects and other issues, and the growth of underground, independent Palestinian nationalist activity, which Arab governments, notably that of Egypt, wanted to preempt.

Very soon after its foundation, the PLO became the arena for much of this nationalist activity, which was increasingly directed at achieving independence of political action from the Arab regimes, in addition to the basic aim of liberating Palestine and securing the return of the approximately 700,000 Palestinians who had been made refugees in 1948. In the wake of the June 1967 war, and the attendant shattering of the prestige of these regimes, independent Palestinian political formations with a more radical program than that of the original founders of the PLO, most notably Fatah, took over the organization, and have dominated it ever since.
This change was signaled by the choice in 1969 of Fatah’s leader, Yasir Arafat, as chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO, the organization’s guiding body. He has continued to hold this position since that time. In 1968, the PLO’s charter was amended to reflect the ideology of militant groups like Fatah, which advocated “armed struggle” against Israel, initiated by the Palestinians themselves, as the main vehicle for the liberation of Palestine. This was in contrast to the original approach of Shuqayri and others of his generation, who had accepted that the leading role in dealing with Israel must be played by the Arab states.
The new leaders of the PLO were younger, more radical, and generally of more modest social backgrounds than the old-line politicians from upper-class families who had dominated the organization, and Palestinian politics, until this point. They also came from disparate political backgrounds. Arafat and his closest colleagues in Fatah, such as Salah Khalaf (Abu `Iyad) and Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), were deeply influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood during their student days in Egypt. Others, such as Faruq al-Qaddfimi (Abu Lutf) of Fatah, or George Habash, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were closer to Ba`thist or other Arab nationalist ideologies. They agreed, however, on the principle of Palestinian agency, that Palestinians themselves must initiate political action and other forms of struggle, and shared a profound skepticism regarding the professed commitment of Arab governments to act in support of the Palestinians.
In the wake of the 1967 war, the PLO rapidly became the central focus of Palestinian political activity, and by 1974 was recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by the Palestinians themselves, by the Arab and Islamic worlds, and by much of the rest of the world. As the “armed struggle” against Israel from within the Occupied Territories and across the frontiers flagged after 1970, the PLO scored more diplomatic and media successes, all the while developing into a “para-state,” particularly in Lebanon.
At the same time, beginning in 1974 with the twelfth meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the highest representative body of the PLO, the organization began to move away from its original maximalist policy calling for the liberation of Palestine in its entirety, and toward a two-state solution that called for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. This evolution was
completed with the resolutions of the nineteenth PNC meeting in 1988 and the Palestinian declaration of independence by the PNC in the same year, which firmly established the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem (to be achieved via negotiations with Israel in an international forum) as the PLO’s political objective.
This political evolution, while representative of majority Palestinian sentiment and welcome to most Arab states and much of the international community, met with the resistance of an important minority among Palestinians. Initially, the main advocates of this resistance were the so-called rejectionist groups of the PLO, backed by Arab regimes that claimed to be opposed to a negotiated settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict or to the recognition of Israel. As these states waned in their opposition or their importance, and as the rejectionist trend within the PLO weakened, Islamic radical groups increasingly came to lead the Palestinian opposition to the PLO’s policy of a negotiated, compromise settlement that would result in a West Bank/Gaza Strip state alongside Israel.
The most important of these Islamic groups, Hamas, founded in 1988 in the Gaza Strip, was an outgrowth of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, which had long been a political force among Palestinians. Ham-as soon spread to the West Bank and other areas inhabited by Palestinians. Hamas was established in a response to several factors, including the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in the Occupied Territories in December 1987, the growth of militant, independent Islamic formations such as Islamic Jihad, which strongly criticized the moderate line of the Muslim Brotherhood vis-a-vis the Israeli occupation, and the PLO’s political shift toward a compromise solution with Israel. The PLO in turn responded to the formidable challenge posed by Hamas by on occasion attempting to cooperate with it, while at the same time pushing ahead with its own program, a strategy resulting in Palestinian acceptance of the U.S.sponsored peace negotiations with Israel, begun in 1991.
Hamas rapidly became the main focus of the internal opposition to the participation in these negotiations by a Palestinian delegation operating under the leadership of the PLO, and the main challenger to the PLO for leadership of the Palestinian people. Beset by financial problems, many of them rooted in a withdrawal of funds by the Arab Gulf states (who resented the PLO’s failure to support them during the Gulf War of 19901991), in September 1993 the PLO signed a Declaration of Principles with Israel in a ceremony in Washington, D.C. This surprise development appeared to rescue the PLO from a critical situation, while at the same time opening up prospects of a change in the status quo in the Occupied Territories and sparking new Palestinian opposition.
[See also Arab-Israeli Conflict; Hamas; Israel; West Bank and Gaza.]
Abu `Iyad [Salah Khalafl, with Eric Rouleau. My Home, My Land: A Narrative of the Palestinian Struggle. New York, 1981. A frank, first-person account by one of the founders of Fatah.
Brand, Laurie A. Palestinians in the Arab World: Institution Building and the Search for State. New York, 1988. Careful examination of some of the major constitutive organizations of the PLO.
Brynen, Rex. Sanctuary and Survival: The PLO in Lebanon. Boulder, 1990. Study of the PLO’s “Lebanese era,” from 1969 to 1982. Cobban, Helena. The Palestinian Liberation Organization: People, Power, and Politics. Cambridge, 1984. Standard work on the history of the PLO during its first two decades.
Gresh, Alain. The PLO: The Struggle Within; Towards an Independent Palestinian State. London, 1985. Detailed and knowledgeable examination of the evolution of PLO policies.
Khalidi, Rashid. Under Siege: P.L.O. Decisionmaking during the 1982 War. Case study of how the PLO functioned during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, based on primary sources.
Mishal, Shaul. The PLO under ‘Arafat: Between Gun and Olive Branch. New Haven, 1986. Critical analysis of shifts in PLO strategy through the mid-1980s.
Quandt, William B., Fuad Jabber, and Ann Mosely Lesch. The Politics of Palestinian Nationalism. Berkeley, 1973. Valuable study of different facets of Palestinian nationalism.
Rouleau, Eric. Les Palestinians: D’une guerre a l’autre. Paris, 1984. Acute analysis of the PLO and its leadership by a journalist who has closely followed its development.
Sahliyeh, Emile F. The PLO after the Lebanon War. Boulder, 1986. Assessment of the impact of the 1982 Lebanese war on the PLO and its strategy.
Shemesh, Moshe. The Palestinian Entity, 19S9-197¢: Arab Politics and the PLO. London, 1988. Examines the development of the idea of a Palestinian state up to 1974.

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/palestine-liberation-organization/

  • writerPosted On: June 24, 2017
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