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Blog About Palestine Day

Thursday, May 15, 2008

In response to za3tar who called for a Blog About Palestine Day on May 1st I would like to write my own, short post, on Palestine.

I thought I would write a small and critical post on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; a self described Marxist-Leninist liberation organization which has its roots with the Harakat al-Qawmiyyin al-Arab (Arab Nationalist Movement) which was founded by George Habash in 1952, just one year after graduating from the American University of Beirut.[1]

On the defeat of the Palestinians by the Zionists Habash had this decidedly Marxist outlook:

[T]he scientific society of Israel as against our own backwardness in the Arab world. This called for the total rebuilding of Arab society into a twentieth-century society…[W]e held the ‘Guevara view’ of the ‘revolutionary human being’…A new breed of man had to emerge, among the Arabs as everywhere else. This meant applying everything in human power to the realization of a cause.[2]

This cause, of course, was the liberation of Palestine through political and armed force, and to create a decidedly socialist state in the place of the Zionist and bourgeois Arab one.

While the PFLP and their leader, Habash, proclaimed itself a Marxist-Leninist organization it didn’t seem to work as one, or, at least, as what we have seen in Southeast Asia, China, Algeria, and other regions of the world; with exception of were its criticisms of many Arab leaders and of Israel (Habash refused to set foot on PA controled territory). Instead of using mass-line rhetoric and front organizations and organizing, en mass, the workers and other sectors of society the PFLP decided to go for sensationalist “revolutionary” tactics.

One aspect of this is when they introduced themselves to the world with the hijacking of El Al 707 passenger jet. But, to the credit of the PFLP, Habash stated:

When we hijack a plane it has more effect than if we kill a hundred Israelis in battle,” he told the German magazine Der Stern in 1970. ”For decades, world public opinion has been neither for nor against the Palestinians. It simply ignored us. At least the world is talking about us now.[3]

One thing the PFLP did, than any other, was advertise the plight of the Palestinians to a world that had been previously blind to their situation. However, things, in my opinion, started to deteriorate when the PFLP started bombing soft targets and killing Israeli civilians with the Jerusalem supermarket on February 20, 1969 and the bombing of Swissair Flight SR330 in February of 1970. These were fundamental mistakes which alienated the world to the cause of the PFLP and focused their attention away from organizing the mass of Palestinian society and building a stronger organization. Instead of looking at long term protracted struggle they looked at short term political goals and recognition.

Also, there was much internal dissension within the PFLP which eventually caused the group to splinter not long after it was set up. According to Wikipedia:

In 1968, Ahmed Jibril broke away from the PFLP to form the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC).

In 1969, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) formed as a separate, ostensibly Maoist, organization under Nayef Hawatmeh and Yasser Abd Rabbo, initially as the PDFLP.

In 1972, the Popular Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Palestine was formed following a split in PFLP.[4]

After the breakups the PFLP began to weaken in the 1980s and took a serious blow in 1996 when they boycotted the 1996 elections. Because of this many saw the PFLP as irrelevant on the Palestine question; and the masses seemed to have thought so as well as many began moving toward Hamas; which filled the void of those who were dissatisfied of the corrupt PA leadership.

Despite their splits, short sighted planning, use of alienating (to the world to the West, at least) terrorist tactics (which did little to address questions such as class solidarity and armed struggle against occupation by the IDF), and their decline one thing the PFLP did do was use Marxist doctrine and turned it to the question of Palestine: using it against the Zionist occupiers and as well as the elite Palestinian leadership.

Hopefully, in the future, a new group of leaders will arise from the ashes of the secular radical left in Palestine and be able to apply the successes and failures of the PFLP to provide a true socialist alternative for the Palestinian people.


1. Andrew I. Killgore, Washingtonreport on Middle East Affairs 27, no. 3 (April 2008).

2. John K. Cooley, Green March Black September: The Story of the Palestinian Arabs, Frank Cass & Co, London 1973, 135.

3. Edmund L. Andrews and John Kifner, “Tactician of Terrorism,” New York Times 15 May 2008.

4. Wikipedia, “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” ( accessed May 14, 2008 )

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