By Dr. Mohsen Moh’d Saleh:
Those who are shedding tears on the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) should first release their tight grip off it, before asking the Palestinians to believe them. They have to stop talking on behalf of the PLO, against its will and against the Palestinians’ will!
Those who hold the reins of the PLO have to respect the minds of the Palestinians and explain to them why the organization reached such miserable situation that we see now. Why the PLO institutions were “killed” and were unloaded from their content? Why the Palestinian National Council (PNC) was disabled? Why decisions have been made to allow the PLO leadership to marginalize the organization’s Charter, and to abolish practically the idea that the PLO was originally established upon? Most importantly, how did the PLO turn out to be the “Settlement” rather than the “Liberation” Organization?
Those who are confining the PLO to their own selves and interests, manipulating it, preventing all the real earnest attempts of reform or re-establishment; who stand as a stumbling block in the face of reflecting the true representation of the Palestinian people and its real active potential on the ground … They have to blame themselves first, before instructing people on nationalism, leadership, and the “sole legitimate representative”.
They have to prove their credibility with action. They have to open the doors of the organization for true and just participation, before blaming the others on refraining to join.
The Right to Criticize and Change
When the PLO was established in 1964, the West Bank and Gaza Strip were not occupied. The organization stated unequivocally then in its National Charter that its goal was to liberate all Palestine (this was then the land occupied in 1948, i.e. Israel proper), and that armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. And even with that, the organization was then the subject of criticism and reservation from the Palestinian guerilla warfare organizations of that period, including Fatah, which considered the PLO as a creation of the Arab regimes.
After the disastrous war of 1967, and then the daring battleground performance of the Palestinian guerilla (Feda’iyeen) in the battle of al-Karama
The Palestinians have not denied Fatah the right to criticize the PLO before it joined the organization, nor have they denied Fatah the right to lead the organization when Fatah joined it, because Fatah was the most popular amongst the guerrilla factions.
When other factions emerged and gained the credibility of struggle and popular legitimacy, the Fatah leadership should not have continued in monopolizing the Palestinian decision-making. Fatah should have respected the will of the Palestinian people, and should have not denied the others their rights, even if what the others wanted was, again, to “revolutionize” the PLO or lift its national ceiling, particularly, after the current leadership has removed its “teeth and nails,” and reduced its ceiling and aspirations.
Mahmoud ‘Abbas, the head of the PLO Executive Committee whose term has expired ten years ago, insisted that Palestinian factions like Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement), Islamic Jihad, and others have to join the PLO on the basis of accepting it in its current shape, and on the basis of respecting its obligations and the agreements that it has signed. In other words, ‘Abbas wants, from the onset, to block the way in the face of these factions to do any reform or change within the organization, specifically a change that is consistent with their Islamic ideology, or their political view opposing the recognition of Israel and the Oslo Accords.
The PLO defines itself as the umbrella of the Palestinian people and its various leaderships, and that the election of its National Council is a right of every Palestinian who is over 18 years old, regardless of his/her orientation or place of residence.
Therefore, neither Mahmoud Abbas nor his supporters, have the right to stand in the face of the Palestinian people’s will, if the latter’s representatives decided to cancel the previous resolutions, to raise the PLO ceiling of national demands, to revive the spirit and essence of the National Charter, or to give the PLO an Islamic character rather than the current secular nature; as long as this is done through a constitutional democratic process that reflects the true will of the Palestinians.
The True Mission and Objectives of the PLO
Article 9 of the Palestinian National Charter -on the basis of which Fatah movement has joined the PLO- states that the “armed struggle is the only way for the Liberation of Palestine, thus, it is a strategy not a tactic.”
Article 10 states: “commando action is the nucleus of the popular Palestinian liberation war. This requires the escalation, and protection of such action, and mobilizing all the popular and practical Palestinian powers, organizing and involving them in the armed Palestinian revolution.”
Article 19 states that “the partition of Palestine, which was done in 1947 and the establishment of Israel is void ab initio, no matter how long it lasted because it was done against the will of the Palestinian people and their natural right to their homeland.”
Article 21 states that “the Arab Palestinian people, expressing itself through the armed Palestinian revolution, rejects all the alternative solutions to the complete liberation of Palestine, and rejects all the projects aimed at liquidating the Palestinian issue or internationalizing it.”
Article 29 provides that “insurgents and armed members in the liberation struggle are the nucleus of the popular army that will shield the attainments of the Palestinian people.”
Any reader of the articles of the Palestinian National Charter, on which basis the PLO was established, would wonder about the closest entity to the PLO’s mission and objectives, and the entity that reflects better the PLO’s goals and objectives: Is it is the entity that currently leads the PLO and which adopts the course of “settlement”? Or is it the one that adopts resistance and refuses to waive any of the Palestinian people’s rights?
Then, the reader would also wonder why the “settlement” supporters insist on leading an organization that they no longer believe in its mission, and even violate its charters and constitution; while depriving the others who are still adopting its mission and objectives from joining it and from carrying the burden of the struggle to achieve its mission.
In 1974, the PLO National Council adopted the Ten-Point Program, that made the armed struggle a main course towards liberation but not the only way. That Program also adopted the establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of Palestine to be liberated, to be a platform to lead the Organization in joining negotiations and settlement projects as a kind of political struggle.
In 1988, the Council agreed on the UN Partition Plan of 1947, and on negotiating to reach a settlement based on UN resolutions 242 and 338, which practically implies a waiver of the land occupied in 1948 (i.e. approximately 78% of the land of Palestine).
In 1993, the PLO leadership signed the Oslo Agreement, which gave autonomy to parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, without any prospect of the final status issues such as refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, sovereignty of the State, etc.
In 1996, the PLO leadership held a National Council convention, in circumstances that are surrounded by dozens of questions, where it added 400 new members to the former members, without respecting or commitment to the controls and procedures for the introduction of new members.
In this Council, a resolution of amending the National Charter was made to satisfy the Israelis and the Americans, by abolishing the articles which are inconsistent with the Oslo Accords. This practically means that the PLO leadership cancelled the mission that it has been established to achieve, thus it turned into the Palestinian “Settlement” Organization!
Disabling the Councils and Institutions
The National Council held in 1996 was the last council to be held. Even the Council chairman Saleem Al-Zanoun (member of the Fatah Central Committee) does not know the exact number of the Council members, neither their names, as the records of the Council in Ramallah, are different from those in Gaza, and different from those in Amman, where the headquarters of the Council are located.
Article 8 of the regulations of the PLO states that the National Council term is three years, and that it is held regularly once a year. In the past 18 years, the National Council was held only once in 1996 (the previous Council was held in 1991).
The selection of a new Council and the election of the Central Council and the Executive Committee were supposed to take place in 1999. This means that the current Council, and its Central Council and Executive Committee are all expired institutions since nearly ten years! Therefore, in their current form, these institutions do not reflect at all the true will of the Palestinian people, nor the political and social developments in the Palestinian course during the recent years. The Council also gives small groups and factions a disproportionate much larger representation, while other major active powers such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are absent.
Until now, the PLO leadership has not provided yet any convincing arguments about the reason for the failure to convene the National Council and the election of its new leadership. Neither have they provided any specific answers on why the legislative and executive institutions of the PLO are disabled, although they are always on their soapbox as they mention the need to resort to the organization’s legitimacy and its representative nature!
Not to forget also the question on institutions, that is yet another tragedy of which blame shall be borne by the PLO players. As the PLO institutions had been unloaded and disabled of most of their content, and were left to die slowly. Where is the Refugees Service? Where is the Planning Service? Where is the research center?.. etc
The PLO leadership is primarily responsible for the destruction and marginalization of the organization, which left it as a body in the resuscitation room used only to take the seal when needed to sign any decisions on the behalf of the Palestinian people.
The Required Seriousness
On 17/3/2005, the Palestinian factions declared their approval of the Cairo Agreement, which included the reorganization of the PLO on agreed upon basis to include all forces and factions.
During the year 2005, there was a Palestinian semi-consensus that the members of the next council will include about 300 members: half (150 members) from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the second half will be from the Palestinian diaspora. They also agreed that the 132 members of the Legislative Council will be among the West Bank and Gaza Strip half (i.e. 132 from the 150-members). This was stated by the Council’s Chairman Salim Al Zanoun and was stated also by his deputy Tayseer Quba’a, more than once.
Being the main player that leads the organization and controls the Council, Fatah was shocked when Hamas won the majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections (74 seats against 45 for Fatah); leading Al Zanoun to declare some surprising and peculiar statements, completely in contrary to what he has previously declared.
On 4/2/2006, Al Zanoun headed a meeting for the Council members who reside in Jordan, where he announced that he “will defend each member in the council and will not allow under any circumstances any inflict to any of its members for any reason, neither in terms of number nor in terms of composition.”
Suddenly as well, there was a change in the view that Fatah had regarding the composition of the Council. Al Zanoun said that the 132 elected members of the Legislative Council will be added to the current 783 National Council members. To say the least, this spoils any real step of reforming the Organization and its institutions.
Observers and analysts of the Palestinian discourse need no significant mind exercise to realize the reason behind the sudden change in the attitude of Fatah leadership after the Legislative Council elections, and the reason for the failure of the new National Council until now.
Those holding the reins of the organization, proclaiming blatantly that it is “the sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinian people, must be courageous and serious enough to actually make it the sole legitimate representative, by:
– Opening up the PLO to include all the Palestinian people, factions and classes; regardless of their orientations and affiliations
– Holding elections for a new National Council that truly reflects the will of the Palestinian people at home and abroad
– Re-activating the PLO institutions and services to reflect the vitality and effectiveness of the Palestinian people and its serious contribution to the liberation project.
– Emphasizing the independent national decision-making related to the Palestinian peoples’ interests and unbounded by the Israelis and the Americans conditions nor by the Quartet’s conditions
– Reforming the PLO to truly reflect back again its name (Liberation Organization rather than Settlement Organization), and to protect the resistance and the resistance agendas, rather than being a tool to attack the resistance, or to pass settlements that are unacceptable to the people of Palestine, Arabs and Muslims.
– Establishing a “national contract” that respects the peaceful transfer of authority and the sanctity of the Palestinian blood, and that preserves the best interests of the Palestinian people.
The Popular Front and the Democratic Front factions, who are already part of the organization, should exercise more pressure towards the reform of the Organization, especially as they share many of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad views and attitudes towards the settlement, the resistance program, and the reform of the Organization.
There is nothing wrong for that pressure to end up in freezing their membership of the Executive Committee and Central Council or even their resignation waiting for a serious step towards reform from the organization’s leadership, who are from Fatah members.
Finally, the leadership of the organization is required to abide to the discipline of the Organization’s Charter, its laws, and its regulations; before it requiring that from the others. This leadership is also required to revive and activate the organization before accusing others.
This article is a translation of the arabic article published by Dr. Mohsen Moh’d Saleh on Aljazeera.Net on 26-2-2009