The PLO And Arab Resistance In Palestine (I)

The Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO) is established in 1964 on the initiative of Egypt. The organization had the focal intention to unite several Arab-Palestine movements and groups which all of them have been enemies to the Zionist Israel and above all to Israeli existence on the land of Palestine.[i] The most important of those movements and groups were: al-Fatah (The Palestine National Liberation Movement),[ii] the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

From the formal viewpoint, the external character of the PLO advocated the creation of both a secular and democratic independent state of Palestine and for the wiping out of Israel from the map of the Middle East. After the 1967 Six-Day War, when among other Arab territories, the Jordanian West Bank[iii] was occupied by Israel, the PLO was dominated by al-Fatah – the movement which organized guerrilla-terrorist attacks by special commando groups called “fedayeen” from the territory of Jordan against the Israeli authorities. The PLO was chaired by Yasser Arafat and the movement’s fundamental claim to be exclusive political representative of all Palestinians, who have been forming the majority of the Jordanian inhabitants, became soon the crucial challenge to the authority of the King of Jordan who finally was forced to expel the PLO from Jordan after several of bloody accidents in 1970−1971.

Geopolitical and economic backgrounds   

For many centuries Palestine had an Arabic-speaking Muslim majority followed by both minorities of the Jewish and the Christin. However, from the late 19th century, the proportions started to be changed as the Jewish people from Central and East Europe became to emigrate mainly under the pressure of the new Zionist ideology of the re-creation of a Jewish national state – Eretz Israel. A plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish (Zionist) and an Arab state, while Jerusalem would be under international control, was adopted by the UNGA on November 29th, 1947. However, the plan, which has been in essence pro-Zionist, was rejected by the Arabs. On the day of British withdrawal May 14th, 1948, a Zionist David Ben Gurion proclaimed an independent state of Israel. The proclamation was followed by a war between the Zionists and the Arabs in which the Arab armies have been defeated. As a consequence, a greater portion of historic Palestine became the Zionist state of Israel while most of the rest was amalgamated with Transjordan to become Jordan, and the Gaza Strip was occupied by Egypt.

General view of a Kibbutz
General view of a Kibbutz, Eretz Israel, 1947

The Arab states have not been able to combine effectively against the Zionist Israel like in 1967 usually as their crack troops had to be kept in the capitals during the time of crisis in order to maintain often unpopular regimes being in power. Israel was at the same time playing on the card of inter-Arab confrontations, particularly as it became very clear in the 1970s – to Egypt especially – that the USSR was not ready to risk the major clashes with Israel/USA by supplying its Arab allies with weapons of the appropriate degree of sophistication as the US was supplying the Zionists in Israel.[iv]

The Arab-Israeli conflict dominated the politics of the region since May 1948 and has profoundly influenced political events both inside and relations between the regional states of the Middle East. There were four Arab-Israeli Wars from 1948 to 1973 as a part of a broader Zionist-Arab conflict in the Middle East which gradually spilled over into Lebanon for two crucial reasons: 1) As a huge number of the Palestinian refugees lived there; and 2) Because of the PLO’s use of (South) Lebanon as a base for guerrilla-terrorist actions against Israel since 1968.[v] The Zionist Israel since its independence in 1948, has expanded beyond its 1948 borders into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, the Sinai Peninsula in 1956, 1967−1981, the Golan Heights in 1967 (officially annexed by Israel in 1981), and has been strongly controlling South Lebanon since 1978. Egypt’s President Anwar el-Sadat’s visit to Israel in 1977 followed by the Israeli-Egypt’s treaty, resulting in the return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1981 at the expense of the Egyptian recognition of Israeli independence.       

Convoy of Israeli tanks rolls through the Sinai peninsula
A convoy of Israeli tanks rolls through the Sinai peninsula during the 1967 Middle East War, widely known as the Six Day War

After the 1967 Six-Day War, the UNSC adopted Resolution 242 which decisively rejected territorial acquisitions by force and, therefore, called for an immediate withdrawal of the Israeli security forces from all Arab lands occupied in this war. The same resolution called for the right of all states in the region to exist peacefully within legally recognized borders which had to be secured. However, the technical problem of the interpretation of the text of Resolution 242 became immediate as the grammatical construction of the French language version pointed that Israel should withdraw from “the territories” but the English language version of the same text calls for withdrawal from “territories”.[vi] This technical issue, however, was used by Israeli and the US, who used the English version, to argue that Resolution 242 is going to be satisfied if Israel would withdraw its security forces not from all but only from some occupied territories in 1967.

The Palestinians rejected to recognize Resolution 242 for a very long time for the very reason that it did not recognize their right to national self-determination or/and to return to their homeland. Resolution 242 calls only for a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem but without any specific and deeper explanation of what practically that phrase means. Another problem and trap were that by calling for recognition of every state in the region, Resolution 242 necessitated, in fact, unilateral Palestinian recognition of Israel but without reciprocal recognition of Palestinian national rights to have their national independent state which was already in 1947 recognized to exist by the UN plan for the Middle East. For those two reasons of Palestinian rejection of the resolution, the US representative in the UNSC did not use a veto right as obviously Resolution 242 was going into the Israeli favor at the expense of the Arab Palestinians.

During the last several decades, especially since the 1970s when occurred the oil boom, there were many attempts made for the sake to resolve some of the crucial problems of poverty and underdevelopment in the region of the Middle East. In essence, oil is the region’s focal natural resource, and production and revenues have increased dramatically since the mid-1960s, but most notably from 1973 when the OPEC rose the prices of the oil. However, the wealth which oil has created has contributed to serious inflation in the poorer states in the region.[vii] At the same time, the lack of local skilled workers created large-scale labor immigration followed by a high proportion of foreign workers’ permanent features in the region.

The status of the Occupied Territories after June 1967

In the following decades up to today, the focal political problem in the relations between the Arab Palestinians and the Zionist Israel have been and are the status of the so-called Occupied Territories. We have to keep in mind that the lands of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are separate territories due to the armistice which ended the first 1948−1949 Arab-Israeli War. In other words, in 1949 the newly proclaimed Zionist state of Israel became separated from other parts of the ex-British Mandate Palestine. From the time when the Zionists proclaimed independent Israel in May 1948 up to the Six-Day War in June 1967, the West Bank together with East Jerusalem was part of the Kingdom of Jordan, which annexed the area in 1950 and as a consequence, extended the Jordanian citizenship to the Palestinians living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. During the same period, the Gaza Strip was under the military rule of Egypt. However, during the 1967 Six-Day War, the Zionists occupied these lands and established a military administration of Israel for the sake to govern the Arab Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli authorities justified its territorial expansion followed by the creation of large numbers of settlements on the occupied West Bank (of the Kingdom of Jordan), on the formal grounds that it needs to secure its borders and to protect its citizens from the Arab Palestinian guerrilla-terrorist actions. As a matter of fact, there were around 300 Israeli civilians (the Zionists) who have been killed in such actions within the period from 1967 to 1982. It is quite true that some of those attacks were particularly horrifying terrorist incidents like the Country Club massacre in March 1978, in which 37 Israeli civilians and six Israeli commandos lost their lives. On the other side, however, during the invasion of South Lebanon, which this attack apparently prompted, some 2000 Lebanese and Arab Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Zionist bombs. Furthermore, the Israeli military operations surrounding the attack on Beirut in June-August 1982 resulted in the deaths of up to 20.000 Lebanese and Palestinians, most of whom have been civilians but not combatants.

Occupied TerritoriesAfter 1967, under the new geopolitical schemes, the Arab Palestinians have been constantly denied fundamental human, political, and civil liberties and rights like freedom of expression, the press, and political associations. As a reaction to the Zionist oppression, the Palestinian national patriotism became criminalized as a threat to Israeli security. In the practice, it meant, for instance, that flying the national flag of Palestine was a punishable act. In principle, in the Occupied Territories, the total life of the Palestinians has been regulated, restricted, and outlawed by Israeli military orders. In general, the Israeli policies implemented in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip included the system of collective punishments like the demolition of the houses of the “terrorists”, blocking the roads, closing of the schools and community institutions, etc. After June 1967, the Palestinian political activists have been deported either to Jordan or Lebanon, the land of Palestinians was confiscated, and thousands of trees are uprooted.

Basically, the focal measure used by the Zionists in their policy of oppression of the Palestinians was the imprisonment followed by the thwarting and punishing the Palestinian national resistance to the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. According to the Palestinian claims, since 1967 up today, there are around one million arrested and imprisoned Palestinians, many of them without the trial (administratively detained), but most of them after have been prosecuted in the Israeli military courts which have been working based on the martial law system. Consequently, according to the claim, some 45% of the male population of the Arab Palestinians was at least once imprisoned by the Zionist authorities. After the 1967 Six-Day War, torture of Palestinian imprisoners was a usual practice by Israeli authorities. Israeli High Court of Justice forbade in 1999 the use of certain technics in maltreatment of the prisoners. Many Palestinians have died in detention from abuse or neglect. Nevertheless, the Zionist authorities claim that using such harsh measures have been quite necessary in order to stop terrorism. However, the issue is that the Israeli Government traditionally regards any form of the Arab Palestinian opposition and resistance to the Zionist oppression as threats to Israeli security, including non-violent methods too like calling for boycotts, sanctions, or divestment. Furthermore, any international critique of the Zionist regime is immediately labeled as an act of antisemitism by Israeli authorities and their Zionist supporters around the world.

To be continued

Endnotes:

[i] Palestine is a land between the Mediterranean coast on the west and the River of Jordan on the east. The land was occupied by the Jews under Abraham who came from Iran or/and Mesopotamia between 2000 and 1550 B.C. and committing genocide on the native population. Palestine was ruled by the Kingdom of Judea and the Kingdom of Israel until the emigration of the Jews after the abortive rising led by Bar Kochba in 132−135 AD. After the Arabic invasion of Palestine in the 7th century, Palestine was populated by a majority of Arab Muslims until the proclamation of the independent state of Israel in 1948. Palestine remained, nevertheless, a central reference point to the Jewish diaspora as their homeland – Eretz Israel (Land of Israel) [David J. Goldberg, John D. Rayner, The Jewish People: Their History and Their Religion, Faber and Faber, 1987].

[ii] Al-Fatah is a militant Palestinian organization that was established by Yasser Arafat in 1958 (after the 1956 Suez Crisis) in Kuwait for the sake to struggle for Arab Palestine against Israel. The organization started with its paramilitary actions in 1964 and took the leadership of the PLO four years later. Regardless of the fact that al-Fatah was almost totally decomposed when the Jordanian King Hussein expelled it from Jordan in 1970−1971, the organization succeeded to be recovered and still remained the focal element of the PLO and at the same time has been providing a foundation for Y. Arafat’s political leadership. Al-Fatah received in the first Palestinian Council elections 55 out of 86 seats in January 1996 and, therefore, making much stronger the position of Y. Arafat within the framework of the PLO. The members of the al-Fatah movement have been involved in the job of police security and took an important role in the organizing and leading of the Second Intifada in 2000. At that time, the organization recruited around 10.000 or more young Palestinian fighters who have been ready to fight against the Zionist occupation of the Palestinian lands. Many of those fighters followed the call of Y. Arafat to commit suicide bomb attacks directed at both military and civilian targets of Israel [Jonathan Schanzer, Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine, St. Martin’s Press, 2008].

[iii] The West Bank is the land of Palestine west of the River Jordan. It was designed by a UN Partition Plan of 1947 as a separate Arab state alongside an independent state of Zionist Israel. However, the West Bank became occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan in 1948 and was annexed the next year. Such a move was, nevertheless, recognized only by two states in the world: the UK and Pakistan. However, the tensions started to exist between West Bank’s Palestinians and the Jordanian authorities as the Arab Palestinians regarded the Government of Jordan as autocratic. In the third Arab-Israeli war (1967) the West Bank was occupied by Israel and it is kept up today. The PLO which was operating from Jordan until 1971 and after that from Lebanon, organized guerrilla attacks on Israel while at the same time Israeli occupation of West Bank became harder followed by constantly increasing numbers of Jewish settlers who have been expropriated the land of Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Arab Palestinian refugees left the West Bank after June 1967 to Jordan and Lebanon but some of the local Palestinians have been forcibly expelled from the area. When the First Intifada started in 1987, the Zionist Government of Israel used harsher actions to beat Palestinian resistance which originally started on the Gaza Strip but soon spread to the West Bank. The cases of stone-throwing Palestinian youngsters being beaten and shot in huge numbers are well-known. The land of West Bank became in 2000 during the Second Intifada the ground of numerous assaults against Israel as the West Bank has a long border with Israel and because of the large number of new Zionist illegal settlements on the territory of West Bank. This land became in 2002 the focal place of the new Israeli-Palestinian war during which the Zionist army of Israel invaded several centers of Palestinian autonomy like Ramallah, Jericho, and Jenin [Yonah Jeremy Bob, Justice in the West Bank? The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Goes to Court, Jerusalem−New York: Gefen Publishing House, 2019].

[iv] In Ancient World two, the most prominent examples of client-system alliances have been Athens-led Arhe and Sparta-led Peloponnesian Alliance. These two political-military alliances fought the Peloponnesian War from 431 to 404 with the final victory of Sparta with crucial support by Persia [Alan Isaacs et al (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of World History, Oxford−New York: 2001, 486]. In contemporary history two, the most prominent formal alliances to dominate the international security scene were the US-led NATO (est. 1949) and the USSR-led Warsaw Pact (est. 1955) during the Cold War. The NATO was a clear expression of the American post-WWII global imperialism when the US had “more than 300.000 troops in Europe, with advanced planes, tanks, and other equipment” [Joshua S. Goldstein, International Relations, Fifth Edition, New York: Longman, 2003, 105]. Its imperialistic role continued and after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 and the formal, but not essential, end of the Cold War 1.0.

[v] The Lebanese political system is based on the distribution of offices between several communities as they are: Maronite, Christian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Christians, Sunni, and Shia Muslims, and Druzes in a way which ensured the pre-eminence of the Maronites, although by the 1970s they were no longer the largest single community in Lebanon. Opposition forces joined with the PLO guerrillas in the mid-1970s in an attempt to force the Maronites to agree to a secular democratic Lebanon. However, both of them were checked by the Syrian intervention in 1976. After that, the territory of Lebanon became the crucial arena of the Arab-Israeli conflict with Syrian troops in permanent occupation and the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon in 1978. A major invasion by the Zionist Israel in 1982 succeeded in expelling PLO’s forces from Beirut, but in spite of the presence of US and European peace-keeping troops, the opposition forces managed to prevent the Government from concluding permanent agreements with Israel.

[vi] Both English and French together with Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish languages are official of the UN.

[vii] The Persian Gulf was and is the crucial exploited region of oil and natural gas resources in the world. It was producing 41% of the world’s oil requirements, for instance, in 1979. In the 1980s, the strategic importance of the region became sharply defined when started the Iraqi-Iran War that interrupted the export of oil from the Persian Gulf.

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