Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Last updated on: 5/19/2008 11:50:00 AM PST

What Is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Palestinian Authority, on its website (accessed Jan. 1, 2003) contained the following description of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP):

"Established in 1967 by the Arab National Movement and headed since then by George Habash. Began a transformation towards a Marxist-Leninist ideology in early 1969, seeing the struggle for Palestine as part of a larger revolution to transform Arab society along Marxist-Leninist lines. The faction split twice: in 1968, when the Palestinian Liberation Front broke away (now PFLP-GC) and in 1969, when the DFLP did the same. In the 1970s it became known for hijacking actions, led by Wadi Haddad (armed wing is known as the Red Eagles), but became more moderate after 1973. Pulled out of the PLO Executive Committee in 1974 rejoining it only in 1981. Led an anti-Arafat coalition in he early 1980s opposing both negotiations with Jordan and the Fez Plan. It was a member of the United National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU) during the Intifada. It opposes the Oslo Accords. The PFLP is represented in the PLO Executive Committee by Abdel Rahim Malouh, but is de facto marginalized since the Oslo Process began. A reconciliation with Fateh/Arafat - together with the DFLP - took place in Cairo in August 1999."

Jan. 1, 2003 - Palestinian Authority (PA) 

Dilip Hiro, MA, author and journalist, in his 2003 book The Essential Middle East / A Comprehensive Guide, wrote the following description of the PFLP:

"The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was formed in December 1967 by a merger between the Palestinian section of the Arab Nationist Movement and the Syrian based Palestine Liberation Front, under the leadership of George Habash. The next year it affiliated to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). At its first (open) congress in February 1969, the PFLP described Israel, the World Zionist movement, world imperialism, and Arab reaction in the region as the enemies of the Palestinian cause. The PFLP resolved to mobilize Palestinian workers and peasants, in alliance with the petty bourgeoise, and to start a guerrilla struggle as a step toward a national liberation war. It emulated the organizational structure of a communist party.

The congress, elected by members every four years and meeting every alternate year, was the PFLP's highest body. It elected the central committee, which in turn chose the political bureau (politburo). The congress also had the authority to elect the secretary-general, a position occupied by Habash since the party's inception until his formal retirement due to ill health in April 2000.

The PFLP's campaign inside the Occupied Territories involved 220 armed operations in 1970. Between 7 and 9 September 1970 its members hijacked three airliners, took them to an abandoned airfield near Amman, emptied them of passengers, and blew them up. This triggered fighting between the Palestinian commandos and the Jordanian army, which the former lost. The PFLP then moved its main operational base to Lebanon. Its militia was the third largest among Palestinian [sic] after Fatah and Saiqa.

Making no distinction between Zionist objects or persons inside Israel or outside, it attacked Israeli targets abroad -- mainly by hijacking airliners and making political demands. Between July 1968 and December 1973, when the party congress suspended its activity against Israeli targets abroad, the PFLP conducted sixteen foreign operations.

When in 1974 the Palestine National Council (PNC) accepted the idea of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza as an intermediate step toward the liberation of all of mandate Palestine, the PFLP boycotted the PLO executive committee and the central council. In the late 1970's, when the Soviet Union began to offer military training to PLO activists, the PFLP was included in the program. It ended its boycott of the PLO institutions in 1981.

After the expulsion of the PLO from Beirut in September 1982 the PFLP moved its headquarters to Damascus, but did not joint the Syrian-instigated fight against Yasser Arafat and Fatah. However, after Arafat's agreement with King Hussein of Jordan to pursue a joint negotiating strategy in early 1985, the PFLP joined with the pro-Syrian Palestinian factions to form the Palestine National Salvation Front [PNSF]. After the PNC had disowned Arafat's deal with King Hussein in April 1987, the PFLP rejoined the PLO executive committee and other PLO institutions. In November 1988, while opposing the resolution before the PNC to accept a Palestinian state in part of Palestine and peaceful coexistence with Israel, the PFLP accepted the majority decision to adopt the resolution.

During the crisis created by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the PFLP backed President Saddam Hussein, especially when the latter tried to link Iraq's evacuation of Kuwait to Israel's withdrawal from the Occupied Arab Territories. The PFLP opposed the Israeli-PLO Accord [a.k.a. Oslo Declaration of Principles] of September 1993 and the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty of October 1994.

In 1999, Abu Ali Mustafa, the moderate deputy of Habash, was allowed to return to the West Bank, where he set up office in Ramallah. After the formal retirement of Habash as the party's secretary-general in 2000, he succeeded Habash. In July 2001, after Mustafa was assassinated by the Israeli military, Ahmad Saadat, a hardliner, became the secretary-general. Following the assassination of Israeli tourism minister General Zeevi Rechavam in retribution for Mustafa's killing, in October by PFLP activists, Saadat was arrested by the Palestinian Authority under pressure by Israel."

2003 - Dilip Hiro, MA 

The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT), under the heading of "Profiles of Terrorist Organization active in the Arab-Israeli Conflict" on its website (accessed June 19, 2003), contained the following description of the PFLP:

"The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) is Marxist-Leninist group founded in 1967 by George Habash. The PFLP sees itself as 'a progressive vanguard organisation of the Palestinian working class' and its stated aim as 'liberating all of Palestine and establishing a democratic socialist Palestinian state.'

The PFLP was one of the original members of the PLO, but suspended its participation in 1993, when Yasser Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles with Israel. Upon its withdrawal from the PLO, the PFLP joined the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF) to oppose the Oslo peace process. However, in 1996, the organization split from the APF, along with the DFLP, over ideological differences.

In 1999, the PFLP took part in meetings with Arafat’s Fatah party and PLO representatives to discuss national unity and the reinvigoration of the PLO. The organization has drawn closer to the more violent elements of Fatah in the months since Arafat returned to armed confrontation with Israel."

June 19, 2003 - International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) 

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