Palestine Liberation Organization

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The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) held its founding congress in East (Jordanian) Jerusalem in May, 1964. At that time, prior to the 1967 Six-Day War, the State of Israel existed within 1949 armistice lines (the "Green Line") established following the unsuccessful war launched by the Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs to prevent Israel from coming into existence in accordance with the United Nations General Assembly decision to partition Mandatory Palestine into two separate Jewish and Arab states. Jordan had annexed (or occupied) the West Bank, granting Jordanian citizenship to its residents (after expelling Jewish residents). Egypt (then called the United Arab Republic) occupied the Gaza Strip, whose residents were not granted Egyptian citizenship.

The PLO was established by the League of Arab States. Its original membership came disproportionately from West Bank elite families. Yassir Arafat's Al Fatah faction did not participate in the founding of the PLO. The PLO's first chairman, Ahmed Shukairy, was generally believed to be under Egyptian domination. In the run up to the 1967 Six-Day War, Shukairy predicted Israel's "complete destruction."

Fatah first participated in the PLO in 1968 at the fourth session of the Palestine National Council (PNC), when it was allocated one-half of the PNC seats. Under Fatah's influence, the PLO National Covenant was amended. In 1969, Yassir Arafat, head of the Fatah faction, became chairman of the PLO's Executive Committee, a position he still holds.

The PLO National Covenant was long a source of controversy because, until very recently, it was grounded in the destruction of the State of Israel. Moreover, as amended in 1968, Article 9 of the Covenant held that "[a]rmed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine and is therefore a strategy and not tactics."


The 1964 Palestine National Covenent

Its founding 1964 National Covenant committed the PLO to the destruction of Israel through armed struggle and asserted that Palestinian identity is transmitted genetically from generation to generation. The Covenant also denied "claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine."

Article 1. Palestine is an Arab homeland bound by strong Arab national ties to the rest of the Arab countries which together form the large Arab homeland.

Article 2. Palestine with its boundaries at the time of the British Mandate is a regional indivisible unit.

Article 3. The Palestinian Arab people has the legitimate right to its homeland and is an inseparable part of the Arab nation. It shares the suffering and aspiration of the Arab nation and its struggle for freedom, sovereignty, progress and unity.

Article 4. The people of Palestine determine their destiny when they complete the liberation of their homeland in accordance with their own wishes and free will and choice.

Article 5. The Palestinian personality is a permanent and genuine characteristic that does not disappear. It is transferred from fathers to sons.

Article 6. The Palestinians are those Arab citizens who were living normally in Palestine up to 1947, whether they remained or were expelled. Every child who was born to a Palestinian parent after this date whether in Palestine or outside is a Palestinian.

Article 7. Jews of Palestinian origin are considered Palestinians if they are willing to live peacefully and loyally in Palestine.

Article 8. Bringing up Palestinian youth in an Arab and nationalist manner is a fundamental national duty. All means of guidance, education and enlightenment should be utilized to introduce the youth to its homeland in a deep spiritual way that will constantly and firmly bind them together.

Article 9. Doctrines, whether political, social or economic, shall not distract the people of Palestine from the primary duty of liberating their homeland. All Palestinians constitute one national front and work with all their feelings and spiritual and material potentialities to free their homeland.

Article 10. Palestinians have three mottoes: national unity, national mobilization, and liberation. Once liberation is completed, the people of Palestine will choose for their public life whatever political, economic or social system they want.

Article 11. The Palestinian people firmly believes in Arab unity, and in order to play its role in realizing this goal, it must, at this stage of its struggle, preserve its Palestinian personality and all its constituents. It must strengthen the consciousness of its existence and stand against any attempt or plan that may weaken or disintegrate its personality.

Article 12. Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary goals; each prepares for the attainment of the other. Arab unity leads to the liberation of Palestine, and the liberation of Palestine leads to Arab unity. Working for both must go side by side.

Article 13. The destiny of the Arab nation and even the essence of Arab existence are firmly tied to the destiny of the Arab question. From this firm bond stem the effort and struggle of the Arab nation to liberate Palestine. The people of Palestine assume a vanguard role in achieving this sacred national goal.

Article 14. The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty. Its responsibilities fall upon the entire Arab nation, Governments and peoples, the Palestinian people being in the forefront. For this purpose, the Arab nation must mobilize its military, spiritual and material potentialities; specifically, it must give to the Palestinian Arab people all possible support and backing and place at its disposal all opportunities and means to enable it to perform its role in liberating its homeland.

Article 15. The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual viewpoint, prepares for the Holy Land an atmosphere of tranquillity and peace, in which all the Holy Places will be safeguarded, and free worship and visit to all will be guaranteed, without any discrimination of race, colour, tongue or religion For all this the Palestinian people looks forward to the support of all the spiritual Irces in the world.

Article 16. The liberation of Palestine, from an international viewpoint, is a defensive act necessitated by the demands of self-defence as stated in the Charter of the United Nations. That is why the people of Palestine, desiring to befriend all nations which love freedom, justice and peace, looks forward to their support in restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine, establishing peace and security in its territory, and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty and freedom.

Article 17. The partitioning of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of Israel are illegal and false regardless of the lapse of time, because they were contrary to the wish of the Palestine people and its natural right to its homeland, and in violation of the basic principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, foremost among which is the right to self-determination.

Article 18. The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate system and all that has been based upon them are considered a fraud. The claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history or with the true basis of sound statehood. Judaism, because it is a divine religion, is not a nationality with independent existence. Furthermore, the Jews are not one people with an independent personality because they are the citizens of the countries to which they belong.

Article 19. Zionism is a colonialist movement in its inception, aggressive and expansionist in its goal, racist and segregationist in its configurations and Fascist in its means and aims. Israel, in its capacity as the spearhead of this destructive movement and the pillar of colonialism, is a permanent source of tension and turmoil in the Middle East in particular and to the international community in general. Because of this the people of Palestine is worthy of the support and sustenance of the community of nations.

Article 20. The causes of peace and security and the needs of right and justice demand from all nations, in order to safeguard true relationships among peoples and to maintain the loyalty of citizens to their homelands, that they consider Zionism an illegal movement and outlaw its presence and activities.

Article 21. The Palestine people believes in the principle of justice, freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, human dignity, and the right of peoples to practise these principles. It also supports all international efforts to bring about peace on the basis of justice and free international cooperation.

Article 22. The people of Palestine believe in peaceful co-existence on the basis of legal existence, for there can be no co-existence with aggression, nor can there be peace with occupation and colonialism.

Article 23. In realizing the goals and principles of this Covenant the Palestine Liberation Organization carries out its complete role to liberate Palestine in accordance with the fundamental law of this Organization.

Article 24. This Organization does not exercise any regional sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the Gaza Strip or the Himmah area. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.

Article 25. This Organization is charged with the movement of the Palestine people in its struggle to liberate its homeland in all liberational, organizational, political and financial matters, and in all other needs of the Palestine Question in the Arab and international spheres.

Article 26. The Liberation Organization cooperates with all Arab Governments, each according to its ability, and does not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab State.

Article 27. This Organization shall have its flag, oath and a national anthem. All this shall be resolved in accordance with a special system.

Article 28. The Fundamental Law for the Palestine Liberation Organization is attached to this Covenant. This law defines the manner of establishing the Organization, its organs, institutions, the specialties of each one of them and all the needed duties thrust upon it in accordance with this Covenant.

Article 29. This Covenant cannot be amended except by two-thirds majority of the National Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization in a special session called for this purpose.


The 1968 Amended Palestine National Covenant

Arab defeat in the Six Day War discredited the then PLO leadership, which was replaced by the al-Fatah movement under Yassir Arafat. Meeting in Cairo in July, 1968, the new leadership promulgated an amended National Covenant.

The amended National Covenant retained the assertion of a genetically-transmitted Palestinian "personality" (Article 4); identified as Palestinians only (a) "Arab citizens who were living permanently in Palestine until 1947 and (b) children of Palestinian fathers (Article 5); affirmed that "[a]rmed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine" (Article 9); therefore, rejected "every solution that is a substitute for a complete liberation of Palestine . . . and . . . all plans that aim at the settlement of the Palestine issue" (Article 21); and again denied any "claim of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine" (Article 20).

Article 1 Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian Arab people and an integral part of the great Arab homeland, and the people of Palestine is a part of the Arab nation.

Article 2 Palestine with its boundaries that existed at the time of the British mandate is an integral regional unit.

Article 3 The Palestinian Arab people possesses the legal right to its homeland, and when the liberation of its homeland is completed it will exercise self-determination solely according to its own will and choice.

Article 4 The Palestinian personality is an innate, persistent characteristic that does not disappear, and it is transferred from fathers to sons. The Zionist occupation, and the dispersal of the Palestinian Arab people as result of the disasters which came over it, do not deprive it of its Palestinian -personality and affiliation and do not nullify them.

Article 5 The Palestinians are the Arab citizens who were living permanently in Palestine until 1947, whether they were expelled from there or remained. Whoever is born to a Palestinian Arab father after this date, within Palestine or outside it, is a Palestinian.

Article 6 Jews who were living permanently in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.

Article 7 The Palestinian affiliation and the material, spiritual and historical tie with Palestine are permanent realities. The upbringing of the Palestinian individual in an Arab and revolutionary fashion, the undertaking of all means of forging consciousness and training the Palestinian, in order to acquaint him profoundly with his homeland, spiritually and materially, and preparing him for the conflict and the armed struggle, as well as for the sacrifice of his property and his life to restore his homeland, until the liberation - all this is a national duty.

Article 8 The phase in which the people of Palestine is living is that of the national struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Therefore, the contradictions among the Palestinian national forces are of a secondary order which must be suspended in the interest of the fundamental contradiction between Zionism and colonialism on the one side and the Palestinian Arab people on the other. On this basis, the Palestinian masses, whether in the homeland or in places of exile, organizations and individuals, comprise one national front which acts to restore Palestine and liberate it through armed struggle.

Article 9 Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine and is therefore a strategy and not tactics. The Palestinian Arab people affirms its absolute resolution and abiding determination to pursue the armed struggle and to march forward toward the armed popular revolution, to liberate its homeland and return to it, (to maintain) its right to a natural life in it, and to exercise its right of self-determination in it and sovereignty over it.

Article 10 Fedayeen action forms the nucleus of the popular Palestinian war of liberation. This demands its promotion, extension and protection, and the mobilization of all the mass and scientific capacities of the Palestinians, their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution, and cohesion in the national struggle among the various groups of the people of Palestine, and between them and the Arab masses, to guarantee the continuation of the revolution, its advancement and victory.

Article 11 The Palestinians will have three mottoes: national unity, national mobilization and liberation.

Article 12 The Palestinian Arab people believes in Arab unity. In order to fulfill its role in realizing this, it must preserve, in this phase of its national struggle, its Palestinian personality and the constituents thereof, increase consciousness of its existence and resist any plan that tends to disintegrate or weaken it.

Article 13 Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary aims. Each one paves the way for realization of the other. Arab unity leads to the liberation of Palestine, and the liberation of Palestine leads to Arab unity. Working for both goes hand in hand.

Article 14 The destiny of the Arab nation, indeed the very Arab existence, depends upon the destiny of the Palestine issue. The endeavor and effort of the Arab nation to liberate Palestine follows from this sacred national aim.

Article 15 The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty to repulse the Zionist, imperialist invasion from the great Arab homeland and to purge the Zionist presence from Palestine. Its full responsibilities fall upon the Arab nation, peoples and governments, with the Palestinian Arab people at their head.

For this purpose, the Arab nation must mobilize all its military, human, material and spiritual capacities to participate actively with the people of Palestine in the liberation of Palestine. They must, especially in the present stage of armed Palestinian revolution, grant and offer the people of Palestine all possible help and every material and human support, and afford it every sure means and opportunity enabling it to continue to assume its vanguard role in pursuing its armed revolution until the liberation of its homeland.

Article 16 The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual viewpoint, will prepare an atmosphere of tranquillity and peace for the Holy Land, in the shade of which all the Holy Places will be safeguarded, and freedom of worship and visitation to all will be guaranteed, without distinction or discrimination of race, color, language or religion. For this reason, the people of Palestine looks to the support of all the spiritual forces in the world.

Article 17 The liberation of Palestine, from a human viewpoint, will restore to the Palestinian man his dignity, glory and freedom. For this, the Palestinian Arab people looks to the support of those in the world who believe in the dignity and freedom of man.

Article 18 The liberation of Palestine, from an international viewpoint, is a defensive act necessitated by the requirements of self-defense. For this reason, the people of Palestine, desiring to befriend all peoples, looks to the support of the states which love freedom, justice and peace in restoring the legal situation to Palestine, establishing security and peace in its territory, and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty and national freedom.

Article 19 The partitioning of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of Israel is fundamentally null and void, whatever time has elapsed, because it was contrary to the wish of the people of Palestine and its natural right to its homeland, and contradicts the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, the first of which is the right of self-determination.

Article 20 The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate Document, and what has been based upon them are considered null and void. The claim of a historical or spiritual tie between Jews and Palestine does not tally with historical realities nor with the constituents of statehood in their true sense. Judaism, in its character as a religion of revelation, is not a nationality with an independent existence. Likewise, the Jews are not one people with an independent personality. They are rather citizens of the states to which they belong.

Article 21 The Palestinian Arab people, in expressing itself through the armed Palestinian revolution, rejects every solution that is a substitute for a complete liberation of Palestine, and rejects all plans that aim at the settlement of the Palestine issue or its internationalization.

Article 22 Zionism is a political movement organically related to world imperialism and hostile to all movements of liberation and progress in the world. It is a racist and fanatical movement in its formation; aggressive, expansionist and colonialist in its aims; and fascist and nazi in its means. Israel is the tool of the Zionist movement and a human and geographical base for world imperialism. It is a concentration and jumping-off point for imperialism in the heart of the Arab homeland, to strike at the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity and progress.

Israel is a constant threat to peace in the Middle East and the entire world. Since the liberation of Palestine will liquidate the Zionist and imperialist presence and bring about the stabilization of peace in the Middle East, the people of Palestine looks to the support of all liberal men of the world and all the forces of good, progress and peace; and implores all of them, regardless of their different leanings and orientations, to offer all help and support to the people of Palestine in its just and legal struggle to liberate its homeland.

Article 23 The demands of security and peace and the requirements of truth and justice oblige all states that preserve friendly relations among peoples and maintain the loyalty of citizens to their homelands to consider Zionism an illegitimate movement and to prohibit its existence and activity.

Article 24 The Palestinian Arab people believes in the principles of justice, freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, human dignity and the right of peoples to exercise them.

Article 25 To realize the aims of this covenant and its principles the Palestine Liberation Organization will undertake its full role in liberating Palestine.

Article 26 The Palestine Liberation Organization, which represents the forces of the Palestinian revolution, is responsible for the movement of the Palestinian Arab people in its struggle to restore its homeland, liberate it, return to it and exercise the right of self-determination in it. This responsibility extends to all military, political and financial matters, and all else that the Palestine issue requires in the Arab and international spheres.

Article 27 The Palestine Liberation Organization will cooperate with all Arab States, each according to its capacities, and will maintain neutrality in their mutual relations in the light of, and on the basis of, the requirements of the battle of liberation, and will no, interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab state.

Article 28 The Palestinian Arab people insists upon the originality and independence of its national revolution and rejects every manner of interference, guardianship and subordination.

Article 29 The Palestinian Arab people possesses the prior and original right in liberating and restoring its homeland and will define its position with reference to all states and powers on the basis of their positions with reference to the issue (of Palestine) and the extent of their support for (the Palestinian Arab people) in its revolution to realize its aims.

Article 30 The fighters and bearers of arms in the battle of liberation are the nucleus of the Popular Army, which will be the protecting arm of the gains of the Palestinian Arab people.

Article 31 This organization shall have a flag, oath and anthem, all of which will be determined in accordance with a special system.

Article 32 To this covenant is attached a law known as the fundamental law of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in which is determined the manner of the Organization's formation, its committees, institutions, the special functions of every one of them and all the requisite duties associated with them in accordance with this covenant.

Article 33 This covenant cannot be amended except by a two-thirds majority of all the members of the national council of the Palestine Liberation Organization in a special session called for this purpose.

As part of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians agreed to amend the PLO Charter, and did so several times, but, because they never produced a revised document showing the specific changes and new replacement language, never to the complete satisfaction of the Israelis. In January of 1998, Yassir Arafat gave United States Secretary of State Madeline Albirght a letter to president Clinton detailing which parts of the PLO Charter could be considered annulled. This letter is referred to in the Wye Plantation memorandum and in a letter from US ambassador to Israel, Edwin Walker, to Israel Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh of October 1998 it is referenced as follows:

"...Chairman Arafat's January 22 letter to President Clinton nullifying each of the Charter's provisions that are inconsistent with the PLO's commitments to renounce terror, and to recognize and live in peace with Israel."

President Clinton traveled to the Middle East in December of 1998. In Gaza, President Clinton addressed the Palestine National Council. "Just before I got up to speak," Clinton wrote in his autobiography, "almost all the delegates raised their hands in support of removing the provision calling for the destruction of Israel from their charter [the Palestine National Covenant]. It was the moment that made the whole trip worthwhile. . . . I thanked the delegates, told them I wanted their people to have concrete benefits from peace, and asked them to stay with the peace process."

Some Israeli politicians and Zionist groups, notably those affiliated with the Likud and the settlement project, still contend that the PLO charter has not been "officially" amended. They note the original charter still appears on the al-Fatah web site. However, it should also be noted that the oficial anthem of the Likud is the the song "Two banks of the Jordan." The Likud is the political descendant of Vladimir Jabotinsky's Revisionist movement. This movement contends that the whole of the original Palestine mandate, including what is now the State of Jordan, rightfully belong to Israel (hence the song). The Likud has never renounced this claim.

Many people are confused by the relationship between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority (the "PA"). Formally speaking, the PA is the governing body in the Palestinian Territories established by the Oslo Accords, while the PLO is the umbrella group for the Palestinian nationalist movement, equivalent in many ways to the Zionist Jewish Agency. In practice, however, the relationship between the PA and the PLO is not at all clear, whereas the Jewish Agency is clearly subordinate to the Government of Israel.

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