An Interview with
Dr. George Habash
General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
This Interview was conducted by Mr. Ibrahim Alloush and printed in The Free Arab Voice (FAV).
The following is the full text of the interview:
*FAV: There's confusion among some Palestinians who are opposed to the Oslo Agreements over the position that the Popular Front for the liberation of Palestine (PFLP) upholds towards the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). On the one hand, the PFLP publicly denounces the Oslo Agreements on which the PNA was based. On the other hand, some Palestinian observers point out that many PFLP cadres are staff or personnel in the PNA's administrative structure, or are at least part of some of the PNA apparatuses. Is that true?
The crucial thing is that we don't participate in any institutions involved with making policy or negotiating with the [Zionist] enemy, since we don't acknowledge the Oslo Agreements, the legal framework of reference within which the PNA stands.
Dr. Habash: As far as working in some of the apparatuses or institutions of the PNA, we have to distinguish between the higher political institutions like the Legislative Council or the government on one hand, and the lower institutions. The crucial thing is that we don't participate in any institutions involved with making policy or negotiating with the [Zionist] enemy, since we don't acknowledge the Oslo Agreements, the legal framework of reference within which the PNA stands.
As for other institutions forming a natural part of the Palestinian social infrastructure, for example those pertaining to education, health, the civilian police, the media, culture, labor, and the economy
in general, ...Well, these are an indivisible part of our people's social institutions in which we've always been an active force. It would be a mistake to abandon them. Therefore our comrades and friends do what they can within them. They are institutions without which no society could function or run its affairs...
*FAV: But how do you respond to those who argue that PFLP involvement with the PNA bureaucracy stands in sharp contrast to the PFLP's opposition of the Oslo Agreements?
Dr. Habash: The position the PFLP has taken on the Oslo Agreements was not randomly chosen, but was rather based on a careful reading of them. The criterion of the rights and interests of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation is whence we began: Did those agreements serve these rights and interests or did they differ with the least of them??
In fact the Oslo Agreements were signed under the worst possible Arab, Palestinian, and international conditions for the Palestinian people. Therefore they hinged on a balance of forces tilting decisively in favor of the [Zionist] enemy. Wrong are those who believe that the outcome of negotiations is determined by ability and negotiating skill alone apart from the balance of forces! Good negotiators are the ones who know how to use the available cards to obtain the best possible conditions obtainable under the existing balance of power.
In that sense, the mediocre performance of the Palestinian negotiating team diffused away some the most powerful Palestinian cards. For example:
1. Agreeing to the containment of the Intifada (uprising), thus bowing at the onset to a clear Israeli condition.
2.Giving up the legal international framework represented by United Nations and Security Council resolutions, including those recognizing the rights of the Palestinian people; our right to self-determination, to establish an independent state with Jerusalem as capital; our right of return; not to mention the natural and inalienable right to resist and not to recognize the legitimacy of Zionist settlement.
That's why the Israeli position always rejected an active role for international agencies in the negotiations. Europe was given an observer status...
As such this international framework of legal reference was bypassed for one donned by a U.S. mediator well-known for its total bias in Israel's favor. Thus the negotiations' point of reference drops to become...what the negotiating partners agree to, taking us back once more to the balance of forces, i.e., the law of the jungle.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, the Palestinian Oslo team stooped down even farther when it agreed to engage in secret negotiations away from any Palestinian popular or institutional oversight. Hence the influence of the Palestinian street was neutralized, and with it all the action and pressure it could've generated to countervail U.S.-Israeli pressures.
In addition to that, isolating the Palestinian issue from its natural Arab depth and milieu just made it so much easier for Zionists to impose the conditions and solutions that best befit their interest. Consequently, the current leadership of the PLO lost its:
1) Arab backing, especially from Syria and Lebanon, and
2) Palestinian backing represented by internal Palestinian unity.
Then this leadership wallowed in a maze of secluded agreements with the enemy drowning deeper and deeper in ever-worsening conditions and concessions that are clearly opposed to Palestinian rights.
Are we in the PFLP just saying that to accuse or out pessimism?
A good reading of the contents of these agreements reveals their truth in the way of unacceptable concessions, starting from recognizing Israel's right to exist, to amending the Palestinian National Charter, to evading the most basic components of the Palestinian cause like the right of return, to self-determination, an independent state, Jerusalem, removing settlements, or sovereignty.
"We hold the belief that the Zionist enemy simply will not allow our people to achieve their national objectives through diplomatic means alone. If that had been possible, there wouldn't have been a conflict to begin with. It would be contradictory to the nature of Zionism itself, and the stark reality of the settlement project which rises upon negating the very rights of the Palestinian people."
That's what we mean by saying that these agreements didn't bring about any solution, and didn't even result from a normal negotiating process, but rather reflected the brute imposition of the conditions of the stronger party on the weaker party. Where are then the rights of the Palestinian people, even in the minimum?
The dilemma that the Oslo Agreements have reached now is the sure proof of the validity the former evaluation. Otherwise, let those who signed them explain to our people the meaning of all the disasters and tragedies taking place in our occupied land nowadays!!
Is there any conflict between the aforementioned position and getting involved in institutions of different sorts that are concerned with running the daily affairs of our people? I don't think so.
I hope this explanation would set straight some of those doubtful of the positions of the PFLP.
*FAV: We all know that the PFLP has and still calls for the continuation of the struggle to liberate Palestine, instead of getting carried away in the current of Madrid and Oslo, or any other solutions taking away the rights of the Palestinian people. But we also notice that the PFLP military action has practically come to a complete or a near-complete halt. How can we explain that? Has the PFLP decided to quit all military operations for the time being, if El-Hakim wouldn't mind answering this question?
Dr. Habash: No, there are no such decisions to halt military action in the PFLP. There can be no such decisions as long as there's occupation of Palestinian land. The path of armed struggle is not an expression of some individual will, and neither is it merely the result of a committee's administrative decision. But armed struggle reflects the nature of the conflict, which is determined by the nature of the enemy, and the objectives of the Palestinian people.
For one thing violence and terror are two of the principle pillars upon which the Zionist ideology arises. That's why Israel goes on accumulating the elements of violence military force including about 200 nuclear warhe, and a huge of deadlier and more obscene traditional weaponry too!
Israel goes on practarmed terror on daily basis the Palepeople, and threatens with its arsenal the rest of the peoples of the region. Its threat extends as far as Iran and Pakistan and it continually tries to prevent these states from possessing any advanced weapons so as to guarantee for itself, with U.S. support, regional dominance and control.
In contrast to that the Palestinian people were uprooted from their land, made refugees time and again, then the ugliest of massacres were committed against them. What type of logic is that going to be which deprives them from their natural right to self-defense, or which coerces them to give up the struggle to restore their raped national rights?
Armed struggle then is a principle pillar for any objective or comprehensive analysis of the forces which give rise to this type of confrontation, regardless of any projections or personal desires.
We hold the belief that the Zionist enemy simply will not allow our people to achieve their national objectives through diplomatic means alone. If that had been possible, there wouldn't have been a conflict to begin with. It would be contradictory to the nature of Zionism itself, and the stark reality of the settlement project which rises upon negating the very rights of the Palestinian people.
So regarding the decrease in the effectiveness of the PFLP in this arena, that shouldn't be attributed to any retreat in the PFLP's beliefs or political vision, but to difficult circumstances and the lack of financial and physical resources. This is of course in addition to the new political conditions in the territories, and all that they incurred in the way of difficulties and siege. All that just must leave its marks on the ability and effectiveness of the PFLP, but not its beliefs.
For the latter are based on recognizing the comprehensiveness and historicalness of the struggle: No one can control the dynamics of that even if they wanted.
*FAV: Okay, military action aside, one may also notice that the political and organizational effectiveness of the PFLP has also decreased to a great extent in many places where the PFLP was THE main Palestinian force, as was the case for example among the Palestinians of the U.S.A in the mid to late eighties, or in some regions of the West Bank. What is the cause of these marked absences where they took place?
Dr. Habash: On this level, the PFLP is getting ready now to hold its Sixth national Convention. We have just finished preparing the main documents containing a comprehensive critical analytical evaluation of the whole of our previous experience. The basis of that evaluation has been to preserve accomplishments, learn lessons, and take recent developments into account in drawing up a new intellectual-political-organizational vision and sense of direction. We're all full of hope that the PFLP will be able to shed its crisis and rise up into the realm of better effectiveness in order to restore the brighter image which the masses have come historically to associate with the PFLP.
Moreover the imperialist-Zionist plan against the Arab nation operates in a coordinated and unified manner. That must imply that we confront it likewise with a higher degree of unity with each other
*FAV: After all these decades of a long and very rich experience filled with many events first on the Arab then on the a Palestinian level, how would El-Hakim respond to those who say that maybe the time has come to re-establish the Arab Nationalist Movement, which you helped create then dissolve, or its modern equivalent today?
And shouldn't that be the main lesson from the dismal failure of the solo Palestinian effort of the PLO which ended in Oslo, especially after the exodus from Beirut in 1982?
Dr. Habash: As a matter of principle, I believe in the necessity of having a unified Arab party that works to achieve Arab unity,
contributes to establishing a free, progressive, and democratic Arab society, stands up to the Zionist conquest, and liberates all occupied Palestinian and Arab lands.
These are not mere desires or general imaginary wishes. They reflectthe ambition of an Arab nation that has come to realize from historicalexperience the extent to which tragedies and disasters can be caused bythe divisions tearing up our nation, depleting its wealth, and destroying its very human being.
But this belief that I have bumps in the present with many difficulties,the most important of which is perhaps the way Arab provincialism(el-Qutreyah), under the colonial divisions imposed, have developedfull-fledged material, political, economic, and even culturalstructures. Bypassing those differences has come to require acumulative historical process in every sense of the word.
Similarly, as much as uniting the nation is no longer possible in onescoop, neither is founding a unified Arab political party...
This dictates that we use the available means to evolve reality intowhat's required. The different Arab groups should first coordinate with each other, leading necessarily into a higher plane of interaction and communication. This comes not as some kind of sentimental yearning, but because the challenges confronting the Arab human being in every Arab state necessarily intersect and intertwine: It has become impossible to tackle these challenges with a narrow provincial mentality whether these were political, economic, cultural, or social.
Moreover the imperialist-Zionist plan against the Arab nation operates in a coordinated and unified manner. That must imply that we confront it likewise with a higher degree of unity with each other.
Here we should take note of the continuous attempts by the U.S. andIsrael to foster the elements of division and fragmentation in the land,people, and culture of the Arab nation.
This certainly doesn't contradict with the need of every Arab group toexert itself separately on the local level, but within a strategy thatmarks the close connection between its own backyard and the general Arabnationalist aspect. I say this is the most important lesson from theprevious experience: the necessity of linking Arab nationalist and local activism.
*FAV: And what about the PLO then?
Dr. Habash: It is within this context that I view the PLO. It should also evolve out of the narrow organizational perspective which has justified hegemony and the rule of the individual within its ranks so far. The PLO's role and function should be handed on so it may express the genuine unity of the Palestinian people on democratic basis. PLO institutions should supervise all its executive agencies, and should preserve the organization as a higher Palestinian national framework of reference whose task is the defense of the interests and rights of the Palestinian people.
*On the behalf of all concerned parties among the Internet audience,the Free Arab Voice extends a warm cyber thanks to El-Hakim for giving us the opportunity to share his time and views.
Note; El-Hakim is the Arabic word for a Doctor.
Reprinted with permission.
"Every Jewish person that is around the President (Clinton) is a dual citizen of Israel and the United States of America. And sometimes, we have to raise the question, 'Are you more loyal to the States of Israel than you are to the best interests of the United States of America?'
I would beg my brother Arafat not to give in and make himself a tool of Israeli's policy to destroy the militant members of Hamas in the name of, I am frightened because we need a guarantee of security."
The Nations of Islam leader, October 18, 1998.
Dr. George Joffe
The Director of Studies at the
Royal Institute for International Affairs in London