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The PLO: Critical appraisals from the inside

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At the turn of the millennium, after decades of struggle, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was in a shambles. In 2005, a reconciliation conference held in Cairo seemed to offer some hope for the revitalisation of the organisation, but Hamas's victory in the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections caught the PLO off-guard. Conflicts and tensions exploded as the PLO tried to claw back the power it had lost. Amid calls for the organisation to renew itself or make way for a new group, the al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations convened a conference in Beirut to discuss the PLO. Representatives of the PLO's main factions joined leaders from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, as well as activists and academics, to discuss what they could learn from the past, and try to forge some consensus on how to take the Palestinian struggle forward. This volume documents the papers and debates presented at the conference. Originally published in Arabic, the book provides a fascinating window on Palestinians' unique understandings of the history of their struggle, and of the PLO. It offers an insider's view on issues such as national unity, the intricate nature of relations between Palestinians in the diaspora and those in the Occupied Territory, the fragmented nature of the Arab condition, as well as the impact of the meddling by Arab nations and western powers in Palestinian affairs. For anyone interested in Palestine, and in national liberation struggles more broadly, this powerful collection provides an essential anthology of key perspectives on the Palestinian struggle up to 2006. The book offers readers a rare opportunity to eavesdrop on the conversations of those intimately involved in searching for solutions to one of the world's most intractable conflicts.

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Published 29 December 2013
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EAN13 9780992199821
Language English
Document size 14 MB

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The PLO Critical appraisals from the inside
Edited by Mohsen Moh’d Saleh & Na’eem Jeenah
PubLished by the Afro-MiddLe East Centre
PO Box 411494, CraighaLL, 2024, Johannesburg, South Africa
http://www.amec.org.za
PubLished in EngLish in 2013
© 2013 Afro-MiddLe East Centre
ISBN (EngLish soft cover) 978-0-9921998-5-2
First pubLished in Arabic in 2007 by AL-Zaytouna Centre, Beirut
ISBN (Arabic edition) 978-9953-0-0941-4
ALL rights reserved. No part of this pubLication may be reproduced, stored in a retrievaL system or
transmitted in any form or by any means, eLectronic, mechanicaL, photocopying, recording, or
otherwise, without the prior permission of the Afro-MiddLe East Centre.
The views expressed in this pubLication are those of the authors. They do not necessariLy relect
the views or poLicies of the Afro-MiddLe East Centre or indicate that the Centre endorses the
views of the authors. In quoting from this pubLication, readers are advised to attribute the
source of the information to the individuaL concerned, and not to the Centre.
TransLated by the Afro-MiddLe East Centre, Johannesburg
Copyedited by Mary RaLphs
Cover Design by Karen Graphics
Designed and typeset by Karen Graphics
Printed by Impress Printers in South Africa
Contents
Preface .......................................................................................... v Preface to the Arabic edition.......................................................... ix About the contributors and moderators ....................................... xi Acronyms and abbreviations .......................................................... xvii
Introduction  Mohsen Moh’d Saleh ................................................................
Part I 1 The PLO’s journey from 1964 to 2006: An overview Shafiq al-Hout ...................................................................... 2 The rise of Palestinian national consciousness in the PLO .................................................................Nafez Abu Hasna  Part I Debate Moderated by Mahmoud Soueid ...........................................
Part II 3 Towards an inclusive national charter ..............................................Muhammad Tayseer al-Khatib 4 The Palestinian National Council: Restructuring for fairer representation Mohsen Moh’d Saleh........................................................... 5 Towards a healthy relationship between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority Ahmad Said Nufal .............................................................. Part II Debate Moderated by Bayan Nuwayhed al-Hout ..............................
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Part III 6 The PLO and endeavours to forge Palestinian national unity Munir Shafiq ........................................................................107 7 The PLO’s planning and research centres: Academic freedom and academic research Saqr Abu Fakhr................................................................... 115 8 The PLO’s handling of the refugee issue .................................................................Salman Abu-Sitta 125
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Part III Debate  Moderated by Azzam Tamimi ...............................................145
Part IV 9 The PLO’s management of negotiations with Israel  Helmy Mousa .......................................................................155 10 The PLO’s perspective on Arab–Palestinian relations  Mohammed Sayed Said ........................................................161 11 Towards a new kind of international diplomacy for the PLO  Abdullah al-Ashaal ...............................................................173 Part IV Debate  Moderated by Adnan Sayyed Hussein ....................................183
Part V 12 Rebuilding the PLO: Fatah’s perspective  Fathi Abu al-Ardat ................................................................191 13 Rebuilding and reactivating the PLO: The Hamas perspective  Usamah Hamdan .................................................................195 Part V Debate  Moderated by Hassan Nafaa .................................................201
Part VI 14 The PLO – present reality and future prospects: The perspective of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine  Marwan Abdul Al .................................................................211 15 Rebuilding the PLO: The perspective of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement  Anwar Abu Taha ...................................................................219 16 Rebuilding the PLO: The perspective of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine  Suhail al-Natour ...................................................................227  Part VI Debate  Moderated by Walid Muhammad Ali .....................................233
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Preface
While the Palestinian Liberation Organization is not a name that is heard with a great deal of interest these days – even among Palestinians – the organisation is still regarded as the ‘sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people’ by over a hundred states around the world, most of which host PLO embassies in their countries. Much has been written about reviving the PLO’s glory days, and returning the organisation to its former position. But much has changed since the organisation first captured the Palestinian imagination, and the days when Palestinians waited for the PLO’s leaders, activists and soldiers to bring about their liberation are well and truly behind us. Some argue that the PLO’s decline began with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995. Others suggest that the Accords were merely a symptom of the PLO’s decline, not the cause. Twenty years after the Accords were signed, numerous developments have rendered the PLO less and less relevant. Meanwhile, organisations outside the PLO have become more active and more prominent; two intifadas have taken place (and the PLO hardly featured in the second); the Palestinian National Authority, spawned by Oslo, has overtaken the PLO in many ways, and those involved in the Authority have helped to marginalise the PLO in the lives of Palestinians, and in Palestinian politics. In fact, by the turn of the millennium, the PLO was already in a shambles. In 2005, a conference held in Cairo seemed to offer some hope that the organisation could be revitalised, but Hamas’s victory in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections caught the PLO off-guard. Conflicts and tensions erupted as the PLO tried to claw back the power it had lost. Also in 2006, amid calls for the PLO to renew itself or make way for a new organisation, the Beirut-based Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations convened a conference at which representatives of the PLO’s main factions joined leaders from Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as other activists and academics. The aim of the conference was for participants to discuss what they could learn from the past, and try to forge some consensus on how to take the Palestinian struggle forward. Al-Zaytouna Centre published the papers and discussions of that conference in Arabic. The publication of this English translation of those proceedings is a collaborative effort between Al-Zaytouna Centre and the Johannesburg-based Afro-Middle East Centre.
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Although the conference took place some time ago, the Afro-Middle East Centre chose to publish the translation because the papers and debates provide a fascinating window on Palestinians’ unique understandings of the history of their struggle, and of the PLO. Here you will find insiders’ views on issues such as national unity, the intricate nature of relations between Palestinians in the diaspora and those in the Occupied Territory, the fragmentation of the Arab condition, as well as the impact of Arab and western meddling in Palestinian affairs. These views are not often published in English. Since the conference, a myriad of new developments have occurred – including the political separation of the West Bank and Gaza, the creation of separate political authorities for each territory, and two savage wars launched by Israel against the Gaza Strip. In addition, security co-ordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has increased dramatically, stop-start negotiations have taken place between the Authority and Israel, and, in 2012, ‘Palestine’ was recognised as a non-member observer state by the United Nations. To reflect on how these developments have affected, and will continue to affect, the PLO, Mohsen Saleh, Al-Zaytouna’s director and editor of the original Arabic edition, has written an introductory chapter for this edition. Another major development in the Middle East and North Africa that will have long-term effects on the PLO, and the Palestinian story more generally, is the uprisings that broke out across the region at the end of 2010. With the self-immolation of vegetable vendor Muhammad Bouazizi in Tunisia, his country erupted in protests. The weeks thereafter saw similar demonstrations in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. Syria descended into civil war, and, a little more than two years after Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, was overthrown, that country was subjected to a coup, which ousted the democratically elected president, suspended the constitution and dissolved the parliament. The Syrian war and the Egyptian coup have already had severe repercussions for Palestinian resistance groups. This book is being published as Palestinian political groupings and civil society organisations grapple with what the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East mean for them. Thus, a book evaluating the current malaise of the PLO and examining its future prospects is timely. For anyone interested in Palestine, and in national liberation struggles more broadly, this collection provides an anthology of key perspectives on the Palestinian struggle prior to 2006, and offers readers a rare
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opportunity to eavesdrop on the conversations of those intimately involved in searching for solutions to the world’s longest occupation and one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. In compiling the translation, much thought went into deciding whether to include the discussion and comments that followed each session at the conference. Somewhat unusually, we decided to do so because they reveal additional information and other perspectives that remain relevant. We also decided to include brief biographies of the various contributors and session moderators. Where possible, we signalled the affiliations of the contributors to the debates. We made every effort to ensure the accuracy of these details as of June 2013, but apologise for any information that might be outdated. The Afro-Middle East Centre is grateful to Al-Zaytouna Centre for their assistance, and for granting permission for us to translate and publish this book. Our particular thanks go to Mohsen Moh’d Saleh, Al-Zaytouna Centre’s general manager, for his responsiveness and encouragement.
Na’eem Jeenah Executive Director, Afro-Middle East Centre, Johannesburg 2013
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Preface to the Arabic edition
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations is pleased to offer this work to readers, which encompasses the scope of the papers presented and discussions held during a two-day conference hosted by the centre in Beirut. The conference coincided with the forty-second anniversary of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was founded in 1964 to embody the Palestinians’ national identity and to represent them in their desire for freedom, liberation, the right of return and independence. The aim of convening the event was to create circumstances that were conducive to an objective and academic forum, to bring together scientists, experts and researchers from all intellectual persuasions, and to encourage free and open discussions. Our engagement in this effort, and in the subsequent publication of this book, stems from our loyalty and patriotism towards our country and our nation. Close to eighty experts, activists and scholars involved in the Palestinian struggle took part in the conference. Sixteen papers were presented, covering the evolution of the PLO and prospects for its restructuring. Key observations and commentary expressed by the participants in plenary sessions have been included in the volume. Together, the papers and discussions provide a unique insight into the viewpoints of various forces and factions at play within the Palestinian arena. Al-Zaytouna Centre is an independent research think-tank focused on strategic studies of the Palestinian issue. The conference reported on here reinforced our belief that Palestine has an abundance of intellectuals, researchers and innovators, whose views should be given an opportunity to come to the forefront without being prejudged or unjustly classified. Undoubtedly, we Palestinians have our differences, but our objective is to mobilise these differences in order to broaden our options, not to narrow them. In publishing this book, we aim to increase awareness about the journey of the PLO, and to hasten a closing of ranks among Palestinians and supporters of Palestine, as a means to consolidating a united national position and facilitating the realisation of the legitimate aspirations of all Palestinians.
Mohsen Moh’d Saleh General Manager, Al-Zaytouna Centre, Beirut 2006
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