1) The Interview with Dr. George Habash (El-Hakim)
WE DON'T PARTICIPATE IN ANY PNA INSTITUTIONS MAKING POLICY OR
NEGOTIATING WITH THE [ZIONIST] ENEMY
THE DILEMMA THAT THE OSLO AGREEMENTS HAVE REACHED NOW IS THE SURE PROOF
OF THE VALIDITY OF OUR PRIOR OPPOSITION TO THEM
THERE ARE NO DECISIONS TO HALT THE MILITARY OPERATIONS OF THE PFLP
WE HAVE JUST FINISHED PREPARING THE MAIN DOCUMENTS FOR OUR SIXTH
CONVENTION CONTAINING A COMPREHENSIVE CRITICAL ANALYTICAL EVALUATION
OF OUR PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE
I SAY THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON FROM OUR PREVIOUS [PALESTINIAN]
EXPERIENCE IS THE NECESSITY OF LINKING LOCAL AND ARAB NATIONALIST
[The following interview with Dr. Habash was conducted for the Free Arab
Voice (FAV) by Ibrahim Alloush.]
*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?
**El-Hakim: 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
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?
**El-Hakim: 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
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
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
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.
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
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?
**El-Hakim: 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 and military force including about
200 nuclear warheads, and a huge arsenal of deadlier and more obscene
traditional weaponry too!
Israel goes on practicing armed terror on daily basis against the
Palestinian and Lebanese people, 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?
**El-Hakim: 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.
*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
**El-Hakim: 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 reflect
the ambition of an Arab nation that has come to realize from historical
experience the extent to which tragedies and disasters can be caused by
the 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 developed
full-fledged material, political, economic, and even cultural
structures. Bypassing those differences has come to require a
cumulative historical process in every sense of the word.
Similarly, as much as uniting the nation is no longer possible in one
scoop, neither is founding a unified Arab political party...
This dictates that we use the available means to evolve reality into
what'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. and
Israel 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 to
exert itself separately on the local level, but within a strategy that
marks the close connection between its own backyard and the general Arab
nationalist aspect. I say this is the most important lesson from the
previous experience: the necessity of linking Arab nationalist and local
*FAV: And what about the PLO then?
**El-Hakim: 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
* 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.