From Survey, International Socialism (1st series), No.36, April/May 1969, pp.4-5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
On February 1st 1969 the new Palestine National Assembly was convened in Cairo to discuss means of unifying Palestinian guerilla activities. At a previous preliminary meeting Al Fatah was allocated thirty three seats, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine twelve, the Vanguards of the Popular Liberation War twelve, the PLO Executive eleven, the PLA five, the Palestine National Fund one, the Student, Trade Union and Women’s Federations three, and twenty eight independent members to be appointed by the guerilla organisations. The PFLP and the PLA delegations did not attend.
Al Fatah, the largest and most popular organisation, dominated the conference. Yasir Arafat, an Al Fatah leader, was elected chairman of a ‘rejuvenated’ PLO and four Al Fatah men were elected members of the eleven-man PLO Executive. Thus it seems that Al Fatah has finally achieved full recognition from the Arab states within the framework of the PLO. In the past the Arab states have contributed large amounts of money to Al Fatah which continued to advocate and practice the policy of non-involvement in the ‘internal affairs of Arab countries’. This they justified by their need for funds, arms, and territories for training their members, and for the concentration of Palestinians on combating Israel whom they see to be the ‘major’ obstacle to any development and progress in the Middle East. This is not surprising since Al Fatah characterises the whole Palestinian and Arab struggle against imperialism and Zionism as a national struggle only. This is a result not only of political expediency on the part of Al Fatah but also of their conservative political outlook.
The smaller and more progressive PFLP is itself split between the so-called ‘moderates’ and ‘Marxists’. The ‘Marxist’ wing of the PFLP calls for a ‘proletarian’ revolution in the Arab East as a necessary prerequisite to any solution of the Palestinian problem, although it has not really advanced any comprehensive internationalist alternative to the phoney ‘socialism’ of certain Arab states and the confused nationalist outlook of the various guerilla organisations. PFLP members have to work underground in most Arab countries, including the Lebanon which bore the brunt of an Israeli attack on Beirut airport for ‘allowing terrorists responsible for the Athens attack freedom of movement and training facilities on Lebanese soil’. In fact at the time a number of PFLP members were in Lebanese jails.
Guerilla attacks while increasing in quantity and quality have not been accompanied by the establishment of guerilla bases in Israeli-occupied territories. This cannot be explained only on the basis of Israeli vigilance and their policy of massive retaliations (demolition of houses, deportations, mass arrests and executions). Most West Bank civil servants receive double salaries – from the Jordanians and Israelis. Regular commercial traffic between the East and West Bank continues while Israeli aircraft napalm Arab villages in the East Bank. The Israelis are using a double-edged policy – massive reprisals on the one hand and granting concessions on the other. No guerilla organisation has put forward a programme, although all call for an armed struggle leading to a de-Zionised, democratic, binational Palestine.
The recent conference held in Cairo represents a qualitative change in the development of the Palestinian resistance movement. During the period 1948-67, the Arab governments appeared to the Palestinians and Arabs in general to be the main force capable of combating the ever-present Israeli threat. This confidence in the bourgeois Arab regimes stifled any Palestinian initiative towards independent action. Thus any Palestinian activity was controlled by the various Arab governments and subordinated to their interests. This was particularly the case with Egypt. The June war while exposing to a certain extent the corruption and bankruptcy of these regimes has led the Palestinians towards a re-evaluation of their positions vis-à-vis the Arab states. This has manifested itself in massive popular support for the guerilla organisations who, it must be stressed, operate independently of the Arab governments and have proved to be a serious long-term threat to the Israelis.
Hussain, no doubt with Nasser’s blessing, and under Western and Israeli pressures attempted to smash the guerilla organisations several times and after each futile attempt the guerilla ranks increased (Israeli reprisals also have this effect). In fact there were cases of Jordanian privates shooting Jordanian officers ordering them to arrest guerillas. This situation forced the Arab governments to publicly announce their recognition of the independence of the resistance movement.
For the first time since 1936 the Palestinian Arabs have reappeared on the political arena as an important and independent force in their own right. The Arab ruling classes are in the grip of a dilemma from which they can find no escape. Their military weakness plus their instability forces them to work for a diplomatic solution which at the same time would not imperil their power. On the other hand a diplomatic solution through the UN or a form of four-power settlement, which the guerilla organisations adamantly reject since it would not solve the basic issues involved, would be worthless. The pre-June war distinction in people’s minds between ‘progressive’ Arab states and ‘reactionary’ states is being slowly eroded. The bankruptcy and oppressive nature of the bourgeois Arab regimes has been more or less exposed. In Egypt demonstrating students and workers demanding greater freedom and participation and led by left-wing elements, clashed with the police. There were several casualties. Nasser, who is under pressure from the Soviet Union to reach a political settlement with Israel, made verbal concessions to a restive population and groped confusedly for a political way out.
In Jordan Hussain is under pressure from all sides, Israeli attacks, Western pressures and an embittered population predominately Palestinian. In Syria the Baath Party rules by means of an army humiliated in June 1967 since it did not take part at all in the fighting, purged of all but party supporters and given the role of defending the ‘Revolution’. To justify this the Baath leadership invokes memories of Lenin’s ‘revolutionary defeatism’. The Syrian masses can hardly forget the fact that the Golan Heights were virtually given up without a fight.
In Iraq a discredited right-wing regime faced with increasing armed resistance from the left wing of the Iraqi Communist Party in the south, the Kurdish revolution in the north and a growing opposition from progressive groups and parties in general has to resort to the public display of the hanged ‘Israeli’ spies. Ministers on the radio and television networks urged the population to go out and witness the fate of ‘traitors’. It would not be surprising if the victims were actually spies since all Arab governments establishments are penetrated not only by Israeli but also more effectively by the CIA and British intelligence to a very high level. However, the reasons behind such displays are the efforts of an isolated regime to secure public support. The Western and Zionist press became hysterical over the fact that nine of the eleven victims were Jews. Meanwhile the murder of three Arab girls by Israeli police in Gaza on recent demonstrations against the occupation went by with hardly a comment.
The Arabs’ defeat in 1967 has released hitherto new forces and ideas in the Arab world. Any comparison of the form the struggle should take, with say, Algeria, is fallacious. Israel while resembling French Algeria is in many aspects very different. The Israelis are a different political enemy from the French colons. Only a revolutionary and internationalist solution is capable, not only of solving the Palestine problem, but all other problems of social and national emancipation in the region. Arab and Israeli socialists must struggle for a workers’ and peasants’ revolution aimed at the establishment of a Socialist Republic with full rights for Jews, Kurds and all national minorities.
Last updated on 12.2.2008