History of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine Part 1

About the history of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the conflict with Israel.




The roots of the PFLP are to be found in the Arab Nationalist Movement of the 1950s and early 1960s. The ANM was originally a nationalistic and nonideological organization based upon the premises of pan-Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine. It consisted largely of Arab intellectuals, some Palestinians among them, and was generally opposed by other pan-Arab movements, possibly as a result of the early ANM alliance with Egypt and its president, Gamal Abdel Nasser. In 1965 Egypt tried to incorporate the ANM into the Arab Socialist Union, which it was sponsoring throughout the Arab world; this was resisted by the ANM, which feared that its identity would be lost within any possible merger. During the years 1950-1967 several different Palestinian groups emerged which were distinct from the earlier ANM and Al Fatah: the Vengeance Youth; the Palestinian Liberation Front; and the Heroes of the Return. Negotiations in late 1967 led to the merger of these groups with the Palestinian element of the ANM to form the PFLP. At its head was placed Dr. George Habash, a Palestinian of Greek Orthodox background and the former leader of the ANM.


The PFLP has been from the first at odds with Al Fatah, the dominant constituent of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The primary differences are: The PFLP sees unity and organization as a precursor of violent action, while Fatah believes that militant action brings unity. The PFLP views the Palestinian cause as part of an overall Arab revolution, while Fatah cooperates with existing Arab regimes. The PFLP is a Marxist-Leninist organization, while Fatah is not tied to a particular ideology other than the goal of a Palestinian state.

By 1968 the PFLP was already suffering from the splintering that plagues Arab political movements. In the autumn, a far-left faction had split off to become the PFLP-General Command, which then further split to form the Organization of Arab Palestine. In early 1969, a second group split from the PFLP to form the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The PFLP belongs to the so-called Rejectionist Front of the PLO; i.e., it rejects any diplomatic or peaceful effort to resolve the Middle East conflict that would leave Israel intact. It relies on purely violent means to pursue its dual goals: to conquer and dismantle Israel and to foment revolution throughout the Arab world.

The PFLP's first action was the July, 1968, hijacking of an El Al Israel Airlines jet traveling from Rome to Tel Aviv. The plane was flown to Algiers, where the terrorists were granted asylum and the passengers were released. The Israeli crew and five Israeli passengers were held, to be released later after negotiations conducted by the Italian government and pressure from a pilots' boycott.

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