The interview below took place in February this year, following the seventh national conference of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); the interview was conducted by the PFLP’s media office
In extremely difficult circumstances and exceptional meetings, the Front convened its seventh national conference. In light of the complexities and difficulties facing the Palestinian cause and the political situation in the Palestinian arena, this leads us to ask the following questions:
Question. Comrade Abu Ahmad, how do you assess the reality of the Popular Front today, in light of the results of the Seventh National Conference? Can you say that the Front has made a step forward?
Answer. Yes, no doubt about it. The conference of the party is an opportunity to make a quantum leap in its organizational structure, general trends, and the political program of the party, as well as innovation in the leadership ranks.
In regards to the Seventh Conference of the Front, this conference was frequently delayed, and this led to an imbalance in our work over time, particularly in the areas of action in the field of militant and popular struggle. In addition, during the period between the two conferences, some concerns in the party’s structure became apparent, and some of the party’s institutions and leadership sought to overcome red tape, bureaucracy and formalism in the work. This did not prevent Party structures and institutions from making progress and recording substantial achievements, including the growth of the party within the occupied homeland.
The conference, then, was an opportunity to rid ourselves of the negatives which have hung over the body of the party for the past years and to correct our errors at various levels: political, organizational, and in struggle. This is what happened at our Seventh National Conference, and we are seeing positive results that we hope will manifest themselves in a short period of time.
Q. The Front’s leadership has issued statements regarding renewal and positive change in the structures and branches of the Front. We, our comrades and our readers, want to know more about this renewal and if it also includes an intellectual and political renewal?
A. There is no doubt there has been renewal; leading bodies and figures have changed significantly in the Front, to an extent that has rarely been witnessed in the past. We have a renewal of almost 65% in leadership bodies in this conference for the first time. Second, while the intellectual and political program were both reviewed and changed, the basic positions and principles of the Front have remained. There were no significant changes to organizational forms and the rules of procedure, although a few small amendments. In terms of the political program, the Front reiterated its commitment to the liberation of the entire national land of Palestine as the strategic goal of the Front and the Palestinian national struggle, and the emphasis on the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem; these things are already the essence of the political program.
Concerning the rules of procedure, they emphasize the internal democracy of the Front and its various bodies, including its constant development and improvement in the work of the Party. In the matter of theory, the conference stressed the commitment of the Front to the scientific theory of Marxism. In a nutshell, these are the most prominent aspects addressed by the Front’s seventh Conference.
Q. Does the Front still seek to constitute a strong bridge of national unity, or has it stopped attempting to play this role?
A. The Front will remain a strong bridge of national unity, and advocates to promote and develop Palestinian institutions on a democratic basis, through popular elections among the Palestinian people and sectors of the Palestinian people for their leaders and institutions. The Front is aware of the militant history of struggle and the deep importance of Palestinian national unity. The division has been employed as a weapon of mass destruction by the enemy of our people and the sacred national cause. In Palestinian political history, the record of the Front is unique in its diligent commitment to Palestinian national unity and rejection of all forms of division and internal fighting.
Q. The Front practices criticism and self-criticism and is not afraid of constructive criticism. The Front, in examining its Seventh national Conference looks at its errors in policies and positions and conducts an audit of its work. How do you see this?
A. The Front acknowledges and recognizes errors and mistakes not only in the Conference, but also among leadership bodies, in the General Central Committee, in the Political Bureau, and at all levels. There is a standing item on the agenda of each body or institution, at all levels of the Party, which is one of assessment, criticism and self-criticism. The purpose of criticism and self-criticism is to address and correct errors and omissions. The documents and reports of the Seventh National Conference examined shortcomings, failures and errors that occurred within the Front in the thirteen years between the Sixth and Seventh Conferences, including, but not limited to:
First, the Front’s lack of development and escalation of its military effectiveness against the Zionist enemy, despite the recognition of the massive difficulties and complexities faced by this area of struggle.
Second, the inability of the Front to compel the Palestinian institutions, especially the Palestine Liberation Organization, to adopt the policies of the Front, in particular, the demand to end negotiations with the enemy, or rebuilding the PLO on a democratic and inclusive basis. In addition, the Front failed to achieve great results in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006. The Conference recorded the importance of such events not recurring in the future. At the same time, the Conference stressed the Front’s commitment to democratic elections and building national Palestinian institutions on a democratic basis as our firm choice in all fields and at all levels.
Third, the Front did not succeed in ending the Palestinian internal rift, despite all efforts on this front, and its role remained in the area of wishing, hoping, and calling to action.
Fourth, the Front did not obtain its financial rights within the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Fifth, the Front did not succeed in forming a nucleus of radical Arab nationalist work. The attempt lasted throughout the life of Comrade al-Hakim (Dr. George Habash) and has continued after his passing, who previously led this important national work.
Sixth, the Front has not been sufficiently productive in the field of culture, studies, and literature. This reflects negatively on the Front’s participation in these important areas, which should have been much greater than what has been achieved so far.
The above are some of the issues raised at the conference regarding the Front’s errors, omissions and failures. We seek to overcome these issues. We also examined the achievements of the Front and positive elements to celebrate, including:
First, successful and serious operations such as the assassination of Rehavam Zeevi on October 17, 2001 and a number of other operations.
Second, the Front’s effective contribution to the Cairo agreements to end the Palestinian division.
Third, our effective contribution in confronting the enemy attacks on Gaza.
Fourth, the Front adhered firmly to its policy of rejecting Palestinian internal fighting and has seen strong response to this policy.
Generally, regarding the atmosphere of the conference, it was sharply critical of the current Palestinian political situation: particularly in examining the negotiations, the interim program, the Oslo Accords and subsequent understandings and agreements with the enemy. There was a focus on the importance of armed struggle and resistance and demanding action in all forms of struggle, and on upholding the call for a democratic state on the entire Palestinian national soil in the conference. There has been no retreat from the positions, constants, and policies highlighted by the front in the previous conferences.
Q. Why is the condition of the PLO and its institutions so negative? Until when will the PLO remain an individual monopoly of one organization? How does this impact the relationship between the Front and this monopolistic leadership of the PLO? What is your position on calls to withdraw from the PLO and its institutions?
A. The relationship with this monopolistic leadership of the PLO is negative for many reasons, including:
First, the individualism as noted;
Second, the lack of respect for the decisions of the majority by this leadership – it is a logic of “Say what you will, and I will do what I want.”
Third, the commitment to the political approach to negotiations which have been taking place for over six months to no tangible results and the continued willingness of this leadership to engage with the project of John Kerry and the U.S., which is currently the most dangerous project aiming to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
Fourth, this leadership has evaded the implementation of the Cairo agreements, particularly on the issue of elections or the rebuilding of the PLO, despite the urgency of the Front, and initiatives and efforts to do so.
As for the Front remaining in the PLO, our decision is to remain in the institutions of the Organization with the aim of continuing to confront the approach of settlement and concessions, and at the same time continue to insist on national unity. These issues are difficult to address on the basis of a single action here or there by a single party. It is necessary to reassert political principles and fundamentals – contrary to those that are prevailing now – in particular, to reassert the political program adopted in the Cairo agreements with the consensus of all forces and parties.
In any case, we should not forget, that the institutions of the PLO were built with the blood of the Palestinian people and their sacrifices, including the blood of the martyrs of the Front. The qualitative political situation at any time may be impacted by our presence in institutions rather than in the Organization itself. All of our political tactics, statements and work should serve the goals of the Palestinian people and their strategic program. The Front as a political party should draw conclusions and lessons from previous experiences in order to support and enhance its role and examine the path to achieving its goals.
Finally, it is always required of us and all the forces of change and democracy addressing this situation to exert all pressure to change the political approach of this monopolistic leadership in the PLO to support the popular will, change and Palestinian democracy within the organization and its institutions.
Q. How do you understand the role of the Popular Front, its weapons and resistance? What is the importance of revolutionary violence in the struggle with the Zionist enemy? Why do some people say there is a difference in this subject between now and in the past? Do you think the struggle with “Israel” can be resolved without violence and resistance?
A. No one disagrees that the occupation and racist settler colony perched on our land cannot be defeated without a long term people’s liberation war, in which armed struggle is in the forefront yet without neglecting all other forms of struggle. In fact, in history, while there are one or two cases in which it is claimed that a country was liberated from colonialism without violence as a major factor (for example, this claim is often made about India), in fact, this obscures the reality that liberation from colonialism has largely been accomplished by people’s wars of national liberation.
Attempting to negate revolutionary violence as a leading method of struggle against the occupier only perpetuates the existence of the occupation and makes the occupier comfortable in the occupation and results in the loss of our homeland, failing to achieve our goals, and the implementation of the colonizer’s plan to liquidate the national cause through settlement, Judaization and other colonial methods.
The sixty-six years of Nakba answer clearly and unequivocally: the liberation of Palestine passes through the gun first and other forms of struggle second. These forms of struggle are interdependent and harmonious. There is a constant dialectic: decline in armed struggle due to conditions, then the reverse quite quickly – there is no state, no return and no liberation without resistance of all forms: violent and non-violent.
Q. How do you determine the Front’s relationships with Palestinian forces? Will you stand at the same difference from Fateh and Hamas?
A. The Front’s line constitutes a third line or third option in the Palestinian national scene, namely the national democratic line, and we strongly believe this option expands the hope and the future of the Palestinian people and highlights the most deserving issue of the day, namely the Palestinian cause.
The Front is a resistance organization committed to armed struggle in the conflict with the enemy in order to achieve a democratic, liberated, revolutionary and popular free Palestine. This is the basis of our definition of relationships with other Palestinian forces as well as political tactics and alliances. This makes the Front clear and credible and provides opportunities and conditions for relate to other forces with clear objectives and programs in line with Palestinian national constants. At the foundation of our relationship with different Palestinian forces and parties are the goals and rights of the Palestinian people, liberation, return, and a democratic state with full sovereignty on the entire land of Palestine. There are levels of convergence and divergence with this or that Palestinian force, including Fateh and Hamas. We are first, second, third and always dedicated to national unity on the road to liberation and freedom.
Q. How do you assess your relations with the resistance camp, including Iran and Hezbollah?
A. The Front is a resistance organization, so it is natural to be in the camp of resistance at popular and official levels. We establish relationships not only with regimes identified with defiance or resistance in Iran, Syria or elsewhere, but our relationships are good with all parties to resistance, popular movements, political parties and resistance forces. This includes Iran and Hezbollah. We cannot ignore here the importance of the support of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause. Also, the position of Hezbollah that is engaged in an ongoing conflict with “Israel” and its support for the Palestinian people and their just cause, as well as the support from Syria, both the people and the state.
Q. President Abu Mazen recently made a number of statements that the Front condemned. How do you evaluate those statements which involved more concessions to the occupier, while insisting on the continuation of negotiations?
A. Despite over six months of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and “Israel” under the name of “peace talks,” there has been no meaningful progress. The Palestinian Authority leadership continues to adhere to negotiations despite the absence of any serious results. The negotiations are absurd and harmful and yet the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO continues to push them forward. And the strange thing is, that Abu Mazen, when asked about the negotiating track, provides statements and positions on the Palestinian political situation that create greater difficulties for the Palestinian cause. For example, in a recent interview in the New York Times, exhibiting the decline in Palestinian politics, he declared in response to U.S. pressure to submit to the retention of Israeli occupation forces for five years – even longer than the previously stated three years, as well as supporting the occupation of NATO forces or another third party in order to reassure the Israelis.
What Abu Mazen sees as a tactic of political flexibility to negotiate with the Israelis has a proven experience of failure. It has achieved no valuable gains for Palestinians and what was once the floor of Palestinian political positions is today the ceiling. Such statements by Abu Mazen cannot be considered seriously not only by the majority of the Palestinian people and their forces and political parties, but also by international and regional parties who support the rights of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian Authority leadership has no right to offer those rights as concessions while the intransigence of Israeli policies increases.
The claim by the Palestinian Authority and the negotiating team that Palestinians have no alternative is not correct and does not represent the reality of Palestinian political life. Yes, there is an alternative to the policy of concession and liquidation. The political tactics of the current official Palestinian leadership, if continued, will take the historical, national and legal rights of the Palestinian people to hell.
21 years since Oslo has confirmed to all that the path of Oslo and concessions will never bring about an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty and Jerusalem as its capital or the return of refugees. The alternatives available to Palestinians are:
First, reorganize the Palestinian internal situation, which leads to reconciliation and Palestinian national unity, that includes in its agenda, regaining the place of the Palestinian cause on all Arab, regional and international levels, after what it has suffered due to events in surrounding countries and the retreat of other Arab countries.
Second, develop a political agenda and effective resistance to the occupation and its policies at all level: political, militant and media, because the fascist Zionist enemy understands only the language of force and resistance.
Third, Palestinian involvement in all international bodies, including its status as an observer state in the United Nations, to give momentum and real international support for the Palestinian cause while exposing and isolating Israeli practices and policies and U.S. support for them.
Fourth, struggle to expand the Palestinian resistance to the occupation on all levels, including striving to bring about a third Palestinian intifada to confront the Israelis to retreat on their practices and policies
The performance of the Palestinian leadership in these negotiations does not respond to the aspirations and goals of the Palestinian people, inside or outside the homeland. The statements by some Palestinian officials, whatever their motives or beliefs, do not serve to advance the Palestinian cause one iota, as confirmed unequivocally through 21 years of Oslo. Palestinians urgently need to expand their vision for work to achieve our goals, not distractions in backstage negotiations and lobbying. This has been concretely proven; these negotiations are futile, absurd and harmful.
We call upon the Executive Committee of the PLO to issue a formal statement rejecting the statements of Palestinian leaders which violate the national consensus and its decisions.
Q. What is your opinion of the meeting of President Abu Mazen with the delegation of “Israeli” students?
A. We see that this normalization by the leading Palestinian official comes in the context of a damaging political approach that harms our national cause and the rights of the Palestinian people. The only beneficiary of these meetings and this behavior is the enemy who uses it to manipulate local and global public opinion. We reject all of these statements and behaviours and the PLO Executive Committee must create accountability for this situation and the recent statements.