PLO Terrorism and Palestinian National Covenant Misrepresented on CNN

CNN’s in-depth website feature on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict misrepresents the PLO, which it says “has functioned both as an umbrella group for various factions of armed resistance to Israel and as a peace negotiator.” [emphasis added]

“Armed resistance” is hardly the way to describe bombings of civilians in public places and airplane hijackings claiming scores of victims. The activities of groups under the helm of the PLO and Arafat were directed not only against Israeli civilians, but against citizens of the U.S. and other Western countries, including but not limited to:

  • 1972 murder of 25 civilians in Lod airport, in conjunction with the Japanese Red Army
  • 1972 massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympics
  • 1973 kidnapping and murders of U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel Jr., US Chargé d’affaires George Curtis Moore and Belgian Diplomat Guy Eid in Khartoum
  • 1974 murder of 16 in Kiryat Shmona
  • 1974 murder of 27 schoolchildren in Ma’alot
  • 1978 killing of 34 civilians on Israel’s coastal road
  • 1985 hijacking of an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, and the killing of a wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer by dropping him overboard.

CNN’s feature also incorrectly stated that “in 1993, the PLO affirmed that the articles of the Palestinian National Covenant denying Israel’s right to exist were invalid and renounced terrorism.”

The Palestinian Covenant which was established in July, 1968 by the Palestine National Council included among its articles the following passages which deny the right of the State of Israel to exist and call for its destruction:

  • Article 8: The phase in their history, through which the Palestinian people are now living, is that of national (watani) struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Thus the conflicts among the Palestinian national forces are secondary, and should be ended for the sake of the basic conflict that exists between the forces of Zionism and of imperialism on the one hand, and the Palestinian Arab people on the other. On this basis the Palestinian masses, regardless of whether they are residing in the national homeland or in diaspora (mahajir) constitute – both their organizations and the individuals – one national front working for the retrieval of Palestine and its liberation through armed struggle.

  • Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it . They also assert their right to normal life in Palestine and to exercise their right to self-determination and sovereignty over it.

  • Article 10: Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness, and the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution. It also requires the achieving of unity for the national (watani) struggle among the different groupings of the Palestinian people, and between the Palestinian people and the Arab masses, so as to secure the continuation of the revolution, its escalation, and victory.

  • Article 15: The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine. Absolute responsibility for this falls upon the Arab nation – peoples and governments – with the Arab people of Palestine in the vanguard. Accordingly, the Arab nation must mobilize all its military, human, moral, and spiritual capabilities to participate actively with the Palestinian people in the liberation of Palestine. It must, particularly in the phase of the armed Palestinian revolution, offer and furnish the Palestinian people with all possible help, and material and human support, and make available to them the means and opportunities that will enable them to continue to carry out their leading role in the armed revolution, until they liberate their homeland.

  • Article 19: The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the right to self-determination.

  • Article 20: The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.

  • Article 21: The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine and reject all proposals aiming at the liquidation of the Palestinian problem, or its internationalization.

  • Article 22: Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.

  • Article 23: The demand of security and peace, as well as the demand of right and justice, require all states to consider Zionism an illegitimate movement, to outlaw its existence, and to ban its operations, in order that friendly relations among peoples may be preserved, and the loyalty of citizens to their respective homelands safeguarded.

These articles directly contradict the Oslo Declaration of Principles signed in 1993, and had been the subject of an ongoing dispute between the Palestinians and Israelis. The claim that these had been revoked in 1993 by the PLO is clearly wrong.

In April 1996—three years after the signing of the Oslo Declaration—Arafat’s Fatah publication, “In Our View,” carried an article declaring that “the Rulers of Israel demanded that the summons of the National Council would be specifically made for amending the Charter and for the cancella tion of those articles which deny Israel’s right to exist. However, these are the same articles that proclaim the goal of liberating Palestine. Consequently, the cancellation thereof means the cancellation of the goal for which the PLO had been established. The Israeli and the Zionist demand from the National Council was a self-issued death certificate amounting to a suicidal act by the PLO?”

On April 24, 1996, the Palestine National Council convened a closed meeting in Gaza where it finally adopted a resolution about changing the Covenant. However, the resolution was ambiguous and was not included in the official records of the meeting. The communiqué released later made no specific mention of revoking the Charter. The versions subsequently published by various news mentioned that the PNC voted 504 to 54, with 14 abstentions:

A) to amend  by the Charter by cancelling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the P.L.O. and the Government of Israel 9-10 September 1993.

B) to assign its legal committee with the task of redrafting the Palestinian National Charter in order to present it to the first session of the Palestinian central council.

However, there was no specification of the articles cancelled, and later, PNC Chairman Salim Zaanoun, acknowledged that no specific articles had been deleted (An Nahar, May16, 1996). Journalists were told that the PNC session merely gave the PNC “license to amend the Charter.”

In January 1998, Chairman Arafat sent private letters to President Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair stating that the PNC resolution was carried out and specifying a list of articles supposedly amended by the decision. A press release by the official Palestinian news agency, WAFA, stated that the PLO Executive met in Ramallah shortly afterward and reviewed the letter by Arafat to Clinton.

Questions have been raised about the legal validity of Arafat’s personal assurances to Clinton and Blair and their review by the Palestinian Executive Committee; a two-thirds majority of the Palestinian National Council is required to make any legal amendements to the charter.

Those who argue that the Covenant has been changed point to the resolution of 1996, while those who argue that it has not been changed point to the fact that the Covenant in its new amended form has never been publicized nor seen by anyone. Thus the controversy over the amendment of the Palestinian National Covenant continues.

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