I. Palestine National Council

The PNC, which is the highest decision-making body of the PLO, is considered to be the parliament of all Palestinians inside and outside of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. The PNC normally sets PLO policies, elects the Executive Committee and makes the necessary changes in its own membership, as well as changes to the Palestine National Charter (a special meeting is required) and to the Fundamental Law of the organization. The PNC also elects a speaker, two deputies and a secretary, who make up the Bureau of the Council. The Council has its own standing committees for various aspects of its work, such as its legal and political committees. The composition of the PNC represents all sectors of the Palestinian community worldwide and includes numerous organizations of the resistance movement, political parties, popular organizations (each of the above is represented by specific quotas) and independent personalities and figures from all sectors of life, including intellectuals, religious leaders and businessmen. The current membership of the PNC stands at X, including all of the 88 elected members of the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC).

The following are outlines of the organizations, political parties and popular organizations in the PNC. The information provided is intended to assist the reader and does not represent any judgement on the part of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N.

Organizations of the Resistance Movement & Political Parties

Palestine National Liberation Movement (Fateh)

Established in 1957.

Its military wing, Al-Assifa, began the armed struggle on 1 January 1965, in what represented the beginning of the Palestinian revolution.

In 1968, it took on a more public role, announcing that its leader was Yasser Arafat; he remains its leader today.

Many of Fateh’s leaders and cadres came from different party backgrounds but believe in a Palestinian national identity, in the need for independent decision making, in the goal of liberating Palestine, and in the necessity of armed struggle to achieve that goal.

Fateh led the change in the PLO in 1968 and 1969 and adopted the principle of political pluralism within the PLO. Since that time, Fateh has constituted the backbone of the PLO and has effectively led the political movement until this day.

In 1968, it promoted the goal of establishing a democratic, secular state in Palestine and, since the mid-1970s has led the pragmatic transition towards the engagement in the political settlement.

Played a central role in the Intifada (uprising) of the Palestinian people, which began in 1987, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Several members of its leading body, the Central Committee, died throughout the years of fighting, including those assassinated by Israel. They include Abu Ali Iyad, Abu Youssef Al-Najjar, Kamal Edwan, Majid Abu Sharar, Saed Sayil, Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad), Hayel Abdel Hamid (Abul’ Hol) and Khalil Al-Wazir (Abu Jihad).

Represented in the Executive Committee by two members in addition to Yasser Arafat.

Among its remaining historic leaders are Farouk Kaddoumi, Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammad Ighneim and Salim Za’noun.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)

Established in the 2nd half of 1967 by the Movement of Arab Nationalists.

Following its conference in February 1969, the Front began a transformation towards a Marxist-Leninist ideology.

The PFLP generally adopted a hard-line position, particularly with regard to the peace settlement and it played an important role in the Palestinian political movement.

During several phases, the Front chose to boycott meetings of the PNC and the Executive Committee, but has always remained faithful to the principle of national unity and to the maintenance of the PLO.

In its early days, the Front practiced and sanctioned the hijacking of airplanes, which was later prohibited by one of its conferences in the mid-1970s.

The leader of the Front is Mr. George Habash, a famous and charismatic Palestinian leader.

Ghassan Kanafani, one of its most famous leaders, was assassinated in Beirut in on 8 July 1972, by assassins widely believed to be Israeli agents.

The PFLP is represented in the Executive Committee by Mr. Abdel Rahim Malouh, although he does not actively participate.

Al-Saika (Vanguard of the Popular Liberation War)

Established in February 1968 at the initiative of the Arab leadership of Al-Baath party in Syria.

The organization possesses important resources as a result of Syrian support but has no serious presence outside of Syria and Lebanon.

Mr. Zohair Mohsen, its well-known leader, was assassinated in Cannes, France on 26 July 1979 by assassins widely suspected to be Israeli agents.

Not represented in the Executive Committee at the present time.

PFLP-General Command

The PFLP-GC was established towards the end of 1968 as a result of a disagreement within the PFLP.

Led by Mr. Ahmad Jibril, an officer well known for his military skills.

The organization conducted several known military operations and was responsible for some prisoner exchanges with Israel.

Lacks broad popular presence and is not represented in the Executive Committee at the present time.

Arab Liberation Front

Established in 1968 at the initiative of the Arab leadership of Al-Baath party in Iraq.

Played an important role during the period of the Rejectionist Front.

Its popular presence was weakened recently, possibly due to the situation in Iraq

Currently represented in the Executive Committee by Mr. Mahmoud Ismael.

Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP)

Established in 1969 as a split from the PFLP by members who wanted a more rapid transformation to Marxism.

Originally known as the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The DFLP has generally adopted pragmatic positions and has supported engagement in the political settlement, and in most phases, has kept up positive relations with Fateh.

Has played an important role in the march the PLO.

The leader of the Front is the effective and pragmatic Nayef Hawatmeh.

Although it does not actively participate, is represented in the Executive Committee by Mr. Taysir Khalid.

Palestinian Liberation Front

Established in 1976 as a split from PFLP-GC in response to the leadership’s refusal to join the Palestinian side during the confrontation with the Syrian forces in Lebanon.

It adopted radical positions while maintaining an alliance with Fateh and the PLO leadership.

Led by Mohammad Abbass.

Currently represented at in the Executive Committee by Mr. Ali Ishak after the departure of Mr. Abbas from the Committee.

Popular Struggle Front

An old but relatively small organization, it was established on 15 July 1967 and had unified relations with Fateh for a short period.

Presently led by Dr. Samir Ghoseh, who also represents the organization in the Executive Committee.

A group in Damascus claims to represent the organization.

Hizb Al-Sha’ab (People’s Party)

Formerly the Palestinian Communist party. The change took place in 1991.

Historically, its presence was based in the occupied territories where the party played an important role in the national front there, contrary to their relatively limited role in the PLO.

Represented in the Executive Committee by Mr. Suleiman Al-Najjab.

Democratic Union (FIDA)

Established in March 1990 as a split faction of the DFLP.

Led by Mr. Yasser Abed Rabbo, who also represents the party in the Executive Committee.

The Secretary-General of the party is Mr. Saleh Ra’fat.

All of the above-mentioned organizations and parties are part of the PLO. There are other minor organizations outside the PLO, but they lack a serious presence on the ground, including some members of the so-called Alliance of 10 Organizations based in Damascus. The other existing organizations are the radical Islamic organizations like the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and the Islamic Jihad. These are outside of the PLO, in spite of efforts even prior to the peace process, to bring them into the PNC. The two are also part of the above-mentioned Alliance.

Popular Organizations

The Palestinian popular organizations are well established and some of them, such as the General Union of Palestinian Students, are older than the PLO itself. These organizations represent important sectors of Palestinian society worldwide and many of them have played an essential role in the Palestinian political movement and in the PLO. All of these organizations function on a democratic basis, holding conferences at which the leadership bodies are elected in accordance with the constitutions and bylaws of the respective organization. Their representatives to the PNC are elected by their respective leading bodies and represent an important part of the PNC. Most of these organizations have branches organizing their respective sectors in the Palestinian communities worldwide. For the most part, the main presence of these organizations is moving to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

These popular organizations are as follows:

General Union of Palestine Students

General Union of Palestinian Workers

General Union of Palestinian Women

General Union of Palestinian Teachers

General Union of Palestinian Writers & Journalists

General Union of Palestinian Jurists

General Union of Palestinian Engineers

General Union of Palestinian Doctors

General Union of Palestinian Artists

General Union of Palestinian Artistic Performers

General Union of Palestinian Farmers

General Union of Palestinian Economists

Higher Council of Palestinian Youth & Sports

II. Central Council

The Central Council, which was established by the PNC in 1973, is the second leading body of the PLO. The Council functions as an intermediary body between the PNC and the Executive Committee. At present, the membership stands at 124, including 15 representatives of the PLC. The last meeting of the Central Council took place in Gaza on 10 December 1998.

III. Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is the daily leading body of the PLO and it represents the organization at the international level. The Committee is elected by the members of PNC and it is responsible to the PNC. Its main function is to execute the policies and decisions set out by the PNC and the Central Council. The Committee is also responsible for adopting a budget and for overseeing the functioning of the departments of the PLO, the responsibilities of which are distributed among its members. Decisions of the Committee are taken by a simple majority. Its membership stands at 18, including its Chairman.

IV. Palestine National Fund

The Fund is managed by a board of directors and by a chairman who is elected by the PNC and who automatically serves on the Executive Committee. The other members of the board are appointed by the Executive Committee, with a maximum of 11 members. Revenues for the fund come from two sources - a fixed tax on the wages earned by all Palestinians living in Arab countries and collected by those respective governments and from financial contributions by Arab governments and peoples, an amount that in the past was substantial.

V. Palestine Liberation Army

The Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) was established as the official military branch of the PLO in 1964, in accordance with the resolutions of the 1st Palestinian Conference (the 1st PNC). At that time, three brigades were established: Ein Jalut in Gaza and Egypt, Kadissiyah in Iraq, and Hiteen in Syria. In practice, those brigades were dominated by the general command of the armed forces of their respective host countries. Over time, however, changes were made to the PLA’s structure, including, for instance, the establishment in 1968 of commando units in Gaza to fight against the Israeli occupation, known as Kuwat al-Tahrir Al-Sha’biya (Popular Liberation Troops). Recently, with the establishment of the Palestine National Authority (PNA), important parts of those brigades in Egypt and Jordan were absorbed into the PNA security forces.

VI. Departments

The Organization has established departments that are responsible for several important spheres of work, each headed by a member of the Executive Committee. The departments include the Political Department, the Department of Returnees, the Department of Culture and Information, and the Department of Popular Organizations. Of these, the Political Department is the largest. It directs and supervises the work of Palestinian representation abroad, including Palestinian embassies, missions and offices. The Political Department also represents the PLO and the State of Palestine at international conferences, such as those of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries (NAM) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). (For the addresses of all embassies look under the Directory of Palestinian Embassies & Missions for the addresses of all embassies).

VII. Palestinian Institutions

The institutions of the PLO have achieved significant accomplishments through the myriad of social, economic and health services that they provide to Palestinian communities. Among the most important of these institutions are the following:

Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS): Established in 1968 in Jordan, the PRCS provides medical and health care to the Palestinian people. The PRCS started out with only several small clinics and grew into a substantial medical network with hospitals and medical centers throughout the region.

Palestinian Martyrs Works Society (SAMED): SAMED provided, throughout an important period, the economic infrastructure of the Palestinian community. It had been established in 1970 originally to provide vocational training to the children of Palestinian martyrs.

Sons of Martyrs: This organization owns several important facilities in the region that take care of the children of Palestinian martyrs.