What is wrong with the PFLP?
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is not what it used to be. Today the organization which sired Laila Khalid, George Habash and many other luminaries in the skies of the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice is functioning very much like a hanger-on vis-à-vis the American backed Palestinian Authority (PA).
The continuing affinity between de-facto PFLP leader Abdel Rahim Mallouh and the Chairman of the PA and Fatah Chief Mahmoud Abbas seems to suggest that the leftist group is effectively abandoning its erstwhile principles. What is even more shocking is that the scandalous misdeeds of the Ramallah regime is having little bearing if any on the marriage of convenience between the PFLP and the PA leadership.
Not too long ago, the PFLP didn’t hesitate to physically eliminate any Palestinian figure that would “cross the red lines” with regard to dealing with the colonialist Israeli occupiers. The assassination by a PFLP cadre more than two decades ago of the Israeli-appointed by PLO-accepted former mayor of Nablus, Thafer al Masri, can be viewed as a classical example in this regard.
Now, however, with virtually all Palestinian red-lines being crossed in broad daylight by the PA leadership, the PFLP is not only silent and submissive but is also providing a certain cover of “national consensus” to legitimize policies and practices that George Habash, Abu Ali Mustafa, Wadee’ Haddad and Ghassan Kanafani would have viewed as representing ultimate national treason.
Since the inauspicious Oslo Accords more than 15 years ago, the PFLP has been projecting itself as representing the conscience of Palestinian secular nationalism.
However, the past few years witnessed a serious deterioration in PFLP commitment to upholding and safeguarding Palestinian national goals and interests.
At the theoretical level, the PFLP leadership continues to recite the same old rhetorical rituals about the evils of Zionism of the American-led imperialistic camp.
However, in a sharp contrast to the high-sounding rhetoric, the PFLP leadership has been quietly and obediently walking, side by side with the Ramallah-based regime, in the path of sacrificing national interests for the sake of obtaining American and Israeli acceptance.
In fact, the PFLP has committed more than just forgivable mistakes. It has committed grave sins which really dishonor and disfigure the history of an organization that always judged individuals, entities and regimes in accordance with the level of their subservience to American imperialism.
Let us examine some of the national and moral blunders recently made by the PFLP, which I am sure make many of the group’s members and supporters seethe with anger.
The current PFLP leadership ( I am talking about Mallouh, not Ahmed Sadaat who is languishing in Israeli dungeons) has effectively allowed Abbas to manipulate the PFLP as a cheap and readily-available propaganda pawn in the enduring showdown between Fatah and Hamas. This is a fact that many honest PFLP leaders, such as Khalida Jarrar, readily acknowledge.
Moreover, whenever Abbas wants to advance his own approach toward ceding Palestinian national rights, such as the paramount right of return, or gain propaganda points in the crisis with Hamas, he simply invokes the old boring mantra that the PLO is the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Interestingly, this is done despite the fact that the policies pursued and the goals sought by Abbas and his regime, which survives on handouts from the US, Europe and some oil-rich Arab states, constitute the exact antithesis of the very goals and aspirations the PLO was founded to achieve.
In addition, the PFLP leadership said nothing and did nothing during all these years when the Fatah group was steadily eroding, corrupting and eviscerating the PLO of its national substance and even relevance until the organization eventually became a mere pale ghost of what it once was.
A few months ago, I asked Mr. Mallouh during a Ramallah conference if his faction would still cling to the PLO if the Abbas regime compromised on the inviolable Palestinian national constants such as Jerusalem, the right of return for the refugees and Jewish colonies on the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Mallouh refrained from giving a straightforward answer. Instead, he said that “we shall cross the bridge when we reach it.”
But Mallouh and all the Palestinians have already reached the bridged as Mr. Abbas has been saying in no unmistakable terms that he won’t demand the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes and ancestral motherland in what is now Israel.
Yes lower-ranking PFLP operatives did condemn Abbas’s remarks, which should be commended and appreciated.
But the deafening silence of Mallouh and his close associates can’t be forgiven. This is not the same PFLP that we grew with and respected.
It is really sad that the PFLP, along with other Palestinian groups and organizations that claim to adhere to the leftist traditions of siding with the worker-class and upholding the principles of justice, is surrendering to the American hegemony, either for the sake of money or out of despair of the possibility of defeating the imperialistic schemes.
These organizations seem to have preferred to appease the PA, the Israelis and Americans rather than speaking up and loudly protesting some of the manifestly criminal acts that Israel and the PA have been carrying out in the West Bank, including the destruction or closure of boarding schools, orphanages, charities and other civil institutions serving poor Palestinians and enhancing their ability to withstand the Nazi-like Israeli occupation.
More to the point, the PFLP stood silent while the American-backed regime in Ramallah refused to pay regular salaries to some 6000 teachers whose dossiers and files continued to be withheld in the Mukhabarat (General Intelligence) offices in Ramallah.
So, why did the PFLP not speak up on behalf of these wronged people? Why did Mallouh not urge his close friend Abbas to treat these unfortunate working men and women with the respect and dignity they deserve?
Another serious behavioral flaw undermining the image and reputation of the PFLP is the continued companionship of Mallouh and Abbas, which suggests that the leftist group has no serious objections to the full-fledged conversion of the PA regime to the American-Zionist camp. Is the PFLP leadership too gullible to realize that the PA has become an integral part of the overall American scheme against the forces of resistance and steadfastness in the Middle East?
Finally, the PFLP silence in the face of the police-state regime being consolidated in the West Bank, thanks to the active intervention by the CIA and Israel, is more than telling. It reflects a high level of complacency and moral bankruptcy on the part of the PFLP leadership which watches all these blasphemous acts being committed while keeping its mouth shut.
In fact, the PFLP seems to follow the old adage: “if speech is silver, silence is gold,” but in an obviously pathetic manner. Maybe the real adage the PFLP leadership is adopting these days is that which was coined by Saadi Shirazi, “when money appears, heads bow.”
Unfortunately, this seems to be the most plausible explanation of PFLP behavior vis-à-vis the PA in recent years.
To be sure, no one expects the PFLP to assume the role of a mighty rectifier or leveler on the Palestinian arena.
However, the PFLP is expected to be at the very least faithful to its own principles, especially those pertaining to the sanctity of Palestinian rights and honor and dignity of the Palestinian struggle, both of which are being clearly compromised by the very entity the PFLP leadership is now pandering to.