The Palestinian National Charter: Resolutions of the Palestine
National Council (July 1–17, 1968)
Issued by the Palestine Liberation Organization
Reprinted in Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Edited by Charles D. Smith
Published in 2001
"The Palestinians will have three mottoes: national unity, national mobilization, and liberation."
For almost twenty years after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, most of the world saw the conflict in the Middle East as an Arab-Israeli conflict. This was because the major battles—from the war for Israeli independence in 1948–49 to the Six-Day War of 1967—were between Israel and the Arab nations that surrounded it. During this period, the Palestinian people—Arabs who had lived in the area historically known as Palestine before it was claimed by Israel—played a secondary role in the conflict. Though their rights were always mentioned by the leading Arab nations as part of their justification for fighting against Israel, the Palestinians generally lacked political organizations that could give voice to their hopes and desires to reclaim their country. All that began to change after Israel's surprising defeat of the Arab nations in the Six-Day War, where Israeli forces conquered the West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula.
"In the immediate wake of their dispossession and expulsion from Palestine in 1948, the Palestinian refugees were so traumatized and consumed with mere physical survival ... that they were politically paralyzed," wrote Samih K. Farzoun in Palestine and the Palestinians. But by the early 1960s Palestinians were beginning to function again as an organized people. In the communities that they formed in the nations of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, Palestinians began to come together in women's groups, labor unions, charitable societies, and other organizing groups. One of the most important forms of Palestinian organizing came in student groups, which formed at colleges and universities throughout the Arab world. Soon, a sense began to grow among the Palestinian people that they must work together to regain the land of Palestine which they considered to be lost property.
Since most Palestinians lived in Arab nations, their actions against Israel could cause trouble for the nations they lived in if they were not controlled. Therefore, the leaders of Arab nations wanted to direct the way that Palestinians expressed their political goals. In 1964 the member nations of the League of Arab States created the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to represent the interests of the Palestinians. They allowed for the creation of a legislative body, the Palestine National Council (PNC), and a military branch, the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA). But the Arab states kept close control over the PLO and made sure that it adopted policies that did not threaten the policies of Arab League nations through most of the early 1960s.
Israel's defeat of the Arab nations in 1967 and its capture of the Gaza Strip and West Bank—home to millions of Palestinians—forced the Arab nations to back off their attempts to win back territory from Israel and create an independent Palestinian state. But it did not kill the Palestinians' desire for independence. Instead, it encouraged the more radical Palestinians to become even stronger and more vocal. Such groups as Fatah, under the leadership of a young man named Yasser Arafat (1929–2004), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), under the leadership of Dr. George Habash (1926?–), called on the Palestinians to take a new approach to combating Israel. They supported the idea that Palestinians should not rely on Arab nations to win their independence, but that they should join in a peoples' struggle for victory. By 1968 these more radicals groups, especially Fatah, had succeeded in taking control of the PLO, and in July of that year they rewrote the Palestinian National Charter, the document that states the goals of the Palestinian people.
Things to remember while reading the "Palestinian National Charter"
- The Charter refers to the diaspora, which means the scattering of a people by a disastrous event. The Palestinian diaspora began with Israel's declaration of independence in 1948, when Palestinians dispersed to countries throughout the Middle East and beyond.
- The authors of the Charter were deeply influenced by other revolutionary movements of the 1960s, including those in Algeria, Cuba, China, and Vietnam. They believed that the only way to gain back Palestine was through armed struggle, not through negotiation.
- The authors of the Charter did not wish to deny the larger popular movement to unite people in all the Arab states. There are frequent references to Arab unity in the Charter, which is a way of referring to the Pan-Arab movement that had infused Middle Eastern politics since the end of World War II (1939–45; war in which Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan).
- Zionism—referenced throughout the Charter—was a movement, begun in the nineteenth century, to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Once Israel was established as that homeland, Zionism changed to a movement in support of maintaining (and sometimes expanding) that Jewish homeland.
The Palestinian National Charter: Resolutions of the Palestine National Council (July 1–17, 1968)
Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.
Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.
The Arab Palestinian people possess the legal right to their homeland and have the right to determine their destiny after achieving the liberation of their country in accordance with their wishes and entirely of their own accord and will.
The Palestinian identity is a genuine, essential, and inherent characteristic; it is transmitted from parents to children. The Zionist occupation and the dispersal of the Arab Palestinian people, through the disasters which befell them, do not make them lose their Palestinian identity and their membership in the Palestinian community, nor do they negate them.
The Palestinians are those Arab nationals who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or have stayed there. Anyone born, after that date, of a Palestinian father—whether inside Palestine or outside it—is also a Palestinian.
The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.
There is a Palestinian community and that it has material, spiritual, and historical connection with Palestine are indisputable facts. It is a national duty to bring up individual Palestinians in an Arab revolutionary manner. All means of information and education must be adopted in order to acquaint the Palestinian with his country in the most profound manner, both spiritual and material, that is possible. He must be prepared for the armed struggle and ready to sacrifice his wealth and his life in order to win back his homeland and bring about its liberation.
The phase in their history, through which the Palestinian people are now living, is that of national 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 Arab Palestinian people on the other. On this basis the Palestinian masses, regardless of whether they are residing in the national homeland or in diaspora constitute—both their organizations and the individuals—one national front working for the retrieval of Palestine and its liberation through armed struggle.
Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Arab Palestinian 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.
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 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.
The Palestinians will have three mottoes: national unity, national mobilization, and liberation.
The Palestinian people believe in Arab unity. In order to contribute their share toward the attainment of that objective, however, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity, and oppose any plan that may dissolve or impair it.
Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary goals, the attainment of either of which facilitates the attainment of the other. Thus, Arab unity leads to the liberation of Palestine, the liberation of Palestine leads to Arab unity; and work toward the realization of one objective proceeds side by side with work toward the realization of the other.
The destiny of the Arab nation, and indeed Arab existence itself, depend upon the destiny of the Palestine cause. From this interdependence springs the Arab nation's pursuit of, and striving for, the liberation of Palestine. The people of Palestine play the role of the vanguard in the realization of this sacred national goal.
The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national 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.
The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual point of view, will provide the Holy Land with an atmosphere of safety and tranquility, which in turn will safeguard the country's religious sanctuaries and guarantee freedom of worship and of visit to all, without discrimination of race, color, language, or religion. Accordingly, the people of Palestine look to all spiritual forces in the world for support.
The liberation of Palestine, from a human point of view, will restore to the Palestinian individual his dignity, pride, and freedom. Accordingly the Arab Palestinian people look forward to the support of all those who believe in the dignity of man and his freedom in the world.
The liberation of Palestine, from an international point of view, is a defensive action necessitated by the demands of self-defense. Accordingly the Palestinian people, desirous as they are of the friendship of all people, look to freedom-loving, and peace-loving states for support in order to restore their legitimate rights in Palestine, to re-establish peace and security in the country, and to enable its people to exercise national sovereignty and freedom.
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.
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.
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.
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 a 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-á-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.
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.
The Palestinian people believe in the principles of justice, freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, human dignity, and in the right of all peoples to exercise them.
For the realization of the goals of this Charter and its principles, the Palestine Liberation Organization will perform its role in the liberation of Palestine in accordance with the Constitution of this Organization.
The Palestine Liberation Organization, representative of the Palestinian revolutionary forces, is responsible for the Arab Palestinian peoples' movement in its struggle—to retrieve its homeland, liberate and return to it and exercise the right to self-determination in it—in all military, political, and financial fields and also for whatever may be required by the Palestine case on the inter-Arab and international levels.
The Palestine Liberation Organization shall cooperate with all Arab states, each according to its potentialities; and will adopt a neutral policy among them in the light of the requirements of the battle of liberation; and on this basis does not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab state.
The Arab Palestinian people assert the genuineness and independence of their national revolution and reject all forms of intervention, trusteeship, and subordination.
The Palestinian people possess the fundamental and genuine legal right to liberate and retrieve their homeland. The Palestinian people determine their attitude toward all states and forces on the basis of the stands they adopt vis-á-vis to the Palestinian revolution to fulfill the aims of the Palestinian people.
Fighters and carriers of arms in the war of liberation are the nucleus of the popular army which will be the protective force for the gains of the Arab Palestinian people.
The Organization shall have a flag, an oath of allegiance, and an anthem. All this shall be decided upon in accordance with a special regulation.
A law, known as the Basic Statute of the Palestine Liberation Organization, shall be annexed to this Covenant. It will lay down the manner in which the Organization, and its organs and institutions, shall be constituted; the respective competence of each; and the requirements of its obligation under the Charter.
This Charter shall not be amended save by [vote of] a majority of two-thirds of the total membership of the National Congress of the Palestine Liberation Organization [taken] at a special session convened for that purpose.
What happened next ...
The emergence in 1968 of the Palestine Liberation Organization as an aggressive and vocal representative of the Palestinian people forever changed the politics of the Middle East. No longer did Palestinians have to look to Arab nations to protect their interests; in the PLO they created an organization dedicated to reclaiming Palestine for Palestinians. The PLO was officially recognized by the Arab League in 1974. Shortly thereafter it was recognized by the United Nations and, eventually, by more than one hundred countries around the world.
The goals the Palestinians set for themselves in the 1968 charter have been difficult to achieve, however, for a variety of reasons. By setting themselves up as a movement committed to waging armed struggle against Israel, the PLO became a problem for any Arab nation that hosted the PLO. Jordan forcibly evicted the PLO in 1970 because the group was the source of many political and social problems between Jordanians who supported the PLOs violent attacks against Israel and others who did not. The PLO moved to Lebanon, where its frequent attacks on Israel from Lebanon drove that country into civil war and eventually led to the PLO leadership being exiled to Tunisia in 1982. The PLO's encouragement of violence against Israel led to it being branded as a terrorist organization by the United States for many years, until its reform in the 1990s during which the PLO and Israel sought peaceful ways to end the long-standing conflict.
Over time, the PLO has had to drop some of its most radical positions. It no longer calls for the utter destruction of Israel, for example, nor does it anticipate that an independent Palestine will exist within the borders that existed during the years of British control (1920–47). In fact, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the political activities of the Palestinians are increasingly being represented by the Palestinian National Authority, which edges ever closer to negotiations that would create a small but independent Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Did you know ...
- Though the end of the Six-Day War of 1967 brought a decrease in battles between Israel and the Arab nations, conflicts with Palestinians in Jordan increased dramatically, from 97 incidents in 1967 to 916 incidents in 1968, 2,432 in 1969, and 1,887 in 1970.
- Many of the elements of the Palestinian National Charter, such as those calling for the destruction of Israel, were abandoned in 1993 during peace talks that led to the signing of the Oslo Accords (also known as the Declaration of Principles), an agreement between Israel and the PLO to accept the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to exist and to create an independent Palestinian country in the West Bank territory that Israel had taken over during the Six-Day War in 1967. However, a new text of the charter has never been prepared.
Consider the following ...
- Compare and contrast the Palestinian National Charter with the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel. What are the essential facts about which they disagree? How do these documents depict the claims made by the other? Is there a basis for common ground to be found in these two documents?
- In 1974 PLO leader Yasser Arafat appeared before the United Nations and said: "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun." In what ways does the Palestinian National Charter offer both the olive branch of peace and the prospect of further war?
- The Palestinian National Charter is a very aggressive and strongly worded document. Was this confrontational stance an effective way to organize opposition to Israeli rule? Was there a different path for the Palestinians to take in trying to reach their goals?
For More Information
Carew-Miller, Anna. The Palestinians. Philadelphia: Mason Crest, 2004.
Farsoun, Samih K., with Christina E. Zacharia. Palestine and the Palestinians. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997.
Sharp, Anne Wallace. The Palestinians. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2005.