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PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization)

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PLO - Palestine Liberation Organization

The PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization - Munazzimat al-Tahrir al-Filastiniyya) was founded in 1964 by Arab governments, as a pan-Arab competitor to the Fatah group with Ahmad Shokhairy as head.

The PLO is the umbrella organization of the Palestinian anti-Israel organizations.   After the collapse of the Arab war effort in the 6 day war in 1967, Yasser Arafat and the Fatah took over the PLO.  In the wake of the October (Yom Kippur) war in 1973, the PLO was given UN observer status. It was recognized as "the only legitimate representative of the Palestine people" by almost all Palestinian groups until it undertook to recognize Israel, abandon violence and opt for a two state solution in the 1993 Oslo Agreements.. The PLO became, essentially, the Palestine National Authority (PNA) through the Oslo agreements. The PLO charter calls for destruction of Israel. Though it was revised following the Oslo Agreements to remove the offending paragraphs, the organization's Web sites and the Web Site of the PNA delegation to the UN still show the original sections of the charter.

Following the Oslo Agreements, several organizations withdrew from the PLO. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad in particular remain outside the PLO.

The PLO organization has these formal components:

PNC (Palestinian National Council) as parliament, which elects leader and makes policy decisions; created in its 1964 formative stage, now with 669 members, but until recently had 484 members from all PLO factions as well as independents, with seats left vacant for representative of occupied territories. Current President is Salim Za‘nun (previously: ‘Abd al-Muhsin Qattan from Jul 68; Yahya Hammuda from September 69, Khalid al-Fahum from July 71-84, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Sa’ih from November 84-1993); Vice-Pres is Taysir Quba‘a; Secretary is Muhammad Sbayh; 2nd Secretary is Ilya Khuri. The PNC meets infrequently, though is is mandated by its fundamental law to meet every 2 years. Resolutions are passed by a simple majority, but two thirds of the members must attend for quorum.

Palestine Central Council - makes policy decisions when the PNC not in session, acting as a link between PNC and  PLO-EC: formed in Jun70, as an ad hoc body to coordinate between groups in Jordan. Its members are elected by PNC on PLO-EC nomination, and chaired by PNC president. Membership has risen from 42 (1976), 55 (3/77), 72 (11/84), 107 (early90s), 95 (mid-90s).

PLO Executive Committee acts as a cabinet, implementing policy (c.18 members), selected from PNC and  choosing its own chairman. Membership from 1969 to 1988 is listed here.

Palestine Liberation Army - Current status unclear.

Subsidiary organizations - PLO runs a number of pan-Palestinian institutions. The Palestine National Fund; Palestinian Armed Struggle Command (a military-police organization was  established 2/4/69 as a step toward unification and  coordinating claims to action. It was a civil police force in Lebanon in 70s-early80s, and  intervened in confrontations between opposing Palestinian groups. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society was established in Jordan in 1965 and was part of PLO from 1969). SAMED, the Palestine Martyrs Works Society  was established 1970 in Jordan to provide vocational training to martyrs’ children and was reorganized in Lebanon in 1971; after 1975, its services extended to all Palestinians. The Department of Information and  Culture, includes the Research Center.  The Department of Mass Organizations runs the unions through the General Union of Palestinian Women, GUPW, General Union of Palestinian Workers, GUPWo, General Union of Palestinian Students, GUPS.  The PLO has an Education Department and an Information Bureau, which produces the newspaper Filastin al-Thawra, biweekly English and  French journal Palestine, and  has the news agency WAFA, established 1/6/70 - now the official PNA News Agency. The Political Department represents Palestinians internationally. The PLO also runs the Institution for Social Affairs and  Welfare for the Families of Martyrs and Prisoners (established 1965). 


Ami Isseroff

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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