Mideastweb: Middle East

MidEast Web Historical Documents
THE PALESTINIAN NATIONAL CHARTER:
July 1-17, 1968

Middle East news encyclopedia contact maps books documents culture dialogue links history donations

 Introduction

Before the Six day war, the Palestine Liberation Organization  (PLO), founded in 1964 and led by Ahmed Shukhairy, had been instrumental in helping to provoke conflict. Shukhairy himself gave a speech at the U.N. describing graphically what the PLO would do to Israel and its Jewish inhabitants if 'it will be our privilege to strike the first blow.'

Shukhairy drafted a charter for the PLO that was ratified in 1964. In Arabic, the document is called "Al-Mithaq Al-Kawmee Al-Philisteeni." Mithaq was at first translated as covenant, but later the word "charter" was adopted. Palestinians claim that "Al Kawmee" is untranslatable. It evidently implies that Palestinians are less than a nation in their own right, and are part of the Arab nation or Ouma. In later years, the Palestinians adopted the designation "Shaabi" for the Palestinian people.

Following the Six day war, the PLO was reorganized under the leadership of Yasser Arafat.  In 1968, delegates met to redraft the PLO charter. The decline of prestige of Arab states caused by the war caused a shift in Palestinian thinking and produced, for the first time, a clear and consistent demand for a Palestinian state, rather than conquest of Palestine by Arab countries. The PLO charter of 1964, not a moderate document, was amended by adding four paragraphs and changing others. The main additions concern the reiterated call for armed struggle to eliminate Israel ("liberate Palestine") and the change in the attitude to Jewish rights. The original version stated somewhat equivocally:

Article 7: Jews of Palestinian origin are considered Palestinians if they are willing to live peacefully and loyally in Palestine.

It is unclear if the above refers to Jews descended from families that lived in Palestine before the advent of Zionism, or to any Jews born in Israel, or what the status of Jews who have only one Palestinian Jewish parent. 

The revised version was more explicit:

 Article 6:The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.

Most such Jews "of Palestinian origin" or who had "normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion" (probably about 1880 had already died by 1968. Many of their descendants married Zionists. In any case, they are a tiny minority. About 100,000 Jews had lived in the area before 1914. Evidently the majority of the Jews were to be expelled or murdered, but their fate is not specified.

The charter speaks for itself. It calls for destruction of a member state of the UN, in violation of the UN charter. Nonetheless, the PLO was subsequently given observer status in the UN. The major and noteworthy features of both the 1964 and 1968 versions of the charter are:

1. Declaration of intent to destroy Israel and "liberate" all of Palestine:

Article 2:Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.

Article 3: The Palestinian Arab 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.

2. Defiance of UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for partition of Palestine:

 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.

The above is especially instructive given the Palestinian insistence on "international legitimacy."

3. Denial of the historic connection of the Jews to the land:

Article 20: ...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.

The above claim has been seconded by attempts of pro-Palestinian academics to erase or deny archeological and other evidence of Jewish habitation in Jerusalem and elsewhere in ancient times. For some reason, US President Clinton was surprised when PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat denied that Jews had lived in the land in ancient times. There was no occasion for surprise, as it is an article of the Palestinian charter and is central to the Palestinian national credo.

4. Denial of Jewish peoplehood and of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people:

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.

This statement should be borne in mind when considering the outraged and self righteous protests by Palestinian Arabs when some Israelis deny that there is a Palestinian people or that there was a Palestinian people before 1948.

5. Implicit call for expulsion ("ethnic cleansing") or extermination of most of the Jewish population of Israel, as embodied in the two versions of Article 6.

A national charter that is based primarily on negation of another people's rights is remarkable in itself. But the revision of 1968 added another unique feature - express commitment to armed struggle. The Palestinians defined themselves and their national movement as a violent movement directed at destroying the nation state of another people:

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...

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.

 

Below is the complete and unabridged text of the original Palestinian National Covenant, as published officially in English by the PLO.* The charter was soon followed by a program for a "secular democratic state." The word "secular" is significant, because it refers to the Palestinian assertion that the Jews are only a religion. In a "secular democratic state" they Jews, as a religion, would therefore have no political standing whatever.

The PLO program called for exile from Palestine of all Jews who had arrived after 1917 and their descendants.  In PNA offices there is a plaque commemorating the original 18 signers of the Charter or Covenant, many of whom were eventually killed by the Israeli secret service after planning or participating in massacres such as that of the Munich Olympics in 1972, or at the hand of rival organizations.

Obviously these charters are incompatible with a peace agreement with Israel, and it was agreed between the parties to change them following  The Oslo Declaration of Principles in 1964

Under the leadership of the PNA and the Fatah, and under extreme pressure from Israel and the U.S.,  the PLO in fact held several meetings in which evidently some of  the offending articles were repealed, with disputed legality.

In his letter of September 9, 1993 to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Fatah leader and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat stated:

In view of the promise of a new era and the signing of the Declaration of Principles and based on Palestinian acceptance of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's right to exist, and the  provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid. Consequently, the PLO undertakes to submit to the Palestinian National Council for formal approval the necessary changes in regard to the Palestinian Covenant.

In April 1996, the Palestine National Council, the legislative body of the PLO met in Gaza and voted 504 to 54 to void parts of the Palestinian National Charter that denied Israel's right to exist, but the charter itself was not been formally changed or re-drafted. Some members of the PLO contended that the vote is invalid.

The meaning of the Palestinian vote and the importance attached to it is at best dubious:

The Palestinian National Council (PNC) finally did convene on 24 April 1996 and passed a resolution in which it “amended by canceling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the PLO and the Government of Israel” and assigned to a legal committee the task of redrafting the charter within six months. [Amendment Palestinian Covenant-Arafat Letter & Text - 4 May 1996, Information Division, Israel Foreign Ministry.] As of yet no so such body has fulfilled this task, and there have been no reports of such a committee meeting or working.

As explained by the speaker of the PNC, Salim Zaanoun, to the PNC during the April 24 session, structuring the resolution as it did was an attempt to “fulfill the commitment demanded at the lowest possible price.” [Jon Immanuel, “Fatah Report: Covenant Frozen, not Amended,” Jerusalem Post (22 May 1996).] It put off making the hard decisions until the legal committee completed its work. Although Palestinian leaders have continually proclaimed to Israel and the Western press that they fulfilled their obligation and nullified the articles at issue, in their internal documents and statements in Arabic they have suggested otherwise. An apparently authoritative internal publication issued by the “Research and Thought” division of Fatah in Ramallah in April 1996 clarifies that: “The text of the Palestinian National Covenant remains as it was and no changes whatsoever were made to it. This has caused it to be frozen but not annulled.” [Fatah, Research and Thought Department, “The Palestinian National Covenant¾Between Renewal and Being Frozen,” Fatah Publication #8, April 1996. Document provided by Peace Watch.] (See http://www.biu.ac.il/SOC/besa/books/oslo/osloap2.html)

In April 1996, the Palestine National Council, the legislative body of the PLO, met in Gaza and voted 504 to 54 to annul sections of the Palestinian National Charter that denied Israel's right to exist, but the charter itself was not been formally changed or re-drafted. S Some members of the PLO contended that the vote is invalid. On May 4, 1996, PNA Chairman Arafat sent a letter about the nullification of the charter provisions to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres supposedly affirming the invalidation of the offending parts of the charter.

In January of 1998, Yasser Arafat wrote a letter to President Clinton, again claiming that the charter had been nullified. The letter was quite specific about what parts of the charter were nullified (see  Letter of Assurance from PNA Chairman Yasser Arafat). The letter stated in part:

...The Palestine National Council's resolution, in accordance with Article 33 of the Covenant, is a comprehensive amendment of the Covenant. All of the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the P.L.O. commitment to recognize and live in peace side by side with Israel are no longer in effect.

As a result, Articles 6-10,15, 19-23, and 30 have been nullified, and the parts in Articles 1-5, 11-14, 16-l8, 25-27 and 29 that are inconsistent with the above mentioned commitments have also been nullified...

In December 1998,  the PLC met again in Gaza to meet the demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the offending parts of the charter be formally revoked. US President Clinton attended the meeting. By acclamation, it reaffirmed the cancellation of those parts of the Charter which denied Israel's right to exist, but it did not formally change or re-draft the Covenant.

The revisions that were supposed to admit the legitimacy of Israel  are not shown in e in any  version of the Charter published by the Palestinian National Authority or the PLO. Palestinian Authority publications and officials still insist that the Jews are not a people but a religion, and Palestinian educational programs teach that Haifa is the largest port in Palestine. The Web site of the Palestinian mission to the UN features a statement concerning the changes in the charter but it also displays the 1964 version of the Palestinian National Charter on a separate page, without comment as of December 2009. If the charter has been nullified and replaced by the Palestinian constitution, as some claim, it is highly irregular that charter is still displayed at an official PLO Web site. The PNA Basic Law or Palestinian constitution does not mention the Palestinian National Charter or claim that it is intended to replace or supersede it. The Web site of the Palestinian National Authority is non-functional at this date.    

Ami Isseroff

Revised, December 29, 2009


Notice - Copyright

This introduction is Copyright 2002, 2009 by MidEastWeb http://www.mideastweb.org and the author. Please tell your friends about MidEastWeb and link to this page. Please do not copy this page to your Web site. You may print this page out for classroom use provided that this notice is appended, and you may cite this material in the usual way. Other uses by permission only.  The source material below is placed in the public domain and is free of copy restrictions.


THE PALESTINIAN NATIONAL CHARTER:

Resolutions of the Palestine National Council

July 1-17, 1968

Article 1: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.

Article 2:Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.

Article 3:The Palestinian Arab 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.

Article 4: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 Palestinian Arab 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.

Article 5: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.

Article 6:The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.

Article 7:That 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.

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 11:The Palestinians will have three mottos: national (wataniyya) unity, national (qawmiyya) mobilization, and liberation.

Article 12: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.

Article 13:Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary objectives, 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.

Article 14: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 (qawmi) goal.

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 16: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.

Article 17:The liberation of Palestine, from a human point of view, will restore to the Palestinian individual his dignity, pride, and freedom. Accordingly the Palestinian Arab people look forward to the support of all those who believe in the dignity of man and his freedom in the world.

Article 18: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.

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.

Article 24: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.

Article 25: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.

Article 26:The Palestine Liberation Organization, representative of the Palestinian revolutionary forces, is responsible for the Palestinian Arab people's 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.

Article 27: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 war of liberation; and on this basis it shall not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab state.

Article 28:The Palestinian Arab people assert the genuineness and independence of their national (wataniyya) revolution and reject all forms of intervention, trusteeship, and subordination.

Article 29: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-a-vis to the Palestinian revolution to fulfill the aims of the Palestinian people.

Article 30: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 Palestinian Arab people.

Article 31: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.

Article 32:Regulations, which shall be known as the Constitution of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, shall be annexed to this Charter. 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.

Article 33: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.

* English rendition as published in Basic Political Documents of the Armed Palestinian Resistance Movement; Leila S. Kadi (ed.), Palestine Research Centre, Beirut, December 1969, pp.137-141.

Back to History

Middle East Gateway