By Avi Davis
Fatah, the main faction within the still extant Palestine Liberation Organization was officially launched as a political organization on January 1st, 1965. But its roots go back much deeper to the 50s when Palestinians students working in the Gulf States who had studied in Cairo banded together to create an organization to propound the notion that Palestinians should be liberated by their own hand. Yasser Arafat, then head of the General Union of Palestinian Students at Cairo University, was it nominal head until it was officially launched as a rival to the recently formed Palestine Liberation Organization.
Not many seem to remember that at the beginning Fatah and the PLO were two separate competing organizations and the PLO itself was not as totally committed to terrorism as its rival faction.
It was only after the Six Day War that Fatah gained ascendancy as the only genuine representative of Palestinian national aspirations and after a series of spectacular, although ultimately futile, attacks on Israel in 1968 Arafat gained the chairmanship of the PLO and thereafter installed his cronies in positions of power within the organization.
But what happened in 1964-65 is deeply significant for the history of the Middle East. Because at that time Yasser Arafat and men such as Salah Khalaf; Khalil al-Wazir; and Khaled Yashruti essentially invented the Palestinian people. Until that time, the Arab war against the Jewish state, commencing in 1948, had been fought for the benefit of the entire Arab/ Muslim world, and not for any specifically Palestinian cause. Haj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem , who had incited pogroms against the Jews in 1921 and 1929 and a full scale revolt aginst the British in 1936- 39 never considered himself a specifically “Palestinian” leader but as an Arab reincarnation of Saladin, combatting Western imperialism and Zionist intrusion.
However in 1964, the Arabs who had lived once in Palestine under the British mandate, came to realize that a liberation movement would garner far more sympathy in the West than a pan-Arab rejection of Israel as the Jewish State. This was a time when Britain and France were divesting themselves of their colonial territories in North Africa and in other parts of the world. Liberation politics was in the air and these disaffected young men thought they should get on the band wagon.
What they achieved, within only a few years, was remarkable by any standard. They forged a national identity out of whole cloth – complete with a history going back to the Canaanites in 2000 BCE, with a national identity which no Arab leader had ever before recognized, with a flag and claims to territories in Israel which their people had been supposedly forced to flee in 1948. In creating a Palestinian national identity the Palestinians were actually mirroring Zionism as the Jewish national liberation movement with its own narrative of persecution and expulsion (the Naqba), its own national psychosis of dispersion (the Palestinian Diaspora) and a focus on the continuing injustice of the refugee camps ( from which Jews themselves had only been recently released in Cyprus , Germany and other locations). The effect was, within a few years, Yasser Arafat was being spoken of in the same reverent tones as Che Guevera and landed himself on the cover of TIME magazine as early as 1968 – before he had even assumed the Chairmanship of the PLO.
But there was one thing that distinguished Palestinian nationalism from all other national movements. The ” Liberation” they sought was not from colonial rule nor from an oppressive majority but to terminate the existence of the Jewish state. Instead of projecting how a future State of Palestine would be governed and how its important legistalive, judicial and executive arms would operate the Palestinian charter functioned essentially as a blueprint for genocide.
The evil and instability this unleashed on an unsuspecting world is something we should all be mournfully commemorating today. For this began the period of intense international terrorism – the hi-jacking of planes in airports all over the world; the murder of the Israeli athletes in Munich; the assassination of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel in Libya; the killing of the wheelchair bound Leon Klinghoffer aboard the Achille Lauro; the savage massacre of 22 Israeli school children in the northern Israeli town of Ma’alot – and the list goes tragically on.
Yasser Arafat and his henchmen brought nothing into the world but murder, mayhem and malevolence. While the Palestinians are celebrating the day in their cities in the West Bank and Gaza, we in the West should be considering how it was possible to be so hoodwinked by this gang of terrorists and murderers who to this day still keep Western governments in their thrall.