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The Worldview of Habash’s ‘Popular Front’

In PFLP thought, the premise and the conclusion are coterminous: the liberation of Palestine. For the PFLP this concept is axiomatic and unassailable; moreover, that the goal appears unrealizable in no sense diminishes the belief that it will be ultimately achieved. The PFLP’s conceptual outlook is deductive; its program, including its means and tactics, is an outgrowth of its axiomatic goal. Not only the future of the Palestinians, but the amelioration of all the ills of the Arab world depend on the process of the liberation of Palestine. Since, in this view, the Palestinian revolution constitutes a lever for the Arab revolution, it must be the central focal point of the Arab interest. The same ‘zero-sum game’ that is being played by the Palestinians and Israel, with nothing less than survival at stake, is also underway between the Arabs and Israel: ‘in this region either a Zionist empire will be created, or a united Arab society’.

Although its final goal has been deferred to the distant future, the declaration of it has not become a ritual. Meanwhile, the attainment of the goal is assured by unrelenting efforts – however impeded by circumstances – to forge the appropriate conditions for its realization. Given this, ‘victory is inevitable in the historical long-range, even though every revolution experiences bitter and vexatious circumstances. In periods of low ebb for the Palestinians and the Arabs the PFLP considered itself entrusted with the task of ‘keeper of the seal’, as it were, of safeguarding the final goal by attempting to awaken the Arabs to mend their fences and enhance the balance of forces with Israel. From its very inception the PFLP has urged forbearance suitable to a long range popular war. This approach stems primarily from the magnitude of the missions the organization has pegged to the straggle against Israel, beginning with the desire to transform that struggle into a catalyst to effect a radical shakeup throughout the Arab world.

The multiplication of missions is reflected in the multiplication of enemies: not only external foes such as ‘Israel, world Zionism and world imperialism under US leadership’, but also an internal enemy which must be persecuted unflaggingly: ‘Arab reactionism’. The PFLP’s worldview rests on three pillars: Palestinism, Arabism and Marxism-Leninism. A contradiction exists between Palestinian uniqueness (wataniyya) and an Arab identity whose ultimate aim is Arab unity (qawmiyya) and, in turn, between these two elements of national identity and Marxism-Leninism which is based on class rather than national division. Indeed on the theoretical level the contradictions between these principles are irreconcilable if the logic of each is stretched to its limits. However, it is precisely in this realm where the PFLP sees its paramount doctinal contribution: its success in developing a formula – theoretical and practical alike encompassing all three elements.

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