Some say that there hasn’t been quite such a moment again in the Palestinian national consciousness as the heady days of 1964.
That was when an Arab summit meeting authorised the establishment of a “Palestinian entity” to represent Palestinian refugees. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was born.
Palestinian representative Ahmad Shukeiry took the Arab summit’s instruction to heart. Buoyed by support from Egypt and Syria and despite Jordan’s reservations, Shukeiry convened the first session of a Palestinian congress in May 1964. It designated itself the Palestine National Council.
The congress was attended by Palestinians from everywhere, except those living in Israel. In that sense, it did represent the entire Palestinian people and it went on to do the essential work of ratifying the original text of the Palestine National Covenant and electing Shukeiry chairman of the conference and of the PLO.
So far so good. Then, unforeseen events, specifically the June 1967 war, occurred. They helped catalyse the Palestinian national movement. We’ll next examine how we got to Yasser Arafat’s PLO, which marked the high point of Palestinian distinctiveness.