Arafat’s PLO and the high point of Palestinian distinctiveness


At the fifth session of the Palestine National Council (PNC) in February 1969, there were some key and lasting decisions:

** Changes were approved in the Palestine Covenant to emphasize Palestinian distinctiveness “as part of the Arab nation.”

** Fatah spokesman Yasser Arafat was chosen as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) executive committee, a position he held until his death.

These were significant moves and marked the PLO’s growing confidence – and independence – from Arab rulers.

But the confidence should also be appraised for what it said about the PLO’s stature. It really was representative of Palestinians, their national movement, their consciousness and sense of being.

How that happened is, in itself, an interesting story of organic change.

After Palestinian representative Ahmed Shukeiry, the PLO’s first chairman, was forced to resign in 1967, a four-member committee headed by Yihye Hamoudeh served as the transitional leadership. Fedayeen organisations (such as Fatah) came closer to the PLO. Hamoudeh and the rest of the PLO’s leadership wisely accepted Fatah and the Popular Front’s demand for changes in the composition of the PNC.

The PLO was now truly a tapestry with many different threads.

Then came the February 1969 meeting of the PNC and Arafat’s push for Palestinian exceptionalism among Arabs. What did it mean? We’ll look at that next.

Looking back at pieces that have already appeared in this series: