What is the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)?
The PFLP was founded on December 11, 1967, by Dr. George Habash, a Palestinian Greek Orthodox Christian. The organization quickly specialized in showcase, large-scale terrorist operations beginning on July 23, 1968, with a hijacking to Algeria of an El Al flight on route from Rome to Tel Aviv. Habash ran the PFLP until his death in 2000, after which Mustafa Zubaydi (whose nom de guerre was Abu Ali Mustafa) was elected head of the PFLP. Mustafa had been Habash’s right-hand man since 1969.
As with Hamas, Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority have found it convenient to have the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) conduct terrorist operations against Israel. After Arafat took the political steps to renounce terrorism in 1988 and then entered into the Oslo peace process of the 1990s, he could not be the point man in violent attacks on Israelis and other Jews as he did in the earlier days of his PLO organization. On the contrary, Arafat and his Palestinian Authority were obligated to end terrorism and incitement against Israel as a condition of Israel’s acceptance of its obligations.
In public, to Western audiences, Arafat claims he cannot control the independent terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But the PFLP, a secular Marxist Palestinian movement, is the second largest constituent organization in the PLO, after Fatah. There is ample evidence that Arafat fully supports PFLP and its involvement in terrorism. Despite the fact that the PFLP carried out dozens of terrorist attacks against Israel after the signing of the Oslo accords, killing and wounding Israelis, and that the PFLP was included on the official US list of terrorist groups:
- In 1996 Arafat provided seats in his cabinet for the PFLP, and even appointed one of his cabinet ministers to represent the PFLP until it formally joined the cabinet
- PFLP representatives take part in PLO Executive Committee meetings
- Arafat has permitted the PFLP to stage marches in Bethlehem and other cities
It was the PFLP that planned and ordered the murder of Rehavam Ze’evi, Israel’s Minister of Tourism, in Jerusalem on October 17, 2001. Israel demanded that the Palestinian Authority arrest and transfer to it the suspects in Ze’evi’s assassination, but the PA did not comply. Despite Palestinian Authority declarations that they are vigorously persuing the killers, Ze’evi’s murderers continue to benefit from sanctuary in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas and the PFLP did not halt its armed operations against Israeli civilians. PFLP leaders continue to be based in Ramallah, not far from the offices of Yasser Arafat.