1) The Foundation
The DFLP was founded on February 22, 1969 as a leftist independent organization, and as one of the major organizations of the Palestinian resistance movement, during the period encompassing one of the major defeats of the Arab Nationalist Project, the June 1967 war. In this period, the depth of the crisis within the national movement in general, and the Jordanian Palestinian arena in particular, reached a level that involved both program and leadership simultaneously in terms of class, ideology and politics. Awareness of the massive proportions of the crisis, and the dilemma which it produced, formed the basis for the gathering of large sectors of militants from various parties. This resulted in a political consensus to turn leftward, and to adopt a national program of a democratic and revolutionary nature, under a new social and ideological banner.
These sectors had, at the time, limited options. Neither Fatah, representing the national bourgeoisie and with its national stance and historical initiative to begin the armed struggle, nor the traditional Communists, who suffered throughout their historical process due to the complexity of understanding the various problems relating to the particularities of the Palestinian national question, possessed the ability for political initiative. Both failed to grasp the specific historical moment. Both were unable to conceive the correct position of armed struggle in the resurrection of Palestinian national identity, or the renaissance of the national Palestinian movement after the June 1967 war.
Due to these interwoven factors, the formulation of a revolutionary party representing both a new kind of Palestinian national identity and encompassing an Arab affiliation was anticipated. This party would involve itself in the national armed resistance movement, while presenting a democratic, radical solution to the Palestinian question that included adopting a labour class ideology, and struggling to confirm its vanguard in the National Palestinian Revolution and the Arab National Liberation Movement. This objective was the motivation and incentive for the birth of the DFLP, which was inextricably linked to the changes that took place in the Arab Nationalists Movement in its branches at the start of the 1960's, and the ideological political conflict that occurred at branch level (especially after June 1967). This eventually culminated in the different branches establishing independent party frameworks within their own countries, including the Palestinian branch that had been striving since December 11, 1967 under the banner of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
At its foundation, the DFLP declared itself a united leftist front, calling for the establishment of a Democratic revolutionary alliance. On this basis, the leftist and democratic sectors of different tendencies, which did not previously belong to a specific organization, were gathered under one umbrella. The DFLP also attracted groups that were scattered throughout the various classes of both the national democratic movement and the youth movement. Within this framework, two leftist organizations joined after just two months of the foundation of the DFLP: "The Leftist Revolutionary Palestinian League" and "The Popular Organization for the Liberation of Palestine." Later, in 1972, sectors of the revolutionary Popular Front joined as well.
Since the foundation of the DFLP, Nayef Hawatemeh has held the position of Secretary General. But other leaders coming from different organizational and military backgrounds have also played a role in the establishment of the Front since its early days. The Front worked under the name "The Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine" until 1975, when it officially adopted the name "The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine".
From the start, the Front had a clear political and ideological position as well as a clear concept of its practical struggle, both of which became enriched within the context of the national process that was taking place. Those principles which are most important and worth mentioning are: first, the close relationship of the concept of stages within the Palestinian movement as a national liberation movement with specific characteristics; and second, the close relationship between this political orientation and organizational solutions which move towards the specific objectives of mobilizing the forces and strengthening national unity.
2) The Transitional Program
The defeat suffered by the Palestinian Resistance Movement in September 1970 and in the following battles, led to the elimination of its open existence in Jordan and motivated within the ranks of the DFLP a complete, open and critical review of its own policy as well as of the general policy of resistance in Jordan. The DFLP faced the deep and complicated realities of the Palestinian Jordanian relationship, in particular the regional division within Jordanian society. The roots of this division are based on the unique position Jordan occupies within the map of imperialist interests in the region, and the role it plays in its confiscation of the Palestinian peoples' right to self determination and their independent expression of their national identity.
This critical review marked the beginning of the stage of the formation of the program that embraced the "right of return, right of self determination, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital." This is the transitional program (also known as the program of stages), which in reality represented the reformulation of Palestinian political thinking, which at that time had concentrated around the two fold contradiction between "resistance" and "accords", as well as between "armed struggle" and "peaceful solutions."
Although it came as a general plan in this context, the call of the DFLP for the Palestine National Council, in its ninth session (July 1971), to set up a safe, liberated support base in the occupied territories, was intended to maintain the continuity of the Palestinian revolution until it achieved its goals. The work of the first General National Conference of the Front (November 1971) deepened discussions around this topic. The Fourth meeting of the Central Committee (August 1973) formulated the elements of the transitional program, and confirmed it officially, through a document entitled "Ten themes about the general guidelines of the transitional program in the occupied lands and Jordan." It should also be noted that this program presented, for the first time, the idea of the popular uprising (Intifada), regarding it as the most distinctive form of a war of the people, possible within the special conditions of the Palestinian struggle.
These themes became even more tangible in the declaration issued by the October 1973 meeting of the extended Central Committee, immediately after the October War, which led to partial improvements in the Arab balance of power in relation to Israel. As well, the November 1973 call, issued by the Front in the occupied territories, was equally concrete. In its twelfth session (June 1974), the Palestine National Council confirmed the transitional program under the title: "The Ten Points Program," which after the fourteenth session (January 1979) became the program which had Palestinian national consensus, for a decade and a half, until the signing of the Oslo Agreement (September 13, 1993).
3) National Unity
Since its inception the DFLP has given importance to being one of the main pillars in the first national coalition, which unified guerrilla activities under the banner and leadership of "the armed struggle ", as well as in the membership of the PLO National Council and its Executive Committee established in September 1969. Moreover, in this session the DFLP presented "a plan to achieve the unity of Palestinian national forces and groups, in the Unified National Liberation Front". Also, the difficult circumstances resulting from the events of September 1970 led the DFLP to realize the necessity of promoting a new blueprint for the unity of the national movement, built upon all components of this movement in a more organized and consolidated manner, and based on proportional representation. This blueprint to build a "Unified National Liberation Front" was articulated within a project presented by the DFLP at the ninth session of the Palestine National Council (July 1971), and later, within a complete political and organizational project for achieving national unity in the framework of a unified democratic front, at the tenth session of the Palestine National Council (April 1972).
The experience of the DFLP in maintaining its ideological, political and organizational independence while simultaneously promoting national unity, affirms the vital role of the Palestinian Left within the heart of the Palestinian National Movement. Thus, this Left did not become independent and isolate itself, but instead incorporated itself within national unity as a true revolutionary actor taking part within the framework of this unity, and as a militant vanguard adhering to a correct political stance. Through it, the national slogan and the tasks of the stages of the struggle, respond to the unanimous interests of all Palestinian people.
The central importance of the question of national unity, within the thinking and practices of the DFLP, not only appeared during the first years of open struggle in Jordan (1970) as well as during the revolutionary experience in the refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria until the Israeli invasion 1982, but also during the period of severe divisions. These divisions appeared within the Palestinian political arena after the Israeli war, after regional conflicts that attempted to influence decisions of the PLO, and attempts by the dominant PLO leadership to find points of agreement with proposals presented at the start of the 1980's, especially the Reagan Plan (September 1982).
The DFLP adopted a decisive position against the Palestinian split throughout the years 1983 1987, playing a vanguard role in the Democratic Alliance which signed the agreement of Yemen (Aden) Algeria, June 28, 1984 and July 9, 1984, with leaders of Fatah's Central Committee. Although this agreement did not succeed in achieving reunification, or in preventing the domination of the official wing of the PLO to unilaterally call for the seventeenth session of the Palestinian National Council in Amman on November 7, 1984, it did set up a base from which to regain unity later, within the framework of the unifying council in Algeria (the eighteenth session, April 1987).
The DFLP rejected the political results of the Amman Council and the resulting organizational structures, and firmly opposed attempts to refute its legality, fearing and attempting to preclude the dangers of a deep and irreversible schism within the PLO.
The Oslo Agreement, which destroyed the framework of the political alliance of the PLO, was the second trial that confronted national unity. The DFLP presented a number of initiatives within the existing political context, consistently maintaining its policy of unification. Most of these initiatives concentrated on the need to have an all inclusive national dialogue to regain national consensus about current issues and permanent status negotiations (2/97, 5/97, 5/98, 4/99, 2/2000) "despite its (the National Movement) changing interrelationships after implementation of the Oslo agreements, in relation to the tasks of the democratic, political and social struggle". These initiatives took into consideration the fact that the essential aspect of the Palestinian National Movement is that it continues to promote the task of national liberation while committing itself to maintaining national unity within the framework of the PLO. The actual separation between the "Palestinian Authority" and the opposition does not essentially abolish this fact, although it may at times be distinguished by certain particularities.
4) The link between the political line and the organizational line
The DFLP crystallized an organizational work strategy at the same time that it developed its political strategy based on its interim program. This ensured the basis for mobilizing the forces of the Palestinian people. Within this context, the DFLP, along with its political initiatives that strengthened the national movement, contributed to various significant actions in the struggle.
A consistent feature in the DFLP's general policy is that there is an intimate relationship between the political line in each national circumstance and the organizational solutions that ensure, to the greatest degree, a national coalition among the various political and social forces. This link enables an efficient undertaking of the immediate tasks, and demonstrates the profound relationship between the actual situation and the people's movement.
The military operations that the DFLP waged (1974 1979) under the banner of the interim program presented a clear model of the correct relationship between armed struggle and political objectives. This occurred at a time when it was necessary to unify the people and their political forces behind this program in order to confront the unjust campaigns to which its vanguard and militants were exposed. At the same time, the organization did not lose sight of the main direction of the struggle and the need for direct military combat with Israel during the civil war in Lebanon, and the various confrontations within the region as well as confrontations against the different proposed American plans.
The DFLP's call for the formulation of a unified leadership for the popular uprising (Intifada) in the first weeks after its outbreak on December 9, 1987, and its initiative to formulate the aims and the missions of the uprising in Communiqué No.2 (January 10, 1988), is evidence of the DFLP's ability to understand public opinion and influence its development by proposing concrete tasks that respond to the people's actual situation, allowing them to best use their energies and abilities to accelerate the national struggle.
5) Going Beyond the Impasse of the Oslo Agreement
The Oslo Agreements, which considered the occupied Palestinian territories to be "disputable territories," led to partial redeployment of the Israeli army in this zone. The Agreements also led to the formation of an Autonomous Palestinian Authority that included a legislative structure with limited powers (The Palestinian Council) and an executive structure (ministries and other institutions) with internal and civil faculties over a part of the occupied Palestinian territories. In addition, the Agreements allowed for the continuation of settlement activity, expansion, and a continuation of the illegal occupation. It also allowed for 'civil' administration under Israeli military rule, complete Israeli control over much of Palestinian land, water and air space, and complete domination over the Palestinian economy.
The Oslo Agreements consist of two stages, transitional and permanent. The first stage involves ending the power of internationally recognized resolutions, which placed the Palestinian situation within a long and tedious process of negotiation, as well as within a chain of partial agreements that were not carried out by Israel. As a result, applying the Oslo Agreements meant the continuation of occupation, settlement building and expansion, and the further repression and confiscation of Palestinian national rights. The Agreements did not offer an adequate solution to the objective contradiction of interests between the Palestinian people and the occupying powers. On the contrary, they increased the contradiction. This contradiction was the main factor that instigated the eruption of the Great Palestinian Uprising (the Intifada of 1987 1993). The continuation of these contradictions perpetuates the possibility that the Intifada will occur again and again.
The crystallization of the Palestinian position to confront the dangers of this situation, in both the present and the future, regarding national rights, must rely upon regaining national consensus. It must also activate the mass movement to confront Israeli policy as a fait acompli against Palestinians, through the application of force and the repression of occupation. The international community supports national rights of Palestinians. These rights are also supported by a Declaration of Independence by the Palestinian people themselves, which includes the exercise of Palestinian sovereignty over the land area internationally acknowledged and acclaimed as Palestine (this includes the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip). The Palestinian position must call upon the Israeli government to hold negotiations which establish a permanent and balanced peace, on the basis of the application of U.N. Security Council Resolutions Nos. 242 and 338, which stipulate the exchange of land for peace, and a just solution for the problem of refugees and displaced persons through the implementation of U.N. Resolutions Nos. 194 and 237.
These negotiations should be held within the context of a suitable international framework. On the one hand, this framework must facilitate the recuperation of coordination between Palestinians and Arab nations regarding negotiations with Israel. On the other hand, the framework must ensure international supervision of the peace process, replacing the unilateral approach typically used by Washington with a dynamic participation of the United Nations along with other active coalitions and countries, especially the European Union, Russia and China in addition to U.S. authorities.
To ensure success of the above mentioned process requires the reconstruction of Palestinian unity so as to guarantee the underlying principles of resistance. This will enable Palestinians to face possible continuing Israeli aggression, as well as ensure the ongoing support of the Arab world and the international community. This requires a unified strategy of resistance based upon a total popular mobilization for confronting Israeli violence, as well as revitalizing the Intifada through the development of new forms of resistance.
6) The Organization and Its Key Conferences
Local organizations are represented in branch organizations, which in turn are represented in regional organizations. All of these different levels are oriented by the general political position as articulated by the central leadership of the DFLP. From this political position is derived a unified plan of action. In this framework, the regional organizations have wide latitude of independence in their work plans, with respect to the special and actual needs and realities of each Palestinian gathering.
The DFLP's central leadership is comprised of:
a) The General National Congress is the highest political and legislative authority elected by local organizations and organizational structures at higher levels. The Congress is held once every five years.
b) The General National Conference is also elected, and called upon at certain times when necessity warrants. The Conference has the same authority as the General Congress, but within the limits of its brief agenda.
c) The Central Committee is the primary political and organizational leadership elected by the General Congress. This election is held between two Congresses. The Central Committee meets four times per year.
d) The Political Bureau is the highest executive body of the Central Committee, and elected from among its members.
e) The Committees of Party Supervision, headed by a central supervisory committee, have the task of verifying the correct application of internal statutes, as well as guaranteeing the rights of members and organizational structures at different levels, including that of the central leadership. The mass democratic and professional organizations represent independent groups, with specific programs and internal regulations, and committee structures that are elected during their periodic congresses. The DFLP considers these organizations as a framework from which its supporters are organized, as well as one of the major organizational forms of the democratic revolutionary alliance. This alliance, which includes sectors of various social forces, mobilizes their abilities within the context of the national and social struggle.
The DFLP has held seven General National Congresses and Conferences.
1) The Founding Congress (the First General Congress) was held in August 1970, during which the first Central Committee was elected. This Congress issued the political program, the general program, and the internal provisional statutes.
2) The First General National Conference, which met in November 1971, issued internal statutes, which were proclaimed in 1972. The Conference also elected the second Central Committee, which adopted the interim program at its fourth session in August 1973, and which also adopted the political program and internal statutes in 1975, which affirmed the independence and distinct character of the DFLP organization in Jordan (Majed). This independence enabled the Majed organization, in 1978, to draw up its own political program and internal statutes in relation to the national democratic struggle in Jordan.
3) The Second General National Congress was held in May 1981. This Congress issued a theoretical, political and organizational report, reviewed the documents of the political program and the internal statutes, and elected the third Central Committee.
4) The Second General National Conference, held in July 1991, elected the fourth Central Committee. It also made basic amendments to the internal statutes, in light of the completion of the work of the DFLP organization in Jordan (Majed) and the establishment of the independent Jordanian People's Democratic Party (Hashd). This party reformulated its relationship with the DFLP, within the context of the work they have in common.
The Conference also analyzed a report that was specifically prepared to attempt to ascertain the root causes of the internal crisis within the DFLP, to draw out the lessons learned from this crisis, and to deepen the democratic process within the party.
5) The Third General National Congress, convened in September/October 1994, elected the Fifth Central Committee and approved a new formula for the political program, for the internal statutes, and for the political report about "The new tasks after the Oslo agreement". They also approved the theoretical themes about "The crises of the left in a changing era".
6) The Third General National Conference, held in January 1998, elected the sixth Central Committee and approved a complete political review of the Oslo agreements and the terms of an alternative national program.
7) The Fourth General National Congress, which was held in April/May 1998, approved a political report and presented a comprehensive national initiative dealing with: "Spreading the sovereignty of the Palestinian State over all of the Palestinian territory occupied in the aggression of 1967".