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Nayef Hawatmeh, General Secretary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Hawatmeh: the Politician

Before the age of 16, Nayef Hawatmeh joined the Arab Nationalists Movement (ANM) which arose as the immediate reaction to Arab defeat and Palestinian catastrophe.

Before turning 19, he had already assumed full organizational responsibility in the leadership of the ANM in Jordan and the West Bank, following the April 1957 coup in Amman against the national government of Suleiman Al-Nabulsi.

In February 1959, it was necessary for him to go underground after the ANM became persecuted in Jordan. He therefore disappeared from the public view for quite some time. During that period, the first death sentence against Hawatmeh was ordered in Jordan, while several of his brothers were jailed and served long prison terms.

Due to later events—heading an armed march from the Syrian city of Homs—Hawatmeh secretly entered and passed through Damascus onto Tripoli, in North Lebanon. There he contributed to the 1958 revolution as the leader of a large group of cadre and militants of the movement. They were opposed to the then Lebanese President Camille Chamoun’s intention to bring American troops into the region and to the plan designed by the US President Dwight Eisenhower for Lebanon.

At that stage, Hawatmeh formed a combat front alongside Lebanese Premier Rashid Karami and his party, the Arab Liberation Movement, and with the Baath parties of North Lebanon.

Subsequently—following the revolution of July 14, 1958, the stepping down of Chamoun, and reconciliation between conflicting groups in Lebanon—Hawatmeh relocated to Baghdad, where he assumed all ANM responsibilities in Iraq.

Taking part of the struggle against the Iraqi dictatorship of Abdel-Karim Qassem, Hawatmeh was subjected to his first term in prison, for 14 months. He was imprisoned with several figures who would later play outstanding roles in the political life of Iraq, people such as Abdel-Salam Aref, Ahmad Hassan Al-Baker, Saleh Mahdí Ammash, Ali Saleh Al-Saadi, Abdel-Karim Farhan, Soubhi Abdel-Hamid, Abdel-Aziz Al-Akili, Abdel-Hadi Al-Rawi, Tahar Yehya and many other of the most outstanding future Iraqi military and political leaders.

He left the dictatorship’s dungeons, along with those previously mentioned, on February 8, 1963 – after the first Baath party-led coup, in alliance with Abdel-Salam Arif.

It was published that the Al-Wahdah (Unity) newspaper of that time survived only 27 days and was closed down by the Baath régime.

Hawatmeh’s second imprisonment occurred during the Baath Party’s alliance with Arif, motivated by what Al-Wahdah had published and for the positions of ANM under Hawatmeh’s leadership. He was later deported to Egypt and eventually to Lebanon.

Shortly after his deportation of Iraq another death sentence was ordered against him (See the books: “The Harvest of a Revolution: The Iraq Experience 1958-1964,” by General Abdel-Karim Farhan, member of the Command Committee of the Revolution Officials and the Minister of Culture and Promotion; “My Experience in the Baath Party,” by Hani Al-Fekaiki, member of the Iraqi Baath leadership; and “The Arab Nationalist Movement: Emergence, Development, Destination,” by the Arab Center of Strategic Studies).

Within the modern Middle-East nationalist movement, Hawatmeh was considered one of the emerging leaders on the left, heading its democratic-revolutionary wing.

In Yemen he contributed to the fight for that country’s liberation from British occupation and participated in drafting the program for the Fourth Conference in South Yemen held soon after independence was achieved. Related to this, he published the book “The Crisis of the South Yemen Revolution,” in which he outlined a new revolutionary program in response to the struggle between left and right forces of the Nationalist Front then in power which had led the struggle against British colonialism. The book became required reading for the patriotic left of Yemen after it assumed power following the defeat of the right wing of the Nationalist Front and the army.

After the 1967 defeat—when the Palestinian revolution appeared as an answer to Israeli occupation and as a new alternative following the defeat of the Arab regimens—Hawatmeh went on to work in the conditions of heated struggle by nationalist movements throughout Palestine and Jordan.

In a August 1968 conference, that embraced the leftist-democratic and traditional right-wing currents in a coalition of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (the Palestinian-Jordanian section of Arab nationalists), Hawatmeh presented the Political and Organizational Report and the Report of Tasks and Action. Through those he was able to expand the role and power of the leftwing in the Arab Nationalist Movement.

With the Popular Front abandoning the decisions of that conference and appealing to various forms of force and violence, Hawatmeh declared the independence of the left current under the name of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) on February 22, 1969.

Following that moment, and under his leadership, the DFLP became a principal and fundamental detachment inside the coalition of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), and a force behind the revolution and the Palestinian people. Hawatmeh carried out a fundamental contribution in the development of programs and the selection of the tasks of the revolution and of the PLO. Likewise, he played key roles in Palestinian national struggle, battles in defense of the revolution, within the PLO, and among the people, as much in the occupied lands, such as Jordan and in Lebanon during different stages, and—at the same time—in the Intifada and popular action against occupation and colonization.

In September 1970, the Jordanian government launched a total war against the Palestinian resistance and issued a special official statement for the capture “dead or alive” of Hawatmeh, offering a towering sum as a reward. That was the second death sentence ordered against him by Jordan.

Hawatmeh is considered by observers and specialists to be a charismatic personality, of great initiative, and someone who always offers practical and realistic solutions to new questions placed on the agenda of the Palestinian revolution and the people’s national movement. He was the first one to put before the PLO his realistic Transitional National Program, in 1973, and began the campaign within the Palestinian people, the PLO and the Democratic Front for that national program which – after years of struggle following his first presentation of that program – became the program of people, the revolution and the PLO; it has been ratified again and again in successive sessions of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) since June 1974. Hawatmeh has introduced a series of changes in contemporary political thought (See the books, “In Search of an Entity,”, by Doctor Maher Al-Sharif; “The Development of Palestinian Political Thought,” by Faisal Al Hourani; “The Palestinian Entity” by Issa Al-Shoaibi; and “Memoirs,” by Khaled Al-Fahoum).

For his part, Hawatmeh was the first Palestinian leader that—in an open and clear manner—called for a solution based on United Nation’s resolutions and for political solutions and negotiations with the Israelis by virtue of those resolutions and international law. In that sense, in April 1974 he raised the first call by a Palestinian leader to all Israelis from the pages of the Tel Aviv newspaper Yediot Ahronot, and other periodicals such as the US’s The Washington Post, Belgium’s Le Saur, France’s Le Monde and the Lebanese Annahar. In those newspapers he called for the recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people to the return to their land, self-determination and independence.

“Come to turn swords together into plowshares,” he exhorted when proclaiming a balanced global peace based on the recognition to the right of Palestinian people to have an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital, self-determination and the solution of the refugee problem by virtue of UN resolution 194.

After the departure of Palestinian resistance from Beirut, in 1982, Hawatmeh played a central part in the defense of the coalition inside the PLO and in preserving its unity in the face of divisive and self-destructive interests within the two wings of Fatah and detachments the Rejection Front. The DFLP paid a high price for its position and had to withstand successive pressures from other regional forces.

The Palestinian leader did not cease his activity searching for solutions and programs that were adopted by the organs and institutions of the PLO, particularly resolutions adopted by the Palestinian National Council and the Declaration of Independence (in November 1988); decisions taken regarding the bases of the Political Arrangement in the PNC (in September 1991); alternatives to the Oslo Agreements and the step-by-step process. (See the books “Oslo and the Other Balanced Peace,” [1999]; and “Beyond Oslo: Palestine, Where To?,” [2000]).

Hawatmeh: In the Revolutionary Struggle

Nayef Hawatmeh, general secretary of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (FDLP), is one of the most outstanding of the first generation of leaders of the contemporary Palestinian revolution and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

Born in November of 1938, his family is dispersed throughout Palestine, Jordan and Syria. Their roots go back to the Arab ghassasinah. (See “The Five Volume Encyclopedia of the Arab Tribes,” Volume One. Writings of Omar Rida Kahaleh).

He continued his pre-university studies in Amman at the Al-Hussein secondary school. He began his university studies at the University of Cairo Faculty of Medicine, but for political reasons ceased his studies at the university for 10 years. He then resumed his studies continuing in the Faculty of Philosophy and Psychology of the Arab University of Beirut. In Moscow, he completed his doctorate with his dissertation titled “Changing Directions of the Nationalist Movement: From a General Patriotic Movement to a Left Movement.”

Hawatmeh: the Intellectual

Hawatmeh, the intellectual and man, is greatly interested in the legacy of the Arab people and Islamic and European revolutionary history in their different stages of the cultural rebirth and development. He is also intrigued by the personality and great role assumed by the leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser following the national catastrophe of 1948.

Hawatmeh considers to Nasser to be the most outstanding and influential person of his lifetime – in Egypt, the Arab nation, as well as in numerous countries of the Third World (See the book, “Hawatmeh speaks,” 1996).

He works tirelessly for long hours dedicating all his energies to following the details of the course of the Palestinian and Arabic national movement.

The followings are the titles of books and other writings that he wrote about Palestinian, Arab, and contemporary international history, mainly about regional and international transformations related to the Palestinian cause, its revolution and relevant moments:

1. – “The Crisis of the Revolution in South Yemen.” Beirut. 1968. Dar Al-Talia Publishers.

2. – “The Palestinian Resistance and the Arab Situation.” Beirut. 1969. Dar Al-Talia Publishers.

3. – “Around the Crisis of the Palestinian Resistance Movement (Analysis and Forecasts).” Beirut. November 1969. Dar Al-Talia Publishers.

4. – “Dialogue Between the Democratic Front and the Egyptian Vanguard. (Lutfi Al-Khouly Converses with Hawatmeh).” November 1969.

5. – “The September Campaign and the Palestinian Resistance, Lessons and Results of Self-Criticism.” Beirut. November 1970. Dar Al-Talia Publishers.

6. – “The Provisional Revolutionary Government.” Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. 1973.

7. – “After the October War, Working to Defeat Capitulation and the Snatching Away of the Right to Self-Determination.” Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut 1973.

8. – “The Current Tasks of the Revolution to Overthrow the Solution of Surrender and to Snatch the Right to Self-determination.” Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. December 1974.

9. – “All Revolutionary and Patriotic Forces Unite.” Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. 1974.

10. – "PLO: Between National Decision and Right-Wing Concessions". Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. 1977. 11. – “Palestinian and Arab Events After Camp David". Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. 1977.

12. – “Arabic and Palestinian Events, the Camp David Agreements: Realities and Tasks”. Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. 1978.

13. – “Toward a Sharp Confrontation to the Camp David Agreements. Toward a Unified Position of the PLO.” Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. 1979.

14. – “The Current Situation and the Tasks of the Movement of Arab Liberation and Progress.” Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. July 1979.

15. – “The Current Situation and the Tasks of the Palestinian Revolution and the Arab Liberation Movement.” Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. July 1980.

16. – “The Tasks of the Palestinian Revolution Following the Invasion of Lebanon and the Battle of Beirut,” Central Information of the DFLP. December 1982.

17. – “What is to Be Done. The Aftermath of the Arab Summit in Amman.” Central Information of the DFLP. Beirut. 1981.

18. – “Questions of the Palestinian Revolution and the New Stage.” Central Information of the DFLP. 1983.

19. – “Dialogue with Nayef Hawatmeh, Around Burning Palestinian and Arab Questions.” Central Information of the DFLP. February 1985.

20. – “The Crisis of the PLO: Analysis and Criticism of the Roots and Solutions.” Central Information of the DFLP. 1986.

21. – “On Palestinian National Unity and a Way Out of the PLO Crisis.” Central Information of the DFLP. 1986.

22. – “Maintaining Unity, Alliances and the Tasks of the Fight to Winning the Victory of the Intifada.” Central Information of the DFLP. March 1988.

23. – “Nayef Hawatmeh Speaks…” 1996. Dar Al-Kateb Publishing (Damascus) and Al-Manahel (Beirut). Al-Jaleel Amman and Al-Massar, (Ramallah).

24. – "Oslo and the Other Balanced Peace". 1999. Dar Al-Ahali Publishing (Damascus) and Bissan (Beirut).

25. – “Beyond Oslo: Palestine, Where To?” 2000. Al-Ahali Publishing (Damascus), Bissan (Beirut), and Al-Jaleel (Ramallah).

26 – “The Intifada: The Arabic-Israeli Conflict, Where To?” 2001. Al-Dar Al-Wataniya Al-Jadidah.

27. - The Intifada, the difficulty – Where is Palestine Going? Nayef Hawatmeh, Al-Ahali for printing, publishing and distribution - Damascus and Bissan for printing - Beirut. First edition, 2005.

28. - “Palestine…The Stalled Sovereignty”. Nayef Hawatmeh, Secretary-general of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Al-Watania – Syria - Damascus.

29. - “What If We Were Whites?”, Nayef Hawatmeh, Secretary-general of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Al-Watania - Syria - Damascus

30. - “The Revolutionary Left, the Vision of the Great Awakening,” Nayef Hawatmeh. Palestine Center for Documents and Information.

31. - The Arab Left, The Vision of the Great Awakening (Criticisms and Expectations), Nayef Hawatmeh, Al-Ahali for printing, publishing and distribution - Damascus. Bissan for publication and distribution - Beirut.

• first edition, 2009.
• second edition: Dar Al-Risalah Al-Tijariah.
• third edition: Dar Al-Jaleel for publication, research and studies - Amman.
• fourth edition: Dar Al-Massar Publishing House - Ramallah-Palestine.
• fifth edition: Argelia, Alf Waraqa Publishing House, first edition June 2010 - second edition, July 2010.
• sixth edition: Morocco, Bayan Al-Yaum Publishing House - Casablanca, 2010.
• seventh edition: Tunisia, Dar Neqoush Arabia Publishing House, 2010.
• eighth edition: Yemen, Ebadi Center Publishing House for studies and publication.
• ninth edition: - Cairo, Egypt, Dar Al-Massar Publishing House for publication.
• tenth edition: Sudan, Dar Madaruk Publishing House for publication 2010.
• eleventh edition: Iraq, Baghdad, Publisher Dar Al-Jarida for publication.

The book The Arab Left, The Vision of the Great Awakening (Criticisms and Expectations) is dedicated, as the title indicates, to the forces of change and modernity. It was written to the left and liberal forces, as well as to the forces of Arab emancipation and progress, for a new Arab world aiming for democracy and social justice.

Towards that definition, the editors wrote on the last (second) cover: “The world around us is changing and we Arabs must change and develop to open the doors to the 21st century and to move forward.”

In this sense, the book deepens the conceptual analyses, the concrete politics and the controversy around their practical application.

The work’s title was taken from its own first chapter, which deals with the situation of the Arab left, its crisis, role and political effectiveness. This chapter also studies the changes in the world at the ideological and theoretical levels and their impact on the Arab situation in general, comparing these to the position of the Arab left.

The chapter covers a movement of discussion and broad dialogue. It reviews the history of the Arab peoples and societies as well as their destinies, looking at the forces of backwardness, retreat and defeat, as well as the forces of emancipation, progress, modernity and contemporariness, with a view toward the 21st century.

Chapter 2, “In Vision and Practice,” includes a series of interviews conducted with Nayef Hawatmeh by Arab newspapers, magazines and television during crucial political moments for the development of the Arab and Palestinian peoples.

These interviews provide an insight into the vision of the leader and of the Democratic Front about how such events, whether in relation to the development of the Palestinian political system, the treatment given to the division and the recuperation of internal unity, the unification of the Palestinian left, or the advance in Marxist thinking with the development of real-life realities, scientific discovery and the accumulation of experience in the field.

All this takes into account the particular the bonds between Hawatmeh and the socialist experiences in the former Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Democratic Korea, Venezuela and other Latin American states advancing towards social justice. These countries are pursuing paths towards democratic socialist futures built by their popular forces, the arms of their workers, their peasants’ sweat and the conscious efforts of their intellectuals.

Chapter 3, entitled “The Arab and the Palestinian Left” (modeled on the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) covers a wide range of Arab and Palestinian studies and reviews concerning the situation of the Arab left from the southern Arab region to the east. It gives a detailed explanation about the role of the DFLP since its foundation in the late 1960s. The DFLP opened the path for the left because it was the first party of the new Arab left to announce, without hesitation, the adoption of Marxism as the guide of its programs and analysis.

It was also the first Arab leftist party to adopt the armed struggle against Israeli occupation as the only way to achieve the Palestinian national program. This encouraged other Arab parties on the left to assume promising positions in their countries and present them as a way out of backwardness and reaction and to move towards progress, modernization, liberty and prosperity.

The Arab testimonies outlined in this chapter record a study of the Front concerning the concept of a war of popular liberation waged by the Palestinian resistance. In addition, this chapter contains several Arab and Palestinian messages commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Democratic Front.

The chapter contains political documents from the Cairo document (March 17, 2005) as well as documents of national and world dialogue from February 26, 2009 in Cairo. In these documents what is clearly seen is the imprint of the Democratic Front in reflecting its vision and political discourse. Demonstrated here is the active role played by the DFLP delegations in rounds of dialogue and in reaching certain outcomes. These results were achieved despite the actions of Fatah and Hamas, which acted — each from their own respective position and more than once — to thwart those outcomes for their own sectarian reasons, which reflect their absolutist policies and their lack of a spirit of unity.

Finally, Chapter 5 contains a photo album of Hawatmeh meeting with several Arab and international political and intellectual leaders. This album demonstrates the broad national and international relations of the Democratic Front as a result of the role it has played internationally, nationally and in the Arab region.

The book, as it states at the beginning, is result of discussion and direct and indirect dialogue. This work is also the outcome of events and consequences — with Palestinian, Arab and international dimensions — as well as those of pioneers, fighters, men and women who have given their entire lives to turn the wheel of the history of our peoples and countries forward, under the sun and along a path that is still very long.



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