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Arab Resistance in Palestine. From Fateh to the Foundation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)

Seminararbeit 2005 16 Seiten

Geschichte - Asien


Table of Contents


1. The Roots of Palestinian Nationalism after the End of World War II

2. From Student Activists to Organized Fighters in the Fateh Movement

3. Uniting the Palestinians: The Foundation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)

4. The Takeover of the PLO through the Fateh




The Middle East of the present-days would look different without the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), the political and military arm of the Palestinians. Over decades the organization transformed itself from the home of groups consisting of terrorists and armed fighters to the political voice of all Palestinians.

Responsible for the efforts was the man who took over the PLO in 1969 and made it first the home for Arab terrorists and later to an organization to administer Palestine and to deal with the international parties concerned with the conflict in the Middle East: Peace-Nobel-Laureate Yasir Arafat. Decisive for the aggressive policies the PLO adopted in its first decade were the events surrounding its foundation and the takeover through Arafat and his Fateh organization.

This research paper is going to examine why and how the powerful PLO could emerge. It is looking at the roots of Palestinian nationalism after World War II and introducing Arafat’s Fateh movement. Afterwards it will take a close look to the foundation process of the PLO and its aims. The organization will be transformed in 1968 through Arafat. Hence the last chapter of this paper will deal with this issue.

This research paper is based on a comprehensive bibliography containing primary and secondary sources and a scientific article on the topic. As basic work the very detailed book of Helena Cobban, The Palestinian Liberation Organisation – People, Power, Politics, was used.

1. The Roots of Palestinian Nationalism after the End of World War II

After World War II the world looked different. Western and Central Europe, Russia and Asia were burning and shattered. Germany did not exist as a state any more. In Japan two atomic nukes devastated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Two new super powers emerged out of this conflict: The United States of America and the Soviet Union.

Until 1939 Britain had been the undisputable super power with the biggest economy and military capacity, backed by an enormous Empire all around the globe. That changed, too. Because of the sufferings in World War II Britain’s ability to maintain a far-reaching Empire was shattered. Hence the former hegemony had to address certain issues in its Empire. One of these was the question about its protectorate Palestine.[1]

In Palestine the Jewish Zionists[2] and the Arab Palestinians struggled about the land. Both groups claimed that Palestine would be their country. The Zionists going back in their argumentation to the early Jews long before the birth of Jesus Christ. The Arabs arguing that they lived there for decades. Because the British were not able to handle it, they turned the task over to the new created United Nations.[3]

The United Nations decided to divide Palestine into two independent states with an economic union. The UNSCOP’s Plan of Partition with Economic Union stated:

“The basic premise underlying the partition proposal is the claims to Palestine of the Arabs and Jews, both possessing validity, are irreconcilable, and that among all the solutions advanced, partition will provide the most realistic and practicable settlement, and is the most likely to afford a workable basis for meeting in part the claims and national aspirations of both parties.”[4]

However, there was the idea but no realistic plan how to implement the partition of the countries. Neither the United Nations nor the British troops could really handle this plan. So the Empire withdrew its troops on May 14th 1948.[5]

This was followed by the declaration of the State of Israel through David Ben Gurion, one of the Zionist leaders, on the same day. The state was recognized and welcomed by the United States of America only a few hours later. But the Arabs were horrified. Immediately the direct Arab neighbours of Israel, led by Egypt, declared war on the new Jewish state.[6]

During the war Israel could win more territory and establish itself in the Middle East as a sovereign state. It was a crystal-clear win for the Jews. But for the Arabs the war was a big disaster. It led to big masses of Arabic refugees, leaving their homeland in Palestine.[7]

One of the refugees was a man called Mohammed Arafat, later called Yasir Arafat, the famous leader of the Palestinians.

2. From Student Activists to Organized Fighters in the Fateh Movement

To understand the foundation of the PLO and its development in the first years we have to look at the nationalistic movements of the Palestinian groups spread all over the Arab world first. The most important group according to the later leaders of the PLO had its roots in Cairo. Hence this chapter will focus especially on this group and its outcome: The founding of the first comprehensive resistant group, the Fateh.

Cairo was the place where Yasir Arafat fled after the war in Israel.[8] He became already acquainted to leading figures of the future while studying at the University of Cairo. One of his most important fellows was Salah Khalaf, a literature student who fled from the city Arab Jaffa to Cairo. Some years later he will become the chief of Fateh’s security services and a powerful orator for the movement. Together with him Arafat ran the Palestinian Student Union in 1952. The Union consisted of young Palestinians which wanted to fight against the oppression of their fellow countrymen in Palestine. The members were heavily convinced by the idea, that “the Palestinians could expect nothing from the Arab regimes, for the most part corrupt or tied to imperialism.” As Khalaf stated: “We believed that the Palestinians could rely only on themselves.”[9]


[1] William B. Quandt. The Politics of Palestinian Nationalism. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), p. 45.

[2] This research paper is examining the foundation of the PLO and Arab nationalism and is not focused on Zionism. However, to understand the Palestinian politics there has to be a basic understanding what Zionism means. It goes back to Theodore Herzl, a Jewish Journalist, who claimed in 1896 that the Jews should have their own state (Der Judenstaat). In 1917 the British government assured in the so called Balfour-Declaration to help the Jews to build their own state in Palestine. From this time on many Jews were migrating into Palestine. After WWII there was even bigger migration because of the atrocities the Germans did to the Jews from 1939 to 1945.

[3] Arthur Goldschmidt Jr. A Concise History of the Middle East. Seventh Edition. (Colorado, Oxford: Westview Press, 2002), pp. 274 – 277.

[4] Charles D. Smith. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Fifth Edition. (Boston, New York: Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2004), pp. 208 – 210. Document 2.5.

[5] Quandt 1974, p. 47.

[6] Yezid Sayigh. Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement 1949 – 1993. (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1997), p. 35 – 58.

[7] Barry Rubin. Revolution until Victory? The Policits and History of the PLO. (Cambridge: Havard University Press, 1994), p. 1.

[8] Thomas Kiernan. Yasir Arafat: The Man and the Myth. (London: Sphere Books, 1976), p. 123.

[9] Helena Cobban. The Palestinian Liberation Organisation: People, Power and Politics. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 21 – 22.


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Vesalius College Brussels
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Arab Resistance Palestine From Fateh Foundation Palestinian Liberation Organization History Middle East



Titel: Arab Resistance in Palestine. From Fateh to the Foundation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO)