Al-Watan newspaper recently interviewed Comrade Abu Ahmad Fouad, Deputy General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. We present the interview below (translated from Arabic):
Q: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine recently held its conference, leading to changes in its institutions, including your election as Deputy General Secretary of the Front. This was described by some as a “white coup” in light of the situation in the region. How do you respond to that?
A: This is the first time I have heard such a proposal regarding what has happened inside the Front, because in fact we delayed too long in holding the Conference, especially that there were nearly thirteen years since the Sixth Conference. According to the Front’s constitution and rules of procedure, the conference must be held every five years. But the circumstances and developments in the region in general and, in particular, in the Palestinian arena, have created confusion, and in regard to conferences, we must attempt to handle them in a democratic and timely manner with internal rules and regulations. We were, without a doubt, late in convening the conference, which had a negative impact on our structure inside the Front. Regardless of that, our conferences regularly produce results that are seen as surprising. The conference is a large undertaking, because it is the occasion when everyone should be weighing in on political and organizational issues, and also in the internal elections and composition of our leadership bodies. Thus, it takes a long time, especially due to security circumstances in the West Bank, and also abroad.
Remember, the Front is listed as a terrorist organization in many countries. It is known that in the West Bank, we are suffering from arrests, surveillance and pursuit by the Zionist enemy and sometimes from the Palestinian security services. But in all cases we were able to convene the General Conference of the Front despite difficulties inside and outside occupied Palestine. On the last point in your question, I would say that some leaders giving up their offices is normal in the democratic process, but they remain members of the Front, and they made their own decisions not to seek re-election of their own free will, and the conference elected new leaders.
Q. But there are those who believe that Mr. Abdel-Rahim Mallouh’s leaving the post of Deputy General Secretary was the result of disagreements within the Front about the political issues of the Palestinian cause and its positions.
A. Comrade Abdel-Rahim Mallouh is a historical leader and struggler in the Front. A few years ago he applied to the leading bodies of the Front to retire from his position as deputy general secretary but not to resign from the Front. The Political Bureau and the Central Committee advised him to wait until the convening of General Conference of the Front. However, he remained adamant about his request after long years in his position. This was accepted and was ratified by the General Conference. The central bodies retained comrade Mallouh as the Front’s representative in the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Q. What is the significance of the transfer of the post of Deputy General Secretary of the Front outside of occupied Palestine?
A. As I mentioned earlier, the Front is a target of the occupier, as is the case with a number of Palestinian factions. Comrade Mallouh, while serving as Deputy General Secretary, was imprisoned by the occupation authorities for over 5 years, and this is clear evidence that anyone in a leadership position of the Front is threatened constantly not only with arrest but also potentially with assassination and constantly subject to restrictions on travel or work as the General Secretary or Deputy General Secretary, as in the case of the General Secretary of the Front, Ahmad Sa’adat, and a number of members of the Central Committee of the Front are being detained in the enemy’s prisons for nearly twelve years. Some of them are sentenced to several life sentences and Comrade Sa’adat was sentenced to thirty years. Also, all of the comrades in the leading bodies of the Front were detained by the Zionist enemy after the Oslo agreement and continue to be threatened.
These are some of the reasons, but we in the PFLP are always open to the change in location of leadership bodies. We also have a provision in our rules of procedure calling for a renewal in each conference of at least 25%, but at this conference there has been over 60% renewal in the ranks of the Central Committee and above.
Q. This brings us to the role of the Popular Front today at the level of resistance in various forms, particularly armed struggle, in light of the current Palestinian, Arab and international situation. How did the conference evaluate this?
A. The National Conference reiterated our commitments on this issue, particularly with regard to the strategic and tactical objectives of the Front. The Conference reiterated that the strategic goal of the Front is the liberation of the entire Palestinian land and the conference was held under this banner. With regard to the program of the PLO, the conference emphasized that the goal is to move toward the full achievement of the liberation of the entire land of Palestine and the establishment of the democratic Palestinian state on the entire land of Palestine.
There is a big difference between our understanding of the interim program of the PLO and the understanding of other forces, especially the monopolistic leadership of the PLO. Our understanding of the interim program is the right of return mainly, and self-determination, and the establishment of the Palestinian independent state with its capital in Jerusalem. We will not abandon this one inch and we demand that all forces adhere to this basis and not subject it to negotiations or to concessions, which has happened from the time of Oslo and throughout the ongoing negotiations. We do not see that there is a possibility to achieve the liberation of Palestine and our national goals except through armed struggle combined with all forms of struggle, in particular popular struggle.
Q. But it seems that this is not the line of other forces in the Palestinian left, or Arab forces?
A. I think that many forces, particularly in the Palestinian arena, after the experience of 20 years of Oslo and negotiations, and from the ’70s of the last century until now, have discovered that the negotiations and political settlement attempts have achieved nothing. Quite frankly all of these negotiations and agreements were for the benefit of the Zionist entity and not in the interests of the Palestinian people, Palestinian national rights or the Arab nation in general. Therefore these forces must change their political approach and practices regarding this process that is harmful to the Palestinian national cause. It is also certainly quite clear to any Palestinian or Arab person that the United States cannot ever be an “honest broker,” but is fully supportive of the Zionist enemy in all of its programs and policies – from the settlement policy to the so-called “Jewish state” to all the crimes committed by the enemy, and to the Judaization of Jerusalem, to the full control of the West Bank. It is the United States that supports the Zionist entity in all it does and this is known to all. So why then do some continue to rely on the United States and the West, and believe that these forces would support a national solution for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause? It is time to cast aside these illusions. We understand very clearly that there are other allies who can stand by our side even if on the basis of international law and resolutions. We call for the rebuilding of the institutions of the PLO on a democratic basis that represent the Palestinian people in all their diversity, and must also include the major Islamic political organizations, and here I mean Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others, on the basis of democratic elections.
It is also imperative to end the division in the Palestinian arena on the basis of the agreements in Cairo. Therefore, it is important and very urgent now, and in light of developments in the Palestinian, Arab and international levels to call for an urgent meeting of all those who participated in the dialogues in Cairo to address the division in order to confront the so-called Kerry Plan aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause.
Q. Some said that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry seeks to extend negotiations until the end of the year, while others have said that Kerry has not led to anything until now, while others felt that the new Oslo is soon at hand. What is your position on all this?
A. We are totally against negotiations. We are entirely in conflict with this political program and political approach as well as the political settlement at hand. And what is happening now carries with it serious risks, because the effort of the U.S. administration demonstrates that the U.S. clearly wants to liquidate the Palestinian cause while the world and the Arab nation are consumed with domestic issues well known to all, in particular internal conflicts and sectarianism, and thus these internal conditions have overridden the Palestinian cause as the central cause of the Arab nation, and we no longer see the visibility of the Palestinian cause on the Arab level: we no longer hear the slogans in support of the Palestinian people and their rights or the raising of the Palestinian flag, and this is evidence that the Palestinian issue has fallen away from the front of the mind of our nation, for the reasons I mentioned. At the same time, we are certain that the Arab nation always stands with the Palestinian cause and against the Zionist enemy and policies of the United States.
There is a significant chance that we find ourselves confronting a type of framework agreement or the like, all in the interests of the Zionist occupation. I call upon the monopolistic leadership in the Palestinian arena to end their harmful policies against the Palestinian cause and return to the national ranks and complete the process of national reconciliation and prepare for elections to the Legislative Council and the Palestinian National Council on a democratic basis as a first step for the next phase. The Palestinian people do not feel now that they have a single reference, but, with deep regret, many references.
Q. There was a great deal of reliance on the Egyptian role in the previous stage, which today is no longer significant, as is the case with the Arab role. How to complete the process of the reconciliation?
A. There is no doubt that things in the past were different and easier than at the present day, whether in Egypt or on the Arab level. The new Egyptian leadership seems to be viewing its encounters with Palestinians through the lens of the internal Egyptian situation and differences with Hamas. There is a media conflict between official parties but this should not be utilized to undermine the relationship between the Palestinian people and Egypt as a people and a country, and in particular our people in Gaza who must be treated as a whole as part of the Palestinian people by all parties, and not on the basis of political affiliations to one organization or another. We would like to see Egypt take a positive role in ending Palestinian internal divisions. However, if this is the only obstacle, we have our basis in the Palestinian arena to bring about an end to a division, particularly between our brothers in Fatah and Hamas, on the basis of the Cairo agreements.
Q. In light of the media controversy between the Egyptian officials and Hamas, do you expect an attack by the Egyptian military against Gaza?
A. We must rule that out completely, because the culture of the Egyptian army is an Arab national culture, and Egyptian national culture sees that the primary enemy is the Zionist occupation, today and tomorrow. But the media environment can have a destructive impact. We as Palestinians know that Egypt historically has made great sacrifices for the Palestinian cause and in the Arab-Zionist struggle. We must come together as Palestinians and we know then that relations with Egypt will be restored.
Q. On the other hand, there is a Zionist threat to launch a new aggression against Gaza soon. Do you think this aggression is likely, in your opinion?
A. We do not rule anything out in relation to the Zionist enemy. It is a criminal entity that commits crimes and terror daily. And these crimes are not limited to invasions and bombings or something like that – there are daily crimes, arrests and settlement, killing and displacement. The threat will continue but it is clear that there will not be a large-scale military action against Gaza without a green light from the U.S. The U.S. administration in this period is not going to escalate the tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, but they are going to escalate the internal tensions in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere, because the conflict with the Zionist enemy unites the Palestinian people and the Arab people.
We are all aware of the gains obtained by the Zionist entity through negotiations in light of the earthquake that shook our entire nation. But it has to be an escalation of the popular movement and all forms of resistance against the Zionist enemy.
Q. What about the future of the Palestinian relationship to the Syrian crisis in light of the situation in Palestinian refugee camps, especially Yarmouk camp? Is there anything on the horizon to resolve the crisis?
A. We in the Popular Front and all the factions here are meeting frequently. The Palestine Liberation Organization agreed from the outset to neutralize the Palestinian refugee camps in the Arab countries, there is no interest for us to enter internal conflicts because our major goal is the continuation of the struggle against the Zionist entity until the achievement of our national goals, at the forefront, the right of return. Therefore, the Palestinian factions announced their initiative – to entirely remove the armed groups from Yarmouk camp and to entirely lift the siege upon our people to enter and exit the camp freely, and furthermore to return the camp to the position of a place of safety for all as it was before, and things are moving toward this direction. We want to keep our relations with our neighbors as positive relationships. This is emphasized by the PLO factions and the 14 factions in the camp. Extending this situation is not in the interest of the armed groups. We also note that Syria and the Syrian people have stood with the Palestinian cause and provided for 65 years all of the support to Palestinians and equal rights with Syrian citizens, and this will not change.
Q. Finally, what is your view of the Syrian situation at the end of the first round of negotiations of the Geneva II Conference?
A. I think that there is a train on the tracks, a process that will continue. There is a balance of power at the international level that is driving toward a political solution and recognition that there is no other solution. This is likely to be raised by the official Syrian delegation. There is an opportunity for national opposition forces in this path to defend Syria’s unity and independence, which should be pursued by every Syrian and Arab. It is in all of our interest that Syria remains united, and continues to refuse the occupation. External intervention has played a major role in this tragedy that has overcome Syria, and which threatens to destroy it as a nation and a society, but I believe that Syria will survive, and emerge united, strong and supportive of just Arab causes, particularly the Palestinian cause.