To Israel, Charter Passages 'Advocate Violence and Terror'

Lee Michael Katz, USA Today, Monday, December 14, 1998

Q: What is the PLO charter?

A: The charter, or covenant, is a document that sets out the principles of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). It begins by declaring that "Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people."

The PLO represents the aspirations of many of the more than 2 million Palestinians on the West Bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza Strip, both of which Israel captured in 1967, as well as millions of Palestinians worldwide. Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO, also is president of the Palestinian Authority, or self-rule government.

The charter was adopted in 1968 by the Palestinian National Council (PNC), which was made up of about 700 delegates representing Palestinians inside and outside the region.

Q: What are the controversial passages?

A: Israel says there are 26 passages it wants removed or altered in the 33-article charter. Israel says they either "deny Israel's right to exist or advocate violence and terror."

Q: Haven't the controversial passages already been changed?

A: The Palestinians say yes. This view is supported by the U.S. government and was accepted by the previous Israeli government led by the Labor Party. But the Likud government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the process of revoking the charter still is incomplete.

Here's what has been done so far: As a prelude to their landmark peace accord in 1993, Arafat wrote to then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, saying the PLO "affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel's rights to exist ... are no longer valid."

In 1996, the PNC voted 504-54 for a resolution saying the charter had been amended by "canceling" the articles noted in Arafat's 1993 letter.

Israel says, however, that the earlier PNC action did not specifically remove the offending clauses by name.

Q: Why is Israel so adamant about removing the passages?

A: Israelis, who point to suicide bombings against Israel by Palestinian terrorists opposed to peace, say they need security in exchange for peace. Netanyahu told the U.N. General Assembly this fall that the "charter is still on the books, still on the Internet, still calling for Israel's destruction through armed struggle."

Q: What is Israel demanding?

A: Israel wants the PNC to revoke the charter by the necessary two-thirds majority in a formal vote. Israeli officials also want to ensure that similar clauses aren't included in any new charter.

Q: What is the response?

A: The Palestinians say they already have formally revoked the charter. But they will hold today's meeting as a nod to Israeli concerns.

Marwan Kanafani, a senior adviser to Arafat and a Council member, says the earlier decision will be "reconfirmed" at the meeting, but Palestinians are not saying they will hold a specific PNC vote. Diplomats are hinting at a compromise, such as one that would have Council members raise their hands to nullify the charter as part of a larger group attending Clinton's speech.

Q: What does the Wye accord stipulate?

A: The Oct. 23 accord refers to several phases of Palestinian renunciation of the covenant, but is vague on the final outcome. One phase has been completed. The PLO's Executive Committee has met to "reaffirm" the Palestinian "nullification" of the offending charter provisions. The same action was taken Thursday at the next level, the Central Council. Finally, the agreement says members of the full PNC will be invited to attend the meeting with Clinton today to "reaffirm their support" for those decisions.

Editor's Note:

The PLO Charter specifically states:

"ARTICLE 33: This Charter shall not be amended save by (vote of) a majority of two-thirds of the total membership of the National Congress of the Palestine Liberation Organization (taken) at a special session convened for that purpose" (Text as published by the PLO)

Neither of these conditions have been met; which leaves it open for future Palestinians (including those in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt etc) to say that the Charter has not been legally amended, and that the destruction of Israel clauses remain valid !

This is especially relevant because the PLO was not set up by Palestinians living in ISRAEL/PALESTINE, but by Nasser of Egypt in 1964 as a revolutionary commando force against Israel. The PLO later changed its location to Jordan, but in 1972 attempted a coup against King Hussein of Jordan, whose loyal Bedouin (not Palestinian) Army, in what as know as "Black September, 1972" defeated the attempted coup (killing thousands in the process, and driving the PLO out of Jordan, into Lebanon (which naively allowed the PLO entry).

Then followed a ten-year civil war within Lebanon between two differing sects of Islam killing more than 100,000 people, and destroying Lebanons' infrastructure....before Israel went into Lebanon in 1982 to neutralize the PLO groups bombarding, and entering Israel at will from Lebanon.

The Refugee Camps massacres in Lebanon in 1982 (wrongly blamed on Israel and the Lebanese Christian Army) were largely caused by different factions of Islam "settling old scores".

My first meaningful encounter with PLO methods was as a tourist in Israel in 1974 when members of the PLO from Lebanon, wearing Israeli army uniforms, cut through the barbed-wire border fence at Kyria Shamona, entered a civilian apartment building, killed civilians, and threw babies out the windows onto the paved parking drive Israel into the sea, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PLO CHARTER as it still stands today ( February 8, 1999.) and until legally amended.

To view the official version of the PLO CHARTER go to:

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