Human rights campaigner Mazin Qumsiyeh has published online the Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in order to remind everyone, Palestinians included, that the charter has never been amended legally. In doing so, Qumsiyeh illustrates that the majority of Palestinians in the Diaspora have been disenfranchised by the actions of the PLO and its offspring the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, he demonstrates that the aims and objectives of the PLO have been overturned by the "failed Oslo accords".
"Many of us are calling for a democratic election to the Palestine National Council as per the PLO charter," Qumsiyeh writes on his blog, "after which some things can be reconsidered democratically by those representing 11.5 million Palestinians."
He points out that if that is done, "some of the things we believe would then be brought up and voted upon". These would include "modernising the ideas presented; the clearer inclusion of all Jewish residents of the country who reject Zionism; and increased emphasis on popular resistance".
At the moment, Palestinians living outside the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have no democratic opportunity to have a say in the future of their country. Participation in the elections for the Palestinian Authority was restricted to those living under occupation. "Bringing the PNC back to life in a democratic way," claims Qumsiyeh, "can ensure modernisation, updating and ultimately the success of the mission and goals of the Palestine Liberation Organisation instead of its slow death." In this way, he stresses, it would allow for the immense resources of all Palestinians (financial, intellectual, artistic etc) to be harnessed and utilised to serve the cause. "This would also reunify the fragmented movement and get beyond the petty factional differences and the failed Oslo accords."
Likening the struggle in Palestine against a strong Israeli state, Qumsiyeh suggests that a weaker party in a conflict must separate the stronger party from its sources of moral, economic, and other support. "Today the Palestine cause remains critical even as Western and Arab media choose to focus on Syria and other issues," he argues. "No durable peace or progress in this area will happen without justice for the Palestinians and an end to Zionist racism."
Qumsiyeh believes that the Palestinians will inevitably succeed "despite the setbacks" and can "accelerate the change", this will require the recruitment of "internationals and Israelis in far greater numbers to join the struggle". However, Palestinians "must get our internal house in order first". To do that, he insists, it is essential for the Palestine National Council to be reconvened through a democratic process as set out in the PLO charter. Only then can all Palestinians have a say in their future, not just the minority in the occupied Palestinian territories.
MEMO's Ibrahim Hewitt adds: The PLO Charter includes some interesting clauses which appear to have been overlooked by some Palestinians in their eagerness to get political power.
Article 2: Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.
Article 6: The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.
Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it. They also assert their right to normal life in Palestine and to exercise their right to self-determination and sovereignty over it.
Article 15: The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine…
Article 16: The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual point of view, will provide the Holy Land with an atmosphere of safety and tranquillity, which in turn will safeguard the country's religious sanctuaries and guarantee freedom of worship and of visit to all, without discrimination of race, colour, language, or religion. Accordingly, the people of Palestine look to all spiritual forces in the world for support.
Article 17: The liberation of Palestine, from a human point of view, will restore to the Palestinian individual his dignity, pride, and freedom. Accordingly the Palestinian Arab people look forward to the support of all those who believe in the dignity of man and his freedom in the world.
Article 18: The liberation of Palestine, from an international point of view, is a defensive action necessitated by the demands of self-defence. Accordingly the Palestinian people, desirous as they are of the friendship of all people, look to freedom-loving and peace-loving states for support in order to restore their legitimate rights in Palestine, to re-establish peace and security in the country, and to enable its people to exercise national sovereignty and freedom.
Article 19: The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the right to self-determination.
Article 20: The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.
Article 22: Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-a-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.
Article 23: The demand of security and peace, as well as the demand of right and justice, require all states to consider Zionism an illegitimate movement, to outlaw its existence, and to ban its operations, in order that friendly relations among peoples may be preserved, and the loyalty of citizens to their respective homelands safeguarded.
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 Organisation [taken] at a special session convened for that purpose.
Article 22 is arguably the clause which sums up the whole purpose of the Zionist project to establish a "rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilisation as opposed to barbarism", as the father of modern political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, put it in his 1896 book The Jewish State. It also sets out why the state of Israel will never be abandoned by the capitalist, imperialist and colonialist states of Europe and the USA.