The PLO Charters of 1964 and 1968 and the Hamas Charter of 1988

A Comparative Study

Scientific Essay, 2005
23 Pages

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Table of Contents


A.1 The influence of Pan-Arabism on Palestinian nationalism
A.2 The development of the PLO between 1964 and 1968
A.3 The Palestinian National Covenant and its amendment (al-mithaq
al-qawmi al-filastini and al-mithaq al-watani al-filastini)
A.3.a The Palestinian [Pan-Arab] National Covenant (al-mithaq
al-qawmi al-filastini) of 1964
A.3.b The 1968 Palestinian National Charter (al-mithaq al-watani al-filastini)

B. The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas (harakat al-muqawama
B.1 History of the Hamas
B.2 The Hamas Charter of August 1988 (mithaq harakat al muqawama al-Islamiyya)




Palestinian struggle stood on different ideological platforms. After 1948, it was an articulation of Pan-Arabism. Following the 1967 war, it has been represented by a nationalist territorial vision under the banner of revolutionary struggle. In the late 1980s, the Palestinian Hamas presented an Islamist territorial platform that was antagonistically opposed to secularism. The conceptual and political antagonism between the PLO and the Hamas is so deep that they battle each other at times. A contemporary example is the power game over the control of the Gaza Strip after Israel's withdrawal in 2005. Through the scope of three documents, this paper examines the visions of Palestinian struggle and explores how and why different expressions developed from each other. It concludes with a brief assessment of the driving forces behind them. The documents are the PLO Charter of 1964, and its amendment of 1968. The third is the Hamas Charter of 1988.

The historian Fouad Ajami remarked in a textual analysis that 'texts are not as important as those who use textual analysis would like to believe'.[1] This leads to the conclusion that it is important to do justice to the context. The real dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often tore down maximalist statements. For example, the acceptance of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 by the PLO in 1988 led to political negotiations with Israel, although the 1968 Covenant remained formally unchanged. And lately, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon is ready to accept the participation of the Hamas in national Palestinian elections if it drops its charter and disarms, which is unlikely.[2] Thus, before we start it has to be mentioned that these texts should be regarded with a certain distance. The reason is (and here I found it useful to employ a phrase of Mishal and Sela) that in Israeli-Palestinian politics it is characteristic to "maneuver within the prose of political reality while never ceasing to recite the poetry ofideology".[3]

A.1 The influence of Pan-Arabism and Palestinian nationalism

Palestinian nationalism after 1948 reflected the dominant Pan-Arab ideology. Most post colonial Arab states — in fact all that bordered Israel and Palestine- by the 1940s and 1950s had achieved independence, such as Egypt (1922), Jordan (1946), Iraq (1932), Syria (1946), and Lebanon (1946). They could, at least vocally, embrace the concept of Pan-Arab nationalism (qawmiya) within the political body that is called the Arab state system.[4] In 1941 the Damascene writer and co-founder of the BaIth party, Michel `Aflaq coined the trinitarian slogan of the Arab revolution as "unity, freedom and socialism", which soon became synonymous with the ideology of Pan-Arabism[5].

The emotive concept of Pan-Arabism is Arab unity (wanda carablya). Initially, this was a Hashemite expression to disclaim the separation of Arab lands under mandate control into different national entities. Later, with the 'Greater Syria' Project of 1941 and the Fertile Crescent Plan of 1943 the Hashemite rulers again reclaimed the leadership of all Arabs.[6] But in April 1947, it became the fundamental principle of Arab BaIth nationalism as laid down in the Syrian BaIth party's constitution, saying "[the] Arab fatherland constitutes an indivisible political and economic unity".[7]

Close to the BaIth terminology, Nasir's use of the term reflected the aspiration to mend the geographical and ideological separation of Arab lands, which had effectively taken place. It served as ideological expression to counter state based nationalism (wataniya, qatariya) in favor of Pan-Arab nationalism (qawmiya) and the Arab Nation (al-Umma al-cArablya).[8] Thus, Arab unity became the main principle of pan-Arabism in the second half of the 20th century. This tremendously influenced the two Palestinian Charters of 1964 and 1968, which could not evade the ideological main trend that was:

"primarily a feeling and an ideal, marked by highly vocal protest against abstract or real enemies to progress and a better future (usually defined in the triangle the West, Israel, and Arab 'reaction')...a desire to institute and develop as close cooperation as possible among all the Arab states [and also serve as] ... an ideological anchor in the process of state formation."[9]

The major difference was that for the Palestinians Israel did not present an abstract enemy. Yet, the Palestinian political vision was formulated within two main political concepts, namely, the qawmiyya and the wataniyya trends. The influential Syrian ideologue Sdtic al-Husr( illustrates qawmiyya like a tree from which the different branches of patriotism and state based nationalism (wataniyya) grow.[10] After 1967, when the political orientation in the Middle East became more territorial, the outlook on Pan-Arabism reversed. In the language of Yeshofat Harakabi, this change was best expressed with the metaphor that "the wall of Arab unity as political expression of the qawmiya can only be built after the bricks of wataniya have been burnt."[11]

A.2 The development of the PLO between 1964 and 1968

For at least a decade after 1948 an organizational vacuum remained in Palestinian politics.[12] Hajj Amin al-Husayni, the leader of the Palestinian National Council, marked the beginning of this period with the practically meaningless Declaration of Independence in October 1948, which reflected the catastrophic degrade of Palestinian political organization.[13]

Yet, in the 1960s another generation of educated, primarily middle-class Palestinians from the Gurba (the Pal. Diaspora) formed new political organizations. Most notably, these were the Palestinian National Liberation Movement Fateh (Harakat at-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filastini), and the Arab Nationalists Movement ANM (Harakat al-Qawmiyin al-`Arab). The guerilla organization Fateh was founded between 1959 and 1962 in Cairo and Kuwait by leaders of the Palestine Students Union, of whom many had a Muslim Brotherhood background.[14] Most influential among the Fateh founders were Saldh Khalaf (Abu Iyad), Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihdd), and Yasser `Arafat (Abu `Ammar). At about the same time a group of students in Beirut led by George Habash founded the ANM, which after the 1967 war established the guerilla group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and its breakaway faction, the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP).

In the 1960s Guerilla groups prospered as a result of the Arab Cold War, which was the leftist radicalization in the Arab world after 1958.[15] In an attempt to outbid Nasir from the left, Syria supported Fateh in its early stages. Nasir, in turn, had no interest in independent Palestinian political activity. Moreover, the growing conflict with Israel tipped his opinion in favor of a Palestinian organization under his control. He allowed Atimad al-Shuqayri, an experienced Palestinian diplomat, to form the Palestine Liberation Organization PLO (munazzamat al-tahrir al-filastiniya). With Nasir's help, Shuqayri became the representative of Palestine in the League of Arab States in 1963. When he approached Nasir in early 1964 with 'a blueprint for a Palestinian Organization with a national charter, internal statutes, and guidelines for political, military, and financial activity', the latter agreed.[16] A lawyer by profession and known for his aggressive self-assertion at the Arab summit conferences, Shuqayri remembered later:

First, I described the nature of Palestinian society itself. I applied the same rules as the engineer, who draws a construction plan for a building, with all its anchorages, details and measurements. I wrote, changed, deleted, and changed the order of the articles, until I had formulated the 'National Covenant' (al-mithaq al-qawml) and the Constitution (al-niZ)m al-asasi). I contributed all my experiences, which I had gathered in the Palestine question on Arab as well on international level, and tied to it the judgment of the circumstances under which the Palestinian people lived. More than one time, I spent two or three nights over a single word or a formulation, because I saw generations of Palestinians in front of me, who would read more between the lines than the lines themselves stated.[17]

The National Charter became the first basic manifesto of Palestinian nationalism. With Nasir's approval and under the close surveillance of Jordanian intelligence services, an assembly convened in East Jerusalem on 28 May 1964. The assembly of 422 Palestinian delegates proclaimed the foundation of the PLO, agreed on its (Pan-Arab) national charter (al-mithaq al-watani al-qawmi) and established the Palestine National Council PNC (al-majlis al-watani al-filastini) as legislative organ of the PLO. Most delegates belonged to the Palestinian upper class of either traditional established families or well earning professionals and represented the Palestinian conservative political spectrum. None of the 15-20 Fateh delegates was elected into the PNC. The PLO, with Shuqayri as first chairman of the PNC, was formally recognized at the second Arab summit in September 1964.

The conflict between the PLO founders and the Palestinian guerilla groups was ideological, and manifest in the composition of the PNC as well as in the National Charter. The PNC was conservative, leaned close to Nasir and the charter a pan-Arab document. In contrast, the ANM and Fateh advocated state based nationalism and wanted to build up Palestinian leftist guerilla organizations on a peasant-worker background. They closely oriented themselves at the examples of the Vietnamese, Chinese, Cuban and other leftist-revolutionary movements. However, they recognized that the PLO gave Palestinian nationalism an umbrella and enjoyed Arab legitimacy.


[1] Fouad Ajami, "In the Pharao 's Shadow: Religion and Authority in Egypt", in: James P. Piscatori (ed.), Islam in the Political Process (Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1983), p.13.

[2] Haaretz (engl. ed.), 8 Sept 2005, p.1.; 19 Sept 2005, p.1.

[3] See Shaul Mishal and Avraham Sela, The Palestinian Hamas: Vision, Violence, and Coexistence (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 12.

[4] The Arab state system is the political body of post colonial and independent Arab states whose territorial borders were drawn by the British and French mandate powers after the First World War. It formally came into existence with the wave of independence that splashed the Arab world between the 1940s and 1950s and the foundation of the Arab League in Cairo in March 1945. Then, it crystallized until 1954, when Jamal Abd al-Nasir came to power in Egypt. Maddy Weitzman, who deserves to be quoted at length, observed:

During these years, Arab leaders faced a test of one of the central principles of Arab nationalist ideology, the imperative of unifying into a single entity those areas populated by speakers of Arabic...The outcome was the crystallization of a state system, the resilience of which helped to inhibit the subsequent attempts of Jamal 'Abd al-Nasir and other practitioners of radical pan-Arabism to rearrange fundamentally the regional border. (See Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, the Crystallization of the Arab State System, 1945-1954 (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1993), p.3.)

[5] Youssef M. Choueiri, Arab Nationalism: A History (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000), p.159.

[6] Ibid, pp. 110-11. Also, the Hashemites hoped to establish with British help a federative kingdom of Arabia that consisted of the Hedjaz, historic Syria (and the subsequently established Mandate areas of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Transjordan), and Iraq with Hussein as Caliph and his sons Abdallah and Faysal as deputies.

[7] John F. Devlin, "The Baath Party: Rise and Metamorphosis", in: The American Historical Review, Vol.96, No.5 (Dec., 1991), pp.1396-1407.

[8] Alon observes that the term qawm is not restricted to particular groups, but rather means a group in general. In classical Arabic dictionaries the term qawm sometimes indicates proximity. This means the term may be used with a positive attitude: "When one says 'he is [one] of my qawm ', he means 'of my

group of men (rigäli) in whom I take pride'. See Ilai Alon, "'Redding' and 'Blueing' at Siff(n: a Lexical Note", in: Israel Oriental Studies XIV, 1994, pp. 350-1.

[9] Avraham Sela, Encyclopedia of the Middle East, 697-98.

[10] Sag al-TuOr(, al-cUrüba Awwalan (Arabism First) (Beirut: Där al-cilm lib-.mallay(n, 1961), p.13. Husri distinguished two kinds of homelands: The big Arab homeland (al-watan al-cam) of the Arab Nation, which consists of peoples (shuIäb), and includes the national homelands of these peoples. The relationship of the single Arab to his specific homeland (al-watan al-khas) and his people (sha'ab) is watan(ya (patriotism). In contrast, the relationship of a people and a single Arab to the totality of the larger Arab homeland and Nation is called qawmiya. This qawmiya is comparable to a tree from which the local patriotisms grow — however, it remains the same tree, which is a metaphor for the Arab Nation and Pan-Arabism. While `Abd al-N4ir argued for a quick realization of Arab unity through qawmiya in order to prevent the growth of the local patriotisms of each single Arab state, a second trend developed (especially after 1967) that each single Arab will experience his tie to Pan-Arabism through the relationship to his own state (watan(ya).

[11] Yeshofat Harkabi, Das Palästinensische Manifest und seine Bedeutung (Stuttgart: Seewald Verlag, 1980), p.43. (Germ.transl.) Harkabi was the former intelligence-head of the Israeli Defense Forces.

[12] James A. Bill and Robert Springborg, Politics in the Middle East (fourth ed.) (New York: Harper Collins, 1994), p.347.

[13] See Mahdi Abdul Hadi (ed.), Documents on Palestine (Vol.1) (Jerusalem: PASSIA, 1997, pp.189-191; and Philip Matar, The Mufti of Jerusalem (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), pp.108-134.

[14] Yezid Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement 1949-1993 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp.85-6; 103-4; see also Helena Cobban, The Palestinian Liberation Organization (Cambrigde: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp. 21-4.

[15] Bill and Springborg, 347.

[16] Sayigh, 97.

[17] Ahmad Shuqayri, From the Summit to Defeat, with the Kings and Presidents (Beirut: Där al-cAwda, 1971), p..60-1, cited in Yehoshafat Harkabi, Das Palästinensische Manifest und seine Bedeutung (Stuttgart: Seewald Verlag, 1980), p. 10. (free translation from German to English)

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The PLO Charters of 1964 and 1968 and the Hamas Charter of 1988
A Comparative Study
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Philipp Holtmann (Author), 2005, The PLO Charters of 1964 and 1968 and the Hamas Charter of 1988, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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