The New Leader of the PFLP Speaks

(May 10, 2000)


[Ed. Mustafa was assassinated by Israel on August 27, 2001, and replaced by Ahmed Sadat.]

An interview with the new leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP], Abu Ali Mustafa.

Abu Ali Mustafa, deputy to long-time PFLP leader George Habash, was allowed entry by Israel to PA territories seven months ago after meeting with Yasser Arafat in Cairo. Recently, Habash retired after 32 years as head of the PFLP and Mustafa has become the certain candidate for his replacement. The PFLP is one of several Damascus-based PLO organizations that rejected Oslo.

Al-Jazeera, the Qatari satellite TV channel known as the Arabic CNN, interviewed Mustafa (1) on his future political line, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the armed struggle. Following are excerpts from the interview:

Armed Struggle Still Holds

Q: ...[Up to the last moment] George Habash kept declaring that the armed struggle must be escalated, because the only solution to the Palestinian problem is the destruction of Israel. ...Is this Habash's personal position or does it reflect the policy of the PFLP?

Mustafa: ...Habash expressed the positions of the PFLP. …The political platform of the PFLP speaks in the clearest way about the strategic goal of the Palestinian people's struggle and about the use of all means, including armed violence…

Q: Meaning that today the PFLP still believes in the armed struggle...

Mustafa: This is one-hundred percent true. We believe the conflict and the struggle against Israel is a strategic [principle] that is not subordinated to any consideration. Even if there are circumstances of talks about peace and a settlement we see them as neither peace nor a settlement. We believe the Palestinian people, both in the Diaspora and [in the territories] under occupation, have the right to struggle using all means, including the armed struggle, because we think the conflict is the constant [factor] while the means and tactics are the variables....

Q: You entered the 'inside' [i.e. PA territories] with the authorization of Israel and the PA, and you lived there under their auspices. Does this mean you believe in the Oslo Accord, while the PFLP ideology rejects it completely?

Mustafa: Not at all. I have expressed [my position] in my speeches ever since I got to the bridge [at the Jordanian-Israeli border] and until now. ...If everybody [living] 'inside' is accused of supporting Oslo, it would mean that four million Palestinians support Oslo. This is not the truth. A large part of the Palestinian people reject Oslo...

Q: But you entered under the auspices of Oslo...

Mustafa: No. I did not...

Q: Under what auspices did you enter, then? Israel was the one that authorized your entrance. ...Why did you enter, when there are three and a half million Palestinians who do not have the Right of Return?

Mustafa: Because there was a unanimous decision [in the PLO] regarding the entry of 450 members of the PNC, and they entered, while [only] a few remained outside. ...I entered as a member of the PNC. …[Besides,] our policy which preceeded Oslo stated that it is the right of any Palestinian who happens to have the chance to enter the Homeland to do so, because one of the aspects of our struggle with the Zionist enemy is physical existence [on our land].

The PLO Supersedes the PA

Q: You declare that you reject Oslo, but you cooperate with those who signed this accord...

Mustafa: There is no cooperation. [Any cooperation] is with the PLO, not the PA.

Q: Sir, the PLO does not exist anymore…

Mustafa: The PLO does exist...

Q: Where is it?

Mustafa: The US and Israel wish to destroy the PLO. We want the PLO to continue to exist. …Those who wish to destroy the PLO are committed either to Oslo or to the American-Israeli policy...

Q: ...[Naif Hawatmeh] The Secretary General of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine [DFLP, another member PLO organization based in Damascus that rejects Oslo] declared that he still believed in the armed struggle, and the following day Israel withdrew the Right of Return it had granted him...

Mustafa: I am not responsible for Naif Hawatmeh...

Q: The PA negotiates on behalf of the Palestinian people and says it was elected by it, while you [i.e. the PLO] do not exist at all. You were assembled in Palestine [just] in order to change the Palestinian Covenant and ratify what Israel wanted...

Mustafa: We did not agree to the amendment of the Covenant. Our positions on this issue are well known and we boycotted the session of the Covenant amendment. We still declare through our [political] platform that we adhere to the Covenant. We denounce the crime of erasing the Covenant. Do not blame us for things we are innocent of. We in the PFLP believe that the PLO, although its institutions are paralyzed, can serve as the instrument for the political unification of the Palestinian people. Therefore, we distinguish between the PA, which continues the Oslo accords, and the PLO, which is an all-Palestinian national achievement...

Q: According to the Israeli terms, you are considered someone who incites to terrorism right now as we speak because you state that the axioms of the PFLP did not change and you call for armed struggle against Israel [Mustafa: true] and that you did not give up any of your demands...

Mustafa: And I am not the only one saying this, there are many who…

Q: But you were allowed to enter 'inside'... while when Naif Hawatmeh...

Mustafa: Maybe Naif Hawatmeh is a greater national loyalist than I am. What is the point in comparing me with Naif Hawatmeh?

The PFLP Rejects Oslo

Q: The PLFP and the DFLP are competing over making concessions regarding the Oslo process and having connections with the PA...

Mustafa: What concessions? ...We did not change anything in our political line. On the contrary, we came to the dialogue [with the PA in Cairo in 1999] in order to return to the national common denominators that suffered a blow from the Oslo Accord ...Who can claim the Oslo Accord does not exist?

Q: Israel exists, why don't you recognize Israel?

Mustafa: We said the Oslo accord exists but we reject it, and Israel also exists but is rejected by us. Are we fighting windmills? No, we fight an entity. But as far as we are concerned, this entity [Israel] is rejected.

Q: What is your connection to the PA in light of the fact that you reject the Oslo Accords, that created the PA to begin with?

Mustafa: The way you present your questions proves you have a personal problem with me...

Q: I do not present my questions to the person Abu Ali Mustafa but rather to the candidate to head the PFLP...

Mustafa: Okay, okay. I represent the policy of the PFLP. ... We were not convinced by the peace and the settlement with Israel. We believe that the conflict with Israel is open. This is an existential conflict. ...But, if we [must have] a defensive stage and we need to preserve our existence, until this stage is over, then this tactic is acceptable to us, but it does not change our strategic perspective.

Q: Is there a truce between you and Israel?

Mustafa: No, we do not make deals or truces with Israel.

Q: So you are in a stage of reexamination but the struggle will resume in the future?

Mustafa: ...We believe the conflict is open and legitimate and that it is the right of the Palestinian people...

Q: As long as Israel exists?

Mustafa: Of course.

Q: Even if a Palestinian State is established?

Mustafa: Yes, as long as the Palestinian People do not enjoy their basic rights. ...Basically, we are discussing the Right of Return. ...Do you think the settlement will bring the Right of Return for four million Palestinians? No way.

Palestinian State just a Stage, Peace merely Tactics

Q: And what if it does, will you accept [the peace settlement]?

Mustafa: If it does? Well, that turns the entire equation up side down...

Q: But if it does, will you accept it, despite the fact that Israel will still exist on most of the territory of Palestine?

Mustafa: Do you really believe this will happen? What do you mean? The return of the refugees? If it happens it will change the existence of Israel.

Q: I want to ask you about your perception of Palestine?

Mustafa: I perceive Palestine as the historic Palestine documented in all the UN and British Mandate records. In other words, Palestine from the river to the sea.

Q: Meaning, no Israel...

Mustafa: No, in my opinion Israel is a plundering and aggressive entity on Palestinian land. I want to demonstrate to you how Israel perceives its strategic plan. [taking a piece of paper from his pocket] This is taken from what Ben Gurion said to Radio Paris in 1947: 'the Jewish State that we want now is not our final goal. This is not the final station for the Zionist goals. It is the means that enables us [to achieve] the goal.' We reply to Ben Gurion in the same language: We do not view the Palestinian State that may be established now, and that we are told will have the June 4 borders, as the final goal of the Palestinian People. This is a more forward point on our way to accomplish the strategic goal of the Palestinian people: the Palestinian and Arab unified democratic state on which we were brought up…

Endnotes:

(1) Al-Jazeera (Qatar), May 10, 2000.


Source: The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization providing translations of the Arab media and original analysis and research on developments in the Middle East.