The Palestine Liberation Organization is undoubtedly one of the best known terrorist organizations in the world. Accordingly, the organization is led by perhaps the best known individual in the modern history of international terrorism; Yassir Arafat. The PLO was created in 1964 during a meeting known as the Palestinian Congress in an effort to give a voice to the large number of Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon. It was not long before the group began to splinter into various factions, all of whom believed they knew the best way to achieve Palestinian liberation. Most notable of these groups were the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, and al-Fatah. Each of these factions remained more-or-less under the umbrella of the PLO and never strayed too far from the fold.
By 1967 the PLO had decided that their primary goal was the destruction of the state of Israel. For the next ten years, this goal was the primary focus of the massive terrorist campaign by which their reputation was formed. This war cost untold hundreds of casualties on both sides with very little to show in return. Therefore, in 1974 the PLO made a conscious decision to alter its focus from the purely terrorist to one that would include political elements, necessary for any meaningful dialogue. This created more unhappiness amongst some followers who felt that the PLO, while striking blows, was not truly finding its mark. This led to the creation of yet another splinter group called the Rejectionist Front. It was at this time that Yassir Arafat and his group al-Fatah took over the leadership role.
Who is The PLO? History & Origins
Who is the PLO? Terror State
Things began to change quickly such as the all-important recognition of the PLO by the United Nations and by the Arab peoples at the Rabat Conference. Arafat deftly manipulated the organization from one perceived by the (Western) public as barbaric into one slowly being considered a movement with legitimate claims. Israel, perhaps sensing the growing sympathy, redoubled its efforts to eliminate the Palestinian threat. In 1982, the Israeli army swept into Beirut, Lebanon and forced the PLO to flee from its bastion. In a decision that radical Palestinians resented, Arafat agreed to come to the bargaining table to discuss peace with Israeli leaders. Little came of these talks, and soon after dissension within the ranks of the PLO became more pronounced and some of the moderate leaders were assassinated.
Perhaps in an attempt to reconcile with these dissenters, Yassir Arafat decided to provide support for the hijacking of a major cruise ship. The ship that was select was the Achille Lauro and what would happen next would do more damage to the reputation of the PLO than anything that had happened previously. Together with operatives from the PLF, terrorists seized the vessel and took the entire ship hostage. In a cowardly and reprehensible act, members of the team shot to death a wheelchair-bound Jewish passenger named Leon Klinghoffer, then dumped his body overboard. World response was swift, condemning, and slow to recover.
By 1988, Arafat had taken the diplomatic road one step further when he not only announced the right of the state of Israel to exist but renounced PLO terrorism. The perceived commitment to these ideals caused Israel to finally agree to serious talks with the PLO. The result of these discussions was that today the Palestinian people live under partial self-rule and seem on the way to obtaining the homeland they have yearned for years. In recent years, Palestinian youths have become disillusioned by what they perceive as the plodding nature of the PLO in regard to its pursuit of an independent Palestinian nation. Many of these followers have joined the either HAMAS or Hizballah. On September 9, 1993, in letters to Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and Norwegian Foreign Minister Holst, PLO Chairman Arafat committed the PLO to cease all violence and terrorism.
On September 13, 1993, the Declaration of Principles between the Israelis and Palestinians was signed in Washington, DC. Between September 9 and December 31, the PLO factions loyal to Arafat complied with this commitment except for one, perhaps two, instances in which the responsible individuals apparently acted independently. Two groups under the PLO umbrella, thePopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine-Hawatmeh faction (DFLP-H), suspended their participation in the PLO in protest of the agreement and continued their campaign of violence. Today, Yassir Arafat and the PLO participate in a tentative peace with the Israeli government in an effort to stabilize tensions and establish a mutually acceptable resolution to the decades-old conflict.
*Note that its emblem, like that of other Palestinian terrorist groups, displays a map of all of the State of Israel — not just those areas administered by Israel since 1967.
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