Sanctuary and Survival:
The PLO in Lebanon
Boulder: Westview Press, 1990
by Rex Brynen
The PLO in Lebanon since the 1982 War
In his August 1982 farewell message to Beirut, Yasir 'Arafat had portrayed the PLO's departure as a political victory snatched from the jaws of military defeat, a "legend of steadfastness" that "sowed the seeds of great change for our peoples and our nation."1 Virtually alone, with scant but verbal support from the rest of the Arab world, the PLO and its Lebanese allies had resisted the might of the IDF for more than two months, and had in the end withdrawn from Beirut with its arms and its military presence in the Biqa' and north Lebanon intact. Yet for all its bravado, there could be little doubt that the PLO's evacuation from Beirut constituted a turning point for the Palestinian movement and its presence in Lebanon.
As a result of the 1982 war, the PLO had all but lost its once virtually autonomous territorial base in Lebanon. The south was now under Israeli occupation; in the Biqa' and the north the PLO existed under Syria's military sway. PLO personnel once in Beirut were scattered throughout the Middle East, having been evacuated to Algeria, Tunisia, the Sudan, North and South Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria.2 Because of this, the control of the PLO central establishment over its cadres and fighters was further weakened.
The PLO's loss of its Lebanese sanctuary, coupled with its material losses, aggravated its existing vulnerabilities to regional pressures. It did so at a time when political demands upon the PLO were building. On 1 September 1982, US President Ronald Reagan had announced a new peace initiative for the region. Despite some departures from past US policy, the proposal explicitly ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state and seemed intended to capitalize on the PLO's weakness by positing a negotiating process centered on Jordan. Meeting shortly thereafter in Fez, Arab leaders and the PLO endorsed a peace plan of their own. The Fez Plan (based on the earlier Fahd initiative of 1981) called for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories and security guarantees for "all states in the region"-an implicit reference to Israel.3
Yet the Arab consensus forged at Fez could not hide renewed regional conflict spurred by events in Lebanon. As Ariel Sharon had forecast, the weakening of the PLO in Lebanon signaled the start of intense inter-Arab competition to exert influence or hegemony over the weakened Palestinian movement. On one side, Jordan sought to woo the PLO into support of a US-sponsored settlement negotiated through Jordanian auspices. In October 1982 the PLO opened a formal dialogue with Jordan on the issue. Discussions would stretch into April 1983, when they were broken off for lack of progress. On the other, Syria was anxious to amplify its own influence over the Palestinians, both as an instrument of its policy in Lebanon and for the purposes of political leverage in the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. It opposed those Palestinian initiatives (such as the dialogue with Amman) which indicated Palestinian independence on issues of crucial importance to Syrian interests. Consequently, Syrian pressure on the PLO grew. With it the conflict between Damascus and Fateh, which had begun during the civil war and reemerged in the early 1980s, intensified.
Finally, within Lebanon itself the PLO faced a domestic political environment transformed by the Israeli invasion and its aftermath. The Maronite right seemed in the ascendant, its position in Lebanon now backed directly by Israeli military power. Indeed, even as the PLO withdrew from Beirut, Bashir al-Jumayyil was elected Sarkis' successor as President by a Lebanese parliament convened under Israeli control. In the Shuf, the new-found power of the Lebanese Forces would soon be evident in an aggressive military campaign against Druze areas. Despite this, Walid Junblat had survived the war with his leadership of the Druze intact, and the PSP had equally preserved much of its military capability. Among the Shi'a the aftermath of the war (and the removal of the PLO from Beirut and the south) confirmed the emergence of Amal as a major Lebanese political actor. It also marked the emergence of fundamentalist rivals to Amal, most notably the Iranian-backed Hizb allah. In contrast, the Sunni community had been greatly weakened by the Israeli invasion. The Nasirite Murabitun and other predominantly Sunni militia groups suffered from the withdrawal of their Palestinian allies and suppression by Israel. The already weakened Sunni zu'ama' and traditional religious leadership, lacking military resources, could exert only limited influence within post-war Lebanese politics. In some cases-most notably the Tripoli-based Islamic Unification Movement of Sa'id Sha'ban-the resulting gap was filled by new religious-political groupings.4
The Struggle for Survival
Such pressures provided the political backdrop to the post-1982 situation in Lebanon. More immediate, however, was the physical predicament of the Palestinian community in Lebanon in the wake of the Beirut withdrawal. The war itself had wrought massive destruction. Some 19,000 Lebanese and Palestinians (more than half of them civilians) had died in the invasion, and a further 30,000 had been wounded.5 In addition to the PLO's military losses (about 1-2,000 dead, 2-4,000 held in Israeli detention camps), much of the institutional infrastructure that the PLO had constructed in Lebanon-hospitals, social services, mass organizations, offices and administration-had been uprooted or destroyed.6 Of the 300,000 Palestinians in Beirut and the south, many were once more refugees, their camps having been heavily damaged during the invasion. With the destruction of the PLO's social and military infrastructure they were now bereft of support and protection, surrounded by Israeli troops and hostile Lebanese militias. While their PLO fought to safeguard its political existence, Palestinians in Lebanon found themselves facing a parallel and even more desperate struggle for survival.
Sabra, Shatila, and the South
Cognizant of the dangers, the protection of Palestinian civilians left behind in Beirut had been among the central points of the agreement under which the PLO had evacuated the city. The withdrawal agreement provided not only for the deployment of a Multi-National Force (MNF) of US, French and Italian troops in Beirut, but also bilateral guarantees to the PLO from both the US and Lebanese governments, and an Israeli pledge not to enter West Beirut.7 Despite this, the US contingent of the MNF withdrew from Beirut ten days ahead of schedule on September 11, forcing the French and Italian contingents to do likewise. On September 15, Bashir al-Jumayyil was assassinated by a bomb at an East Beirut Phalange headquarters. September 16 the IDF entered West Beirut. The next day Lebanese Forces militiamen, thirsting for revenge in the wake of their commander's death, agreed to an IDF request to enter Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in search of Palestinian "terrorists." In fact, there were no guerrillas in the camps, only small numbers of local residents with militia training.
What followed was more than two days of slaughter as over one thousand Palestinian men, women and children were killed and their bodies bulldozed into mass graves. As news of the massacres reached the outside world, the IDF ordered its allies out of the camps. The PLO charged that the killings were deliberate, aimed at uprooting and dispersing Lebanon's Palestinian population.The Israeli government denied this, condemning the killings and disclaiming any direct responsibility for them.8 The MNF belatedly returned to Beirut.
Whatever the degree of direct responsibility Israeli decision-makers bore for the deaths at Sabra and Shatila, there could be little doubt that the massacre comprised only the most tragic part of an emerging pattern of intimidation against Palestinians in Lebanon. For Israel, dispersal of Palestinian population centers seemed a way of weakening the PLO's base in Lebanon and preventing a resurgence of the Palestinian armed presence, especially in the south. For the Lebanese Forces, post-war Lebanon provided a golden opportunity to settle old political scores, and to generate through terror an exodus that would rid Lebanon of its Palestinian problem once and for all. Even before the Beirut evacuation, the issue had been raised in discussions between Israeli leaders and Bashir al-Jumayyil. Menachem Begin had spoken of the need for population "transfer" as early as June 10, and had later issued directives to prevent the reconstruction of devastated refugee camps in Sidon and Tyre. Other government spokesmen had announced Israel's opposition to any rebuilding of Palestinian camps within 40-45km of the border, requesting the Lebanese government relocate Palestinians further north. In his last meeting with Begin and Ariel Sharon, Bashir al-Jumayyil had been told that the PLO must be driven from Tripoli and Palestinian population concentrations broken up. The Lebanese president-elect needed no such encouragement; already Lebanese Forces militias had attacked camps around Israeli-controlled Sidon, warning their populations to leave at once.9
Similar violence and threats continued through the latter half of 1982 and into the new year. In the south, mass arrests by the IDF were accompanied by a spate of disappearances and murders conducted by local Phalangists and Haddad militiamen. In Beirut, the government of Amin al-Jumayyil (elected president in his brother's place September 21) ordered the full reassertion of Lebanese law over the Palestinians, a process that included the bulldozing of "illegal" structures in the camps and the rounding up by the Lebanese Army of hundreds of Palestinians lacking official documentation. Palestinians abroad with Lebanese refugee travel documents were refused renewals unless they pledged not to return to Lebanon. In Beirut, the Lebanese government announced that only those Palestinians who sought refuge in 1948 would be allowed to remain.10
The May 17th Accords and an Israeli Withdrawa
Further complicating the position of the PLO and Palestinians in Lebanon was the issue of Israeli occupation. Formal Lebanese-Israeli negotiations on the question of an Israeli withdrawal were begun on 28 December 1982 under US sponsorship. As the talks approached, President al-Jumayyil announced his intention to secure the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon, a category that included not only the IDF but also PLO and Syrian forces in the Biqa' and north Lebanon.
In response, and in the belief that the withdrawal negotiations would provide it somewhat greater leverage with Beirut, Fateh and the PLO attempted to initiate a new dialogue with the Lebanese government. Yet despite a meeting between Amin al-Jumayyil and Yasir 'Arafat on the sidelines of the March 1983 Non-aligned Summit Conference at New Delhi, there was little that such a strategy of communication could achieve. The Lebanese government was unreceptive to the PLO's requests for a new formal PLO-Lebanese accord; Lebanese Foreign Minister Fu'ad Butrus had already characterized the idea of such agreements (including the Cairo Agreement) as "gone forever." In part this reluctance stemmed from Israeli pressure. But it also reflected widespread public opposition to a return of the Palestinian armed presence, and not merely among the president's Phalangist supporters.11
As a result, the PLO's official status in Lebanon remained precarious. Only a single PLO political office (headed by longtime PLO representative to Lebanon Shafiq al-Hut) had remained in Beirut after the evacuation, together with the PLO Research Center. The first of these was occupied by Israeli, then Lebanese, troops. The Lebanese government refused all Palestinian entreaties to clarify its status. The latter was devastated by a car-bomb on February 3 which left twenty persons dead. It was then effectively closed by the Lebanese Army, and forced to move to Nicosia, Cyprus in late 1983.12
On 17 May 1983-despite the non-involvement of both Syria and the PLO in the process, and the consequent failure of the Lebanese government to secure pledges of future cooperation from either-Lebanon and Israel signed a formal agreement providing for peaceful relations and an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, contingent on Syrian and PLO withdrawals and the implementation of extensive Israeli security arrangements in the south. Article 4 of the May 17th Agreement further provided that Lebanon "will not be used as a base for hostile or terrorist activity." The Lebanese government pledged to prevent "the existence or organization of irregular forces, armed bands, organizations, bases, offices, or infrastructure" hostile to Israel. To this end, the agreement continued, "all agreements and arrangements enabling the presence and functioning on the territory of either Party of elements hostile to the other Party are null and void."13
Syria rapidly and vehemently condemned the May 17th Agreement. Within Lebanon, Sulayman Franjiyya, Rashid Karami, Walid Junblat, the LCP, (pro-Syrian) Ba'th, and SSNP also voiced their collective opposition to the accord, as did Amal. With the formation of the "Lebanese National Salvation Front" by Franjiyya, Karami and Junblat on July 23, opposition to the May 17th Agreement would become a centerpiece of Lebanese political conflict (and Syrian foreign policy) for much of the next year.14
The PLO also announced its rejection of the accord, scarcely surprising given the May 17th Agreement's direct assault upon its status in Lebanon. Although PLO leaders did sometimes hold open the possibility of withdrawing entirely from Lebanon, such offers were never very credible.15 The PLO was unlikely to voluntarily withdraw from its last Lebanese foothold at a time when every other confrontation state remained effectively closed to it. Moreover, the decision now really rested with Syria, which controlled all areas of Lebanon within which Palestinian forces remained.
As with the PLO's position on south Lebanon in 1976-78, apparent equivocation was intended for diplomatic and public relations purposes, and in the expectation that events on the ground would eventually render the question of a Palestinian withdrawal obsolete. PLO opposition to the agreement, moreover, offered a possible means of smoothing deeply troubled relations with Syria and its erstwhile Lebanese allies-that, in the words of the PLO Central Council, "this resistance reinforces the unity of the Lebanese-Palestinian struggle against the common enemy."16 Some Palestinian units subsequently participated alongside the PSP in fighting against the Lebanese Forces and Lebanese Army in the Shuf following an Israeli withdrawal from the area in early September. In the south the PLO claimed responsibility for scores of attacks against the IDF.
Yet even these actions betrayed the PLO's weaknesses in Lebanon. In the Shuf the PSP eventually evicted many Palestinian units.17 In the south, despite rapidly deteriorating relations between Amal and the IDF, the former remained bitterly opposed to any renewed Palestinian armed presence. Palestinian units in the Biqa' generally found themselves restricted by Syria. Although Damascus supported guerrilla operations against the IDF, it had no desire to reopen direct confrontation with Israel by allowing the PLO to engage in open military action. Although Palestinians were very active in resistance to Israeli occupation, the tendency of the PLO and Fateh to make inflated public claims about the scope of their actions in the south only served to further alienate Lebanese opinion.18
In the end, Syria and its Lebanese allies would be successful in defeating the May 17th Agreement. On 5 March 1984-less than a month after Amal and PSP forces seized control of West Beirut from the Lebanese Army, and the US Marines of the MNF had withdrawn offshore-President al-Jumayyil formally abrogated the accord. In January of the following year Israel began a three-stage withdrawal of its forces in the face of mounting attacks against it in south Lebanon. By June 1985 the IDF retained a permanent presence only in a self-declared "security zone" along the frontier, alongside the proxy militias of the South Lebanese Army established by Sa'd Haddad and commanded since his death (in 1984) by former Lebanese army general Antoine Lahad.
The PLO played no real role in the abrogation of the May 17th Agreement, and a significant but secondary role in resistance to the IDF in the south. For even as it declared its opposition to the accords in May 1983, open rebellion had erupted within the ranks of Fateh-threatening to split the Palestinian movement asunder.
On May 9 an order issued by Fateh's Colonel Sa'id Musa Muragha (Abu Musa) called upon all Fateh units in the Biqa' to disregard future orders from the Fateh leadership. At first, the Fateh Central Committee belittled the disobedience; later, as it became apparent that the mutiny was gaining strength, it cut funds and logistical support to rebellious units. The rebels then seized Fateh supply depots in the Biqa' on May 25, and in Damascus on May 28. In late June, fighting erupted between loyalist and rebel units in the Biqa', with the latter taking control of the town of Majdal Anjar and hence the Beirut-Damascus highway from Shtura to the frontier.
The heterogeneity of the rebel movement reflected the wide spectrum of grievances that motivated its actions.19 Many were fundamentally dissatisfied with the evolution of Fateh and PLO policy since the mid-1970s, with its gradual shift from the goal of liberating all Palestine through armed struggle to the achievement of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories, and increasing adoption of diplomatic means to achieve that goal. There were a variety of specific complaints regarding corruption and incompetence within Fateh itself, and dissatisfaction with the removal of prominent Fateh radical Nimr Salih from his positions on the Fateh Central Committee and PNC earlier that year. Most immediately, the rebellion had been sparked by seventy-nine new military appointments recently made by 'Arafat. These included the appointment of Colonel Ghazi 'Atallah (Abu Hajim) as commander of Palestinian forces in the Biqa', and Colonel al-Hajj Isma'il in the north. In June 1982 both had fled their respective posts in the southern Biqa' and Sidon at the start of the Israeli invasion.
The eruption of open rebellion within Fateh, however, was connected to the PLO's changing status in Lebanon in a far more fundamental way. As a direct consequence of the Lebanese war, the PLO had been rendered acutely vulnerable both to regional pressures and to its own centrifugal tendencies. The resultant tensions surfaced within months of the evacuation. In January 1983, Abu Musa, supported by Nimr Salih and Samih Abu Kuwayk of the Fateh Central Committee, presented to a meeting of the Fateh Revolutionary Council in Aden a memorandum strongly critical of the political direction of the movement. It condemned the Fez Summit resolutions, the PLO-Jordanian dialogue, and PLO contact with both Egypt and with Israeli peace groups. It further condemned the continued dispersal of PLO forces and the failure to reconcentrate them in the Biqa' and the north, suggesting that the Fateh leadership was indeed prepared to withdraw Palestinian forces from Lebanon. Earlier that same month, the PFLP, DFLP, PFLP-GC, PSF and al-Sa'iqa had met in Libya, where they issued a joint statement that condemned the Fez and Reagan Plans, criticized the PLO-Jordanian joint approach, and called for closer relations with Syria.20
Recognizing the dangers, the 16th PNC (the first since Beirut, convened in Algiers in February 1983) had deliberately produced a broad political platform designed to minimize political differences and maximize national unity.21 But it had clearly been insufficient.
This internal challenge to the PLO leadership coincided with deteriorating relations with Damascus and an intensification of Syrian pressure on the PLO.22 In part, 'Arafat's post-Beirut diplomacy-his discussions with Jordan, a quiet and partial rapprochement with Egypt-were designed to offset such Syrian pressure. But they also served to confirm Syrian perceptions that the PLO leadership was dangerously independent. Syria encouraged oppositional elements within Fateh; 'Arafat had responded with the removal of Nimr Salih and his controversial military appointments, designed to assure that the military command structure of the al-'Asifa forces was dominated by trustworthy officers. It was for this reason too that he resisted the reconcentration of Fateh forces in Syria and Syrian-controlled Biqa', a position that his critics took as indicative of a willingness to withdraw from Lebanon and hence of a lack of commitment to armed struggle.
When the rebellion erupted, Syria and Libya tacitly, then openly, supported the rebels. When the Fateh leadership condemned this, Arafat himself was unceremoniously deported from Syria to Tunis on June 24. Pro-Syrian units of al-Sa'iqa, the PFLP-GC, PLA, and even Syrian Army units, backed Abu Musa's forces.
With the failure of Palestinian and Arab mediation efforts, loyal Fateh units were gradually forced out of their positions in the Biqa' northwards to the Nahr al-Barid and Baddawi refugee camps near Tripoli. In late September 'Arafat himself returned to Tripoli to face his opponents. In October, fighting erupted around the two refugee camps. On November 3, the rebels (backed by Syrian and some Libyan forces) launched a major offensive against 'Arafat, capturing Nahr al-Barid on November 6. After a brief lull in the fighting, a second offensive captured Baddawi on November 16. Loyalist forces retreated to Tripoli. Rebel forces bombarded their positions and threatened to storm the city.
The military pressures on 'Arafat were combined with intense Lebanese pressures to leave the city-from Rashid Karami and the LNSF, as well as from the Lebanese right. Only local Sunni fundamentalist leader Sa'id Sha'ban and his Islamic Unification Movement militia supported the PLO leader.23 At the same time, Arab pressures on Syria to halt the attacks were also building from states anxious to prevent the PLO from completely falling under Syrian sway. As a result, 'Arafat, Syria and the rebels agreed to a Saudi-mediated ceasefire agreement on November 25. Under its terms, 'Arafat would evacuate the city. It was not until December 20, however that the withdrawal took place. Some 4,000 'Arafat loyalists evacuated the city by sea to North Yemen, Algeria and Tunisia in Greek ships under the UN flag and with a naval escort provided by France.
With this second Palestinian departure from Lebanon, the PLO had essentially split into three competing factions. The Fateh rebels (known as Fateh-intifada ["uprising"] or Fateh-Provisional Command), together with al-Sa'iqa, PFLP-GC, PSF and other critics grouped themselves into the so-called "National Alliance" and called for 'Arafat's removal as PLO leader. At first their criticisms of PLO policy and organization had generated significant sympathy among segments of the Palestinian movement and population. Now whatever popular sympathy had existed at the outset for the rebels' critique quickly evaporated with their resort to force and Syria's obvious support for their challenge. In the occupied territories, for example, support for Abu Musa was all but nonexistent.24 As a result, these groups found themselves increasingly dependent on Damascus.
Moreover the bulk of Fateh, especially outside Lebanon, remained loyal to the PLO leader. Fateh's historic central leadership group remained united. The ALF supported 'Arafat too (largely because of Syria's support for the opposition) as did its Iraqi sponsor, Saudi Arabia, and other important Arab states.
Meanwhile the PFLP, DFLP, PLF and Palestine Communist Party found themselves in a difficult position. These groups (particularly the PFLP) agreed with many of the opposition's organizational and political criticisms. They remained headquartered in Damascus. Yet they also were quite fundamentally committed to the independence of Palestinian decision-making and to the institutional framework of the PLO. Despite often intense Syrian pressure to do otherwise, the "Democratic Alliance" upheld 'Arafat's leadership of the PLO and strongly condemned the rebels' use of violence, rejecting all attempts at "containment of the PLO or subjecting it to Arab tutelage, which would annul the independence of Palestinian national decision-making and obliterate the national rights of the Palestinian people."25
The split in the PLO grew even wider as a result of the diplomatic offensive launched by 'Arafat in the wake of the Tripoli evacuation. On December 22, 'Arafat met with Egyptian President Husni Mubarak in Cairo, the first such meeting with an Egyptian leader since Camp David. The move, designed to reward Egyptian support of 'Arafat in Tripoli and counterweigh Syrian pressure, brought a storm of protest not only by the National Alliance, but also by the Democratic Alliance and even some within Fateh.26 In February 1984 the PLO reopened discussions with Jordan on a joint diplomatic approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. In July, Fateh and the Democratic Alliance reached agreement (the Aden-Algiers Agreement) on reconvening a session of the Palestine National Council. When the process encountered obstacles, 'Arafat unilaterally convened the 17th session of the PNC in Amman in November. Both the National Alliance and PFLP denounced the meeting as illegal. The participation of Fateh, the ALF, a pro-Fateh splinter of the PLF (led by Muhammad 'Abbas) and most of the independents, however, was enough to assure that the meeting went ahead with a majority of PNC delegates in attendance. Not surprisingly, the Council endorsed both 'Arafat's leadership and the PLO's political direction.27 Finally, after a year of negotiation, the PLO and Jordan announced that agreement had been reached on 11 February 1985 on a coordinated approach for achieving a negotiated Middle East peace settlement. Under its terms the PLO agreed to participate in an international, UN-sponsored peace conference as part of a joint (Jordanian-Palestinian) delegation. It also committed itself to the formation of a confederal Jordanian-Palestinian state.28
The 17th PNC and even more so the Amman Accords confirmed the split in the PLO. On 25 March 1985, former PNC Speaker Khalid al-Fahum announced from Damascus the formation by the National Alliance, PLF and PFLP of a "Palestine National Salvation Front." In its founding statement, the PNSF condemned the Amman accords and called for "action to topple the trend of deviation and relinquishment" within the PLO.29 Now legitimized by the presence of the PFLP, the opposition's challenge to 'Arafat's leadership seemed stronger than ever.
Amal, Syria, and the War of the Camps
Meanwhile, regional conflict and the divisions within the Palestinian movement continued to be reflected in Lebanon after 'Arafat's withdrawal from Tripoli. Indeed, Palestinian camps in Lebanon became one of the prime arenas within which such tensions would be fought out.
Even before the split in the PLO, Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut had seen the gradual reestablishment of a Palestinian armed presence since 1982. In part this was the product of deliberate Palestinian efforts to reestablish a Lebanese infrastructure. But for the most part it stemmed from the rearming in self-defense of Palestinian camp populations, and from the gradual return of evacuated personnel to their families and homes in Lebanon.
This process accelerated in the wake of the split in the PLO, as competing Palestinian organizations scurried to bolster their presence and win support from the local Palestinian community. By the end of 1984, numerous Lebanese sources reported a substantial resurgence of the Palestinian political and military presence in the capital.30 The following year, Israel's withdrawal from Sidon (February) and Tyre (March-April) initiated a similar reemergence of Palestinian guerrilla groups in local camps there. Indeed, by the spring of 1985 Palestinian militias in the Sidon area were strong enough to repel attacks by the Phalange and SLA against the al-Miya wa-Miya and 'Ayn al-Hilwa refugee camps.
Such developments were viewed with concern by Syria. Given the importance of the Lebanese arena to Damascus, it was loath to permit the reestablishment of a semi-autonomous Palestinian base of operations in Beirut and the south, particularly one loyal to the PLO. At first it encouraged its own Palestinian clients to compete in the process, facilitating the entrance of Sa'iqa, PFLP-GC, and Abu Musa's Fateh-Provisional Command into these areas. In camps under direct Syrian control (Nahr al-Barid and Baddawi in the north, Wavell in the Biqa') these groups quickly gained the upper hand. But in areas beyond Syria's writ it soon became apparent that the independent Palestinian organizations-Fateh, the PFLP and DFLP-enjoyed far stronger popular support.31 Consequently, other means had to be found to restrict the PLO's resurgence.
Amal also viewed the reestablishment of a Palestinian political and military presence in Beirut and the south with concern. Hostility towards the Palestinians stemming from Shi'ite-PLO conflict in the late 1970s and early 1980s was reinforced by fears that a resurgent Palestinian presence would threaten the powerful political position that Amal had established for itself in post-1982 Lebanon. When Amal and the PSP seized control of West Beirut in February 1984, the former established military posts in and around the camps. As the IDF withdrew, it did the same in Tyre and Nabatiyya in the south. To consolidate their control over West Beirut, Amal and the PSP had jointly suppressed the Nasirite Murabitun militia-one of the few Sunni militias, and one of few groups in Lebanon to still support a Palestinian armed presence. Shortly thereafter, encouraged by Syria, Amal turned its attention to the Palestinian camps directly.
The first round of what was to become known as the "war of the camps" began 19 May 1985, with an incident between Palestinians in the Sabra camp in Beirut and Amal militiamen.32 Heavy fighting quickly erupted between the approximately one thousand armed Palestinians in the Sabra, Shatila and Burj al-Barajina refugee camps and Amal's more than three thousand fighters, the latter supported by over a thousand soldiers of the (predominately Sh'ite) Sixth Brigade of the Lebanese Army and even some units of the (predominately Christian) Eighth Brigade stationed in East Beirut. Syria labeled the fighting an "Israeli-US plot being implemented by Yasir 'Arafat," declaring that "Lebanese nationalists have the right to refuse to allow 'Arafat and others to restore the anomalous state of affairs that previously existed."33
On May 30, Sabra fell to its attackers. Amid Arab and Soviet political pressures on Syria and an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers scheduled to discuss the issue June 8, Amal declared a unilateral ceasefire the next day.
Despite this, small-scale fighting continued for weeks. In Shatila, Palestinian defenders retained control of a small area around the camp's mosque, despite repeated efforts to dislodge them. Burj al-Barajina was not penetrated at all, but nevertheless remained under siege as Amal prevented supplies from entering or its population from leaving. Finally, after fighting that had claimed more than six hundred dead and two thousand wounded, a ceasefire agreement was signed by Amal and representatives of the Palestine National Salvation Front in Damascus on June 17.
Under the terms of the Damascus Agreement, the PNSF committed itself to the removal of medium and heavy weapons from the camps; Amal to withdraw from the camps and the release of detainees. The Lebanese Internal Security Force would assume policing responsibility inside the camps, while a joint coordinating committee would be formed by Amal, the PNSF, Syria, and the "Lebanese National Democratic Front."34 Reflecting its Syrian sponsorship, the ceasefire agreement recognized the PNSF as the "national political leadership of the Palestinians in Lebanon until the Front manages to take over the PLO."
Not surprisingly Fateh criticized the agreement, emphasizing that only the PLO could negotiate agreements regarding the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. But it accepted the ceasefire nonetheless, labeling it a "tactical step of retreat" by Damascus.35 Certainly, despite heavy Palestinian casualties, Amal and its Syrian sponsor had been politically and militarily rebuffed. Amal had been forced to retreat, having gained only the promise that the Palestinians would surrender nonexistent medium and heavy weapons and allow an ineffectual Lebanese police presence in the camps. The Damascus Agreement's rhetorical endorsement of the PNSF notwithstanding, Fateh's foothold in Lebanon remained intact.
Yet the tensions which had sparked the camps war had not been resolved, and they would soon be manifest elsewhere. In Sidon, Palestinian (and particularly Fateh) reorganization attracted stern warnings from Amal, the local Popular Nasirite Organization, and influential Sidon Deputy Dr. Nazih Bizri.36 Clashes between Amal and Palestinians in the camps erupted again in Beirut briefly in September, and once more for a week from 29 March 1986.37 Then, on 19 May-one year to the day after the first round of the camps war-a second round began. Once again Amal was unable to penetrate the camps, despite a supply of T-54 tanks provided it by Damascus after the previous fighting. After the failure of more than a dozen ceasefires, the fighting finally died down with the deployment of Lebanese Army units and Syrian military observers around the Beirut camps June 24.38
This set the stage for the third and most severe round of the camps war. It began with an incident September 29 at the Rashidiyya refugee camp on the outskirts of Tyre in which Palestinians allegedly fired on an Amal patrol. Amal immediately surrounded the camp, demanding the surrender of all arms inside it. The demand was refused.39 By late October, the fighting had spread to Sidon and Beirut. In an effort to relieve pressure on Rashidiyya, Palestinian forces in Sidon broke through Amal lines November 24 to seize the strategic hilltop village of Maghdusha, overlooking the coastal highway south of the city. As Amal's military weaknesses became evident, Syrian special forces reportedly aided it in the battle for Shatila. At Sidon, Israel launched multiple air-strikes against Palestinian positions around the city.
As before, the clashes led to an emergency session of Arab League foreign ministers, and diplomatic intervention to halt the fighting. Iranian mediation secured a partially effective ceasefire between Amal and the PNSF on December 15. But while pro-Syrian groups withdrew from around Maghdusha, Fateh (excluded from the negotiations) refused. It insisted that it would not turn over its positions around Maghdusha without a ceasefire in Beirut, guarantees of security in the Sidon area, and the lifting of Amal's siege around the Tyre refugee camps.40
Some of these positions were subsequently vacated to Hizb allah and Popular Nasirite Organization militiamen in January, and some supplies allowed into the beleaguered camps. But for the most part the sieges continued, and new fighting soon erupted. In Beirut, the shelling of the camps was compounded by a blockade of food and medical supplies that resulted in sickness, starvation or death for thousands of trapped residents.
Finally, on February 21, the first of seven thousand Syrian troops were deployed in West Beirut to maintain order. On April 7, following an agreement with the PNSF, Amal lifted the siege as Syrian forces took up positions around the camps. That same month, negotiations between Amal and the PNSF took place with the aim of achieving a ceasefire in the south.
Between 1985 and 1987, the camps war had claimed more than 2,500 lives. Palestinian refugees camps had been devastated, and thousands of refugees had fled the fighting to seek uncertain refuge in the coastal strip north of Sidon.41 Yet those same two years had also wrought a significant shift in the PLO's position in Lebanon in several important respects.
First, the camps war had seen a significant weakening of Amal. Many Lebanese actors had reacted negatively to the political and military assertiveness of both Amal and Syria evident in the camps war. In the first round, Amal's only (half-hearted) support had come from the Lebanese Forces. The PSP had reaffirmed its alliance with Amal, but in practice opposed the attacks on the camps. It sheltered Palestinian refugees fleeing the fighting, and had not prevented Palestinian artillery units in the hills surrounding Beirut from firing on Shi'ite areas of the city during the fighting. The Sunni community, already alarmed at the suppression of the Murabitun and other Sunni political forces, also refused to support Amal. Common concern with rising power of Amal underpinned all such attitudes.42 Amal's continuing efforts to exert political hegemony in West Beirut and the south, coupled with the camps war itself, had by the third round led to a serious deterioration of relations between it and the PSP and LCP. In the latter half of 1985, several clashes erupted between the PSP and Amal fighters in Beirut. By February 1987 such friction escalated to the point of open fighting between the PSP, LCP on one side and Amal on the other. Indeed this provided one of the major reasons for the deployment of Syrian troops in the capital that same month.
In this dynamic political context, various Palestinian groups had found themselves able to forge or reforge various internal alliances, albeit often of a tactical, temporary and opportunistic nature. Lebanese actors as diverse as the Sunni elite, Lebanese Forces, President Jumayyil, local Sunni militias, Hizb allah, the PSP and LCP were at one time or another reportedly aiding the Palestinians.43
Second, the fighting had allowed the Palestinians to mobilize a significant diplomatic coalition in support of their position, a fact evidenced in the convening of emergency meetings of the Arab League during the first and third rounds. Even such important Syrian allies as Libya, Iran, and the USSR had criticized the attacks on the camps, and had exerted significant diplomatic pressure on Damascus to bring them to an end.
Finally, Syrian support for Amal had served to seriously weaken Syrian influence in the Palestinian movement at large. Palestinian public opinion grew strongly anti-Syrian, and groups tied to Syria (such as Abu Musa's Fateh-Provisional Command) lost further credibility. Both the DFLP and PFLP criticized Syrian policy, despite being based in Damascus and consequently highly vulnerable to Syrian pressure.44 At the same time, the fighting had led to greatly increased cooperation among otherwise divided Palestinian groups. During the first round Fateh, the DFLP and PNSF had cooperated in defending the camps. Even Abu Musa's Fateh-PC, elements of which played a role that many Palestinians considered treasonous, provided artillery support for the Beirut camps from positions east of the city. During the first round ceasefire negotiations, the PFLP had flatly rejected an Amal proposal that the PNSF disarm Fateh and DFLP forces in the camps. By the third round, it was tacitly coordinating its negotiating position with Fateh, and refusing to accept Syrian demands that blame for the fighting be placed on 'Arafat's shoulders.45
Throughout the history of the PLO's presence in Lebanon-in 1969, in 1973, during the civil war and Israeli invasion-serious external threats had always engendered a defensive unity among the major, mass-based contingents of the Palestinian movement. The post-1982 situation would be no different. The fighting with Amal and the practical unity forged between Fateh, the DFLP and PFLP in defending Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon would make a vital psychological contribution towards the overall reunification of the PLO.
Moreover, while Syria and Amal were providing an important catalyst to the reunification of the Palestinian movement, further impetus was being provided by Israel and Jordan. In the occupied territories, social and political conditions deteriorated through the 1980s. The introduction by Israel of what it termed an "iron fist" policy in the territories in August 1985, the growth of Palestinians protests and the acceleration of arrests, detentions, deportations, use of lethal force and other Israeli countermeasures over the next two years underlined the practical need for overall Palestinian political unity.46 Meanwhile, the PLO-Jordanian joint approach envisaged in the 1985 Amman Accords encountered serious obstacles. In February 1986 King Husayn announced the suspension of Jordanian-PLO cooperation and indirectly called upon Palestinians to produce an alternative political leadership. Jordan also encouraged another rebellion against 'Arafat's leadership from within Fateh, this time by former head of Fateh military intelligence Colonel 'Atallah 'Atallah. In March revisions were made to the structure of the Jordanian parliament (increasing the number of West Bank seats) and to Jordan's electoral law. When Fateh criticized these moves as contrary to the PLO's status as sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, Fateh offices in the country were ordered closed and a number of cadres (including Khalil al-Wazir) were deported. In August, Jordan announced a five-year, $750 million development plan for the occupied territories, a move that was widely seen as aimed at increasing Hashemite influence on the West Bank.47
By the fall of 1986 such developments, coupled with Algerian, Soviet and Libyan mediation, had led to active discussions between the major Palestinian groups on convening a new session of the PNC. In meetings in Moscow and Prague in September Fateh committed itself to cancellation of the Amman Accords, thus removing a major obstacle to reconciliation. In March, Fateh, the PFLP, DFLP, Palestine Communist Party and ALF agreed in Tunis to convene a meeting of the PNC the following month.
On 20 April 1987, the 18th session of the Palestine National Council did indeed open in Algiers, with the participation of all but Sa'iqa, Fateh-PC, PSF and PFLP-GC. Political differences remained, but with the PNC the almost four year split in the PLO came to an end.
The "Session of the Steadfastness of the Camps and the Masses of the Occupied Territories" (as the 18th PNC had been appropriately titled) adopted a number of resolutions regarding the PLO's position in Lebanon. Specifically, the political resolutions adopted by the Council called for "reinforcing the unity of action regarding the situation in our camps in Lebanon," "rejecting the attempts to expel and disarm our people," "insisting on our people's rights in Lebanon regarding residence, work, movement, and the freedom of political and social action." They stressed the PLO's right to defend the camps and struggle against Israel in accordance with the Cairo Agreement and its annexes, and reiterated the PLO's commitment to the Lebanese National Movement. Moreover, the PNC agreed to a series of organizational reforms designed to restructure, democratize, and strengthen the PLO's decision-making structure. Meeting in early October 1987 the PLO Central Council endorsed a series of specific measures aimed at improving relations with Syria and easing tensions in Lebanon. A new joint command for PLO forces in Lebanon was established to bolster coordination and cooperation among groups.48
The PLO and Lebanon: Continuing Challenges
In the five years following the Lebanese war and the PLO's withdrawal from Beirut, the immediate pressures facing the Palestinian movement in Lebanon had prevented it from reacting to post-1982 Lebanese events on anything other than a tactical basis. Despite a widespread debate about the successes and failures of the pre-1982 "Beirut era," efforts to evaluate and restructure PLO policy had soon been aborted by the internal divisions and the pressure of events. Now, the reunification of the PLO held out some hope that these issues would be once more addressed, and that the Palestinian presence in Lebanon could be reconstructed on a new and firmer basis. As George Habash noted in the wake of the 18th PNC:
[The Palestinian movement] must answer the following question: What do we want from Lebanon? Why do we insist on maintaining a Palestinian armed presence in Lebanon? How do we perceive our relations with the LNM? If the Palestinian revolution fails to provide a clear answer to these questions, the Palestinian presence in Lebanon will not grow the way we hope. To be exact, we ought to make clear that we do not wish to flaunt our Palestinian armed presence in Lebanon nor do we wish to set up a Palestinian authority in Lebanon to impede or to fly in the face of the Lebanese National Movement program. During its presence in Lebanon throughout the seventies and until 1982, the Palestinian revolution made mistakes. A bold reexamination process is in order. These mistakes must be identified, acknowledged, and rectified.49
Habash himself went on to identify Palestinian domination of the LNM and "excesses and misuse of arms" as the PLO's two major mistakes of the past. Other senior PFLP leaders condemned pre-1982 cross-border shelling (rather than infiltration) as counter-productive. DFLP spokespersons offered similar analyses, although they extended their criticism to include pre-1982 Palestinian military pressure on Amal, and past Palestinian violations of ceasefires and freezes on military activity in south Lebanon. Fateh leaders, on the other hand, were much more likely to stress the impact of organizational disunity and the role of external (Arab and Israeli) intervention. Some(such as Salah Khalaf), however, included a critique of the tolerance of "incompetence" within Fateh itself.50
Yet if past experience was to prove any guide, the rectification of shortcomings and weaknesses in PLO policy in Lebanon would prove far from a simple and painless affair. References to the (obsolete) Cairo Agreement were hardly sufficient, nor were appeals to the (largely-defunct) Lebanese National Movement. It was difficult to see how, in the chaotic and multipolar context of Lebanese and regional politics, the PLO could reestablish a firm base of internal and external alliances. The temptation to deploy the PLO's considerable finances and military potential in pursuit of an active and assertive role in the Lebanese balance-of-power was substantial. Yet patterns of alliances founded upon opportunism alone, however useful in the short-term, seemed likely only to reinforce Lebanese (and Syrian) suspicion of Palestinian motives. Similarly, the strengthening of Palestinian "unity of action" required considerably more than mere PNC resolutions. It required substantial reform of the structure and process of Palestinian decision-making. The obstacles to this-the inherent tensions between democratic debate and revolutionary authority; the competing cross-currents of Palestinian and inter-Arab politics; the firm entrenchment of a leadership style and political dynamic-continued to be severe. Indeed, they seemed so severe that, paradoxically, the day-to-day defense of the camps appeared easier to secure.
Yet the military defense of a siege perimeter comprised "security" only in the narrowest and most fleeting sense. Promoting an atmosphere within which Palestinians in Lebanon would enjoy real security represented the more important and difficult task. And, if the PLO's successful defense of its position during the camps war was a tacit admission by its opponents of the tenacity of Palestinian resistance and the strength of its hard-won military skills, other developments would soon resignal the magnitude of the challenges the Palestinian movement continued to face in Lebanon. Indeed, as if to underscore the point, within weeks of the 18th PNC (and in what many saw as a Syrian-encouraged response to it) the Lebanese Chamber of Deputies voted on 21 May 1987 to abrogate the Cairo Agreement of 1969 (see Appendix). The following month, Lebanese President Amin al-Jumayyil officially confirmed the act.
Of the various challenges to the PLO in Lebanon, Israel continued to be among the most important. Israeli intervention in Lebanon had far from ceased. The IDF continued its proxy occupation of the SLA security zone in the south. At sea, ships en route to and from Lebanon were regularly searched for PLO personnel and supplies. Periodic attacks (some three dozen in 1987-89) continued to be directed against Palestinian installations. But in other respects, the magnitude of the Israeli challenge had sharply declined. The military and political costs borne by Israel during and after the 1982 war disinclined Israeli decision-makers to take further large-scale action north of the border enclave. Moreover, the PLO's political institutions and leadership were no longer found in Lebanon, but farther afield. While these were hardly immune from Israeli military action (as evidenced by Israel's 1985 bombing of PLO headquarters in Tunisia, the February 1988 car-bombing of three senior Palestinian officers in Cyprus, and the assassination on 16 April 1988 of Deputy PLO Commander-in-Chief Khalil al-Wazir in Tunis), Israel had clearly lost the opportunities for coercive diplomacy against the Palestinian movement it had enjoyed in the pre-1982 period.51
A second declining threat to the PLO in Lebanon was that posed by Amal. The summer of 1987 saw a brief and inconclusive renewal of the camps war in the south. It ended with a new agreement September 11, this time between the PLO and Amal-a tacit recognition by Syria and Lebanese actors of their failure to block the resurgence of the mainstream PLO. Further obstacles, however, delayed implementation.52 In January 1988 Amal leader Nabih Berri, having failed to overcome the camps' resistance after more than two and a half years of trying and now entangled in growing military conflict with Hizb allah, announced a formal end to the camps war as a "gift" to the then one month-old Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories. But even this gesture was not sealed for almost a year, until a formal Fateh-Amal disengagement agreement for the Sidon area was signed on December 23. The new accord was praised by local PLO officials as a "new leaf in our relations with Amal."53
The relaxation of tensions between the PLO and Amal did not, however, signal any corresponding improvement of the hostile relations between the PLO and Amal's Syrian ally-the third and perhaps gravest source of challenge to the PLO in Lebanon. In April 1988 the funeral of Khalil al-Wazir in Damascus seemed to provide an opening for possible PLO-Syrian rapprochement. Indeed, later that month Yasir 'Arafat and Hafiz al-Asad held in Damascus their first meeting since 1983. But the process soon stalled. In Beirut, fighting erupted between 'Arafat loyalists and Abu Musa's Fateh-PC in May 1988. The dissidents' assault on loyalist positions was backed by intense fire support from Syrian artillery that left more than one hundred dead and five hundred wounded. After two months of fighting, Abu Musa finally captured Shatila and Burj al-Barajina camps on June 27 and July 8. The remaining Fateh forces there were evacuated to Sidon (despite the reluctance of the local Popular Nasirite Organization to accept them) under the auspices of Libya, the PSP, LCP and SSNP.54
In 1989 further meetings took place between 'Arafat and Asad in May (at the Arab League Summit in Casablanca) and September (at ceremonies marking the twentieth anniversary of the Libyan revolution in Tripoli), and between Faruq Qaddumi and Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar'. That summer, some 140 long-imprisoned Fateh fighters were released from Syrian custody. But despite rumours and portents of a posssible thaw, there was no evidence of any real rapprochement between the PLO and Syria. Although official Syrian criticism of the PLO leadership diminished, Syrian-supported Palestinian groups remained vociferous in their condemnation of 'Arafat and his policies.
Indeed, enduring suspicions between Fateh and Syria continued to provide the grounds upon which the former forged tactical alliances with a variety of groups-ranging from the Lebanese Forces to Hizb allah-characterized by little in common (or with Fateh) other than their own differences with Damascus. Similar reasoning appeared to motivate 'Arafat's support for Michel 'Awn, the Maronite army general appointed head of a caretaker administration by out-going President Amin Jumayyil in September 1988 when the Lebanese parliament proved incapable of selecting a successor. Syria and its Lebanese allies, in contrast, supported the rival cabinet of Prime Minister Salim al-Huss. In January, 'Arafat met with 'Awn in Tunis, despite strong criticism not only from Syria and its Lebanese and Palestinian allies, but also from the PFLP and DFLP. 'Arafat's tacit support for 'Awn continued into the spring of 1989, when 'Awn announced a "war of liberation" to drive Syrian troops from Lebanese soil-to which Damascus responded with a massive show of military force. Through the summer 'Awn's forces and those of Syria and its Lebanese allies exchanged artillery barrages in heaviest fighting in Lebanon since Israel's 1982 invasion.
A final source of difficulties for the PLO in Lebanon continued to be rooted in the organization itself. There were multiple signs that problems of fragmented and personalized decision-making, organizational disunity, and other weaknesses which had plagued pre-1982 PLO policy in Lebanon had yet to be overcome. Internecine fighting between Fateh loyalists and Syrian-backed Palestinian dissidents was one such indicator. Certainly, most of the blame for the poor state of Syrian-PLO relations could justifiably be laid at Damascus' door. Indeed, the fighting in Beirut in the summer of 1988 only served to confirm the marginality of Syrian proxy groups within the PLO.55 But while much of PLO policy was driven by a widely-accepted need to preserve the independence of Palestinian decision-making, Fateh (and 'Arafat in particular) did not shy from actions that only served to stoke Syrian hostility.56 The continued existence of weaknesses in PLO policy in Lebanon was evident in other areas too. This was particularly true in Sidon, beyond the direct reach of Syrian power. There a rash of clashes, kidnappings, assassinations and other incidents signaled local power struggles and the reemergence of tajawuzat.57
All these developments underscored the constant attention the PLO needed to devote to the maintenance of its Lebanese sanctuary. Increasingly, however, issues of Lebanese policy were overshadowed by the dramatic popular uprising underway in the occupied territories: the Palestinian intifada.
Lebanon, the Intifada and Independence?
In December 1987, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip erupted in revolt-their most powerful and sustained revolt against Israeli rule since the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Thereafter, the escalation of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation represented by the Palestinian intifada would bring important changes to the structure and dynamics of Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with repercussions felt within the Palestinian movement, Israel, and the wider Arab and international community. Reflecting this, on 31 July 1988 Jordan's King Husayn formally announced his country's disengagement from the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Less than four months later on 15 November 1988, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee Yasir 'Arafat announced, on behalf of 19th session of the Palestine National Council then meeting in Algiers, the establishment of the independent state of Palestine.58
Despite the declaration, an independent Palestinian state did not yet exist. But the declaration itself represented a landmark in the history of the Palestinian movement. The PLO had announced its unequivocal support for a two state solution. In the political resolutions adopted by the PNC, it had laid out a clear political strategy for its achievement, including participation in an international peace conference and acceptance of UN Security Council resolution 242 (an implicit recognition of Israel). One month later on 13 December 1988, Yasir 'Arafat delivered a historic speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Geneva. In it, and even more clearly in a press conference the next day, he emphasized "our people's rights to freedom and national independence and the right of all parties concerned in the Middle East conflict to exist in peace and security, including the state of Palestine, Israel, and other neighbors, according to the Resolution[s] 242 and 338." The United States responded by announcing that it would immediately open a dialogue with the PLO for the purposes of achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.59
The opening of US-PLO dialogue, the Geneva speech, Jordanian disengagement, and the Algiers PNC, collectively constituted an important turning point. All were substantially a product of the fundamental transformation wrought since December 1987 by the Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories. The intifada had demonstrated both the centrality of the Palestinian issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the instability of the status quo of occupation. Within the Palestinian movement, the intifada had served to strengthen the voice of the occupied territories, consolidating the PLO's commitment to a negotiated settlement based on a two state solution. At the same time, the intifada had expressed, daily and in myriad ways, the PLO's status as the political representative of the Palestinians, accepted as such by Palestinians themselves. This had become broadly recognized by the bulk of the international community, by Jordan, and now by the US. Only Israel's divided Likud-Labor coalition government seemed to maintain otherwise, clinging to a position that had been rendered increasingly untenable by events on the ground. The intifada had thus dramatically altered the political equation in the Middle East.
Yet as the crux and course of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict underwent a historic reorientation, it was important to remember that none of this had taken place outside history-that the era of the intifada shared important ancestry in the Palestinian movement's earlier Lebanese experiences. Lebanon had acted as an important base for the development of the Palestinian movement since the activities of the ANM, the formation of Palestinian student groups and the appearance of Filastinuna in the 1950s. After the June 1967 war it had been Palestinian armed struggle, from Lebanon and elsewhere, that had spurred the development of the modern Palestinian nationalist movement. From 1970 to 1982 Lebanon had acted as the political center-of-gravity of the Palestinian movement as a whole. The political positions now adopted by the PLO in 1988 had been the product of a gradual evolution, an evolution marked by the resolutions adopted by the Palestine National Council in 1974 and 1977, and by the PLO's endorsement of the 1982 Fez Peace Plan. It had been in Lebanon that the issues bound up in this processs had been most directly and intensely debated by the Palestinian movement; in Lebanon that the PLO had developed the political and informational infrastructure necessary to present and argue its case on the world stage; and in Lebanon that, in 1978 and 1981, the PLO had taken difficult decisions to restrict its military activities so as to preserve that essential infrastructure, and hence enable it to pursue the uncertain avenues of political diplomacy. It had been in Lebanon too that the strains produced by changes in Palestinian political strategy had exploded, and there that much of the post-1982 battle for the political direction of the Palestinian movement had been fought.
Moreover, Lebanon remained a potential battleground within which the political conflicts now generated by the intifada could be fought out-indeed, an arena that would likely grow in importance as further progress was made to a regional political settlement. Lebanon provided an important outlet, for example, for Palestinian critics of the diplomatic approach taken by Yasir 'Arafat in the aftermath of the 19th PNC. During this period attacks or attempted attacks by dissident groups (the PFLP-GC, Fateh-PC and Abu Nidal's Fateh-Revolutionary Council) against Israel's Lebanese security zone and northern border were clearly intended to derail the political course of the mainstream PLO. Similar actions by the PFLP, DFLP, and PLF seemed equally intended to enhance their own reputations for militancy, to note dissatisfaction with Fateh strategy, or to signal that the PLO's renunciation of terrorism did not include guerrilla attacks against Israeli military targets. Only Fateh refrained from such activities so as not to undermine its own diplomatic activities. But, as with earlier phases of cross-border military action, internal and external pressures still existed for an intensification of armed struggle, particularly in periods when the progress of the PLO's political initiatives seemed slowed.60
For its part, Israel's attitude to Palestinian activities in Lebanon seemed to reflect the divided political views of its coalition government. On the one hand, it tacitly acknowledged Fateh's suspension of cross-border activities. At the same time, hawkish members of the government seized upon attempted raids by radical Palestinian groups, appearing to find in them an almost welcome diversion from Israel's unsuccessful attempts to contain the Palestinian uprising. Thus, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Moshe Arens and others repeatedly emphasized "terrorist" activity near Israel's northern border in an effort to convince the US to abort its dialogue with the PLO, and also in an attempt to reverse the Palestinians' gains in international public opinion. In the meantime, the IDF made it clear that it would not permit the PLO to construct an infrastructure in Lebanon capable of supporting the intifada.61 Indeed, as the intifada continues Israeli military activity north of its border might well increase. Present or future hard-line Israeli leaders could (as in the past, in tactics parallel to those of Palestinian rejectionists) seek to abort any progress towards Israeli-PLO negotiations by stoking the level of military confrontation in Lebanon.
Finally, Lebanon has continued to constitute a major arena of inter-Arab interaction, and a prime battleground for conflict between the mainstream PLO and Syria. Despite recognition of the PLO's declaration of independence and a heavily-qualified endorsement of the PLO's initiative at the 1989 Casablanca Arab Summit, Damascus has generally evinced considerable dissatisfaction with the PLO's diplomatic policies. Such opposition has been expressed in Syrian support for Palestinian dissident groups, and by tacit sponsorship of periodic attacks against Israel's northern border and south Lebanon security zone. Fateh has responded with its array of alliances with anti-Syrian forces in Lebanon. As in 1975-76, Syrian actions in Lebanon in 1989 indicated that Damascus viewed its security concerns in Lebanon as paramount-and that it would move to protect these with massive force if necessary. Syrian-PLO confrontation thus has an enormous potential cost for both. It is a cost that appears even greater when the centrality of the PLO and the necessary participation of Syria in any stable and lasting settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict is considered.
Such efforts by Palestinian groups, Israel, Syria and others to influence the PLO in and through Lebanon stand as stark testimony to the fundamental contribution of the Palestinian movement's Lebanese sanctuary over the years. For a critical period between the late 1960s and early 1980s, Lebanon provided an invaluable base and haven within which the Palestinian movement could assert its growing independence relatively free from external intervention. Lebanon had provided an environment within which unparalleled Palestinian institution-building and political participation could take place. In Lebanon the Palestinian movement created institutions to nurture its political and cultural consciousness, constructing a PLO that would act both as a central expression of common Palestinian political identity and as the embryonic framework for a Palestinian state in exile.
The final political statement of the 19th session of the Palestine National Council reiterated the organic connection between inside and outside, between the PLO's past and the present of the intifada::
This, our people's revolutionary furnace and their blessed intifada, along with the cumulative impact of our innovative and continuous revolution inside and outside of our homeland, have destroyed the illusions our people's enemies have harbored that they can turn the occupation of Palestinian land into a permanent fait accompli and consign the Palestinian issue to oblivion. For our generations have been weaned on the goals and principles of the Palestinian revolution and have lived all its battles since its birth in 1965-including the heroic resistance against the Zionist invasion of 1982 and the steadfastness of the revolution's camps as they endured siege and starvation in Lebanon. Those generationsthe children of the Palestine Liberation Organization-rose to demonstrate the dynamism and continuity of the revolution, detonating the land under the feet of its occupiers and proving that our people's reserves of resistance are inexhaustible and their faith is too deep to uproot.
Thus did the struggle of the children of the RPGs outside our homeland and the struggle of the children of the sacred stones inside it blend into a single revolutionary melody.62
The statement reflected the heady and rhetorical emotionalism of its framers, meeting in Algiers to announce the formation of their still distant Palestinian state. But at its core it reflected a basic truth. A Palestinian identity-the existence of a Palestinian people self-conscious as such, and enjoying as such ever increasing levels of international recognition-had always represented a necessary (if far from sufficient) condition for achievement of Palestinian demands for self-determination. And for the Palestinian movement, Lebanon's contribution to this-if now overshadowed-had been irreplaceable.
1. Text of 'Arafat's farewell speech to the Lebanese people, WAFA, 29 August 1982, pp. 2-5.
2. According to the Times (London), 22 September 1982, p. 13, the PLO forces withdrawn from Beirut were relocated to: Algeria (600); Tunisia (1,000); Sudan (500); North Yemen (850); South Yemen (1,100); Jordan (260 of the PLA Badr Forces); Iraq (135 or more); Syria (6,450, including the remaining PLA units). Although Damascus was now the nominal seat of the PLO leadership, many of the PLO's diplomatic offices and the offices of the PLO chairman opened in Tunis; the PLO journal Falastin al-thawra and the DFLP's al-Hurriyya in Nicosia; SAMED eventually moved its headquarters to Amman, and the Palestine Red Crescent Society to its Palestine Hospital in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. MER, 4 September 1982, pp. 6-10.
3. On the post-Beirut diplomatic environment, see Emile Sahliyeh, The PLO After the Lebanon War (Boulder: Westview Press, 1986), esp. pp. 71-84.
4. For analysis of the post-war political environment in Lebanon, see Abu-Khalil, "Druze, Sunni and Shi'ite Political Leadership"; Norton, Amal and the Shi'a, pp. 84-143; Petran, The Struggle over Lebanon, pp. 295-383.
5. Lebanese police estimates reported in Race & Class 24, 4 (Spring 1983): 341. PLO military losses from Yezid Sayigh, "Israel's Military Performance in Lebanon, June 1982," Journal of Palestine Studies 13, 1 (Autumn 1983): 63.
6. According to UNRWA, almost all of 'Ayn al-Hilwa and 20-50% of other camps in the south were destroyed in the invasion. Jerusalem Post, 1, 3 July 1982. For an overview of the Palestinians' post-1982 situation in Lebanon, see Marie Christine Aulas, "Lebanon's Palestinians: Life at Ground Level," MERIP Middle East Report 119 (November-December 1983): 24-26; Khalidi, "The Palestinians in Lebanon," pp. 255-266; Hudson, "The Palestinians After Lebanon," pp. 5-9, 34. The financial losses incurred by the PLO as a result of the Lebanon war were estimated at $350-400 million.
7. Khalidi, Under Siege, pp. 174-178.
8. Statement by the PLO Executive Committee on the massacres in West Beirut, WAFA, 18 September 1982. The PLO placed direct blame for the killings on the IDF. Full "material and moral responsibility" was also placed on the US for the failure of its security guarantees, and on the MNF for its early withdrawal. The Israeli government's own investigation found Ariel Sharon and several senior officers of the IDF guilty of negligence, but rejected direct Israeli responsibility; see The Commission of Inquiry into Events at the Refugee Camps in Beirut [Kahan Commission], Final Report, published as The Beirut Massacre (Princeton: Karz-Cohl, 1983).
9. Schiff and Yaari, Israel's Lebanon War, pp. 236, 240; MER, 18 September 1982, p. 15; Dov Yermiya, My War Diary: Lebanon, June 5-July 1, 1982 (Boston: South End Press, 1982).
10. Khalidi, "Social Repercussions," p. 260; 1982; Christian Science Monitor, 30 September 1982. Although approximately 250,000 Palestinians in Lebanon were 1948 refugees or their descendants, L'Orient le Jour (Beirut), 27 September 1982 reported government plans to reduce the number of Palestinians in Lebanon to as few as 50,000.
11. That the 'Arafat-Jumayyil meeting took more than five months of tortuous diplomacy to arrange was an early indication of the PLO's newfound weaknesses in Lebanon. In November 1982 Fatah decided to open dialogue with the Lebanese President, following a meeting between Salah Khalaf and Amin Jumayyil in Rabat that month. Through Saudi and other intermediaries, the PLO pressed for a new PLO-Lebanese accord that would allow the Palestinians to rebuild the camps; reopen some Palestinian offices in Beirut and attach a symbolic PLO military presence to the Lebanese Army. The Lebanese government refused, calling instead for an unconditional withdrawal of PLO forces from the Biqa' and the north. The refugee camps would be relocated away from Lebanese population centers, and brought fully under Lebanese law and control. Only Palestinians registered with UNRWA in 1948 (and their descendants) would be allowed to remain in Lebanon. A meeting between 'Arafat and Lebanese Prime Minister Shafiq Wazzan brought no real change in these positions; nor did the meeting with Jumayyil in March. KUNA (Kuwait), 3 November 1982; AFP (Paris), 9 November 1982; Beirut Domestic Service, 14 November 1982; AFP, 26 February 1983; al-Madina (Jidda), 22 November 1982, p. 1; Shafiq al-Hut interviewed by AFP, 29 January 1983; 'Arafat interview in al-Nahar al-'arabi wa al-duwali, 20-26 December 1982, pp. 16-17; Beirut Domestic Service, 1 February 1983; AFP, 23 December 1982; Beirut Domestic Service, 7 March 1983; Voice of Palestine (Algiers), 10 March 1983 (FBIS).
12. Responsibility for the blast was claimed by the "Front for the Liberation of Lebanon of Foreigners," which six days earlier had bombed a Palestinian headquarters in Syrian-controlled Shtura, killing forty; see O'Brien, "Campaign of Terror," p. 26; MER, 2 October 1982, p. 6-8. In June 1983 the Lebanese Army closed the center after allegedly finding explosives there. Director Sabri Jiryas and PLO military liaison officer Lt. Col. Yusuf Rujayb were deported. Voice of Palestine, 21 June 1983 (FBIS); DFLP Bulletin, March 1984, pp. 16-17.
13. Text of the May 17th Accord in Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security, pp. 327-338.
14. Charter of the Lebanese National Salvation Front in Journal of Palestine Studies 13, 1 (Autumn 1983): 231-232. The LCP, OCA, SSNP, (pro-Syrian) Ba'th, Arab Socialist Union, and Arab Democratic Party also joined the LNSF.
15. Officially the PLO declared that it would not be an "obstacle" to Israeli withdrawal, but also refused to publicly commit itself to withdrawing (although Lebanese Foreign Minister Elie Salim suggested it had done so privately). Khalil al-Wazir suggested that the PLO might withdraw after Israel did so, on the basis of a new PLO-Lebanese agreement granting the PLO offices in Beirut, security and the continued operation of its social services, and a symbolic military presence attached to the Lebanese army. For a summary of these positions see MECS 1982-83, pp. 278-280.
16. Closing statement of PLO Central Council, 6 August 1983, in Journal of Palestine Studies 13, 1 (Autumn 1983): 231-232. The PLO continued to express its support for the LNSF even as the latter threw its verbal support behind 'Arafat's opponents within the PLO; Voice of Palestine, 6 September 1983 (FBIS).
17. According to the Lebanese army these forces (operating under the title of "The Forces for the Return to Beirut") were drawn from the PFLP, DFLP, and units of Fateh loyal to Abu Musa. Beirut Domestic Service, 7, 8 September 1983 (FBIS). These groups (particularly the latter) sought to demonstrate that, in contrast to the Fateh mainstream, they remained committed to armed struggle. They were encouraged at this juncture by Syria, which wished to aid Junblat without openly intervening. By the end of September, however, Israeli and Lebanese pressures led Junblat to order most Palestinian units out of the Shuf. Jerusalem Post, 3 October 1983, pp. 1-2.
18. The PLO, for example, claimed it had launched 355 joint operations with the "Lebanese National Movement" in June, July and August 1983; during this same period, Lebanese sources reported 128 attacks on the IDF. Cf. interview with Yasir Arafat in Journal of Palestine Studies 13, 1 (Autumn 1983): 4, and "Operations Against the IDF," in Lebanese-Israeli Negotiations, pp. 317-320. Most attacks against the IDF at this stage were organized by the Lebanese National Resistance Front, founded in September 1982 by the OCA, the LCP and ASAP and later joined by others. As Asad Abu-Khalil notes, the LNRF enjoyed strong support from the PFLP and DFLP, which "[learning] from the tragic pre-1982 experience of the Palestinian resistance in south Lebanon shunned publicity and accepted to give all credit for their operations to the Front." Abu-Khalil, "Druze, Sunni and Shi'ite Leadership," pp. 52-53. Later Amal and the Shi'ite fundamentalist group Hizb allah would play the major role in attacks on the IDF.
19. These included military officers Col. Sa'id Musa Muragha, Col. Abu Khalid al-'Amla, Col. Muhammad Bakr, Lt. Col. Ziyyad al-Sughayyir, Lt. Col. Wasif 'Urayqat, and Nimr Salih and Samih Abu Kuwayk of the Fateh Central Committee. It will be noted that many of these had also been opposed to the 1978 deployment of UNIFIL and 1981 ceasefire. For further discussion of the looseness of the rebel coalition, see Rashid Khalidi, "Behind the Fateh Rebellion," MERIP Reports 119 (November/December 1983): 8; on the nature of their demands, Sahliyeh, The PLO After the Lebanon War, pp. 87-114, 139-175.
20. Account of Aden meeting in al-Safir, 26, 27 June 1983, in Journal of Palestine Studies 13, 1 (Fall 1983): 169-180. Statement issued in Tripoli, 16 January 1983, in Journal of Palestine Studies 12, 4 (Summer 1983): 245-249.
21. 16th PNC resolutions in Journal of Palestine Studies 12, 4 (Summer 1983): 250-254.
22. Raymond Hinnebusch, "Syrian Policy in Lebanon and the Palestinians," Arab Studies Quarterly 8, 1 (Winter 1986): 13-19.
23. In October, the Islamic Unification Movement launched attacks against the Tripoli offices of the LCP, killing fifty Communist Party cadres and their families. Although 'Arafat rejected LCP accusations of involvement, the incident worsened already rapidly deteriorating relations between Fateh and the Lebanese left, and between Fateh and the PFLP and DFLP. MER, 5 November 1983, p. 5, Voice of Palestine 14 October 1983 (FBIS).
24. A poll by al-Baydar al-siyasi (East Jerusalem), 3 December 1983 found that 95% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza supported 'Arafat's leadership; similarly, a 1986 poll reported that only 1.2% of Palestinians in the territories supported Abu Musa; "alFajr public opinion survey," Journal of Palestine Studies 16, 2 (Winter 1987): 203.
25. Statement by PFLP-DFLP Joint Command, 16 October 1983, in DFLP Bulletin, November 1983, pp. 1-6. The "Democratic Alliance" was formally established early the next year.
26. See Sahliyeh, The PLO After the Lebanon War, pp. 178-184.
27. For a summary of the proceedings, see MECS 1984-85, pp. 181-194.
28. Text of the Amman Accords in Journal of Palestine Studies 14, 3 (Spring 1985): 206. PLO diplomacy in this period is examine by Rashid Khalidi, "The Palestinian Dilemma: PLO Policy After Lebanon," Journal of Palestine Studies 15, 1 (Autumn 1985).
29. Text of announcement by the PNSF, Journal of Palestine Studies 14, 4 (Summer 1985): 207-210.
30. Israeli intelligence estimated that 2,000 Palestinian fighters had returned to Beirut by late 1984; other sources suggested that 9-10,000 armed Palestinians were present in Lebanon, in Tripoli (2,000), the Biqa' (2,500), the Shuf (2,500), and Beirut (2,000) and Sidon. See MECS 1984-85, p. 219. These numbers are clearly overestimates given the number subsequently available for the defence of the camps in fighting with Amal in 1985. While some previously-evacuated forces had been reintroduced into Beirut and the south, most were local Palestinian residents. Certainly given the obvious need for self-defence, the greater ease of infiltrating arms and money (rather than personnel), and the thousands of resident Palestinian youths reaching military age, Palestinian groups had little trouble expanding their political and military infrastructure in this way. Interview with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986.
31. In Beirut Fateh loyalists were said to comprise the majority; when Syria attempted to redress this by allowing some of Abu Musa's forces to enter Beirut, most promptly defected. MECS 1984-85, p. 219.
32. On the "first round" of the camps war, see: "Le siège des camps palestiniens de Beyrouth," Revue d'Études Palestiniennes 17 (Autumn 1985), 67-128; Elaine C. Hagopian, ed., Amal and the Palestinians: Understanding the Battle of the Camps (Belmont, Mass.: AAUG Press, 1985); Camille Mansour, "Au delà du siège des camps palestiniens de Beyrouth: la montée en puissance du mouvement Amal et ses limites," Maghreb-Machrek 109 (July-September 1985): 64-82.
33. Damascus Domestic Service 22, 23 May 1985 (FBIS). See also the comments of Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq Shar' to the emergency session of the Arab League on the camps war, Journal of Palestine Studies 15, 1 (Autumn 1985): 193-195.
34. The LNDF comprised the PSP and several other Lebanese leftist parties. A partial text of the agreement (less its preamble, praising Syria and condemning "Arafat's deviationist line") can be found in the Journal of Palestine Studies 15, 1 (Autumn 1985): 199-200; the full text reported by Voice of the Mountain (PSP, clandestine), 18 June 1985 (FBIS).
35. Statement of Fateh Central Committee on the Damascus Agreement, 21 June 1985, in Journal of Palestine Studies 15, 1 (Autumn 1985): 200-202.
36. MER, 20 July 1985, pp. 7-9, Voice of Lebanon, 22 July 1985 (FBIS). Bizri warned that large amounts of money and arms were pouring into the city to arm Palestinian groups; Monday Morning 22-28 July 1985, pp. 14-16.
37. MER, 7 September 1985, p. 2; text of PNSF ceasefire in Journal of Palestine Studies 15, 2 (Winter 1986): 213. After the March-April fighting (in which more than 40 persons died) a joint PSP-SSNP-LCP-Ba'th disengagement force was established, but to little lasting effect. Beirut Domestic Service, 12, 14 April 1986 (FBIS); Monday Morning 14-20 April 1986, pp. 10-11. 'Asim Qansuh of the Ba'th noted the failure of the PNSF secure control of the camps from Fateh, and called for "complete liquidation of all 'Arafatists." Monday Morning, 21-27 April 1986, pp. 22-23.
38. Middle East International, 12 June 1986, pp. 4-6 (hereafter, MEI).
39. Technically, the camp didn't refuse, but offered to hand over thirty AK-47s, one RPG-7 rocket launcher and a self-loading rifle, a mere fraction of the probable total. Amal walked out of the meeting and tightened the seige. Egyptian Mail (Cairo), 11 October 1986, p. 1; Times (London), 11 October 1986, p. 6.
40. MER, 20 December 1986, p. 6. Small contingents from the PFLP, DFLP, and Abu Nidal's Fateh-Revolutionary Council also remained in Maghdusha; interview with Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986.
41. According to a report prepared by the DFLP in December 1986, the camps war had already destroyed some 3,000 Palestinian homes in Rashidiyya camp near Tyre, 80% of the homes in Shatila camp in Beirut, and 50% of the homes in Burj al-Barajina; Journal of Palestine Studies 16, 3 (Spring 1987), 223-230. In June 1987 UNRWA reported some 33,210 homeless Palestinians displaced from Tyre and Beirut. For their condition, see MEI, 26 September 1987, 13-15.
42. The Sunni community feared that Amal's attacks on the Palestinians (predominately Sunni, and traditional sponsors of Sunni militias before 1982) would further marginalize the already weakened Sunni community. Suppression of various predominately Sunni, pro-Palestinian militias (the Murabitun by Amal and the PSP in May 1985, Beirut's small "Sixth of February Movement" by Amal in June 1986, and Syrian measures taken against the Islamic Unification Movement in Tripoli in September-October 1985) only reinforced the impression, despite the fundamental differences between these groups and the traditional Sunni elite. The Druze community and Junblat were also concerned by the rising power of Amal. At the same time, both the Druze and Sunni leaderships continued to oppose the reestablisment of a Palestinian armed presence. The PSP stressed that it rejected any return to the "self-security principle" that had endured in Palestinian camps before 1982; Junblat quoted by Voice of the Mountain, 12 June 1985 (FBIS). Similarly, Sunni Mufti Hasan Khalid noted his opposition to a return of the Palestinian armed presence; al-Ittihad al-usbu'i (Abu Dhabi), 1 August 1984, p. 11 (FBIS). Earlier Salim al-Huss had made a similar point, but added that Lebanese militias should be disarmed too; al-Nahar, 27 May 1985 in Revue d'études palestiniennes 17 (Autumn 1985): 88.
43. The PSP reportedly allowed (or was bribed to allow) Palestinian use of its port facilities at Khalde after the first round. The Lebanese left (OCA, LCP) retained generally good relations with their Palestinian counterparts, and were accused on occasion by Syria of supplying the Palestinians with arms. The fundamentalist Hizb allah (excepting some local commanders) supported the Palestinians out of ideological commitment to armed struggle against Israel, and as a function of their own hostility to Syria and rivalry with Amal. (In some cases, the Palestinians were also able to use divisions within Amal itself to their advantage.) Finally, the Lebanese Forces provided Fateh with transit routes for men and material as LF relations with Damascus badly deteriorated from January 1986. Although Fateh sought to deny this, 'Arafat's appearance on Lebanese Forces TV in November 1986, and contacts with Amin al-Jumayyil confirmed at least some level of cooperation.
44. DFLP criticism of Syrian policy, both direct and indirect, often led to the harassment of its cadres and the periodic suppression of its publications. The PFLP was also subject to such pressures, although its traditional political opposition to 'Arafat, coupled with Syria's need to retain PFLP participation in the PNSF if the latter was to retain any credibility, gave it considerably greater leverage vis-à-vis Damascus. Interviews, Damascus, December 1986 and February 1987.
45. Interviews, Damascus, December 1986 and February 1987. Syrian operatives within Abu Musa's group were widely blamed for a remote control bomb that killed Fateh's senior officer in Shatila in January 1987; MEI 7 October 1988, pp. 17-18.
46. On the "iron fist" policy announced by Defence Minister Yitzhak Rabin on 4 August 1985, see Penny Johnson, "The Routine of Repression," MERIP Middle East Report 150 (January-February 1988): 3-7, 10-11.
47. MEI, 7 February 1986, pp. 3-4; text of statement by King Husayn, 19 February 1986, in Journal of Palestine Studies 15, 4 (Summer 1986): 206-232; Fateh Revolutionary Council statement, 19 June 1986; Jordanian statement on the closure of PLO offices, 8 July 1986; Jordan's Five-Year development plan for the occupied territories, August 1986; all in Journal of Palestine Studies 16, 1 (Autumn 1986): 201-212.
48. Text of PNC resolutions Journal of Palestine Studies 16, 4 (Summer 1987): 196-201; text of CC resolutions in DFLP Bulletin, November 1987, pp. 7-9.
49.George Habash in al-Khalij (Abu Dhabi), 4 October 1987 (JPRS).
50. Interviews with Mustafa al-Zibri, 10 February 1987; Abu Layla, 10 February 1987; Yasir 'Arafat, 29 December 1986; Khalil al-Wazir, 30 December 1986; Salah Khalaf, 27 January 1987; and others.
51. Ironically, the 1982 war also served to weaken the security of Israel's northern border. Previously, the July 1981 ceasefire had brought an end to most cross-border attacks. In 1985-87, however, there were 40 shellings of northern Israel and another 18 attempted infiltrations across the border, in addition to hundreds of attacks on the south Lebanon security zone itself. In 1988, the rate of attempted attacks against Israel from south Lebanon increased still further. Ha'Aretz , 10 June 1988, p. 3 (FBIS).
52. The agreement was the product of negotiations initiated after a conciliatory speech made by Nabih Berri in Ba'lbak on August 30; MER, 19 September 1987, p. 6. Under its terms Amal agreed to lift the sieges, release detainees, and allow camp residents to move freely and rebuild their homes. The PLO agreed to vacate its positions east of Sidon. Both sides agreed to halt hostile military and propaganda activity. Joint committees (with Syrian participation in Sidon and Tyre) would oversee implementation. Text of the agreement, and of PLO Executive Committee endorsement, in Journal of Palestine Studies 17, 2 (Winter 1988), pp. 211-212; a slightly different version (detailing the positions to be evacuated) was published in DFLP Bulletin, November/December 1987, pp. 10-11. Although it was first hoped to implement the agreement by October 5, difficulties arose over timing. Illustrative of its power around Sidon, the PLO then seized additional positions east of the city in mid-October to place further pressure on Amal. Nabih Berri subsequently met with Nayif Hawatima in Algiers two weeks later to discuss implementation of the agreement. MER, 10 October 1987, p. 10.
53. The eleven-point agreement called for a stable ceasefire, military disengagement, and the normalization of PLO-Amal relations; tellingly, it was also characterized by Zayd Wahba (Fateh's senior commander in Lebanon) as confirmation that "good neighborliness cannot be attained except through Fateh". MER, 21 January 1989. In fact, some tensions continued, with Amal complaining of a Fateh military build-up in the Sidon and Tyre areas in the spring of 1989.
54. Multiple factors led to the Beirut fighting: the defection of a number dissidents to Fateh in Sidon, and Fateh's closure of dissident offices there; Fateh's expulsion of dissidents from Shatila and Burj al-Barajina; the desire of Fateh-PC to undermine any Fateh rapprochement with Syria; Fateh's apparent belief that Syria's position was weak enough to allow an intensification of measures against Syrian-backed groups; and Syrian anger at reports of Fateh backing for Hizb allah. MER, 28 May 1988, p. 14, 2 July 1988, pp. 5-6; MEI, 7 October 1988, pp. 1718.
55. Fateh, of course, was vituperative in its comments on the Beirut fighting; the Fateh Central Committee labelled it part of a "Zionist-imperialist conspiracy" by a "renegade regime" (Syria) and "a band of mercenary agents" (the dissidents) to "mar the image of the Palestinian struggle" and "drive our masses in the occupied land to desperation." Voice of Palestine (San'a), 10 July 1988 (FBIS). More importantly, however, the dissidents' Syrian-supported assault on the camps was also strongly condemned by others within the PLO. Although the PFLP and DFLP remained largely neutral in the fighting, they signalled that they would not do so in the future; the PFLP's al-Hadaf 3 July 1988 noted that by their attacks, Abu Musa's followers "have placed themselves outside Palestinian national history." In the occupied territories, there was similar condemnation of Abu Musa by the "Unified National Leadership of the Uprising" in its periodic leaflets (numbers 21 and 22). By the summer of 1989, Sa'iqa, the PFLP-GC and Fateh-PC had virtually no contact with the mainstream PLO; one senior DFLP official noted that his organization had virtually "given up" on trying to reconcile Damascus with Fateh. Interviews with 'Isam al-Qadi, Damascus, 3 August 1989, and with member of the DFLP Politburo.
56. This was evident in Fateh's initial assertiveness against Syrian-backed dissidents in the summer of 1988, and again in 'Arafat's support for 'Awn. Certainly, there were some direct gains to be had from 'Arafat's support for 'Awn, as evidenced by 'Awn's statement in January 1989 that the Palestinian presence was now a "civilian" one (and hence no longer a problem), and by recurrent reports that 'Awn was allowing Fateh transit facilities through areas controlled by the Lebanese Army. 'Arafat's position could also be seen as a reward to Iraq ('Awn's strongest backer) for its past support of the mainstream PLO, and as an attempt to weaken Damascus-based Palestinian groups by maintaining high levels of Palestinian-Syrian tension. Palestinian critics of 'Arafat's position, however, argued that given the geographic location of Palestinian camps in Lebanon (in areas of Syrian control, or surrounded by pro-Syrian militias) his gestures were hardly likely to enhance Palestinian security. Given this, 'Arafat's almost legendary dislike for Hafiz al-Asad (an attitude fully reciprocated) seems to have also played a significant role in shaping this stand, reflecting the unilateral and idiosyncratic impact that the PLO leader can sometimes have on PLO policy. Interview with member of DFLP Politburo, August 1989.
57. A brief summary of some of these events shows the extent of the problem. In August 1987 the commander of "Force 17" in Lebanon, Rasim al-Ghul, was assassinated. In September an attempt was made on the life of Fateh's local political chief, Abu `Ali Shahin. Shahin and Fateh's military commander in Lebanon were subsequently recalled to Tunis. Later that month fifty Palestinian fighters were poisoned in `Ayn al-Hilwa camp, an act attributed to revenge for al-Ghul's killing. In November, fighting broke out between Palestinian guerillas and the PNO. In February 1988 a local dispute led to the kidnapping of two Scandinavian UNRWA workers by Fateh guerillas for over three weeks despite 'Arafat's efforts to secure their immediate release. In March, two Oxfam officials were "detained" for five days by Abu Nidal's Fateh-Revolutionary Council (FRC). That same month another Palestinian military commander, Farid Hurani, was killed in an ambush. This latter incident sparked internal clashes, leading to a partial Fateh clamp-down in 'Ayn al-Hilwa camp. In January 1989 further clashes took place in 'Ayn al-Hilwa between Fateh loyalists and dissidents. In April and May, another Force 17 commander (Bassam Hurani) was assassinated in Sidon. Attacks were also made against Fateh's senior representative in Lebanon, Zayd Wahba, and another ranking PLO official amidst reports of disatisfaction in Fateh ranks (fuelled by the suspension of cross-border attacks, and cuts in pay to Fateh fighters), and by growing tensions between Fateh and the PFLP-GC and FRC. In September-October another wave of attacks occurred, which Voice of Palestine labelled "an extension of the schemes that have been carried out against the Palestinian presence in Sabra, Shatila, and Burj al-Barajina"-a clear reference to Syrian-backed dissident groups. Of the more than 2,500 Palestinian fighters around Sidon, at least 1,800 are Fateh loyalists. MEI, 12 September 1987; MER, 21 November 1987, pp. 5-6, 28 May 1988, p. 14, 17 June 1989, pp. 14-16; Voice of Palestine (Baghdad) 18 October 1989 (FBIS).
58. Official text in Journal of Palestine Studies, 18, 2 (Winter 1989): 213-216.
59. New York Times, 15 December 1988.
60. Such pressures were evident, for example, at Fateh's Fifth General Congress in August 1989, which called upon the PLO to "intensify and escalate armed action and all forms of struggle." Before and after the congress, both 'Arafat and Salah Khalaf repeatedly pointed to such pressures, the former suggesting that "moderation has its limits." Jordan Times, 26 July, 23 August 1989. Such comments, of course, did not merely reflect the pressures building within the Palestinian movement; they also represented part of a deliberate effort by the PLO to exert pressure on US policy by raising the specter of future Palestinian radicalism. In the meantime, Ahmad Jibril of the PFLP-GC complained that "'Arafat and his organs are obstructing factions that want to engage in armed struggle [going] so far as to put security barriers before some of these operations." al-Quds Palestinian Arab Radio (clandestine), 25 August 1989 (FBIS).
61. Israeli attacks (and local opposition), for example, prevented the PLO from constructing a Voice of Palestine transmitter near Sidon for broadcasts to the occupied territories. Generally the IDF refrained from striking Fateh targets while Fateh refrained from cross-border attacks, a policy admitted by Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin; Washington Post, 29 March 1989. Attacks by other Palestinian groups in south Lebanon, however, frequently led to calls (both by Likud members of the government, and by the Israeli government as a whole) for an end to US-PLO dialogue; see for example New York Times, 7 February 1989. In October 1989, an Israeli government report released by Shamir's office accused Palestinian groups (other than Fateh) of having launched 18 cross-border attacks since December 1988, most from south Lebanon. It concluded that such actions constituted a violation of PLO commitments to the US, and urged a suspension of US-PLO dialogue. Montreal Gazette, 26 October 1989. Yizhak Shamir himself had earlier argued that Palestinian "terror attacks" and "incursions" rendered the PLO an unfit partner for negotiations when he visited Washington in April-one month after rejecting a March 7 offer by 'Arafat to negotiate a ceasefire in south Lebanon; "Address by Yitzhak Shamir to the American Enterprise Institute, 6 April 1989," in Journal of Palestine Studies 18, 4 (Summer 1989): 176-179.
62. Political Communiqué of the 19th PNC, in Journal of Palestine Studies 18, 2 (Winter 1989): 217. The reference to "children of the RPGs" is to the young men and women who fought against Israel and Amal in Lebanon, and whose RPG-7 grenade-launchers became a dominant symbol of Palestinian resistance in the pre-intifada 1980s.