Thursday, 31 January 2008


Palestinian Leader George Habash Dies

January 29, 2008

The Palestinian embassy in Havana expressed its profound sorrow for the
death of the founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (PFLP), George Habash who was buried on Monday in Jordan.

For more than 60 years Habash was a symbol of Palestinian struggle and
national unity. He will be remembered as a wise leader and a great man, both
by the Arab nation and the international liberation movements, notes the
embassy statement, reported Prensa Latina.

The statement announces that a condolence book is open at the Palestinian
diplomatic mission located on 20th Street in Miramar, where the Cuban
population can pay tribute to the deceased leader.

The PFLP founder died Saturday of a heart attack after a prolonged struggle
against cancer. His burial took place Monday in Amman, the Jordanian
capital, where a multitude of people accompanied his remains to the
Christian cemetery of Sabah to the east of the city.


Palestinians in Cuba Mourn Leader

Havana, Jan 29 (Prensa Latina) The Palestinian embassy in Cuba expressed its
deep sorrow over the death of the founder and leader of the Popular Front
for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), George Habash, who was buried yesterday
in Jordan.

Habash, who for 60 years was a symbol of struggle and of Palestine national
unity, will be remembered as a wise leader and a great man, both of the Arab
nation as of the International Liberation Movement, expressed an official

The text also informs the location of a condolence book in the Palestinian
diplomatic mission in this capital open to the Cuban people to pay tribute
to the deceased leader.

The founder of PFLP died Saturday of a heart attack after a prolonged battle
against cancer.

He was buried in Amman, Jordanian capital, where a large crowd accompanied
his remains to the Christian cemetery of Sabah, to the east of the city.

After a mass in his memory in a Greek Orthodox church, an urn with his
remains, covered with a Palestine flag was taken to the tomb of soldiers of
the Palestine Liberation Army.

Among the political personalities attending the funeral were the President
of the National Palestine Council, Salim Zaanun and representatives of the
Palestine movements of resistance.


From the Los Angeles Times
George Habash; Arab nationalist planned hijackings
By Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

January 27, 2008

George Habash, the founder of Arab nationalism and architect of the infamous
airline hijackings of the 1960s and '70s that brought the search for a
Palestinian homeland terrifyingly close to home for millions around the
world, died Saturday in Amman, Jordan.

Bedridden for years and partially paralyzed after two strokes, Habash died
of a heart attack in an Amman hospital five days after surgery to implant a
stent, his surgeon, Harran Zreiqat, told the Associated Press. He was
believed to be 82, but the precise date of his birth could not be confirmed.

His death came at a time of bitter divisions in the Palestinian movement
between revolutionaries convinced, as he was, that violence is the only
effective way to achieve a Palestinian state, and moderates who favor the
diplomatic route.

With a wave of airline hijackings and the headline-grabbing seizure of a
French airliner at Entebbe, Uganda, in 1976, Habash's Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) inspired an image of ruthlessness in a
Western psyche unattuned to the violent politics of the Middle East.

But after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which had supported them, Habash
and his radical contemporaries found themselves increasingly marginalized,
hidden away in secret offices in Syria while the Palestine Liberation
Organization's mainstream moved toward accommodation with Israel and the

Habash nonetheless remained an idol to the movement's leftist intellectuals
and disenfranchised thousands who inhabit Palestinian refugee camps in
Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

A Marxist physician who dreamed that a united Arab nation could force Israel
to give back Palestine, Habash played the revolutionary to PLO Chairman
Yasser Arafat's role of politician, frequently ridiculing Arafat's checkered
headdress and military uniform.

His quarreling with Arafat, who died in 2004, defined the Palestinian
movement's choices for decades, just as the split between Mahmoud Abbas,
Arafat's diplomacy-minded successor, and the militant Islamic group Hamas
does today.

Accusing Arafat of selling out the Palestinian cause to the United States
and Israel, Habash resisted all attempts to arrive at a negotiated
resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that did not involve the return of
Palestinians to their historic homelands in Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa.

For millions of young Arabs, Habash represented the voice that said no to
Western intervention in the Middle East and to the Arab regimes, such as
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt, that had allowed U.S. interests to dominate
the region. He saw the Palestinian cause as part of a global struggle, and
defended international terrorism as a way of drawing attention to it.

The son of a Greek Orthodox wheat merchant, Habash reportedly believed that
he was prevented from assuming control of the PLO because he was not a
Muslim. He was born in 1925 in the village of Lydda, now Lod, the site of
Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.

The village fell to Israeli control after a fierce bombardment in 1948, and
Habash fled to Lebanon after being seized and beaten by Israeli soldiers.

He studied medicine at the American University of Beirut, founding a series
of radical student organizations that called for unifying the Arabs'
military might to annihilate Israel.

After Israeli forces crushed an Arab assault and moved into the West Bank,
Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Syria's Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East
War, Habash formed the PFLP to continue operations against Israelis. It
became the second-largest faction within the PLO, after Arafat's Fatah

In one of its first operations, an Israeli El Al airliner was hijacked to
Algiers in July 1968, forcing the Israelis to free 16 Palestinian prisoners
in exchange for the release of the plane and its passengers.

Two years later, PFLP guerrillas hijacked four airliners in September 1970,
blowing up an American Boeing 747 at Cairo International Airport and holding
about 500 passengers from the other three aircraft hostage in Jordan.

"When we hijack a plane, it has more effect than if we killed a hundred
Israelis in battle," Habash once said. "For decades, world public opinion
has been neither for nor against the Palestinians. It simply ignored us. At
least the world's talking about us now."

The hijackings prompted Jordan's King Hussein to expel the Palestinians.
Habash publicly renounced hijackings in the early 1970s.

But the terror did not stop. In May 1972, the PFLP used Japanese Red Army
guerrillas to conduct a machine-gun attack on the Tel Aviv airport's
terminal building, resulting in the deaths of 27 civilians. Two years later,
PFLP operatives threw hand grenades into a Tel Aviv theater, killing three
and injuring 54.

And in June 1976, Habash's chief lieutenant, Wadia Haddad, directed the
hijacking of a French A-300 Airbus to Entebbe, Uganda, with the aid of a
transnational terrorist force. Four civilians were killed in a dramatic
rescue operation undertaken by Israeli commandos, who killed all seven
gunmen and about 30 Ugandan soldiers.

Some later reports said that Haddad had broken with Habash before Entebbe,
but Habash remained opposed to Arafat's attempts to reach accommodation with
Israel and the West.

Habash was infuriated by Arafat's public renunciation of terrorism in 1988
and his recognition of United Nations Resolution 242, which implied Israel's
right to exist.

And he rejected Arafat's 1993 interim agreement with Israel that created an
autonomous Palestinian government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He
refused to move there, claiming that Arafat was deluding Palestinians by
making them think full independence was around the corner.

Palestinians, he said, must accept the idea that they might have to fight
for the rest of their lives, to simply outlast the Israelis, so that their
children might call Palestine home; and they must continuously remind the
world that their demands are unchanged and unchangeable.

"I believe that 6 million Palestinians, if they say we want only self-
determination, they will get it," he told The Times in a 1991 interview.
"Imagine. Six million saying daily, daily, daily, 'We want
self-determination, we want self-determination.' And expressing this by all
means. I see it very clearly, that we will succeed. Why not?"

Partially paralyzed by a stroke in 1979, Habash could walk only with the aid
of a cane and increasingly was confined to his well-guarded office in Syria,
with its pictures of Palestine and a woven tapestry of Jerusalem's Dome of
the Rock, Islam's holiest shrine.

He suffered a second stroke in 1992 and moved to Jordan later that year. In
2000, he stepped down as PFLP general secretary.

Habash's wife, Hilda, and two daughters were at his bedside when he died.

Palestinians divided over how to deal with Israel joined in praising Habash
on Saturday. Abbas, who took over Arafat's efforts to negotiate Palestinian
statehood, declared a three-day mourning period.

A senior Hamas official in Damascus, Mohammad Nazzal, called Habash's death
a "huge loss."

"We had our ideological differences, but Dr. Habash shared Hamas' opposition
to the peace deals the PLO signed with the Jewish state as a sellout of
Palestinian rights," Nazzal said.

Leila Khaled, a longtime PFLP activist, said Habash was likely to be buried
in Jordan.

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