In European politics, any coalition of working-class and middle-class political parties united to defend democracy against an expected fascist assault. The policy of a “united front” against fascism was announced at the communist Third International (1935); it was to include not only communists and socialists but also liberals, moderates, and even conservatives. Popular-front governments were formed in France and Spain in 1936, but the financial consequences of the reforms undertaken by the French government, under Léon Blum, proved its undoing, and the Spanish government was brought down by Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War.
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The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) (Arabic: الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير فلسطين, al-Jabhah al-Sha`biyyah li-Tahrīr Filastīn) is a Marxist-Leninist, secular, nationalist Palestinian political and military organization, founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization (the largest being Fatah). It has generally taken a hard line on Palestinian national aspirations, opposing the more moderate stance of Fatah. It opposed the Oslo Accords and was for a long time opposed to the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in 1999 came to an agreement with the PLO leadership regarding negotiations with Israel. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Canada, and Israel. The military wing of the PFLP is called the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades.
In an interview with American journalist John Cooley, Habash identified the Arab defeat by Israel as "the scientific society of Israel as against our own backwardness in the Arab world. This called for the total rebuilding of Arab society into a twentieth-century society," (Cooley 1973:135).
The ANM was founded in this nationalist spirit. "[W]e held the 'Guevara view' of the 'revolutionary human being'," Habash told Cooley. "A new breed of man had to emerge, among the Arabs as everywhere else. This meant applying everything in human power to the realization of a cause." (ibid.)
The ANM formed underground branches in several Arab countries, including Libya, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, then still under British rule. It adopted secularism and socialist economic ideas, and pushed for armed struggle. In collaboration with the Palestinian Liberation Army, the ANM established Abtal al-Audah, Heroes of the Return, as a commando group in 1966. After the Six Day War of June 1967, this group merged in August with two other groups, Youth for Revenge and Ahmed Jibril's Syrian-backed Palestine Liberation Front, to form the PFLP, with Habash as leader. By early 1968, the PFLP had trained between one and three thousand guerrillas. It had the financial backing of Syria, and was headquartered there, and one of its training camps was based in as-Salt, Jordan. In 1969, the PFLP declared itself a Marxist-Leninist organization, but it has remained faithful to Pan Arabism, seeing the Palestinian struggle as part of a wider uprising against Western imperialism, which also aims to unite the Arab world by overthrowing "reactionary" regimes. It published a newspaper, al-Hadaf (The Target, or Goal), which was edited by Ghassan Kanafani.
In 1972, the Popular Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of Palestine was formed following a split in PFLP.
The PFLP had a troubled relationship with George Habash's one-time deputy, Wadie Haddad, who was eventually expelled. There are allegations that he was a Soviet agent, but this is not accepted by everyone.
After the eruption of the First Intifada and the subsequent Oslo Accords the PFLP had difficulty establishing itself in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The boycott of the 1996 elections gave many the impression that the PFLP was irrelevant to developments inside Palestine. At that time (1993–96) Hamas enjoyed rapidly rising popularity in the wake of their successful strategy of suicide bombings devised by Yahya Ayyash ("the Engineer"). Also, the fall of the Soviet Union together with the rise in the Arab world of Islamism—and particularly the increased popularity of the Islamist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad—disoriented many left activists who looked towards the Soviet Union, and has marginalised the PFLP's role in Palestinian politics and armed resistance. However, the organization retains considerable political influence within the PLO, since no new elections have been held for the organisation's legislative body, the PNC.
As a result of its post-Oslo weakness, the PFLP has been forced to adapt slowly and find partners among politically active, preferably young, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, in order to compensate for their dependence on their aging commanders returning from or remaining in exile. The PFLP has therefore formed alliances with other leftist groups formed within the Palestinian Authority, including the Palestinian People's Party, the Popular Resistance Committees of Gaza.
The PFLP is powerful politically in the Ramallah area, the eastern districts and suburbs of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the primarily Christian Refidyeh district of Nablus, but has far less strength in the rest of the West Bank, and is of little or no threat to the established Hamas and Fatah movements in Gaza.
The PFLP participated in the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006 as the "Martyr Abu Ali Mustafa List". It won 4.2% of the popular vote and took three of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council. Its deputies are Ahmad Sa'adat, Jamil Majdalawi, and Khalida Jarrar. In the lists, its best vote was 9.4% in Bethlehem, followed by 6.6% in Ramallah and al-Bireh, and 6.5% in North Gaza.
Ahmad Sa'adat was subsequently elected general secretary on 3 October 2001. In January 2002, he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority under pressure from the United States and the United Kingdom and imprisoned in Jericho prison along with several other PFLP members accused by Israel of involvement in the Zeevi assassination. The Palestinian High Court ordered his release, stating that there were no legal grounds for the imprisonment, but the Palestinian National Authority refused to implement the court's decision. On 14 March 2006, the Israel Defense Forces attacked the prison and, after a 10-hour siege resulting in the death of two people and the wounding of 35, removed Sadat and five other inmates from the Jericho prison, arrested them, and took them to Israel for trial.
The PFLP platform never wavered on key points such as the overthrow of conservative or monarchist Arab states like Morocco and Jordan, the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes in pre-1948 Palestine, or the use of the liberation of Palestine as a launching board for achieving Arab unity - reflecting its beginnings in the Pan-Arab ANM. Today, the PFLP is less staunch in its opposition to a negotiated solution than it was in 1987, when the First Intifada broke out, but generally maintains a hardline profile. Its Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades has been active during the Second Intifada, with attacks on soldiers, settlers, both on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside Israel proper.
The current PFLP draws its support from urban, usually university educated Palestinians of varying ages who lead a more secular lifestyle, hold liberal beliefs on social issues, and socialist views on economic issues. Whereas Hamas completely dominates the slums of Gaza, Qalqilya, and Hebron, the PFLP has its roots among the urban middle class, often Christians like their founder George Habash who fear Islamisation of the Palestinians and the erasure of the rights of minorities within a Hamas theocracy.
The PFLP's armed wing, in the West Bank and Gaza, the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, draws much of its support from student organizations in universities like Al-Quds University (eastern Jerusalem), Bir Zeit University (Ramallah area), An-Najah National University (Nablus), and the Arab American University - Jenin. The movement has thousands of active or passive activists in the West Bank, and a few hundred behind bars in Israeli prisons.
This is a list of armed attacks attributed to the PFLP. It is not complete.