George Habash

Last updated

George Habash
جورج حبش
George Habash.jpg
Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
In office
December 1967 July 2000
Succeeded by Abu Ali Mustafa
Personal details
Born(1926-08-02)2 August 1926
Lydda, British Mandate of Palestine
Died26 January 2008(2008-01-26) (aged 81)
Amman, Jordan
Nationality Palestinian
Political party Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (1967–2008)
Arab Nationalist Movement (1951–1967)
Alma mater American University of Beirut

George Habash (Arabic : جورج حبش), also known by his laqab "al-Hakim" (Arabic : الحكيم, "the wise one" or "the doctor"; 2 August 1926 – 26 January 2008) was a Palestinian Christian politician who founded the left-wing secular nationalist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Habash served as Secretary-General of the PFLP until 2000, when ill health forced him to resign. [1] [2] [3]

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine political party

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is a secular Palestinian Marxist–Leninist and revolutionary socialist organization founded in 1967 by George Habash. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization, the largest being Fatah. As of 2015 the PFLP boycotts participation in the PLO Executive Committee and the Palestinian National Council.


Early life

George Habash received an undergraduate degree in medicine from the American University of Beirut, 1951. George Habash 1951.jpg
George Habash received an undergraduate degree in medicine from the American University of Beirut, 1951.

Habash was born in Lydda (today's Lod) to an Eastern Orthodox Palestinian family in 1926. [4] [5] As a child, he sang in the church choir. [6] Habash, a medical student at the American University of Beirut, was visiting his family during the 1948 Arab–Israeli war. In July 1948, the Israeli Defence Force captured Lydda from Jordanian and Arab Liberation Army forces, expelling all of the town's Arab residents and killing Habash's sister. Habash and his remaining family became refugees and were not allowed to return home.

Lod Place in Israel

Lod is a city 15 km (9.3 mi) southeast of Tel Aviv in the Central District of Israel. In 2017 it had a population of 74,604.

American University of Beirut private university in Lebanon

The American University of Beirut (AUB) is a private, non sectarian, and independent university in Beirut, Lebanon. It is one of the most prestigious universities in the Middle East, securing the top spot in the Arab region in the 2018 QS World University Rankings.

Jordan Arab country in Western Asia

Jordan, officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is an Arab country in Western Asia, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and the east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and Israel and Palestine to the west. The Dead Sea is located along its western borders and the country has a small coastline to the Red Sea in its extreme south-west, but is otherwise landlocked. Jordan is strategically located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe. The capital, Amman, is Jordan's most populous city as well as the country's economic, political and cultural centre.

Political thinkers who were influences on Habash at this period included Constantin Zureiq, whose lectures at AUB on 'Arab nationalism and the Zionist danger' in the late 1940s and early 1950s Habash had attended, and Sati' al-Husri an Arab Muslim intellectual who emphasized national cohesiveness, territorial patriotism, and loyalty to the state, and gave priority to Arab unity over Islamic unity. [7]

Constantin Zureiq Syrian historian

Constantin K. Zurayk was a prominent and influential Syrian Arab intellectual who was one of the first to pioneer and express the importance of Arab nationalism. He stressed the urgent need to transform stagnant Arab society by means of rational thought and radical modification of the methods of thinking and acting. He developed some ideas, such as the "Arab mission" and "national philosophy", which were to become key concepts for Arab nationalist thinkers, and in more recent years was a strong proponent of an intellectual reformation of Arab society, emphasizing the need for rationalism and an ethical revolution.

Sati al-Husri Syrian politician

Sāṭi` al-Ḥuṣrī was an Ottoman and Syrian writer, educationalist and an influential Arab nationalist thinker in the 20th century.

In 1951, after graduating first in his class from medical school, Habash worked in refugee camps in Jordan, and ran a clinic with Wadie Haddad in Amman. He firmly believed that the state of Israel should be ended by all possible means, including political violence. [8] In an effort to recruit the Arab world to this cause, Habash founded the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM) in 1951 and aligned the organization with Gamal Abdel Nasser's Arab nationalist ideology.

Wadie Haddad, also known as Abu Hani, was a Palestinian leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine's armed wing. He was responsible for organizing several civilian airplane hijackings in support of the Palestinian cause in the 1960s and 1970s.

Israel country in the Middle East

Israel, also known as the State of Israel, is a country in Western Asia, located on the southeastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the northern shore of the Red Sea. It has land borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan on the east, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the east and west, respectively, and Egypt to the southwest. The country contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Israel's economic and technological center is Tel Aviv, while its seat of government and proclaimed capital is Jerusalem, although the state's sovereignty over Jerusalem has only partial recognition.

Arab world Geographic and cultural region in Africa and the Middle East

The Arab world, also known as the Arab nation, the Arabsphere or the Arab states, currently consists of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries that make up the members of the Arab League. These countries occupy the Middle East and North Africa; an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean in the southeast. The contemporary Arab world has a combined population of around 422 million inhabitants, over half of whom are under 25 years of age.

He was implicated in the 1957 coup attempt in Jordan, which had originated among Palestinian members of the National Guard. Habash was convicted in absentia, after having gone underground when King Hussein proclaimed martial law and banned all political parties. In 1958 he fled to Syria (then part of the United Arab Republic), but was forced to return[ why? ] to Beirut in 1961 by the tumultuous break-up of the UAR.

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turkemens. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunnis make up the largest religious group in Syria.

United Arab Republic Former country in the Middle East

The United Arab Republic was a sovereign state in the Middle East from 1958 to 1961. It was initially a political union between Egypt and Syria from 1958 until Syria seceded from the union after the 1961 Syrian coup d'état, leaving a rump state. Egypt continued to be known officially as the United Arab Republic until 1971.

Habash was a leading member of the Palestine Liberation Organization until 1967 when he was sidelined by Fatah leader Yasser Arafat. In response, Habash founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Palestine Liberation Organization Palestinian militant and political organization

The Palestine Liberation Organization is an organization founded in 1964 with the purpose of the "liberation of Palestine" through armed struggle, with much of its violence aimed at Israeli civilians. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed observer status at the United Nations since 1974. The PLO was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist organization until the Madrid Conference in 1991. In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist in peace, accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected "violence and terrorism". In response, Israel officially recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people. However, the PLO has employed violence in the years since 1993, particularly during the 2000–2005 Second Intifada. On 29 October 2018, the Palestinian Central Council suspended the recognition of Israel and halted security and economic coordination in all its forms with it.

Fatah major Palestinian political party

Fatah, formerly the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, is a Palestinian nationalist political party and the largest faction of the confederated multi-party Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the second-largest party in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The President of the Palestinian Authority is a member of Fatah.

Yasser Arafat 20th-century former Palestinian President, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient

Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini, popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar, was a Palestinian political leader. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from 1969 to 2004 and President of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) from 1994 to 2004. Ideologically an Arab nationalist, he was a founding member of the Fatah political party, which he led from 1959 until 2004.

In 1964 he began reorganizing the ANM, regrouping the Palestinian members of the organization into a "regional command." After the Six-Day War in 1967, disillusion with Nasser became widespread. This prompted the foundation, led by Habash, of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) as a front of several Palestinian factions, like the "heroes of return" and "Palestinian Liberation Front", along with the ANM on 11 December, when he also became its first Secretary-General. Habash was briefly imprisoned in Syria in 1968, but escaped. In the same year, he also came into conflict with long-time ally Wadie Haddad, but both remained in the PFLP.

At a 1969 congress the PFLP re-designated itself a Marxist–Leninist movement, and has remained a Communist organization ever since. Its pan-Arab leanings have been diminished since the ANM days, but popular support for a united Arab front has remained, especially in regard to Israeli and western political pressures. It holds a firm position regarding Israel, demanding its complete eradication as a racist state through military struggle and promotes a one-state solution (one secular, democratic, non-denominational state).[ citation needed ]

Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Darwish & George Habash in Syria Arafat Darwish Habash.jpg
Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Darwish & George Habash in Syria

The 1969 congress also saw an ultra-leftist faction under Nayef Hawatmeh and Yasser Abd Rabbo split off as the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP), later to become the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). During Habash's time as Secretary-General, the PFLP became known as one of the most radical and militant Palestinian factions, and gained world notoriety after a string of aircraft hijackings and attacks against Israel affiliated companies as well as Israeli ambassadors in Europe mostly planned by Haddad. The PFLP's pioneering of modern international terror operations brought the group, and the Palestinian issue, onto newspaper front pages worldwide, but it also provoked intense criticism from other parts of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In 1970, Habash was evicted from Jordan due to the key role of the Popular Front in the Black September clashes. In 1974, the Palestinian National Council adopted a resolution recognizing a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict [ citation needed ] and Habash, who opposed this, formed the Rejectionist Front from several other opposition parties.

Habash aligned the PFLP with the PLO and the Lebanese National Movement, but stayed neutral during the Lebanese Civil War in the late 1970s. After a stroke in 1980, when he was living in Damascus, his health declined and other PFLP members rose to the top.

After the Oslo Agreements, Habash formed another opposition alliance of Rejectionists, including Islamist organizations such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine, that became prominent during the First Intifada. In 2000, he resigned from his leadership post of the PFLP due to poor health and was succeeded by Abu Ali Mustafa. He continued to be an activist for the group until 2008, when he died of a heart attack in Amman.

Black September

The PFLP ignored tensions with the mainstream leadership of Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction, and instead focused on bringing about revolutionary change in Jordan. Habash expressed the opinion that what proceeded was not "only military but also psychological warfare" and one had to "hold the Israelis under permanent pressure". [9]

In the 1970 Dawson's Field hijackings, Habash masterminded the hijackings of four Western airliners over the United States, Europe, the Far East and the Persian Gulf. The aircraft were forced to fly to a World War II airfield in Jordan, the passengers and crews were disembarked and the planes were then blown up.

The Dawson's Field hijackings were instrumental in provoking the Black September crackdown, which came close to destroying the PLO. The hijackings led King Hussein of Jordan to carry out a major offensive against militant strongholds in his kingdom resulting in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. [10] In autumn 1970, Habash visited Beijing. After Black September, the PLO fedayeen relocated to Lebanon.

In 1972, Habash experienced failing health, and gradually began to lose influence within the organization. The Palestinian National Council's (PNC) adoption of a resolution viewed by the PFLP as a two-state solution in 1974, prompted Habash to lead his organization out of active participation in the PLO and to join the Iraqi-backed Rejectionist Front. Only in 1977 would the PFLP opt to rejoin, as the Palestinian factions rallied their forces in opposition to Anwar Sadat's overtures towards Israel, pro-U.S. policies and fragmentation of the Arab world. During the Lebanese Civil War that broke out in 1975, PFLP forces were decimated in battle against Syria. Later, the PFLP would draw close to Syria, as Syria's government shifted, but PFLP involvement in the Lebanese war remained strong until the U.S.-negotiated evacuation of PLO units from Beirut in 1982, and continued on a smaller scale after that.

Oslo agreement

After the signing of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993, Habash and the PFLP again broke completely with Arafat, accusing him of selling out the Palestinian revolution. The group set up an anti-Arafat and anti-Oslo alliance in Damascus, for the first time joined by non-PLO Islamist groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which had grown to prominence during the First Intifada. After finding the position sterile, with Palestinian political dynamics playing out on the West Bank and Gaza areas of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Habash carefully sought to repair ties to Arafat, and gain a hold in post-Oslo politics without compromising PFLP principles. However, there is no indication that he ever accepted the two-state solution. This balancing act could not save the PFLP from being eclipsed by the militant Islamist factions on the one hand, and the resource-rich Fatah with its PNA patronage network on the other. The significance of the PFLP in Palestinian politics has diminished considerably since the mid-90s. The PFLP participated in the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006 as Ahmad Sa'adat won 4.2% of the popular vote.

In the late 1990s, Habash's medical condition worsened. In 2000 he resigned from the post as Secretary-General, citing health reasons. He was succeeded as head of the PFLP by Abu Ali Mustafa who was assassinated by Israel during the Second Intifada. Habash went on to set up a PFLP-affiliated research center, but he remained active in the PFLP's internal politics. Until his death he was still popular among many Palestinians, who appreciate his revolutionary ideology, his determination and principles, the rejection of the Oslo Agreements and his intellectual style.


George Habash Square, Ramallah PS-George Habbash square, Ramallah.JPG
George Habash Square, Ramallah

Habash died on 26 January 2008, at the age of 81 of a heart attack in the Jordan Hospital, Amman where Habash was a cancer patient. [11] The President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas called for three days of national mourning. [8] Habash was buried in a suburban cemetery of Amman with processions by the Eastern Orthodox Church. [12] Abbas said Habash was a "historic leader" and called for Palestinian flags to be flown half-mast. Abdel Raheem Mallouh, PFLP deputy Secretary-General, called Habash a "distinguished leader... who struggled for more than 60 years without a stop for the rights and the interests of his people". [8] Hamas leader and dismissed Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh sent his condolences, saying Habash "spent his life defending Palestine". [12]

Related Research Articles

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command political party

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command or PFLP-GC is a Palestinian nationalist militant organisation based in Syria. It was founded in 1968 by Ahmed Jibril after splitting from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) based on claims that it was producing impotent intellectuals, and not making any meaningful progress in terms of armed struggle to liberate Palestine. In the 1970s and 1980s it was involved in the Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon and launched a number of attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians; including the Avivim school bus massacre (1970), the bombing of Swissair Flight 330 (1970), the Kiryat Shmona massacre (1974) and the Night of the Gliders (1987). Since the late 1980s it has been largely inactive, but during the Syrian Civil War it has been fighting on the side of the Syrian government.

Palestinian Liberation Front political party

The Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF) is a Palestinian political faction.

As-Saiqa Palestinian political and military group and pro-syrian armed militia.

For the Libyan Special Forces see: Al-Saiqa (Libya)

Black September civil war in Jordan between 1970 and 1971

Black September was a conflict fought in Jordan between the Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF), under the leadership of King Hussein, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), under the leadership of Yasser Arafat, primarily between 16 and 27 September 1970, with certain actions continuing until 17 July 1971.

The Rejectionist Front or Front of the Palestinian Forces Rejecting Solutions of Surrender was a political coalition formed in 1974 by radical Palestinian factions who rejected the Ten Point Program adopted by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in its 12th Palestinian National Congress (PNC) session.

Yasser Abed Rabbo Palestinian politician

Yasser Abed Rabbo also known by his kunya, Abu Bashar is a Palestinian politician and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Executive Committee.

Fatah al-Intifada

Fatah al-Intifada is a Palestinian militant faction founded by Col. Said al-Muragha, better known as 'Abu Musa'. The group is often referred to as the 'Abu Musa Faction'. Officially it refers to itself as the Palestinian National Liberation Movement - "Fatah", the identical name of the major Fatah movement. Fatah al-Intifada is not part of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Palestinian National and Islamic Forces

The Palestinian National and Islamic Forces is a coalition formed shortly after the outbreak of the second Intifada with the authorization of Yasser Arafat and led by Marwan Barghouti. The coalition coordinates the agenda of its members and helps plan and execute joint political actions against Israel. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the group enjoyed significant influence during the second intifada, but since the election of Mahmoud Abbas in 2005 it has been less active.

Palestinian fedayeen

Palestinian fedayeen are militants or guerrillas of a nationalist orientation from among the Palestinian people. Most Palestinians consider the fedayeen to be "freedom fighters", while most Israelis consider them to be terrorists.

PLO's Ten Point Program, is the name of the plan accepted by the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), during the 12th meeting of the PNC which was held in Cairo on 8 June 1974.

The Arab Nationalist Movement, also known as the Movement of Arab Nationalists and the Harakiyyin, was a pan-Arab nationalist organization influential in much of the Arab world, particularly within the Palestinian movement. It was established in 1951 by George Habash.

The Palestinian National Salvation Front was a coalition of Palestinian factions. The creation of the Palestinian National Salvation Front was announced on March 25, 1985 by Khalid al-Fahum. The front consisted of the PFLP, PFLP-GC, as-Sa'iqa, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, the Palestinian Liberation Front and Fatah al-Intifada. The Front was founded in reaction to the Amman Accord between Yasser Arafat and King Hussein of Jordan.

Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine political party

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) is a Palestinian Marxist–Leninist–Maoist, secular political and militant organization. It is also frequently referred to as the Democratic Front, or al-Jabha al-Dimuqratiyah. It is a member organization of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Nayef Hawatmeh Jordanian politician

Nayef Hawatmeh is a Palestinian politician of Jordanian origin. His name can be transliterated from the Arabic in many ways; variants include Naif Hawatma, Nayif Hawatme, etc.

The Alliance of Palestinian Forces is a loose alliance of eight Palestinian political factions. The Alliance was created in Damascus in December 1993 by ten factions opposed to the negotiations that led up to the Oslo Accords. The Alliance calls for the liberation of all Palestinian lands. It has sometimes been referred to as the 'Damascus 10'.


  1. Hirst, David (27 January 2008). "George Habash". The Guardian.
  2. Murphy, Maureen Clare (30 January 2008). "George Habash's contribution to the Palestinian struggle". The Electronic Intifada.
  3. "George Habash: A Profile From the Archives".
  4. Arab Gateway: Palestine Who's Who (C-M) Archived 21 April 2007[Date mismatch] at the Wayback Machine
  5. Bernard Reich (1990). Political Leaders of the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 528. ISBN   978-0-313-26213-5.
  6. Macleod, Scott (28 January 2008). "Terrorism's Christian Godfather". TIME.
  7. Harold Cubert, The PFLP's Changing Role in the Middle East, p.30
  8. 1 2 3 "Palestinian radical founder dies". BBC News. 26 January 2008.
  9. ‘’Aziya i Afrika segodnya’’ cited in edition ‘’Välispanoraam 1972’’, Tallinn, 1973, lk 129 (‘’Foreign Panorama 1972’’)
  10. Cnaan Liphshiz (27 January 2008). "Tales of Black September". Haaretz.
  11. Edmund L. Andrews; John Kifner (27 January 2008). "George Habash, 82, founder of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine". The New York Times.
  12. 1 2 "PFLP founder George Habash dies". Al Jazeera. 28 January 2008.