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PLO's 50th Anniversary Subdued

  • Scott Bobb

The Palestine Liberation Organization is marking the anniversary of its founding 50 years ago, but any celebrations are subdued.

Al-Amari refugee camp, one of the largest in the West Bank. It is the 50th birthday of the Palestine Liberation Organization, but no one seems to know it.

The PLO, made up of nearly a dozen parties, signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. The internationally recognized representative of the Palestinian people, it also declared Palestinian independence in 1988.

It has also experienced setbacks. Its dominant member, Fatah, was expelled from Gaza by Hamas militants seven years ago. And the PLO was driven from Jordan and Lebanon in the 1970s and ‘80s.

But Executive Committee Member Qais Abdul-Karim Abu-Laila says the PLO has played an important role.

“The main thing is the PLO has reconstructed the political unity of the Palestinian people and in this way it has foiled the attempt by the Zionist movement to obliterate the Palestinians as a distinct nation," said Abu-Laila.

But at al-Amari camp, many are disillusioned. Ahmed Moussa belongs to the Popular Committee that tries to help the residents. He says the PLO has declined since of the rise of the Palestinian Authority and Islamist movements like Hamas.

“Since the Palestinian Authority has taken over the role as the representative of the Palestinian people, the PLO is no longer as strong as it was in the 1960s and ‘70s," said Moussa.

Fatah and Hamas have been trying to end their deep divisions. The two groups Tuesday announced they had reached agreement on a unity government. Fatah delegate, Azzam al-Ahmed:

“We have just finished our consultations in a semi-final form and the viewpoints of Hamas and Fatah movements and names will be presented to President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] to give his final decision in the government line-up," said al-Ahmed.

Abu Laila believes Hamas could join the PLO.

“We now have a situation where the Islamic factions have been convinced, or they came to a conviction, that they could deal with their disagreements with the other factions within the umbrella of the PLO, not outside this umbrella," he said.

But Moussa is not optimistic.

“The Organization, if it wants to return as strong as it was and as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, it has to hold elections for the entire leadership, from the bottom up," he said.

Opinion polls show many Palestinians are disillusioned with their political leaders. Many believe reconciliation could help their cause, but few believe it will happen.