HABASH, Georges

Palestinian politician who founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1968 and led it until 2000.

Habashe was born on August 2, 1926 in Lydda, Palestine (today Lod in Israel) to a Greek Orthodox family of merchants. In July 1948, his family was expelled. He studied pediatrics at the American University of Beirut and graduated in 1951.

He was very active politically and one year later founded the Arab Nationalists’ Movement (ANM). In 1952, in Amman he opened a « people’s dispensary » from which he participated in ANM management with the aim of unifying the Arab World to confront Israel and the western alliance. Arrested in 1957, he sought refuge in Damascus, at the moment the United Arab Republic was constituted between Egypt and Syria. Converted to Nasserism, George Habash and the ANM developed theories conflicting with those of the Fatah*. The essential, according to them, for the « liberation of Palestine », was not to mobilize the Palestinians as such, but rather an intervention on the part of the Arab states against Israel, the role of the Palestinians being merely catalytic. In 1964, the ANM created a Palestinian branch which acted out of Beirut, where Dr Habash settled and organized his first armed actions in 1956.

The 1967 war, which crippled Mr Nasser’s prestige, led to the disappearance of the ANM, wiped out by the failure of the idea of Arab unity incarnated by the Egyptian Rais. Several regional groups grew out of the ANM, the better known ones being the South Yemen branch, which took over the government at the end of 1967, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP*) headed by George Habash since then.

A series of spectacular terrorist attacks in the sixties and seventies have made George Habash world-famous. George Habash and the PFLP have been based in Damascus for more than 20 years and have always been strongly opposed to the Oslo process. In April 2000, Georges Habash resigned from his post of Secretary General and was succeeded by his deputy Abu Ali Mustafa. The latter had returned to the Palestinian territories, after 29 years of exile and had established himself in Ramallah on the West Bank. On 27 August 2001, Abu Ali Mustafa (born Mustafa Zibri) was assassinated by the Israeli military forces. The PFLP has not yet decided who will replace Abu Ali at the head of the PFLP.