HAWATMAH, Nayef

Palestinian politician and leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), Hawatmeh was born to a Greek Catholic peasant family on November 17, 1935 in Salt, on the Eastern bank of the Jordan River.

In 1954 he began his higher education studies in Cairo and joined the Arab Nationalists’ Movement (ANM) of George Habash the same year. Following his return to Jordan in 1956, he became involved in revolutionary activity which led to his being sentenced to death in absentia. In 1958, he fought in the civil war in Lebanon. Afterwards he took refuge in Iraq where he directed the local section of the ANM for five years. From 1963 to 1967 he participated in the freedom struggle against the British in South Yemen. After the Six Day War, he was pardoned and returned to Jordan where he joined up with the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). He took over the leadership of the left wing of the organization. In February 1969 the movement split and Hawatmah created the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP), which was renamed DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) in August 1974.

Hawatmah was the first Palestinian leader – long before Arafat – to advocate the coexistence of a Palestinian state and Israel. He expressed recently the wish to return and settle down in the Palestinian Territories but the Netanyahu government totally opposed the idea.

Through his sense of analysis and independence vis-a-vis Arab regimes, Nayef Hawatmah has made the DFLP stand out from other Palestinian movements. He is currently residing in Damascus.