George Habash, the founder of the Marxist-Leninist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was assassinated fifteen years ago on January 26th, 2008. His death marked a significant loss for the Palestinian resistance movement, as his influence on the PFLP’s political ideology was critical.
Habash’s political ideology was heavily influenced by his upbringing under British colonial rule and the Nakba; a catastrophic event that saw Zionist paramilitaries forcibly displace hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. The crimes that Habash witnessed during the Nakba shaped his worldview and would eventually inspire him to create the PFLP.
During the Nakba, Habash left his medical studies in Beirut to return to his hometown, Lydda. The town was under a savage Zionist assault, and Habash helped treat wounded civilians and defenders. Despite the Zionist’s forceful attempts, Lydda’s inhabitants refused to surrender, leading to the uprooting of up to 70,000 Palestinians from Lydda and neighboring towns. The Palestinian refugees had to walk over 30km in temperatures as high as 40°c towards Ramallah. Many perished on this journey due to exhaustion and dehydration, and Habash attended to those who fell by the wayside, especially children, the elderly, and women.
In today’s world no one is innocent, no one a neutral. A man is either with the oppressed or he is with the oppressors. He who takes no interest in politics gives his blessing to the prevailing order, that of the ruling classes and exploiting forces.George Habash
After completing his studies, Habash initially worked as a doctor in Palestinian refugee camps in Amman, Jordan. In 1950, he co-founded the pan-Arabist Arab Nationalist Movement, adopting the slogan “Unity, Liberation, Revenge.” After the Arab states’ defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War, Habash’s political ideology shifted towards Marxism-Leninism, leading to the establishment of the PFLP. Habash served as chairman of the PFLP until 2000.
He rejected a two-state solution and instead called for guerilla warfare to establish a socialist state in all of Palestine. The PFLP, under Habash’s leadership, carried out high-profile attacks, including hijacking airplanes, which brought international attention to the Palestinian cause.
Habash survived several assassination attempts by Israeli intelligence, one of which involved hijacking a plane in which they suspected he was on board. Habash managed to evade the assassination attempt by changing planes only minutes before the flight.
After a long battle with illness, George Habash passed away on January 26, 2008, in Amman, Jordan. Habash’s legacy continues to inspire a new generation of Palestinian activists who seek to continue his vision of liberation and justice for their people. Despite being declared a terrorist organization by some countries, the PFLP and its founder remain an integral part of the Palestinian resistance movement.