The Palestinian People’s Party is considered from a historical point of view as an extension of the Communist movement in Palestine that was formed in the mid-1920’s. The key dates that had an impact on the development of the party are the same landmarks that affected the lives and course of the Palestinian people.
* In 1947 the party, which worked under the name of the “National Liberation League in Palestine”, was the only Arab Palestinian party that called for the acceptance of the Partition Resolution no. 181, issued by the UN General Assembly, stipulating the establishment of a state for the Palestinian people adjacent to a Jewish state in Palestine. Although the party considered this resolution as unfair to the Palestinian people’s historical right to the land of Mandate Palestine, it nonetheless saw in it a realistic solution that could protect the Palestinian people from dispersion and disaster. The resolution recognized the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, even if only on part of their homeland. The party viewed the resolution as a means to the end of British colonialism, which was operating under the cover of a mandate in Palestine.
It is well known that resolution 181 was not implemented in relation to its Arab Palestinian component. The Palestinian people were deprived of their right to establish their state; they were dispersed and evicted from their lands which were then torn apart, with one area annexed to Israel and another (the West Bank) annexed to Jordan. The Gaza Strip was retained under Egyptian military administration.
Palestinian communists working through the Jordanian Communist Party and the Palestinian Communist Party in the Gaza Strip, continued to defend the right of the Palestinian people to regain their lands and to exercise their right to self determination, including the right of return for Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
* In 1967 Israel committed acts of aggression and occupied all the lands of Palestine, including the West Bank, Arab Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, in addition to the Sinai in Egypt and the Golan in Syria.
At that point the Palestinian communists were the only people calling for a political solution on the basis of implementing UN Security Council Resolution 242, including guarantees for Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967, the resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue, and the right of the Arab Palestinian people to self determination.
* After the October 1973 War, the Palestinian communists supported the UN Security Council Resolution 338, and played a leading role in reinforcing recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian communists called for PLO participation in an international conference on peace in the Middle East and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. In relation to this position, and in order to escalate the levels of struggle against occupation, the communists constituted the Palestinian National Front and the United National Front in Gaza Strip. Later, they were key founders of the national guidance committee, which played a significant role in frustrating the self-rule and alternative leadership project, in addition to their role in leading the national struggle against occupation in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
* In 1982 the Palestinian communists held their first conference, and established the Palestinian Communist Party in the West Bank, Gaza and the Diaspora. They formulated their political program demanding the end of occupation; the securing of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination; the establishment of an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; and right of return for Palestinian refugees.
* Between 1986 and 1987 the party played an active role in reunifying the PLO. It contributed towards the establishment of the Palestinian Democratic Alliance, which worked relentlessly towards uniting the PLO. In 1987 the Palestinian Communist Party was designated as a full member of the PLO, becoming the first political party to be accepted in its entire status inside the PLO. Other factions inside the PLO at that time were paramilitary groups rather than de-facto political parties.
* At the end of 1987 when the Intifada erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the party contributed to the formation of the popular committees and the quarter’s committees of the Intifada command. The party was a member of the Unified National Command; it presented a revolutionary and rational position in relation to the goals and scope of the Intifada, stressing that the Intifada conscripted the political program that demands the establishment of the independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza strip under the leadership of the PLO (this matter was not accepted by all Palestinian national factions at that time). During the Intifada, the party played a major national role in organizing the various forms of grassroots and popular resistance against the occupation.
* In 1988, the PLO adopted a political program similar to the program of the party, which constituted the basis for the declaration of Palestinian independence and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, with Arab Jerusalem as its capital. This program opened the way for the PLO for active participation in the political settlement process, including participation in the Madrid Peace Conference.
* In late 1991, the communists conducted a comprehensive review in their second conference, and decided to change the name of the party to the Palestinian People’s Party. However, they maintained their political position calling for establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza strip, and securing the right of return for all refugees and displaced Palestinians through the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194. In its new bylaw, the Palestinian People’s Party stressed the democratic identity of the party. It replaced the principle of centralized democracy with a principle stipulating the basis for directing and organizing the relations amongst party members as broad democracy in the context of the centralized structure of the party. Concerning conditions for membership, the party deemed it adequate to abide by the broad guidelines of the party’s program instead of strictly adhering to the program of the party.
* The circumstances arising from the Gulf War in 1991 led to the party’s approval of the formula for the Madrid Peace Conference, including participation in the actual conference and negotiations. The Palestinian People’s Party viewed the conference as an additional arena for struggle where it could pose its political causes, the humanitarian dimensions of the Palestinian cause, and the goals of the Palestinian national struggle in order to gain the support of Arab and international forces. The party made it clear that its participation in the negotiations would be based on the plan to halt settlements, secure international protection for the Palestinian people, and implement the Geneva Convention in the territories occupied since 1967. The party also called for the formation of a negotiation reference and the collective administration of the negotiations. It called for the introduction of radical democratic reforms in the structure and action methodology within the PLO. The party was also active in recruiting Palestinian national democratic figures and representatives of various social sectors to work on formulating a common approach for national democratic action, which constituted a third distinct line in terms of implementing the goals of Palestinian national struggle for liberation, democracy and progress.
* In September 1993, the Palestinian People’s Party gave its support, with reservations, to the Declaration of Principles – Oslo Accord. It pointed out that this accord could lead the Palestinian people to regain their rights and to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, or it could prevent the Palestinian people from achieving those rights and lead to disaster if the Israeli interpretation of the accord text prevails. The party stressed that a great deal depended in this context to sticking to the Palestinian negotiations plan and the halting of settlements, as well as the extent of solidarity and coordination at the Arab and international levels. The Palestinian People’s Party did not accept the Oslo 2 Accord because it was seen as a translation of the Declaration of Principles –Oslo 1 – which moved away from the implementation of Resolution 242, and thus increased the dangers of blocking the path of progress towards independence. At the same time, the Oslo 2 Accord improved the odds of realizing a solution to the Palestinian cause that did not exceed the borders of self-rule.
* In the relation to the Palestinian Authority, the party distinguished between its position and the position of the other opposition factions that rejected the peace negotiations according to the Madrid formula and the Oslo Accord. The party supported the principle of negotiations, but objected to the method and trend adopted in those negotiations. Later, the Palestinian People’s Party welcomed the establishment of the Authority, but objected to its negotiation performance and administrative pattern. The party demanded the setting of a comprehensive development plan for the economy. It made continuous calls to rectify the operational process. In line with this position, the party refrained from joining the Authority. Succeeding developments, in terms of the holding of general elections for the legislative council and for the president of the authority at the beginning of 1996, along with the evasion methods used by the Israeli government not to implement the interim agreements with the final-status negotiations looming, pushed the leadership of the party to take a decision to respond positively to calls by President Arafat to join the Authority. In mid 1996, the Likud Party gained power in Israel, launching an attack against the agreements signed and against the rights of Palestinian people for liberation and independence; the Likud Party also escalated settlement-building activities. This major development within Israel reinforced the position of the Palestinian People’s Party in terms of joining the Authority and in stressing the need for the Authority to rectify its general approach towards comprehensive national unity. The party view was that the Authority needs to reinforce its ties with various social sectors within a democratic context, and to embark on a plan for internal reform and correction of administrative performance, in addition to strengthening the internal front and preparing it for confronting the various options.
* Following the September 1996 popular uprising, the Palestinian People’s Party stated in a political message issued on November 3 that the rising levels of resistance amongst the masses must be supported by a stringent political position from National Authority and all national forces and sectors. It pointed out that this uprising proved the failure of Zionist propaganda about the possibility of creating coexistence between the National Authority and the continuation of occupation and military and settlement control. The party also called for reinforcing popular participation in the decision-making process. It stated that an early broad campaign should be held to prepare for the declaration of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to consider the Israeli occupation as an occupation of parts of that state, and campaign for the widest possible recognition of the state.
* Regarding the Palestinian state, the Central Committee of the Palestinian People’s Party reaffirmed in May 1998 that the aggressive expansionist settlement policies of the Netanyahu government aimed at imposing a solution that does not exceed the context of a limited self rule on limited parts of the land - cantons surrounded by settlements, bypass roads and military camps that might be called a state- but that in reality it would be far from being an independent sovereign entity. The Central Committee issued a statement under the title “The Declaration of the Independent State is the goal of all the Palestinian People”, calling for the mobilization of national efforts and energies towards a broad national consensus that will outline the practical steps on both the internal and external fronts, that will make the declaration of the state a goal over which all the populace agree and fight for.
* On August 15, 1998, the Politburo of the Palestinian People’s Party announced, following the new ministerial formation which came after the reports of corruption and the collective resignation of the Palestinian government, that it does not consider itself a representative or participatory in that government, and therefore cannot assume any responsibility in its performance. In a later statement issued by the Central Committee in September of the same year, it was stressed that the new ministerial formation was aimed to basically contain the opposition in the legislative council, and created new obstacles to the efforts to separate the three authorities. The statement said that the new cabinet did not reflect the need to conduct a comprehensive review and to start a major reform process that could address the causes that led the previous cabinet to resign.
* In the current phase, the Palestinian People’s Party calls for a comprehensive review of the entire negotiation process and the performance of the Palestinian National Authority. This review process should result in a political plan to rectify the current path of the negotiations and lay down the foundations for effective administration of the PA. The party also calls for a broad national alliance for confronting the strategies of the Israeli government, which backtracks from implementing the signed agreements and attempts to impose plans that will lead to the seizure of the majority of the Palestinian lands. This will in turn reinforce the concept of limited self rule as the final solution of the Palestinian cause. The party is therefore working on forming a broad national democratic approach as an alternative to rejectionist and surrendering trends. The unity of the Palestinian people, the steadfastness of their internal front in the face of settlement expansion policy, and the demand for the implementation of international legitimacy resolutions, especially resolutions 242 and 338, together with the struggle based on Arab and international support, constitute the basic tool with which to make the Israeli government abide by the peace process with its terms of reference and final goals. If not, the Israeli government bears responsibility for the collapse of the peace process.