Habash, George (Al-Hakim, "The Doctor"; 1925–)

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HABASH, GEORGE (al-Hakim, "the Doctor"; 1925–)

Palestinian political figure born in Lydda, Palestine, to a Greek Orthodox family. In July 1948, after the start of the first Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Habash family took refuge in Lebanon. After studying at the Orthodox College in Jerusalem and the American University in Beirut, Habash went on to study medicine. In 1948 he joined the Syrian People's Party. In 1951 he graduated from medical school at the top of his class. In October 1952, in Beirut, with his fellow students Hani al-Hindi, Ahmad al-Khatib, Bassel al-Kobeissi, and Wadiʿ Haddad, he founded the Arab Nationalist Movement (ANM), which was Nasserist in inspiration and agitated against Zionism and for the liberation of Palestine. Having become a pediatrician, he and Haddad opened a clinic in Amman, where he treated the Palestinian refugee population for free. In August 1956 he ran for office unsuccessfully in the Jordanian legislative elections. He was questioned a number of times about his political activism, and the Jordanian authorities expelled him to Damascus, where he continued to advocate the ideas of the ANM.

He arrived in Damascus when Egypt and Syria were forming the United Arab Republic. In 1963, when relations between Baʿthists and Nasserists were deteriorating, he left Damascus for Beirut. In April 1964, after the national conference of the ANM, he created a regional command for Palestine, supervising the planning of armed actions. In December 1967, after the Arab defeat in the 1967 War, he dissolved the ANM in order to found the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), into which the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) of Ahmad Jibril merged. Habash was named secretary general of the PFLP. He was imprisoned in Damascus in March 1968 and freed eight months later by a PFLP commando, led by his friend Haddad. However, while he was incarcerated a number of his close associates began to compete for leadership of the PFLP. Two of his assistants resigned in order to create their own movements: Ahmad Jibril, in 1968, founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command, and Nayif Hawatmeh created of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). On his return to Jordan, Habash came up
against the hostility of the Hashimite monarchy, whose abolition he was advocating. In June 1970 PFLP guerrillas entered Amman and fought with the Jordanian army, which was unable to defeat them decisively. A truce was reached, with the PFLP remaining in place in the capital. In August Habash made a virtual declaration of war on King Hussein, demanding the installation of a "national democratic regime" in Jordan. Between 6 and 9 September a PFLP commando hijacked three civilian airliners to the Jordanian desert, destroying them after the passengers were evacuated. On 16 September the king formed a military government and the next day launched an attack against Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. This was the beginning of Black September 1970. After ten days a ceasefire was arranged by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, but when fighting flared up again the following summer all Palestinian resistance organizations were expelled from the country and went to Lebanon, ending the virtual civil war in Jordan.

In September 1974, opposing a negotiated solution to the Palestinian problem, Habash quit the PLO Executive Committee to join the Rejection Front, in which he became the principal figure. Between 1975 and 1978, opposing Syrian meddling in the Lebanese Civil War, he advised rapprochement with al-Fatah. In 1980 he suffered a serious stroke that incapacitated him for months. In September 1982, evicted from Lebanon along with other Palestinian organizations, he left Beirut at the head of his troops to set up his base in Damascus. In June 1983 he announced the constitution of a common military and political command linking the PFLP and Nayif Hawatmeh's DFLP. The following year, in order to oppose the policies of al-Fatah, he participated in founding the Democratic Alliance, which gathered together the PFLP, the DFLP, and the PLF. In April 1987, after the Democratic Alliance was dissolved, putting the unity of Palestinian forces before ideological differences, he rejoined the PLO Executive Committee, as did the DFLP leadership. In 1989 illness prevented him from completely fulfilling his duties as the head of the movement and a struggle for succession started between Ahmed Yamani and Salah Salah. On 17 September 1990, for the first time in more than twenty years, he returned to Amman, accompanied by Hawatmeh, and both of them were received by King Hussein. In February 1991 he was in Paris for cancer treatment; in Paris his presence caused an international outcry. On 19 September 1993, opposing the Israeli-Palestinian accord that was scheduled to be signed three days later, he and Hawatmeh announced their resignation from the PLO Executive Committee. A few days later, the two movements joined the Palestinian opposition, the Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF). In August 1994, to consolidate his position in the APF and toughen the organization's opposition to the Oslo Accords, the PFLP announced its resignation from the PLO Central Council. In April 2000 Habash resigned from the leadership of the PFLP. In July he was replaced by Mustafa al-Zabri (Abu Ali Mustafa), who was assassinated by the Israelis in Ramallah in 2001. Habash, in ill health, lives in Damascus.

SEE ALSO Alliance of Palestinian Forces (APF);Arab-Israel War (1967);Arab Nationalist Movement;Black September 1970;Fatah, al-;Hussein ibn Talal;Jibril, Ahmad;Nasser, Gamal Abdel;Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine;Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command;Rejection Front.

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Habash, George (Al-Hakim, "The Doctor"; 1925–)

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