Palestine National Charter

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PALESTINE NATIONAL CHARTER

Also known as the Palestinian National Covenant; in Arabic, al-Mithaq al-Watani (or al-Qawmi) al-Filastini. A document written to accompany the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), that enumerates its purposes and intentions. It was written by Ahmad al-Shukayri and adopted at the first meeting of the Palestine National Council (PNC) in May and June 1964, and revised by the PNC in July 1968. The differences between the 1964 and 1968 versions of the Charter reflect the differences between the politics of two eras—before and after the Arab-Israel War (1967)—among Palestinians and in the Arab world. Both versions claim Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people, who have exclusive rights over it; both reject the legitimacy of Zionism, the Balfour Declaration, and the Mandate and call for Palestinian self-determination; both call for the complete liberation of Palestine (and therefore, by implication, the elimination of the Israeli state); both define Palestinian identity (and include Jews "of Palestinian [i.e. pre-Zionist] origin," as the 1964 version puts it); both proclaim a belief in Arab unity. Neither version calls for a Palestinian state, but the 1964 version projects Palestinian self-determination somewhat ambiguously within the framework of a prospective sovereign Arab nation, to which the structural relationship of a Palestinian entity is not made clear; in the 1968 version, the commitment to Arab nationalism is perfunctory and the liberation of Palestine for Palestinians is the overriding goal. In the 1964 version, the PLO specifically disavows sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, then under the control of Jordan and Egypt, respectively; the 1968 version declares a "Palestinian . . . national revolution" and rejects "intervention, trusteeship and subordination." In the 1964 version there is no mention of armed struggle or any specific means of liberation; in 1968, armed struggle is "the only way to liberate Palestine" and is insisted upon throughout.

On 24 April 1996, in the context of the Oslo peace process, the PNC voted to amend the Charter, canceling all the clauses that contradicted both the spirit of the peace process and the content of the letters of mutual recognition that had passed between Israel and the PLO in September 1993, particularly Article 22 regarding the character of Zionism. In December 1998, while United States president Bill Clinton was visiting Gaza, the PNC and the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), by a show of hands, ratified the annulment of the anti-Israeli clauses of the Palestine National Charter. The full official English text of the 1964 Charter may be found at www.mfa.gov.il/MFA; the 1968 text may be found at www.miftah.org and many other sites.

SEE ALSO Arab-Israel War (1967); Gaza Strip; Palestine Liberation Organization; Palestine National Council; Palestinian Legislative Council; West Bank.

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