Palestine Liberation Organization
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|Palestine Liberation Organization
منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية
Munaẓẓamat at-Taḥrīr al-Filasṭīniyyah
|Founded||28 May 1964|
|Headquarters||Ramallah, West Bank|
|Politics of the Palestinian territories
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (Arabic: منظمة التحرير الفلسطينية; Munaẓẓamat at-Taḥrīr al-Filasṭīniyyah (help·info)) is an organization founded in 1964 with the purpose of creating an independent State of Palestine. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed observer status at the United Nations since 1974. The PLO was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist organization until the Madrid Conference in 1991. In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist in peace, accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected "violence and terrorism"; in response, Israel officially recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.
- 1 Founding
- 2 Politics
- 3 History
- 4 Palestinian National Charter
- 5 Status at the United Nations
- 6 Diplomatic representation
- 7 Recognition by Israel and the Oslo Accords
- 8 Political status and actions
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Conceived by the Arab states at the first Arab summit meeting, the 1964 Arab League summit (Cairo), its stated goal was the "liberation of Palestine" through armed struggle. The organization was called Palestinian Liberation Organization. The original PLO Charter (issued on 28 May 1964) stated that "Palestine with its boundaries that existed at the time of the British mandate is an integral regional unit" and sought to "prohibit... the existence and activity" of Zionism. It also called for a right of return and self-determination for Palestinians. Palestinian statehood was not mentioned, although in 1974 the PLO called for an independent state in the territory of Mandate Palestine. The group used multi-layered guerrilla tactics to attack Israel from their bases in Jordan (including the West Bank), Lebanon, Egypt (Gaza Strip), and Syria.
The PLO has a nominal legislative body, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), but most actual political power and decisions are controlled by the PLO Executive Committee, made up of 18 people elected by the PNC. The PLO incorporates a range of generally secular ideologies of different Palestinian movements committed to the struggle for Palestinian independence and liberation, hence the name of the organization. The Palestine Liberation Organization is considered by the Arab League and by the United Nations to be the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and holds a permanent observer seat in the United Nations General Assembly. It has been widely criticized, however, over the lack of Hamas presence in the Organization, even after Hamas won almost two-thirds of the seats in the 2006 legislative council elections.
Initially, as an armed guerrilla organization, the PLO was responsible for violent actions performed against Israel in the 1970s and early 1980s, regarded as terroristic activities by Israel and regarded as a war of liberation by the PLO. In 1988, however, the PLO officially endorsed a two-state solution, contingent on terms such as making East Jerusalem capital of the Palestinian state and giving Palestinians the right of return to land occupied by Palestinians prior to 1948, as well as the right to continue armed struggle until the end of "The Zionist Entity." In 1996, the PLO nullified the articles of the PLO's Charter, or parts of it, which called for the destruction of Israel and for armed resistance.
Other institutions are the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Central Council (PCC) which consists of 124 members from the PLO Executive Committee, PNC, PLC and other Palestinian organizations. The PCC makes policy decisions when PNC is not in session, acting as a link between the PNC and the PLO-EC. The PCC is elected by the PNC and chaired by the PNC speaker.
The PLO has no central decision-making or mechanism that enables it to directly control its factions, but they are supposed to follow the PLO charter and Executive Committee decisions. Membership has fluctuated, and some organizations have left the PLO or suspended membership during times of political turbulence, but most often these groups eventually rejoined the organization. Not all PLO activists are members of one of the factions – for example, many PNC delegates are elected as independents.
Present members include:
- Fatah – Largest faction, secular, left-wing nationalist.
- The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – Second largest, radical left militant and communist
- The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) – Third largest, communist
- The Palestinian People's Party (PPP) – Ex-communist, Social Democratic, non-militant
- The Palestine Liberation Front (PLF, Abu Abbas faction) – Minor left-wing faction
- The Arab Liberation Front (ALF) – Minor faction, aligned to the Iraqi Ba'ath Party
- As-Sa'iqa – Syrian-controlled Ba'athist faction
- The Palestine Democratic Union (Fida) – Minor democratic socialist, 2 state solution, non militant faction
- The Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF, Samir Ghawsha faction) – minor socialist faction
- The Palestinian Arab Front (PAF) – minor pro-Fatah, former Iraqi Ba'athists faction
Former member groups of the PLO include:
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The Palestinian National Council convened in Jerusalem on 28 May 1964. Concluding this meeting the PLO was founded on 2 June 1964. Its Statement of Proclamation of the Organization declared "... the right of the Palestinian Arab people to its sacred homeland Palestine and affirming the inevitability of the battle to liberate the usurped part from it, and its determination to bring out its effective revolutionary entity and the mobilization of the capabilities and potentialities and its material, military and spiritual forces".
Due to the influence of the Egyptian President Nasser, the PLO supported 'Pan-Arabism', as advocated by him – this was the ideology that the Arabs should live in one state. The first executive committee was formed on 9 August, with Ahmad Shuqeiri as its leader.
In spite of the 1949 Armistice Agreements, the Arab states remained unreconciled to Israel's creation as they had been to the proposed partition of Palestine in 1948. Therefore, the Palestinian National Charter of 1964 stated: "The claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history or with the true basis of sound statehood... [T]he Jews are not one people with an independent personality because they are citizens to their states." (Article 18).
Although Egypt and Jordan supported the creation of a Palestinian state on land that they recognised as being occupied by Israel, they would not grant sovereignty to the Palestinian people in lands under Jordanian and Egyptian military occupation, amounting to 53% of the territory allocated to Arabs under the UN Partition Plan. Hence, Article 24: "This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area."
Executive Committee Chairmen
- Ahmad Shukeiri (10 June 1964 – 24 December 1967)
- Yahya Hammuda (24 December 1967 – 2 February 1969)
- Yasser Arafat "Abu Amar" (4 February 1969 – 11 November 2004)
- (in exile in Jordan to April 1971; Lebanon 1971 – December 1982; and Tunis December 1982 – May 1994)
- Mahmoud Abbas "Abu Mazen" (From 29 October 2004 – present)
- (acting [for Arafat] to 11 November 2004)
Leadership by Yasser Arafat
The resounding defeat of Syria, Jordan and Egypt in the Six Day War of 1967 destroyed the credibility of Arab states that had fought to be patrons for the Palestinian people and their nationalist cause. The war radicalized the Palestinians and significantly weakened Nasser's influence. The way was opened, particularly after the Battle of Karameh in March 1968, for Yasser Arafat to rise to power. He advocated guerrilla warfare and successfully sought to make the PLO a fully independent organization under the control of the fedayeen organizations. At the Palestinian National Congress meeting of 1969, Fatah gained control of the executive bodies of the PLO. Arafat was appointed PLO chairman at the Palestinian National Congress in Cairo on 4 February 1969. From then on, the Executive Committee was composed essentially of representatives of the various member organizations.
The PLO at this time did not clearly either accept or reject a two state solution. According to Israeli Likud leader Menachem Begin, the PLO at this time was 'a Nazi organization' and its charter 'an Arabic Mein Kampf'.
War of attrition
From 1969 to September 1970 the PLO, with passive support from Jordan, fought a war of attrition with Israel. During this time, the PLO launched artillery attacks on the moshavim and kibbutzim of Bet Shean Valley Regional Council, while fedayeen launched numerous attacks on Israeli forces. Israel raided the PLO camps in Jordan, withdrawing only under Jordanian military pressure.
This conflict culminated in Jordan's expulsion of the PLO to Lebanon in July 1971.
Black September in Jordan
The PLO suffered a major reversal with the Jordanian assault on its armed groups in the events known as Black September in 1970. The Palestinian groups were expelled from Jordan, and during the 1970s, the PLO was effectively an umbrella group of eight organizations headquartered in Damascus and Beirut, all devoted to armed resistance to either Zionism or Israeli occupation, using methods which included direct clashing and guerrilla warfare against Israel. After Black September, the Cairo Agreement led the PLO to establish itself in Lebanon.
Ten Point Program
In 1974, the PNC approved the Ten Point Program formulated by Fatah's leaders, which calls for the establishment of a national authority over any piece of captured Palestinian land, and to actively pursue the establishment of a democratic state in Israel/Palestine. The Ten Point Program was considered the first attempt by PLO at a peaceful resolution, though the ultimate goal was "completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory, and as a step along the road to comprehensive Arab unity."
Despite the fact that the ten point program calls for the elimination of Israel, it led to several radical PLO factions (such as the PFLP, PFLP-GC and others) which also fought to eliminate Israel, breaking out to form the Rejectionist Front, which would act independently of PLO over the following years. Suspicion between the Arafat-led mainstream and more hard-line factions, inside and outside the PLO, have continued to dominate the inner workings of the organization ever since, often resulting in paralysis or conflicting courses of action. A temporary closing of ranks came in 1977, as Palestinian factions joined with hard-line Arab governments in the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front to condemn Egyptian attempts to reach a separate peace with Israel (eventually resulting in the 1979 Camp David Accords).
Israel claimed to see the Ten Point Program as dangerous, because it allegedly allows the Palestinian leadership to enter negotiations with Israel on issues where Israel can compromise, but under the intention of exploiting the compromises in order to "improve positions" for attacking Israel. The Hebrew term for this is the "Plan of Stages" (Tokhnit HaSHlabim). During the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s, some Israelis repeated this suspicion, claiming that the Palestinians' willingness to compromise was just a smoke-screen to implement the Ten Point Program. After the Oslo Accords were signed, Israeli right-wing politicians claimed (and still claim) that this was part of the ploy to implement the Stage Program as Yasser Arafat himself admitted in Arabic many times. The Ten Point Program was never officially cancelled by the Palestinians.
Lebanon and the Lebanese Civil War
In the late 1960s, and especially after the expulsion of the Palestinian militants from Jordan in Black September events in 1970–1971, Lebanon had become the base for PLO operations. Palestinian militant organizations relocated their headquarters to South Lebanon, and relying on the support in Palestinian refugee camps, waged a campaign of attacks on the Galilee and on Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide. Increasing penetration of Palestinians into Lebanese politics and Israeli retaliations gradually deteriorated the situation.
By the mid-1970s, Arafat and his Fatah movement found themselves in a tenuous position. Arafat increasingly called for diplomacy, perhaps best symbolized by his Ten Points Program and his support for a UN Security Council resolution proposed in 1976 calling for a two-state settlement on the pre-1967 borders. But the Rejectionist Front denounced the calls for diplomacy, and a diplomatic solution was vetoed by the United States. In 1975, the increasing tensions between Palestinian militants and Christian militias exploded into the Lebanese Civil War, involving all factions. On 20 January 1976, the PLO took part in the Damour massacre in retaliation to the Karantina massacre. The PLO and Lebanese National Movement attacked the Christian town of Damour, killing 684 civilians and forcing the remainder of the towns population to flee. In 1976 Syria joined the war by invading Lebanon, which began the 29‑year Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and in 1978 Israel invaded South Lebanon, in response to the Coastal Road Massacre, executed by Palestinian militants based in Lebanon.
The population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip saw Arafat as their best hope for a resolution to the conflict. This was especially so in the aftermath of the Camp David Accords of 1978 between Israel and Egypt, which the Palestinians saw as a blow to their aspirations to self-determination. Abu Nidal, a sworn enemy of the PLO since 1974, assassinated the PLO's diplomatic envoy to the European Economic Community, which in the Venice Declaration of 1980 had called for the Palestinian right of self-determination to be recognized by Israel.
Opposition to Arafat was fierce not only among radical Arab groups, but also among many on the Israeli right. This included Menachem Begin, who had stated on more than one occasion that even if the PLO accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242 and recognized Israel's right to exist, he would never negotiate with the organization.[verification needed] This contradicted the official United States position that it would negotiate with the PLO if the PLO accepted Resolution 242 and recognized Israel, which the PLO had thus far been unwilling to do. Other Arab voices had recently called for a diplomatic resolution to the hostilities in accord with the international consensus, including Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat on his visit to Washington, DC in August 1981, and Crown Prince Fahd of Saudi Arabia in his 7 August peace proposal; together with Arafat's diplomatic maneuver, these developments made Israel's argument that it had "no partner for peace" seem increasingly problematic. Thus, in the eyes of Israeli hard-liners, "the Palestinians posed a greater challenge to Israel as a peacemaking organization than as a military one".
After the appointment of Ariel Sharon to the post of Minister of defence in 1981, the Israeli government policy of allowing political growth to occur in the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip changed. The Israeli government tried, unsuccessfully, to dictate terms of political growth by replacing local pro-PLO leaders with an Israeli civil administration.
In 1982, after an attack on a senior Israeli diplomat by Lebanon-based Palestinian militants in Lebanon, Israel invaded Lebanon in a much larger scale in coordination with the Lebanese Christian militias, reaching Beirut and eventually resulting in ousting of the PLO headquarters in June that year. Low-level Palestinian insurgency in Lebanon continued in parallel with the consolidation of Shia militant organizations, but became a secondary concern to Israeli military and other Lebanese factions. With ousting of the PLO, the Lebanese Civil War gradually turned into a prolonged conflict, shifting from mainly PLO-Christian conflict into involvement of all Lebanese factions – whether Sunni, Shia, Druze, and Christians.
In 1982, the PLO relocated to Tunis, Tunisia after it was driven out of Lebanon by Israel during Israel's six-month invasion of Lebanon. Following massive raids by Israeli forces in Beirut, it is estimated that 8,000 PLO fighters evacuated the city and dispersed.
It is suggested that the Tunis period (1982–1991) was a negative point in the PLO's history, leading up to the Oslo negotiations and formation of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The PLO in exile was distant from a concentrated number of Palestinians and became far less effective. There was a significant reduction in centres of research, political debates or journalistic endeavours that had encouraged an energised public presence of the PLO in Beirut. More and more Palestinians were abandoned, and many felt that this was the beginning of the end.
In 1987, the First Intifada broke out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Intifada caught the PLO by surprise, and the leadership abroad could only indirectly influence the events. A new local leadership emerged, the Unified National Leadership of the Uprising (UNLU), comprising many leading Palestinian factions. After King Hussein of Jordan proclaimed the administrative and legal separation of the West Bank from Jordan in 1988, the Palestine National Council adopted the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in Algiers, proclaiming an independent State of Palestine. The declaration made reference to UN resolutions without explicitly mentioning Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
A month later, Arafat declared in Geneva that the PLO would support a solution of the conflict based on these Resolutions. Effectively, the PLO recognized Israel's right to exist within pre-1967 borders, with the understanding that the Palestinians would be allowed to set up their own state in the West Bank and Gaza. The United States accepted this clarification by Arafat and began to allow diplomatic contacts with PLO officials. The Proclamation of Independence did not lead to statehood, although over 100 states recognised the State of Palestine.
Persian Gulf War
After the Gulf War in 1991, Kuwaiti authorities forcibly pressured nearly 200,000 Palestinians to leave Kuwait. The policy which partly led to this exodus was a response to the alignment of PLO leader Yasser Arafat with Saddam Hussein.
In 1993, the PLO secretly negotiated the Oslo Accords with Israel. The accords were signed on 20 August 1993. There was a subsequent public ceremony in Washington D.C. on 13 September 1993 with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. The Accords granted the Palestinians right to self-government on the Gaza Strip and the city of Jericho in the West Bank through the creation of the Palestinian Authority. Yasser Arafat was appointed head of the Palestinian Authority and a timetable for elections was laid out which saw Arafat elected president in January 1996, 18 months behind schedule. Although the PLO and the PA are not formally linked, the PLO dominates the administration. The headquarters of the PLO were moved to Ramallah on the West Bank.
On 9 September 1993, Arafat issued a press release stating that "the PLO recognizes the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security".
Some Palestinian officials have stated that the peace treaty must be viewed as permanent. According to some opinion polls, a majority of Israelis believe Palestinians should have a state of their own—a major shift in attitude after the Oslo Accord—even though both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres opposed the creation of a Palestinian state, both before and after the Accord. At the same time, a significant portion of the Israeli public and some political leaders (including the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) express doubt over whether a peaceful, coherent state can be founded by the PLO, and call for significant re-organization, including the elimination of all terrorism, before any talk about independence.
The Second or Al-Aqsa Intifada started concurrent with the breakdown of talks at Camp David with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The Intifada never ended officially, but violence hit relatively low levels during 2005. The death toll both military and civilians of the entire conflict in 2000–2004 is estimated to be 3,223 Palestinians and 950 Israelis, although this number is criticized for not differentiating between combatants and civilians. Members of the PLO have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks against Israelis during the Second Intifada.
Palestinian National Charter
Status at the United Nations
The United Nations General Assembly recognized the PLO as the "representative of the Palestinian people" in Resolution 3210 and Resolution 3236, and granted the PLO observer status on 22 November 1974 in Resolution 3237. On 12 January 1976 the UN Security Council voted 11–1 with 3 abstentions to allow the Palestinian Liberation Organization to participate in a Security Council debate without voting rights, a privilege usually restricted to UN member states. It was admitted as a full member of the Asia group on 2 April 1986.
After the Palestinian Declaration of Independence the PLO's representation was renamed Palestine. On 7 July 1998, this status was extended to allow participation in General Assembly debates, though not in voting.
By September 2012, with their application for full membership stalled due to the inability of Security Council members to 'make a unanimous recommendation', the Palestine Authority had decided to pursue an upgrade in status from "observer entity" to "non-member observer state". On 27 November it was announced that the appeal had been officially made, and would be put to a vote in the General Assembly on November 29, where their status upgrade was expected to be supported by a majority of states. In addition to granting Palestine "non-member observer state status", the draft resolution "expresses the hope that the Security Council will consider favourably the application submitted on 23 September 2011 by the State of Palestine for admission to full membership in the United Nations, endorses the two state solution based on the pre-1967 borders, and stresses the need for an immediate resumption of negotiations between the two parties."
On Thursday, 29 November 2012, In a 138-9 vote (with 41 abstaining) General Assembly resolution 67/19 passed, upgrading Palestine to "non-member observer state" status in the United Nations. The new status equates Palestine's with that of the Holy See.The change in status was described by The Independent as "de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine".
The vote was a historic benchmark for the sovereign State of Palestine and its citizens, whilst it was a diplomatic setback for Israel and the United States. Status as an observer state in the UN will allow the State of Palestine to join treaties and specialised UN agencies, such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the Law of the Seas Treaty and the International Criminal Court. It shall permit Palestine to claim legal rights over its territorial waters and air space as a sovereign state recognised by the UN. It shall also provide the citizens of Palestine with the right to sue for control of the territory that is rightfully theirs in the International Court of Justice and with the legal right to bring war-crimes charges, mainly those relating to Israel's unlawful occupation of the State of Palestine, against Israel in the International Criminal Court.
The UN has authorised Palestine to title its representative office to the UN as 'The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations', and Palestine has started to re-title its name accordingly on postal stamps, official documents and passports, whilst it has instructed its diplomats to officially represent 'The State of Palestine', as opposed to the 'Palestine National Authority'. Additionally, on 17 December 2012, UN Chief of Protocol Yeocheol Yoon decided that "the designation of 'State of Palestine' shall be used by the Secretariat in all official United Nations documents".
The Palestine Information Office was registered with the Justice Department of the United States as a foreign agent until 1968, when it was closed. It was reopened in 1989 as the Palestine Affairs Center. The PLO Mission office, in Washington D.C was opened in 1994, and represented the PLO in the United States. On 20 July 2010, the United States Department of State agreed to upgrade the status of the PLO Mission in the United States to "General Delegation of the PLO".
Recognition by Israel and the Oslo Accords
In 1993, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat recognized the State of Israel in an official letter to its prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin. In response to Arafat's letter, Israel decided to revert its stance toward the PLO and to recognize the organization as the representative of the Palestinian people. This led to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Political status and actions
The PLO began their militancy campaign from its inception with an attack on Israel's National Water Carrier in January 1965. The PLO was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 1987, but in 1988 a presidential waiver was issued which permitted contact with the organization. The United States attempted to prosecute Yasser Arafat for his complicity in the assassination of two U.S diplomats. Israel considered the PLO to be a terrorist organization until the Madrid Conference in 1991. Most of the rest of the world recognized the PLO as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people from the mid-1970s onwards (after the PLO's admission to the UN as an observer.)
The most notable of what were considered terrorist acts committed by member organizations of the PLO were:
- The 1970 Avivim school bus massacre by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), killed nine children, three adults and crippled 19.
- In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the second-largest PLO faction after al-Fatah, carried out a number of attacks and plane hijackings mostly directed at Israel, most infamously the Dawson's Field hijackings, which precipitated the Black September in Jordan crisis.
- In 1972, the Black September Organization carried out the Munich massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes.
- In 1974, members of the DFLP seized a school in Israel and killed a total of 26 students and adults and wounded over 70 in the Ma'alot massacre.
- The 1975, Savoy Hotel hostage situation killing 8 hostages and 3 soldiers, carried out by Fatah.
- The 1978, Coastal Road massacre killing 37 Israelis and wounding 76, also carried out by Fatah.
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- Human rights in the Palestinian National Authority
- Palestinian political violence
- Proposals for a Palestinian state
- Palestinian territories
- Palestinian Liberation Army
- Hamas-Fatah conflict
- Israeli-Palestinian conflict
- Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
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History and Overview
- Statement of Proclamation of the Organization (1964)
- Palestinian National Charter (1968) published by The Avalon Project at Yale Law School
- Palestinian National Charter (1964) published by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations
- PLO Political Program Adopted at the 12th Session of the Palestine National Council Cairo, 8 June 1974 published by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations]
- Decisions and Actions related to the Palestine National Charter (1996) at the Wayback Machine (archived January 18, 2008) published by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations]
- Unofficial Translation[dead link] of the Statement by the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization 1996 document above
- Draft constitution (2003) as published by the Palestine National Authority Ministry of Foreign Affairs[dead link]
- Constitution of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) (1968)
- Commentary on the Palestine National Charter published by the Jewish Virtual Library
- Dean Peter F. Krogh Discusses the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
- PLO in Oxford Islamic Studies Online
- Collection of Documents, Biographies and other information on the Palestine Liberation Organization published by the Jewish Virtual Library
- The Palestinian Vision of Peace (2002) as stated by the PLO Negotiations Affairs Department
- Documents regarding the Soviet Ministry of Defense 1983 special operation requested by Yasir Arafat: delivery of two German-built coast guard cutters belonging to the PLO from Syria to Tunis – (PDF in Russian) from the Soviet Archives  collected by Vladimir Bukovsky
- Photo enlargement shows Palestinians marching in West Berlin, 15 November 69.
- Collection of over 150 PLO posters