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Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine

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Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
الجبهة الديموقراطية لتحرير فلسطين
LeaderNayef Hawatmeh
FounderNayef Hawatmeh
Yasser Abed Rabbo[1][2]
Split fromPopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
HeadquartersDamascus, Syria
Paramilitary wingNational Resistance Brigades
Political positionFar-left
National affiliationPalestine Liberation Organization[5]
Democratic Alliance List
International affiliationAxis of Resistance
Legislative Council
1 / 132
Party flag

The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP; Arabic: الجبهة الديموقراطية لتحرير فلسطين, romanizedel-Jabha ed-Dīmūqrāṭiyya li-Taḥrīr Filasṭīn) is a secular Palestinian Marxist–Leninist and Maoist organization. It is also frequently referred to as the Democratic Front, or al-Jabha al-Dīmūqrāṭiyya (الجبهة الديموقراطية). It is a member organization of the Palestine Liberation Organization,[5] the Alliance of Palestinian Forces and the Democratic Alliance List.

The group was founded in 1968 by Nayef Hawatmeh, splitting from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). It maintains a paramilitary wing, the National Resistance Brigades. The DFLP's declared goal is to "create a people's democratic Palestine, where Arabs and Jews would live without discrimination, a state without classes and national oppression, a state which allows Arabs and Jews to develop their national culture."[6]

One of the attacks for which the DFLP is best known is the 1974 Ma'alot massacre in which 25 schoolchildren and teachers were killed. Although the National Resistance Brigades have fighters based in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, these fighters have been engaged in relatively few military operations since the First Intifada, until the 2023–2024 Gaza war.


Formation as the PDFLP

Founder and current head of the DFLP Nayef Hawatmeh, a Jordanian Christian

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was established by George Habash in 1967, in the immediate aftermath of the Six-Day War.[7] The PFLP was a Marxist-Leninist, Palestinian nationalist and Pan-Arabist organization; it advocated the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of a secular socialist state in Palestine.[8] By 1968, the PFLP had joined the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), becoming the organization's second-largest member.[7] The PFLP quickly developed a reputation as a violent terrorist group, launching a series of international terrorist attacks in order to draw attention to the situation in Palestine.[9]

Ideological and personal conflicts soon broke out within the PFLP, resulting in it fragmenting into a number of different factions.[9] The Maoist factional leader Nayef Hawatmeh, a Jordanian Christian,[10] split from the PFLP in 1969 and established the Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DPFLP), which was joined by other sections of the Palestinian left and became the third-largest faction in the PLO.[11] As a Marxist-Leninist organization,[12] the DPFLP initially advocated for a proletarian revolution to overthrow the State of Israel and establish a "popular democratic state" along bi-national lines.[11]

War and peace process (1973–1987)

PDFLP poster, the caption of which reads: "Solidarity with the people of the Middle East in their struggle against imperialism, feudalism, Zionism and Arab reaction"

During the 1970s the DPFLP carried out a number of attacks, both against the Israel Defense Forces and against civilians.[11] These attacks consisted of bombings, grenade attacks and kidnappings, the latter often carried out in order to negotiate a prisoner exchange with Israel.[13] The group's largest attack was the Ma'alot massacre of 1974, an attack on an Israeli school in which 27 people were killed.[14]

Following the Yom Kippur War, the DPFLP changed its name to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and started moderating its position towards support for a two-state solution.[11] Along with Fatah and As-Sa'iqa, the DFLP became part of the moderate faction of the PLO, which advocated for Palestinian participation in the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. Supported by Egypt and Syria, the moderates of the PLO together represented over 80% of the Palestinian fedayeen and occupied a majority on the Palestinian National Council (PNC).[15]

The DFLP, Fatah and As-Sa'iqa submitted a proposal to the PNC that classified their goals: their strategic goal was the eventual independence of Palestine from "Zionist imperialism"; while their immediate goal was to force the State of Israel to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, in order to secure self-determination for the Palestinian people in those territories. The PNC adopted a similar resolution, calling for the establishment of a Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank and Gaza, while also refusing to recognise the State of Israel.[16] During the 1977 meeting of the PNC, the DFLP expressed support for the establishment of an independent State of Palestine on territory controlled by the PLO.[11]

First Intifada and split (1987–1993)

By the outbreak of the Southern Lebanon conflict in the mid-1980s, the DFLP stopped carrying out terrorist attacks against civilian targets and instead started conducting border raids against Israeli military positions in Southern Lebanon.[13] During the First Intifada, the DFLP became increasingly critical of Fatah for its continued participation in the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. This caused a rise in internal tensions, as one of the DFLP's leaders Yasser Abed Rabbo expressed support for Yasser Arafat's engagement in the peace process. In 1991, Rabbo was elected as the DFLP's Secretary General and brought the organization into the peace process, causing a split within the organization.[17] Hawatmeh's faction refused to participate in the negotiations, joining together with the PFLP in order to form an anti-Arafat front organization in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where they challenged Arafat for leadership of the PLO.[18] Rabbo ultimately left the DFLP in 1993, establishing the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA) and going on to participate in the 2000 Camp David Summit.[17]

Oslo period (1993–2000)

By the time of the Oslo Accords, the dissolution of the Soviet Union had resulted in a loss of funding for the DFLP. The DFLP thus lost its influence over the Palestinian independence movement, while Islamist groups such as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad rose to prominence.[18] In 1999, the DFLP reconciled with Fatah and considered recognising the State of Israel in the event of a peace treaty, which convinced the United States Department of State to drop the DFLP from its list of designated terrorist groups.[18][19]

Second Intifada and renewed attacks (2000–2005)

After a period of relative inactivity during the 1990s, the DFLP renewed armed attacks against the IDF during the Second Intifada.[13] They carried out a number of shooting attacks against Israeli targets, such as the 25 August 2001 attack on a military base in Gaza that killed three Israeli soldiers and wounded seven others.[20][21]

On 11 September 2001, an anonymous caller claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks in the United States on behalf of the DFLP; but the DFLP itself denied the accusations and formally condemned the attacks.[21][22] On 25 August 2007, Palestinian militants from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and DFLP attempted to enter the Israeli border town of Netiv HaAsara from Gaza. The militants used a ladder to scale the Israel-Gaza border and were killed by the Israel Defense Forces.[23]

Israel–Hamas war

The DFLP's armed wing, the National Resistance Brigades, confirmed their participation in the 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel through their military spokesman Abu Khaled.[24][25] On 7 October, during the attack on Israel, they claimed to have lost three fighters in combat with the IDF, and said on 8 October that they were engaged with Israeli forces in Kfar Aza, Be'eri, and Kissufim.[26][third-party source needed]

The DFLP battled IDF troops during the siege of Khan Yunis. On 19 February 2024 it was reported that they attacked an Israeli armored formation near Nasser Hospital.[27]

Political influence

The DFLP ran a candidate, Taysir Khalid, in the Palestinian Authority presidential election in 2005. He gained 3.35% of the vote.[28] The party had initially participated in discussions with the PFLP and the Palestinian People's Party on running a joint left-wing candidate, but these were unsuccessful.[citation needed] It did not win any seats in the 2005 PA municipal elections.[29]

In the 2006 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Front formed a joint list called al-Badeel (The Alternative) with Palestine Democratic Union (FIDA), the Palestinian People's Party and independents.[30][third-party source needed] The list was led by the historic DFLP leader Qais Abd al-Karim (Abu Leila). It received 2.8% of the popular vote and won two of the Council's 132 seats.[citation needed]

The DFLP retains important influence within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).[31] It was traditionally the third-largest group within the PLO, after Fatah and the PFLP, and since no new elections have been held to the PNC or the Executive Committee since 1988, the DFLP still commands important sectors within the organization. The PLO's role has admittedly diminished in later years, in favor of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), but it is still the recognized representative of the Palestinian people, and a reactivation of the PLO's constitutional supremacy over the PNA in connection with power struggles in Palestinian society is a distinct possibility.[citation needed]

In February 2023, the DFLP launched a party in Lebanon for the Palestinian refugees still living there, together with the Lebanese Communist Party.[32]

Organization and leadership

The DFLP held its 5th national general congress during a time-span from February to August 2007. The congress was divided into three parallel circles: West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Palestinian exiles. The congress elected a Central Committee, with 81 full members and 21 alternate members.[citation needed]

Subsequently, after the closure of the 5th national general congress, the Central Committee re-elected Hawatmeh as Secretary-General of the DFLP. The Central Committee also elected a 13-member political bureau, including notably Majida Al-Masri, Taysir Khalid and Qais Abd al-Karim.[33][third-party source needed]

Support base

The DFLP is primarily active among Palestinians in Syria and Lebanon, with a smaller presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Its Jordan branch has been converted into a separate political party, the Jordanian Democratic People's Party (JDPP or Hashd), and the DFLP is no longer active in the political arena there.[citation needed]

The DFLP mainly attracts Palestinians with a more socially liberal and secular lifestyle, as well as Palestinian Christians, primarily in cities like Nablus and Bethlehem.[citation needed]

The party publishes a weekly newspaper in several Arab countries, al-Hurriya (Liberty).[34][third-party source needed]

External relations

The DFLP is believed to receive limited financial and military aid from Syria, where it is active in the Palestinian refugee camps. The DFLP's leader, Nayif Hawatmeh lives in Syria. It provided military training for Marxist–Leninist militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in 1980 and the Sandinistas.[31]

The DFLP is not listed as a terrorist organization by the United States government or the United Nations. It was dropped from the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 1999, "primarily because of the absence of terrorist activity, as defined by relevant law...during the past two years."[35]

See also


  1. ^ Abd Rabbo, Yasir, pp. 6-7. Michael R. Fischbach, Encyclopedia of the Palestinians. Infobase Publishing, 2005
  2. ^ Palestinian National Authority: The PA Ministerial Cabinet List: April 2003 – October 2003 Archived 15 December 2003 at the Wayback Machine. Jerusalem Media and Communications Center. Archived on 27 September 2007.
  3. ^ Bollens, Scott A. (2000). On Narrow Ground: Urban Policy and Ethnic Conflict in Jerusalem and Belfast. State University of New York Press. p. 366.
  4. ^ Velez, Federico (2015). Latin American Revolutionaries and the Arab World: From the Suez Canal to the Arab Spring. Ashgate Publishing Limited. p. 106.
  5. ^ a b Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) Encyclopædia Britannica
  6. ^ ‘’Aziya i Afrika segodnya’’ – cited in edition ‘’Välispanoraam 1972’’, Tallinn, 1973, lk 129 (‘’Foreign Panorama 1972’’)
  7. ^ a b Alexander 2003, p. 33.
  8. ^ Alexander 2003, pp. 33–34.
  9. ^ a b Alexander 2003, p. 34.
  10. ^ Takriti, Abdel Razzaq (2013). Monsoon Revolution: Republicans, Sultans, and Empires in Oman, 1965–1976. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 105. ISBN 9780199674435. In the late sixties and the early seventies, Maoism was so evident in the discourse of Nayef Hawatmeh, the founder of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP) that he was satirically dubbed Nayef Zedong.
  11. ^ a b c d e Alexander 2003, p. 45.
  12. ^ Alexander 2003, p. 45; Muslih 1976, p. 128.
  13. ^ a b c Alexander 2003, p. 48.
  14. ^ "Profile: DFLP". BBC News. 4 February 2002. Retrieved 10 September 2009.
  15. ^ Muslih 1976, p. 127.
  16. ^ Muslih 1976, p. 131.
  17. ^ a b Alexander 2003, pp. 45–46.
  18. ^ a b c Alexander 2003, p. 46.
  19. ^ "The "FTO List" and Congress: Sanctioning Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations" (PDF).
  20. ^ Burke, Jason (26 August 2001). "Attack on Gaza army base kills three". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  21. ^ a b MEDEA (September 2001). "DFLP (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine)". European Institute for Research on Mediterranean and Euro-Arab Cooperation. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  22. ^ International Socialist Organization (12 September 2001). "Statement on the Air Attacks in New York and Washington, D.C." Progressive Austin. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  23. ^ "Fighters killed at Gaza crossing". Al Jazeera English. 25 August 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2023.
  24. ^ الانترنت, الحرية-مجلة التقدميين العرب على. ""أبو خالد" الناطق العسكري لكتائب المقاومة الوطنية (قوات الشهيد عمر القاسم) الجناح العسكري للجبهة الديمقراطية لتحرير فلسطين". مجلة التقدميين العرب على الانترنت. Archived from the original on 8 October 2023. Retrieved 8 October 2023.
  25. ^ Team, Flashpoint Intel (18 October 2023). "Beyond Hamas: Militant and Terrorist Groups Involved in the October 7 Attack on Israel". Flashpoint. Retrieved 8 March 2024.
  26. ^ الانترنت, الحرية-مجلة التقدميين العرب على. "خلال بيان لها قبل قليل.. كتائب المقاومة الوطنية (قوات الشهيد عمر القاسم) الجناح العسكري للجبهة الديمقراطية". مجلة التقدميين العرب على الانترنت. Archived from the original on 8 October 2023. Retrieved 8 October 2023.
  27. ^ "IRAN UPDATE, FEBRUARY 19, 2024". Institute for the Study of War. Retrieved 8 March 2024. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine... detonated an unspecified explosive device and fired a rocket-propelled grenade targeting Israeli armor near Nasser Hospital.
  28. ^ "Presidential Elections Final Results" (PDF). elections.ps. Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  29. ^ "Successful Candidates by local authority and electoral list" (PDF). Retrieved 19 January 2024.
  30. ^ "dflp-palestine.org". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  31. ^ a b Marcus, Aliza (2012). Blood and Belief: The PKK and the Kurdish Fight for Independence. NYU Press. pp. 55–56. ISBN 9780814759561.
  32. ^ http://www.lcparty.org/palestine/item/36442-2023-02-21-09-00-59
  33. ^ "dflp-palestine.org". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  34. ^ الحرية - مجلة التقدميين العرب على الانترنت. "الحرية - مجلة التقدميين العرب على الانترنت". alhourriah.org/. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  35. ^ "1999 Report Index". U.S. State Department. 8 October 1999. Retrieved 25 June 2017.


External links