Facing bankruptcy, terror group accuses Abbas of ‘political blackmail’

PFLP officials accused Abbas of using the funds as a means of “blackmail” to force their organization to change its policies and make “political concessions.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses Arab journalists in Ramallah on July 3 (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses Arab journalists in Ramallah on July 3
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is on the brink of bankruptcy after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cut funds to the organization, which was founded in 1967 by George Habash.
The PFLP, a secular Marxist organization, is the second largest group forming the PLO. Abbas’s Fatah is the largest and most dominant faction in the PLO.
The PFLP joined the PLO in 1968, but its representatives have in recent years been boycotting participation in the PLO Executive Committee, which has 15 members representing all PLO member factions.
Abbas serves as chairman of Fatah and the PLO Executive Committee.
PFLP officials accused Abbas of using the funds as a means of “blackmail” to force their organization to change its policies and make “political concessions.” The officials claimed that Abbas and Israel were working together to “eliminate” the PFLP.
The PFLP, which does not recognize Israel, opposed the Oslo Accords that were signed between Israel and the PLO in 1993. That opposition, however, did not prevent the PFLP from participating in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. It won three of the 132 seats of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Famous for pioneering aircraft hijackings in the 1960s and 1970s, the PFLP is nowadays considered the main Palestinian opposition group in the West Bank after Hamas.
A massive Israeli security crackdown on the PFLP’s military, political and financial infrastructure in the West Bank has further intensified the organization’s crisis.
In December 2019, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced that Israeli security forces have uncovered and dismantled a 50-person strong PFLP cell believed to be behind a string of deadly attacks. According to the Shin Bet, among those arrested was Walid Hanatsheh, a senior PFLP member who allegedly financed some of the organization’s terrorist attacks.
The security crackdown came shortly after the IDF arrested Khalidar Jarrar, a senior member of the PFLP who was one of the three PFLP representatives elected in 2006 to the Palestinian Legislative Council. According to the IDF, Jarrar was arrested on “suspicion of being involved in activities which jeopardize the security in the area.”
“The PFLP is facing a very serious financial crisis,” a former activist with the organization told The Jerusalem Post. “The leaders and the top officials are in Israeli prison, and Abbas and the PLO leadership have cut off the funding.”
A veteran Palestinian political analyst who has been closely monitoring the PFLP for the past three decades said Israel and the PA have a common enemy, “and it’s the Popular Front.”
“For many years, the Popular Front has been a thorn in the side of Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” the analyst told the Post. “Both would be happy to see the Popular Front vanish from sight.”
In addition to Fatah and the PFLP, the PLO consists of a number of tiny groups, including the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), the Palestinian People’s Party (formerly the Palestinian Communist party), the Popular Struggle Front and the Palestinian Liberation Front.
PFLP Secretary-General Ahmad Sa’adat is currently serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli prison for his role in the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in Jerusalem in October 2001. Sa’adat was arrested by the IDF in 2006.
In 2017 the Palestinian National Fund, established in 1964 to finance the activities of the PLO, reportedly informed the PFLP of its decision to suspend all funds to the organization due to a financial crisis.
Then, Palestinian sources said that the real reason for the move was pressure on Abbas from Israel, the US and other international parties to halt funding to terrorist groups, including the PFLP.
“The severe financial crisis is already taking its toll on the Popular Front,” a Fatah official in Ramallah said.  He said that Abbas was also unhappy with the PFLP because of its close relations with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Defiant PFLP officials claimed that Abbas was seeking to force them to make “political concessions” by suspending the funds to the organization. The suspension of the funds, they argued, was aimed at “silencing the “voices of the Palestinian opposition” while strengthening the Fatah faction.
“We won’t sell our political positions or martyrs to appease Abbas,” said Abdel Alim Da’na, member of the PFLP Central Committee. “The payments we receive from the PLO are our right in our capacity as the second largest faction [of the PLO].”
The PFLP has been facing a “fierce war because of its political positions and rejection of negotiations [with Israel],” Da’na said.
Miriam Abu Dakka, a senior PFLP official, said that the suspension of the funds and the arrest of PFLP members by Israel won’t change her organization’s positions. “We will continue to resist the occupation and attempts [by Abbas] to have exclusive control of the PLO,” Abu Dakka added.
Hussein Mansour, also a member of the PFLP Central Committee, said his organization was facing a “systematic campaign aimed at starving it and forcing it to surrender.” He denounced the suspension of the funds to the PFLP as “an act of piracy” on the part of the PLO leadership. Mansour too said that the PFLP won’t change its political stances as a result of the financial pressure.
Another senior PFLP official, Maher Mezher, said that Abbas has refused to respond to initiatives to solve the issue of the organization’s funds. Mezher told the London-based Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed media outlet that Abbas has been “besieging” the PFLP for the past two and a half years. “We are facing a piracy operation by Abbas because of our political positions,” the PFLP official complained.
“The PFLP will continue its current campaign until the Palestinian leadership stops its political blackmail.”