George Habash on morality and the Palestinian revolution: ‘Our code of morals is our revolution’

In June 1970, after the Western-backed regime in Jordan had shelled Palestinian refugee camps in the country, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), under the leadership of its Secretary General, George Habash, took a group of nationals from the USA, West Germany and Britain – Israel’s primary sponsors – hostage at two hotels in the capital, Amman.

In return for their safe release, the PFLP demanded that ‘all shelling of the camps be ended and all demands of the Palestinian resistance movement met’. Shortly before the hostages were all safely released a few days later, on June 12, 1970, Habash addressed them in person at the Jordan Intercontinental Hotel in Amman and thoughtfully explained the group’s actions from a Palestinian revolutionary perspective.

Habash’s words – published in full below – should be listened to very carefully, especially by those who sympathize with the Palestinian cause but waver in their solidarity when the Palestinians dare to fight back. The unprecedented armed resistance launched by the united factions in Gaza recently – of which the PFLP is one – must be understood in the context that Habash so eloquently describes:

For 22 years our people have been waiting in order to restore their rights, but nothing happened… After 22 years of injustice, inhumanity, living in camps with nobody caring for us, we feel that we have the very full right to protect our revolution. We have all the right to protect our revolution…

The urgency that underlines his message is even more palpable half a century later, for the Palestinians – consistently refusing passive victimhood – have now lived in the wretched conditions Habash depicts for 75 long years, not 22.


Ladies and gentlemen;

I feel that it is my duty to explain to you why we did what we did. Of course, from a liberal point of view of thinking, I feel sorry for what happened, and I am sorry that we caused you some trouble during the last 2 or 3 days. But leaving this aside, I hope that you will understand, or at least try to understand, why we did what we did. Maybe it will be difficult for you to understand our point of view. People living in different circumstances think on different lines. They cannot think in the same manner, and we, the Palestinian people, and the conditions we have been living for a good num­ber of years, all these conditions have modeled our way of thinking. We cannot help it. You can understand our way of thinking when you know a very basic fact. We, the Palestinians, for 22 years, for the last 22 years, have been living in camps and tents. We were driven out of our country, our houses, our homes, and our lands driven out like sheep, and left here in refugee camps in very inhumane conditions. For 22 years, our people have been waiting in order to restore their rights, but nothing hap­pened. Three years ago, circumstances became favou­rable so that our people could carry arms to de­fend their cause and start to fight to restore their rights, to go back to their country and li­berate their country. After 22 years of injust­ice, inhumanity, living in camps with nobody caring for us, we feel that we have the very full right to protect our revolution. We have all the right to protect our revolution. Our code of morals is our revolution. What saves our re­volution, what helps our revolution, what pro­tects our revolution is right, is very right and very honorable and very noble and very beautiful, because our revolution means justice, means having back our homes, having back our country, which is a very just and noble aim. You have to take this point into consideration. If you want to be, in one way or another, cooperative with us, try to understand our point of view.

We don’t wake up in the morning to have a cup of milk with Nescafe and then spend half an hour before the mirror thinking of flying to Switzerland or having one month in this country or one month in that country. We don’t have the thousands or millions of dollars that you in America and Britain have. We live daily in camps. Our wives wait for the wa­ter, whether it will come at 10 o’clock in the morning, 12 o’clock, or 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We cannot be calm, as you can. We can­not think as you think.

We have lived in this condition, not for one day, not for two days, not for three days. Not for one week, not for two weeks, not for three weeks. Not for one year, not for two years, but for 22 years.

If any one of you comes to these camps and stays for one or two weeks, he will be affected. He cannot think and handle things regardless of the conditions he will be living.

When our revolution started three years ago, so many attempts were planned to strike our revolution. Actually, all commando organi­sations after June 1967, a very well-known date to you, started and their eyes aimed at the con­quered land. But when the revolution went on, so many forces – our enemies – put so many plans to beat this revolution. America is against us. We know this very well. We feel this very well. We felt it last year from the aid of the Phantoms. America is against our re­volution. They work to crush our revolution. They work through the reactionary regime in Jordan and the reactionary regime in Lebanon. They tried on the fourth of November in 1968 to crush the revolution. Nevertheless, during events here, all of us were aiming for the conquered land. This was the first attempt on the 4th of November 1968. A second attempt, four months ago, on the tenth of February, and during the last week, we lived the 3rd attempt. Ac­tually, they are working daily against the re­volution, every day. These dates are the peaks only when their attempts reached a certain high level. Every time we lose men, we lose blood; we give sacrifices. On the 10th of Feb­ruary, there was something like 50 casualties, at least. Regarding this third attempt from the reactionary regime to smash the revolution – and people who live here in Jordan know it very well and feel it very well – the reaction­ary regime started this. Anybody who lives in Jordan knows this very well. We cannot base our revolution on lies. I am talking facts here.

Last Saturday, there was an incident here in Amman. On Sunday, there was an incident in Zerqa, and then things flared. This time we felt, to be frank with you, that this attempt, at least from their own point of view, seems to be the final attempt. I mean to say, we felt that this time they are determined to smash the revolution no matter what level the sacri­fices were.

Here, we felt that we have all the right in the world to protect our revolution. We remembered all the miseries, all the injustices, our people and the conditions they lived, the coldness with which world opinion looks at our case, and so we felt that we will not permit them to crush us. We will defend ourselves and our revolution by every way and every means because – as I told you – our code of morals is our revolution. Anything that pro­tects our revolution would be right. This is our line of thinking. So we put counterplans de­ciding that we should win.

One of the items in this plan was what happened here. We felt that we have the full right to make pressure here on the reac­tionary regime and in America and all forces, and this will be a winning card in our hand. I am talking very frankly, and I have also to be frank and tell you something. We were really determined. We were not joking.

I am so glad that things and conditions went the way they should because – to be frank – we were fully determined that, in case they will smash us in the camps, we will blow all this building and the Philadelphia [Hotel] all over. We were really determined to do this: Why? Because we know that our revolution will continue even if they crush us here in Amman, and we want your governments to know that from now on the Front will mean every word it says.

We were fully determined to blow this ho­tel and the Philadelphia Hotel on one condition and in one circumstance. We were very keen not to lose our nerves. We were very keen not to lose our nerves. They were very determined, by their tanks, artillery, and airplanes, to smash us. You are not better than our people. In the last incidents, there were something like 500 casualties, the least num­ber, believe me, the least number.

Yesterday I was in one hospital only, where the doctors told me that there are 280 wounded and 60 dead. Dead fighters.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I feel so much released now that we were not put in the corner and forced to do all that we were determined to do in case conditions went in that way.

I know the liberal way of thinking. I know it very well. I know how much it would be dif­ficult to convince you. I know that some of you will be saying at present: “What have I to do with these conditions? This is very unfair and very unjust and rude and selfish.” All right.

Conditions in which people live – these conditions actually determine their way of thinking and code of morals.

We tried our best – and I hope we succeeded in this – that during your presence in the hotel under the auspices of the Front, that you would be treated the best way we can.

This is the first time we manage a hotel. Our men, I am sure, know how to fight very well, but I don’t know to what extent they were good at managing the hotel. But instructions were very clear. I hope they succeeded in this. I think we always helped you by keeping our­ nerves. The day before yesterday, Al-Wahdat Camp was shelled for more than half an hour. Anyone of you can go to Al-Wahdat Camp and see the places affected. It is very natural to start thinking [at] that time of executing the item. We held our nerves very well.

Ladies and gentlemen;

You have to excuse my English. From the personal side, let me say; I apologize to you. I am sorry about your troubles for three or four days. But from a revolutionary point of view, we feel, we will continue to feel that we have the very, very full right to do what we did.

Thank you very much.

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