My name is Nils. I'm a correspondent for a daily newspaper in Copenhagen. I just returned from the Middle East from visiting Lebanon and Jordan where I was dealing specifically with the situation within the Palestinian Liberation Movement.
What has happened since the June 1967 war is the formation of a new renaissance movement, made up of 11 or 12 different commando groups into the Palestinian Liberation Movement.
They all represent different ideas from within the Palestinian people and I should say the whole Arab world as such.
Until February of this year, there was a lot of disagreement among the Palestinians about how the fight against Israel should take place and also a lot of disagreements among the individual groups.
In February there was a crisis in Jordan, because King Hussein wanted to move against the Fedayeen. Fedayeen is an Arab term meaning "he who sacrifices", or loosely, "commando."
Hussein's aattacks led to an historical event within the Palestinian movement, by forcing all of the commando groups into a coalition for self-defense, called the Unified Command. For the first time the guerrilla organizations stuck together and succeeded in matching the army of Jordan, and a compromise was established.
The historical event of the February crisis is that now you have a Unified Command which the people in the different organizations hopefully will develop a united front along the patterns that were developed in Algeria and what has been happening in Vietnam.
What one should understand is that this is not just a Palestinian issue, this is an issue which concerns the whole Arab world.
The reason for so many different Palestinian groups is that since Israel was established in 1948 the Palestinian people have lived all over the Arab world. In returning from the different Arab countries today they bring with them the ideology and many political points of view which the different Arab countries have.
So what is happening within the Palestinian movement today, is that it's actually a debate between four political parties and lines in the Arab world.
The following interview is with a member of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. They realize that the struggle is not only one against Israel, but also one against the conservative governments of the Arab world.
The PDFLP and the PFLP claim that they should liberate Palestine and they should liberate Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait at the same time as well.
This brings out a lot of contradictions within the movement, because the major group, Al Fatah, which is a nationalist group, says that they don 't want to deal with the situation in the Arab countries. They say they should concentrate on the struggle against Israel right now.
The following is an interview in the northern part of Jordan. I visited a military base of the PDFLP. It is the only group which today would let an outsider visit one of their bases. Most of the other groups have had bad experiences about journalists coming there and giving the information to the Israelis, or in some way or another the Israelis obtaining it. For this reason the possibilities of visiting bases are very limited.
The base was established some miles from the Jordan river and about 30 guerrillas lived there in caves. The guerrillas had only the absolute of minimum needs to live on.
This interview was taken with one of the Fedayeen at this base, a 24-year-old Palestinian who used to live in Bagdad, Iraq. His name is Souht (phonetic spelling).
Q: What is life like up here in the mountains?
A: Well, of course, a large part of it is very tough. But we can sustain the toughness because we're fighting for a purpose. We're fighting for a cause so we don't care about the toughness. We left the cities and we gave up our whole lives for this cause.
We live in natural caves and sometimes we dig them ourselves. Also we live in tents. Some of the bases only have blankets, no tents or caves.
Q: When you take an action, do you go far into Israel?
A: Of course, that depends. Some operations are only minor. Most operations are made, let's say, a kilometer or two inside Israel. Some operations, which are increasing now, are made farther. The farthest point we move east is about 30 or 40 kilometers, and that's quite dangerous.
Of course we have our comrades who are always inside Israel. They live in the oppressed regions. They're always there and they also make operations inside. They even raid Haifa on the Mediterranean Sea, and that's the last point you can reach.
Q: What do you think of the capacity of the Israeli soldiers? I mean, when you meet them personally, face-to-face?
A: I tell you, he is a well-trained soldier, but the Israeli soldier--I think he is not fighting for a real cause. He is realizing that in his part he is serving imperialism, he is serving exactly the U.S.
Q: Do you really think the Israeli soldier is aware of this?
A: I think they are beginning to realize this. For one thing, our comrades inside have very close contacts with the Israelis. Also I've noticed their capacity for fighting. One year ago, two years ago it was different. There are many more now but we can see for sure that when they fight they do not want to die. Not like us. We do not care. We do not want to die but we don't care if we die. But he cares.
You can see these days they become very afraid. They are becoming very afraid of Fedayeen commandoes. Sometimes, even in combat, they get away from the area. They just don't want to fight, they don't want to be killed. But their training is good and their weapons are very very good, better than ours, much better. They use all kinds of weapons, especially heavy artillery and heavy machine guns.
Q: Against civilians?
A: Yes, of course. All the borders are filled with heavy artillery and heavy machine guns. They rarely ever use light machine guns like the ones we use- always their weapons are heavier. But we depend on surprise, that's one point we depend on. Our training and our knowledge of the combat area, our faith in our cause and our willingness to sacrifice are others. When we retreat from a skirmish it's for tactical reasons, not because we are afraid.
Q: Does it sometimes happen that the Israeli soldiers cross the river?
A: Yes, it happens. They cross many times, but not in small groups like ours, in larger groups, groups of 50 or 60 or sometimes 100. They rarely attack in these groups, they just cross to frighten people. On the Lebanese border they cross many times and take prisoners. Two years ago they crossed the Jordan river with over 10,000 troops and attacked Karamah, which was destroyed. However, they lost many soldiers and many weapons, tanks and everything. Another crossing took place a month ago. They attacked Fedayeen bases and returned. They used about 10 or 12 thousand troops.
Q: To join the PDFLP one must have a certain ideology?
A: Ideology is very important to us. We don't fight because we like war and fighting. No, on the contrary, we fight for peace, and we fight for socialism. We fight for all the people of the world, all the peasants of the world, and all poor men and women of the world. So for us it is very important that the fighters know why they fight.
You see, we are not mercenaries. We fight because we have faith in the cause we are fighting for. As another point, also, we are not fighting against Jews- not at all. We are always ready to accept Jews in our front, in our fight against Zionism.
We are fighting Zionism. We are fighting an ideology and some capitalists that stole our land from us, that made our people thrown away from their land. We also fight these capitalists because they are servants of the imperialists in this district of the world.
They serve the imperialists all over the world here and you know the Middle-East is a very important area for imperialism. That's a very important point for us to clear up, especially in Europe, because Zionists always show us as anti-Jews or anti-Semitic. On the contrary, we are not like that, we never fight because they are Jews. We respect the Jewish religion and we respect Jews. As I said, we are ready to accept Jews in our fight against Zionism.
Q: How long have you been in the PDFLP ?
A: About seven months, six and a half months or so.
Q: Have you studied the Chinese and Cuban revolutions, and did they give you a special desire to join this fight here?
A: Yes, even before I came to the Front I always read political books. But I didn't come here because of a desire to fight or a desire to live like this. I came here because I thought it was my duty to come here. It's my duty to fight against imperialism and because the fight against imperialism is the same everywhere, in Iraq or here, or in every other country, wherever it is. Since it's a fight against imperialism it's the same fight to me.
Q: How much time do you give here to ideological and political questions?
A: We have a central program here, as a matter of fact, more than half our time is spent on these things. We study here in the caves. We study in central programs, programs from the Central Committee, and we have free studies also.
There is a committee in the days that is responsible for the program and every day we have a conference of more than two hours on a special subject. We take the subject and discuss it between us. All of our studies are collective studies.
Q: I see you've got some books here as well. What kind are they?
A: Yes, we have a library here. There are more than two hundred books in it. Most of them, of course, are political books. We have most of Lenin's books. We use them for our central program and free study groups. There are also some of Marx's books, Engel's works, a big collection of Mao's works, and of Guevara . Also we have two or three books by Debray, and many others. We have one book by Trotsky, not that we are Trotskyites or follow his line, but we should know of every line in the socialist movement.
Q: You have a picture on the wall?
A: Yes, it is a picture of Lenin. We are Leninists and we like to have a picture of him. It's not that we worship individuals, but just like your pictures of a friend, or your father, we have a picture of Lenin.
The following is the transcript of a recording of a visit to a refugee camp outside Amman, Jordan. The part of the camp which I am in belongs to the Popular Front, the PFLP, and we are in a tent with Arab women being trained in how to use their weapons. I'm interviewing one of the women from the front about the situation of the women within the Palestinian Revolution.
Q: Do you have enough weapons for demonstration purposes. Do you have enough guns to give all the women in case it should be necessary.
A: Yes, if the woman lives in the Front, or in a house that needs a weapon, we provide her with one. But of course we would like to provide the families as much as we can, not the individuals only.
Q: So you give each family at least one gun to each house, and the father is in charge of the gun.
A: Sometimes, the father. Of course the one who is trained will be in charge and he or she trains the whole family to use it. As many guns as we have we give to the people.
Q: Isn't that something new- I mean, when these people lived in the West Bank before the June '67 war, I had the feeling that they were not given arms by the Jordanian government and they were not at all trained to be using arms.
A: Yes, they were not trained at all. Of course, this was the policy of the government. They try now to do it here, but they can 't.
Q: They have tried to stop the training of guns in the camps? In the refugee camps?
A: Yes, three times they have tried to stop the arming of the population. But, they failed.
Q: So, if you think that some day there comes a real crisis in Jordan, with the government once and for all wanting to take the weapons away from the people, that the people would be ready and have the strength and sufficient knowledge to shoot back?
A: Yes, of course, they would fight. They have now the sufficient knowledge of using the weapon, and they will use it.
Q: They would fight against the army?
A: Yes, if they were confronted. But if they were not confronted they would like to use it of course for fighting Israelis.
Q: Do you give the people political training at the same time as the military training?
A: Yes. Every member of the Popular Front in our organization, every man and woman should receive both political and military training. They do it all together. They have programs. A special time for training, and other times for political education. Of course we try to educate the people politically too, especially in the camps. We call them to general meetings and we try to persuade them of their actual goal in this movement. That not only those of us who joined the commandos and stay in bases should be educated and should be informed of this revolution. All the population, especially the poor classes, should be the major part of this revolution. So that they could, in time, all be our reserves.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Reserves consist of all the members of refugee camps whom we train, both politically and militarily. They stay in refugee camps, they live normal lives there. They get jobs and they are reserves for the commandos. And if the people are confronted, they have the ability to fight against the confronter.
Q: What is the role of the Palestinian woman in the revolution? I mean, there is a kind of emancipation taking place at the same time as this training is going on, isn't there?
A: When the commando movement started we recognized that the women form half the population. So from the beginning, we have recognized the role of women as being the same as the role of men.
Q: For tactical reasons or because you believe that women should have the same rights as men have?
A: Because women are a part of the people, and they have all the time been pushed away from being participants in any political action or any military action. So if we have to carry out a revolution, you have to mobilize all the poor people, men and women.
So we have started to mobilize them politically, and then we have opened military bases for them and given them courses in military education, as well as political training.
Many, many members of the commando movements are women. If you look at the role of women inside Palestine, you'll see that the women had taken up arms and participated in many operations against the Israelis. These are examples now for all the women inside Palestine and here. And we would like this of course to be much more so- we want for all the women to be mobilized on these bases.
Q: I can imagine that this is a total break in the traditions of the women's role in society. Palestinian society used to demand that women stay at home behind closed doors and windows serving the family, doing their jobs in the houses. That you have now recruited women as Fedayeen must be a total break in the tradition, isn't it?
A: Yes, especially in the poor classes, they were before 1967 and up till now in a very reactionary position. We think that is changing because most of the poor classes are involved in this misery. The women have recognized that as long as her husband or her son or her brother is participating, and even some of their responsibilities at home have been lessened, they have more time and more opportunity to participate and they are encouraged by their husbands who are commandos and their brothers.
Q: But if the father or brothers aren't commandos, it would probably be quite difficult to convince them to come here.
A: Well, when we decided that the women's role was the same as the man's role, especially in our organization, we have started to work hard on this aspect and we hope that by examples of women inside of Palestine who have participated and who have been jailed to convince all women that their role is not any different, and that they are capable of doing die same job as any man.