PFLP Deputy-leader, Abu Ali Mustafa, speaks at Birzeit University

On Wednesday, 20 October, Abu Ali Mustafa, deputy secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) addressed a crowded Kamal Nasir Hall at Birzeit University. Abu Ali is from the West Bank town of Arabeh near Jenin and was imprisoned as part of the Arab Nationalist movement in 1957 when he was 19-years old. In 1967 he was one of the founders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and was on the Executive Committee of the PFLP in charge of refugees. He returned to the West Bank earlier this month after 32 years in exile.

Also present at the meeting was Tayseer Qubb'a, former leader of the General Union of Palestinian Students who resigned to become involved in the military struggle, Basheer Khairi, Palestinian leader during the Intifada, and Abu Ali's brother Taysir Qubb'a, who left the PFLP to form the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).

Abu Ali's wide ranging talk covered topics ranging from the Oslo Agreements, the role of the PLO, the position of the PFLP towards final status negotiations and his return to Palestine.

Abu Ali reiterated the position of the PFLP towards peace agreements with Israel, "What sort of peace are we talking about if it doesn't include the right of return, an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and while we still have imprisoned comrades?"

"We [the PFLP] are accused of being against the peace process, of suggesting liberation from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and other unpractical things. We are told that in politics you must be realistic. So our answer is simple - look at international law and all of the international resolutions concerning Palestine and make these the basis of the solution. We won't accept negotiations when the Israeli demands control us if you want politics we will go by international standards."

"We will never give up the right to struggle against the occupation in whatever form it exists as long as it exists on the land of Palestine. We need to strengthen the Palestinian individual otherwise we will never get anything better than we have now. The claim that this is the best we can get is an absolute lie, things would be better if we had clear strong, Palestinian politics. If democracy -within our society and political factions- is the norm than something better could happen. We need to face ourselves, what we have done and what should we do. In this way, we might get something better. We won't accept [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak's red lines. We cannot accept or agree to the fact that Palestinians who choose to fight the occupation can be followed, arrested or interrogated. This is not acceptable because there is an occupation and Palestinians have the right to face this occupation in whatever way they can.

"We must reorganize Palestinian political relations because this is the only way to have a clear firm position towards things so that we can then address the rest of the world. Otherwise, the only people who will gain will be the occupation."

Following Abu Ali's talk, questions were asked from the floor. In response to a question asking why he had come back to Palestine at this time and whether the PFLP were required to give up something in order for this to happen, Abu Ali replied, "A person shouldn't be asked why he's come back to his homeland. We in the diaspora were forced to be there. We didn't choose to be expelled or removed from our homeland. This is where we belong. The PFLP has always had this clear position - if anyone, any Palestinian family gets the chance to go back home they should. In my case, my name was on a list of 470 names of Palestinian National Council members who wanted to return. I was refused. Then my name was among another 18 names from the Palestinian Central Council that was given by the Palestinian Authority to the Israelis. I tried again and was refused. Then after the dialogue between Fatah and the Popular Front I was accepted. I'm here and I'm really very happy. I can assure you we will never accept any condition from anyone either political or non-political regarding the right of return."

One audience member asked whether there was any truth to the rumor that Abu Ali had received an expensive car and a VIP card for his return. He replied, "I'm really sorry that the political discussion has dropped this to level. I can assure you that I have lived my 61 years without a house, land, a car or anything like that. I have lived nothing except the struggle since I was 17 years old. I began the fight against the occupation and this has been my life. No-one will convince me to change from this path. Hanna Nasir [Birzeit University President] knows this from our days together on the Executive Committee of the PLO. I refused then any privileges whatsoever. Concerning a car, yes, I've been given a temporary car and it has Palestinian Authority number plates. This is normal as when I came back here I didn't have the money and I don't have the money to buy a car. Abu Ali Mustafa is much bigger than a car, house or anything else that might be offered. I can assure you and everyone else, that these things cannot be traded for political positions. We are strict in our positions and we won't trade them for anything."