By Joseph El-Khoury
To all Arab leftists the nickname “The Doctor” (El-Hakim) applies to only one man. Dr George Habash, founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who led this group influenced by a blend of Arab Nationalism and Marxism for over five decades. Dr Habash who hailed from occupied Palestine and studied medicine at the American University of Beirut in the 1950s belongs to a time when it was possible and almost unremarkable for an Arab Christian to assume a leadership role in a broad reaching political organization. He witnessed defeat after defeat at the hand of the Israeli war machine but also, more significantly, through the efforts of the Arab establishment and their agents. Many mistakes were made, unholy alliances and tactical disasters with far reaching strategic and ideological consequences but the intentions were well founded. Misunderstood by their compatriots, the doctor and his companions remained steadfast in their fight for the recognition of Palestinian rights by the International community and the establishment of a democratic state which could serve as an example of what a modern Arab society could be and should be. Some argue that we live in a different era where this breed of idealists has no place. In many ways the fight started in the 40s and 50s continues against Zionism, corruption and inequalities but is it the same struggle when it is motivated by a different set of values? Are Hamas and Hezbollah the natural successors to the PFLP? I find it hard to believe that the Palestine of Khaled Mishaal will be the one whished for by Dr Habash. It is maybe because Habash couldn’t resolve this dilemma he decided to voluntarily step down from the party leadership in 2000: A measure rarely seen in Middle Eastern political culture.
Goodbye Doctor, you will continue to inspire us all.