Non PLO Groups

The PLO once dominated the Palestinian liberation movement, between its founding in 1964 and the eruption of the First Intifada in 1987. Since then, however, the PLO’s leadership has been challenged by the emergence of non-PLO groups.

The 1980s saw the founding of groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which were heavily inspired by political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood. These Islamist groups initially criticised the secular and leftist PLO over its compromises with Israel, in particular its renunciation of armed struggle and acceptance of a two-state solution based on only 22 per cent of “historic Palestine”.

While they initially sought to replace the PLO as the dominant force within the Palestinian liberation movement, Hamas and PIJ have more recently indicated their desire to join the PLO in an effort to co-opt it from within. The past decade has also seen a more pragmatic line from Hamas, which is engaging in the Palestinian political process for the first time since the 2006 legislative election, and indicating its potential acceptance of a Palestinian state on the pre-June 1967 borders.

Recent years have also seen the emergence of a new crop of secular parties, such as the Palestinian National Initiative (al-Mubadara), seeking to present Palestinian voters with an alternative to either Fatah or Hamas. For now, however, these political initiatives have so far failed to attract broad-based popular support, or challenge the dominance of Fatah and Hamas in Palestinian politics. Although not formally part of the PLO, these parties and their representatives participate in PLO politics at all levels (the Palestinian National Council, Palestinian Central Council, and the Executive Committee).

Alongside this, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Palestinian refugee camps have seen the emergence of Salafi groups. Some, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (which is predominant in the West Bank), continue to reject violence (and to a certain extent political participation). Others, such as Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, or Jaysh al-Islam in Gaza, have adopted a more violent ideology based on religious struggle (jihad).