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Abd al-Fattah al-Qalqili

Abu Omar: “The unbending cadre in the difficult place”

In the spring of 1969 I was a member of Fateh Movement in the secretariat of Jordan Fateh leadership. My friend, martyr Majed Abu Sharar who was working in the central media office with martyr Kamal Adwan who was responsible for the central information, had decided to build summer training camps to train members of the organization from different districts. Nazih Abu Nidal was chosen to lead the camp. Majed suggested me to join Nazih in the leadership.

I decided to join the summer training camps. I met with Kamal Adwan and Majed Abu Sharar at the central information office to know the plan and details of action. The camp’s objectives were to raise awareness and relate facts. The camp would be a place for visits by foreign groups and journalists to give a positive idea about the Movement. With them was a tiny young man with a thick black beard who was silent most of the time.

Kamal Adwan and Majed Abu Sharar went out and I was left with the silent man. I started a conversation with him about the relation between theory and application. He was full of knowledge, gentleness and modesty. I knew then that he was Abu Omar and that he works in the International Relations of the Movement which was at the time part of the central information. We opened up to each other and I told him why I agreed to train instead of organizational work, and he told me why he decided to leave studying and teaching in America and came to work here in International Relations.

From that day until his ill fate in 1976 we never lost contact. Lenin said “one practical step is more important than a bundle of programs”. Abu Omar was the living example of that saying. He was an Assistant Professor at Princeton University in America, then a Professor at Seattle University.

After the setback of 1967, and possibly because of it, the Palestinian Revolution grew and expanded. Hanna Mikhail lost enthusiasm to stay in the United States, so he left his work at the University and came to Amman to become “Abu Omar”.

Abu Omar was a modest revolutionary, humble, courteous and enjoys a good reputation. He was virtuous at heart and tongue. His motto was always “The uunbending cadre in the difficult place”. He was a Sufi. In 1974 he was offered the post of representing the PLO at the United Nations in New York but he refused because he had left his work in America to work in the Region. He was replaced by Basel Akel, and Zuhdi al Tarazi was appointed director of the office there…

In 1971 the Revolution military in general, and especially Fateh military, grouped together in what was known as the “Leadership of the Jarash forests” under the leadership of Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad). Among its members was Ahmad Afanah (Abu Al Mutasem), Kamal Adwan, Sakher Habash, Ishak Al Doks, Hanna Mikhail (Abu Omar) and Othman abu Gharbieh. In that location the relationship between Abu Omar and the great French writer Jean Genet, who wrote a lot about Abu Omar, became stronger. He also got closer to Kamal Adwan and Sakher Habash, this made them at the end of 1971, after leaving the Jarash forests, nominate him to become a member of the leadership of the ‘Western Sector’* which was named at the time “the Board”, with Kamal Adwan as President and Sakher Habash as his Deputy. I was a member of this body, responsible for recruitment and training, while Abu Omar was responsible for organization.

During that period he put out a cultural plan based on a list of titles chosen for reading covering various subjects. He himself made studies on the Palestinian Revolution and the National Democratic Arab Revolution, in particular the subject of “Arab Society”. His motto was “ever since the revolution became a science, it became necessary for all revolutionaries to study the science of revolution in order to fulfill their duty towards their people”.

In the summer of 1972 it was decided in the ‘Western Sector’ to have a summer session in cultural/scholarly and military training for the cadres and especially for Palestinian students in Arab and international universities. Abu Omar was one of the crew members overseeing this session. The training was for a period of four weeks and Abu Omar spent it all with us in the camp.

When the ‘settlement program’ of the Ten Points fell as a stone in the pool of Palestinian political thought the national principles began to shake, and the Palestinians were divided into three routes :

=1= The squanderers route. A route that condemned the revolutionary past and ridiculed it. They protested the saying that “nothing delightful comes from the West” in favor of “nothing delightful comes except from the west”. And instead of freeing the land they committed to free the will of the people from any commitment, so no voice will be louder than the voice of settlement and compromise.

=2= The extremist’s route. It is the extreme radical and nihilist path which does not see in any political movement any value and believes that no voice is louder than that of the gun; their motto was “April tell September the peaceful settlement is not acceptable neither horizontally nor vertically”.

=3= The revolutionary realism route. This route believes that it is natural that the end of every war is settlement, and that war is just to accomplish a political aim and that a settlement at a certain period is a reflection of the balance of power in that period. And since the balance of power is now completely tilted in favor of the enemy, thus any settlement now will be in their favor.

Abu Omar was among the cadres who believed in revolutionary realism. He saw that there were many people with good intentions in the two routes who could be recruited to the revolutionary realism. After his disappearance the “Democratic path” was launched and it was formed mainly of members of the third route and a number of good willed members of the other two routes. Despite some differences among members of this route, they all respected Abu Omar and considered him a role model in manners, modesty and commitment to democratic values.

In June 1970 Abu Omar participated in the famous American television program “The Advocates”. Many important personalities participated in this program among them president Jamal Abdul Nasser, king Hussein and the leader George Habash; from the opposite side (without being in the same place), Israeli leaders like Yahoshfat Harkabi, who had left his position as chief of military intelligence in the Israeli army.

Abu Omar’s advocated for “a democratic solution to the Israeli Arab conflict”, and that the present Palestinian revolution with its political activity and armed struggle is seeking a “democratic solution” by establishing a democratic state that respects the rights of all individuals to citizenship regardless of their religion or race.

Abu Omar excelled over his opponent who was the (American Zionist lawyer, Alan M. Dershowitz) with his calmness, logic and deep faith in the democratic solution. For him it was not just propaganda to win the international left to the side of the Cause. He kept repeating the motto that “the just solution is the only solution to solve people’s problems”.

In 1975 he joined a cadres training in Vietnam. He translated the lectures that were given in English. The leader of this session was Naeem Abu Mahmoud, whose real name was Abd al Hameed Mahmoud Wishahi and was almost illiterate. He was among the best and purest cadres of Fateh. Their relationship was solidified and Abu Omar became his mentor.

Abu Omar believed that the interim program does not aim for “liberation in stages”, as its text implies, but aims for “surrender in stages”. He saw the necessity to create “The United National Front” which includes the forces who have an interest in liberating Palestine, similar to the Vietnamese experience. Naeem, Abu Mahmoud agreed with him- without theoretical complications.

The leadership of Fateh Movement in North Lebanon, led by Abu Hajem, was very corrupt. The headquarters of Fateh could not, or did want to change it, so they decided to support it with a clean group in the hope of improving Fateh’s situation there. They chose Naeem Abu Mahmoud to be the militia leader there and Naeem in turn suggested Abu Omar to be the political commissioner. The leadership agreed, and they chose eight good cadres.

As the Movement was at war with the Syrians and the Lebanese isolationists (right wing fighters) they had no way to Tripoli except by sea; so they took a small boat but they did not reach and did not come back. They could not be found despite the great efforts made, of which Umm Omar bore the greater part.

Ramallah 2007

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Abd Al Fattah al Qalqili , known as Abu Nael. He was the Director General in the Higher Council of Education and Culture in the PLO.


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