As this column reported last week, the Tunis-based head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Farouk Qaddumi, whose official position on Israel is that it should be destroyed, will move into Gaza this summer. He is a possible successor and key rival to the Palestinian Authority's current leader, Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Qaddumi will be bringing with him a "volunteer popular army" of at least 1,500, according to Saudi press reports from August 3.
Mr. Qaddumi confers often with terrorist groups and regimes. At a September 4, 2003, meeting in Lebanon with the head of Hezbollah, Shiekh Hassan Nasrallah, Mr. Qaddumi announced "a cohesion between the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance." Over the last decade, he repeatedly met with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leadership in Damascus to plan "the liberation of Palestine."
He also has served as a point person between Palestinian Arabs and the Iranian regime. In an interview from Iran with Al-Jazeera broadcast on December 20, 2004, Mr. Qaddumi noted that Yasser Arafat was the first Arab leader to visit Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 - a slight directed toward America. The PLO chief said on-air that the purpose of his visit to the Islamic Republic was to strategize with the regime on the "liberation of Palestine."
When asked if it was true "that Iran is infiltrating the Palestinian ranks, as far as Gaza, through the Hezbollah Cadres, or the Palestinian Islamic organizations in Iran," he responded that it was "good" and "truly positive" and that the PLO "welcomed all Arab and Islamic organizations to infiltrate." In a December 12, 2004, interview on Iran's Al-'Alam TV, he said the "cooperation between the PLO and Iran" includes working "to liberate Jerusalem."
Mr. Qaddumi was also the Palestinian-Arab link between the U.N. oil-for-food program and Saddam Hussein's regime. The Iraqi News Agency reported on August 16, 2002, that Mr. Qaddumi visited Iraq and met with the chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Leadership, 'Izat Ibrahim, who was immortalized as the eight of diamonds on the U.S. military's Terror Card Series of Wanted Iraqis. While there, Mr. Qaddumi said: "The battle of Iraq and [the battle of] Palestine are one battle against their historic enemies. The martyrs in Iraq and in Palestine are martyrs of the first rank, as they fight, with their pure, noble souls, against the ones who conquered their land, their honor, for their survival, their history, and their civilization ... against the most arrogant force of evil, oppression, and aggression on the face of the earth."
In talks between Mr. Qaddumi and Saddam in Iraq on January 18, 2001, the Iraqi dictator promised "Iraq is ready to bombard Israel for six continuous months of artillery from land and sea."
Mr. Qaddumi has made multiple, on-the-record threats to America, calling for terrorist acts against American interests. He called the attacks of September 11, 2001, "a lesson to the U.S." saying it "was the first time that Arabic names entered every American household." Mr. Qaddumi has visited America, but it was reported on August 23, 2003, that he was denied permission to speak at the United Nations.
The PLO charter calling for the destruction of Israel was reportedly amended in 1996, but on an appearance on ANB TV on April 25, 2005, Mr. Qaddumi said that he "does not accept any amendment." Furthermore, in an interview with an Israeli-Arab weekly on January 3, 2003, he openly stated that there is no difference between Hamas and the PLO vis-a-vis calling for the destruction of Israel. He said, "strategically we are no different from it."
One of Mr. Qaddumi's most popular phrases this past year has been, "There are 300 million Arabs, while Israel only has the sea behind it." He has added, "Time is on our side." As he said at a conference of foreign ministers of Islamic states held in Qatar on December 12, 2001, "The countdown [to the end] of Israel will begin ... and will find its end as the USSR and Yugoslavia did."
Mr. Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.