May 28, 1964
In January 1964, an Arab summit meeting in Cairo tasked the Palestinian people with the liberation of Palestine. On May 28, King Hussein of Jordan convened a Palestinian National Council of nearly 400 delegates in the Jordanian-controlled Old City of Jerusalem. At the opening of the conference, Hussein told the delegates, who represented ten Arab states, “The hearts of millions of Arabs yearn for the recovery of the plundered fatherland…there is no value and no meaning in Arabs living without Palestine” (Jerusalem Post, May 29, 1964).
The conference established committees to draft military and political plans to defeat Israel. The most significant outcome of the conference was the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Ahmad Shuqayri was elected chairman. He was a former lawyer from Acre who had previously been the Syrian representative to the United Nations. Shuqayri served as head of the PLO until December 1967 when he was forced to resign over criticism about his management.
According to its National Covenant, the PLO was established as a “mobilizing leadership of the forces of the Palestine Arab people to wage the battle of liberation, as a shield for the rights and aspirations of the people of Palestine, and as a road to victory.” The Covenant called for the “destruction of the Zionist entity” and declared “anything based upon the Palestine Mandate is null and void.” Delegates to the conference toured the border with King Hussein who promised them that the United Arab Command, the militant arm of the Arab League, was mounting offensive preparations for an attack on Israel.
In addition to creating the PLO, the conference also established a fundraising arm, the Palestinian National Fund. The following September, a military branch was created.
Instigated by Egyptian President Nasser, the conference came during the same week that Egypt and Iraq sign a unity agreement establishing joint military command. It was not until 1988, after several Arab military defeats and its own ousting from Lebanon in 1982, that the PLO recognized Israel. Even then, it did not desist from confrontation with and armed struggle against Israel.
The complete text of the PLO National Covenant is available here.
The photo is of Ahmad Shuqayri.