Palestinian Security Forces Protest In Gaza
In 1974, the PLO was recognised as the sole representative of the Palestinians [GALLO/GETTY]
PLO: History of a Revolution

Chronicling the PLO

The turbulent story of the Palestinian struggle for a national home.

In 1948, the state of Israel was proclaimed. Palestine was lost.

Sixteen years later, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was founded.

Made up of different factions, the PLO has been at the heart of the struggle to regain Palestine ever since.

This six-part series tells the story of the PLO, beginning with its creation in 1964 and ending with the death of Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader, in 2002 and subsequent Hamas victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections and ensuing Hamas-Fatah power struggle.

PLO: History of a Revolution features exclusive interviews with some of those who were at the heart of the Palestinian armed struggle over the last 50 years, including the last interview Arafat gave in which he discussed the history of the movement and first-time interviews with key operatives of the notorious Black September Organisation.

Episode 1: Masters of Their Own Destiny


In 1964, Gamal Abdul Nasser, the Egyptian president, convened the first Arab summit. His aim was to lead an Arab response to the state of Israel. The Arab leaders voted to set up a body to organise the Palestinians in their diaspora. 

Ahmad al-Shuqairy, a Palestinian diplomat, was chosen to head the newly-formed body. Al-Shuqairy wanted an organisation that would not just kowtow to Arab regimes. 

Four months later, he convened the first Palestinian parliament in Jerusalem. There the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organisation was officially announced.

Episode 2: Black September


In the aftermath of Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War, Palestinian guerrilla factions consolidated their grip on the refugee camps in the Arab world. 

In 1969, Fatah leader Yasser Arafat was elected chairman of the PLO, marking a new era in which the guerrillas overthrew the traditional hold of more established Palestinian families. 

In Jordan, armed Palestinians had set up a state within a state, but Jordan’s King Hussein’s patience with the Palestinians was wearing thin. 

The Jordanian army was deployed to the streets and vicious street battles soon erupted between Jordanian soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas.

Episode 3: The Winds of Heaven


In 1974, the PLO was named the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and Yasser Arafat received a standing ovation at the General Assembly of the UN. 

But another Arab country was to be the stage for the next chapter of the Palestinian tragedy. 

After its expulsion from Jordan, the PLO had moved its headquarters to the Lebanese capital, Beirut. In April 1975, civil war broke out in Lebanon. 

In 1982, Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon and Palestinian forces quickly collapsed and the PLO was driven out of Beirut. After more than 10 years in Lebanon, it was the end of an era.

Episode 4: The Great Survivor


Yasser Arafat soon found himself engaged in a fratricidal fight for control of the PLO – and for his life. 

In July 1983, fighting broke out in Lebanon between pro- and anti-Arafat forces. 

In a daring air and sea journey from his new headquarters in Tunisia, Arafat managed to slip into Lebanon in disguise to join his fighters. 

The Syrian-backed Amal militia and anti-Arafat factions besieged the Palestinian camps in Beirut and southern Lebanon in an on-and-off onslaught that would last three years and become known as the Camps War.

Episode 5: Intifada


By 1987, national unity had become the slogan of the time. That unity was about to get a huge boost from an unexpected place. 

In December 1987, in Gaza an Israeli driver killed four Palestinian labourers and wounded nine when his car ran off the road. The Israelis called it an accident. The Palestinians said it was premeditated murder. 

The incident sparked an outbreak of Palestinian protests that spread like wildfire throughout the Occupied Territories. 

The Intifada – or uprising – was born.

Episode 6: Death and Decline


There was a promise of a new world order in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. Negotiations resumed, which would lead to a historic return to their homeland for the PLO leadership. 

But the challenges of nation-building proved overwhelming and new political forces were emerging within Palestinian society that would threaten the role and the relevance of the PLO. 

In spring 2002, Israeli forces surrounded Arafat’s headquarters. Arafat held out until October, when he was struck down by a mystery illness and eventually died in a Paris hospital.