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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe LevantEmergence of Palestine as a Global Cause

Emergence of Palestine as a Global Cause

Authors: Sune Haugbolle & Pelle Valentin Olsen

Affiliation: Roskilde University, Denmark

Organization/Publisher: Middle East Critique 

Date/Place: February, 2023/ NM

Type of Literature: Journal Article

Number of Pages: 20



Keywords: Palestinian-Zionist Conflict, Global leftist Cause, Solidarity Activism, Cultural Translation, Ideological Shifts



The article focuses on the affirmation and denial of the Palestinian-Zionist conflict and explores how the Palestinian issue spread to become a global collective cause. From the late 1960s, the Left advocated Palestine’s existence worldwide. This research compares Palestine as an icon of the Global left to South Africa and Vietnam’s anti-imperial decolonization and national liberation struggles. The global acknowledgment of Palestine is attributed to a complex historical development beyond the PLO and Cold War diplomatic efforts. The authors examine the complex relationships that made Palestine a worldwide cause and emphasize the necessity of combining political history with a social history of global revolutionaries and solidarity activists.

The comparative analysis centers on Denmark and Norway. In the 1960s and 1970s, New Left and student milieus exchanged experiences, ideologies and interpretations via meetings, organizational linkages and translations. Personal relationships between Palestinians and outsiders promoted cultural transmission, influencing political parties’ acceptance of the Palestinian cause. Despite the scholarly focus on the June 1967 conflict, the article claims that cultural translation needed intellectual and cultural exertion before the war.

The article emphasizes how the Palestinian cause grew worldwide because of social factors, going beyond the typical discussions in diplomatic history. A 1967-1973 micro-sociological investigation shows how local ideas, radical friendships and personal ties helped solidarity movements and international agreement. According to the research, understanding the Left’s adoption and global interpretation of the Palestinian cause requires a micro-sociological methodology that examines Palestinian and European personal histories. An investigation of the archives from Danish and Norwegian solidarity movements alongside Palestinian sources play an important role in filling information gaps in Palestinian archives.

The article briefly discusses the Arab background and how Arab Left forces supported Palestine before its worldwide recognition. Palestine was lost to Zionist and Western colonization and its restoration was crucial to unite and energize Arab communities, fostering a sense of common purpose and shared struggle among Arabs against the perceived external forces that contributed to the loss of the Palestinian territories. Nasserists believed that conquering Palestine would lead to Arab unity and therefore founded the PLO in 1964 under Arab nationalist authority. Arab communist groups initially endorsed the 1947 Soviet-backed UN Partition Plan. Marxist-Leninists took a third vision of Palestine in the late 1960s, seeing it as a nexus of national and class tensions in the Middle East. After Arab leadership changed in June 1967, New Left militants advocated for a locally organized, internationally supported peoples movement against national capitalist power.

Palestine’s transition from a regional to an international cause was accelerated in 1968 when fidayeen organizations joined the PLO’s organized military forces. After 1967, support for the Palestinian resistance grew throughout Latin America, Cuba, France, the United States and West Germany. Western European confrontations among Euro-communist groups revealed a sophisticated repositioning of topics such as Israel, antisemitism and the Holocaust.

European views on Palestine changed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The article highlights this through the personal experiences of Finn Sjue and Peder Martin Lysestøl, whose contacts with Palestinian peasants led to an ideological transformation, thereby highlighting the complex worldwide influence of the Palestinian struggle. By observing the terrible reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Norwegian Finn Sjue changed from supporting Israel to supporting the Palestinians. Morten Thing presents a similar depiction of a political reorientation as influenced by experiences, anti-war feelings and a critical evaluation of Israel’s position.

Palestine’s global image was shaped by the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), notably the PFLP and Fatah. The PLO strategically used international relations, arts, film and connections with liberation organizations worldwide. With the motto of creating Beirut into an ‘Arab Hanoi’ and the Middle East ‘a second Vietnam’, the Palestinian cause gained emotional and intellectual support worldwide.

The article stresses how Palestinians and solidarity activists formed personal connections, interactions and friendships to make Palestine a worldwide cause. It shows how the Palestine issue became a global symbol of resistance to imperialism, capitalism and settler colonialism. 

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) rose to prominence in Denmark in the late 1960s and 1970s, and New Left activists and authors were inspired by Ghassan Kanafani. Growing empathy led to establishment of Denmark’s Palestine Committee (Palaestinakomitteen). After the June 1967 conflict, Danish magazines like Politisk Revy became more pro-Palestine, culminating in a 1970 Palestine issue. The Danish Maoist party Kommunistisk Arbejdskreds (KAK) was crucial. Ungkommunisten and Kommunistisk Orientering, both affiliated with KAK, spread Marxist-Leninist Palestine beliefs. After discovering the PFLP via al-Hadaf in early 1969, KAK’s ideology changed to unconditional support. Their Maoist philosophy and conviction in the victory of global liberation movements drove their support.

Similar Maoist interpretations of the struggle arose in Norway. The Norwegian Palestine Committee, founded in September 1970, supported Fatah’s views and coordinated regionally via Fatah’s Stockholm office. The activists’ ideological base was formed via intense study group sessions and interaction with Fatah. Their solidarity work included regular trips to the area and contacts with Palestinian activists, stressing a hands-on approach to learning and supporting the Palestinian cause.

Leftist activists and Palestinian liberation groups like the PFLP and Fatah collaborated with Palestine solidarity activities in Denmark and Norway in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Activists from the Danish Palestine Committee and Norwegian Palestine Committee (PalKom) visited Palestinian military bases and joined Fatah missions. Norwegian activists Sjue and Lysestøl chronicled Palestinian youth’s political education, stressing intellectual study and violent struggle to combat prejudice. Norwegians and Danes backed the Palestinian cause within a global anti-imperialist context. They advocated an indigenous interpretative frame and the Palestinian struggle as a people’s war against imperialism and Zionism. Norwegian solidarity included complete support for Palestinian freedom on their terms like a democratic Palestine, rejection of U.S. imperialism and Zionist Israel and hostility to Great Power solutions favoring Israel. These activists worked with Palestinian groups in open and covert ways to internationalize and rally support for the Palestinian cause.

Danish activists founded the Palestine Committee alongside the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This backing came from personal contacts and detailed study of the Middle East. The committee’s journal Falastin printed the PFLP’s political manifesto and translated a number of related writings. The collaboration included the bulletins of the Danish Palestinian Workers Union, Fateh and PFLP in other languages. The 1973 al-Munadil al-Thawri special issue outlined PFLP’s objective to globalize the Palestinian struggle. Palestinian-Danish activism made the PFLP a hub for worldwide revolutionary goals among the Danish Left. KAK questioned established solidarity formats, whereas the Palestine Committee promoted public events and cooperation. The Norwegian PalKom sent doctors to Lebanon for medical solidarity. Different methods led to conflicting solidarity movements. The committee worked with global anti-imperialist groups to share information and counteract disinformation. They engaged in activities such as running a bookstore, organizing events and challenging the Danish Left’s support for Israeli kibbutz (collective communities). These efforts aimed to raise awareness, promote their perspective and challenge narratives that they deemed misleading within the Danish political context.

The Palestine Committee actively aligned itself with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) during their operations, including the hijacking of planes and engagements in conflict with Israel. According to Falastin, the committee’s journal, these activities were politically motivated and effective. Falastin believed revolutionary violence should be understood scientifically rather than ethically after the 1972 Lydda airport and Munich Olympics assaults which led to civilian deaths. By 1973, certain Politisk Revy speakers questioned the usefulness of violence. Palestine became a worldwide emblem of solidarity among the Left in the late 1960s and 1970s, which articulated and universalized political discourse. After 1973, differences within the movement and the emergence of new ideologies challenged the previously established consensus. 

Despite attempts by Zionists to link solidarity with Palestine to anti-Semitism, support for the Palestinian cause continued to evolve over time. The need for historical connection with local and global solidarity-making grows. A new generation of Palestinians are now forging connections with international protest groups that might lead to fresh de-contestation, not just within the context of Third Worldism and anti-imperialism in the 1970s but also within a worldwide critique of racism and neoliberalism. In this light, it is more crucial than ever to engage historically with the creation of solidarity on a local and global level.

By: Affan Mohammed, CIGA Research Intern



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