The new trend toward a harder line in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has received a powerful boost from the recent congress of Al-Fatah, one of its guerrilla member groups.
this meeting, the first in nine years and only the fourth in Al-Fatah's 21 -year history, brought more than 500 delegates to Damascus, Syria, for 11 days of deliberations.
The congress ratified a political program defining Al-Fatah's Fatah's aim as being to "liberate Palestine completely, and to liquidate the Zionist entity politically, economically, militarily, culturally, and ideologically."
This language is far harsher than that in the PLO program, which calls for setting up an independent Palestinian state "on any Palestinian land liberated from [Israel]."
The latest Al-Fatah program calls for the establishment of "a democratic Palestinian state on all Palestinian land, where all citizens will have equal rights regardless of race or creed."
Such a program is evocative of the old-time PLO program, superseded in 1974, which called for establishment of "a secular, democratic state in all of Palestine." (But the Al- Fatah formula omits the previous PLO provision that only those Jews resident in Palestine before 1948 creation of Israel should be allowed to remain in the new state.)
The latest Fatah pronouncement appears to cut back considerably on the freedom of action accorded to the man who is both commander in chief of Al-Fatah's considerable guerrilla forces and chairman of the PLO executive committee -- Yasser Arafat.
CErtainly, many of Mr. Arafat's close allies in the Al- Fatah leadership were reported to have come in for much criticism during the Damascus parley. The overall effect of the congress was to approve Mr. Arafat and his friends in their handling of Palestinian affairs over the past five years. But the criticisms, and the addition of five new members of the Revolutionary Council, at least two of them considered hard-liners, served to confirm the PLO chairman in the new, tougher line he has evinced over recent weeks.