As Ion Mihai Pacepa, onetime director of the Romanian espionage service (DIE), later explained, the PLO was conceived at a time when the KGB was creating “liberation front” organizations throughout the Third world. Others included the National Liberation Army of Bolivia, created in 1964 with help from Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and the National Liberation Army of Colombia, created in 1965 with help from Fidel Castro. But the PLO was the KGB’s most enduring achievement.
In 1964, the first PLO Council, consisting of 422 Palestinian representatives handpicked by the KGB, approved the Soviet blueprint for a Palestinian National Charter—a document drafted in Moscow—and made Ahmad Shukairy, the KGB’s agent of influence, the first PLO chairman. The Romanian intelligence service was given responsibility for providing the PLO with logistical support. Except for the arms, which were supplied by the KGB and the East German Stasi, everything, according to Ion Pacepa, “came from Bucharest. Even the PLO uniforms and the PLO stationery were manufactured in Romania free of charge, as a ‘comradely help.’ During those years, two Romanian cargo planes filled with goodies for the PLO landed in Beirut every week.”
The PLO came on the scene at a critical moment in Middle East history. At the Khartoum conference held shortly after the Six-Day war, the defeated and humiliated Arab states confronted the “new reality” of an Israel that seemed unbeatable in conventional warfare. The participants of the conference decided, among other things, to continue the war against Israel as what today would be called a “low intensity conflict.” The PLO’s Fatah forces were perfect to carry out this mission.
The Soviets not only armed and trained Palestinian terrorists but also used them to arm and train other professional terrorists by the thousands. The International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CPSU), the Soviet Security Police (KGB), and Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU) all played major roles in this effort. From the late 1960s onwards, moreover, the PLO maintained contact with other terror groups—some of them neo-Nazi and extreme right-wing groups—offering them support and supplies, training and funding.
The Soviets also built Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba People’s Friendship University to serve as a base of indoctrination and training of potential “freedom fighters” from the Third world. More specialized training in terrorism was provided at locations in Baku, Odessa, Simferopol, and
Tashkent. Mahmoud Abbas, later to succeed Yassir Arafat as head of the PLO, was a graduate of Patrice Lumumba U, where he received his Ph.D. in 1982 after completing a thesis partly based on Holocaust denial.
Cuba was also used as a base for terrorist training and Marxist indoctrination, part of a symbiotic relationship between its revolutionary cadre and the PLO. The Cuban intelligence service (DGI) was under the direct command of the KGB after 1968. Palestinian terrorists were identified in Havana as early as 1966; and in the 1970s DGI representatives were dispatched to PLO camps in Lebanon to assist terrorists being nurtured by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In late April 1979, an agreement was reached for the PFLP to have several hundred of its terrorists trained in Cuba, following a meeting between its chief George Habash and Cuban officials.