By: Bassam Tawil
Outlet: The Gatestone Institute
Date: June 21, 2019
The Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, headed by Palestinian
Authority President and PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas, is often described as
a "moderate" and "pragmatic" group. There are many reasons
and sufficient evidence to believe, however, that this assumption is
unrealistic, if not totally false.
Before examining the rhetoric and actions of Fatah, one
might do well to consider the group's emblem,
which depicts two fists holding rifles, and a hand grenade in the middle. In the
background is a map of
Israel (with no mention of Israel); the emblem is accompanied by a caption
reading: "Revolution until victory."
Why any group that proudly uses rifles and a hand grenade
as its symbol is described as "moderate" and "pragmatic"
remains a mystery. Could it be because it is an anti-Israel group that calls
itself the Palestinian National Liberation Movement and was established with the
declared goal of "liberating Palestine" -- specifically meaning,
The rifles and hand grenade are a blunt sign of Fatah's
true message to the Palestinians -- that the armed struggle against Israel
should continue until the "liberation of Palestine," just as its name
Why does Fatah continue to use rifles and a hand grenade
after its leaders signed the Oslo Accord with Israel in 1993 and Abbas continues
to claim that he supportsa
How does Abbas explain his opposition to
the use of weapons and terrorism against Israel while his own faction displays
rifles and a hand grenade and a map where Israel is completely ignored?
Fatah is now spearheading the Palestinian campaign to
thwart US President Donald Trump's yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the
Middle East, also known as the "Deal of the Century."
Fatah leaders, who admit they know nothing about the
upcoming peace plan, have been devoting most of their time and energy to inciting Palestinians
against Trump's plan and the US-led economic conference scheduled to take place
next week in Bahrain. At the conference, the US administration is expected to
unveil the economic portion of the Deal of the Century. Abbas and his Fatah
officials, however, are already doing their utmost to foil the conference,
including threatening Palestinian
business leaders that anyone who attends the economic "workshop" will
be accused of treason.
As part of their effort to derail the Trump plan, Fatah
leaders have called for
mass protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on June 25 and 26 -- when the
Bahrain conference is scheduled to take place.
Jamal Muheissen, a senior Fatah official, said that
the two days will be marked as "days of rage" by Palestinians to voice
their rejection of both the Deal of the Century and the Bahrain conference. He urged Palestinians
to rally behind Abbas and the Fatah leadership and express their support for
efforts to thwart the unseen peace plan.
A Fatah poster calling
for mass protests against the Bahrain "workshop" features a masked
Palestinians throwing a rock (at Israelis).
The message Fatah is sending to its people is: Go out and
throw stones at Israelis during the Bahrain conference, whose chief goal is to
discuss ways of boosting the Palestinian economy and improving living conditions
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fatah is, in other words, calling for a new
Intifada [uprising] against Israel because the US is seeking ways to help the
Palestinians. This is nothing less than loony.
Further evidence of Fatah's alleged "moderation"
and "pragmatism" emerged last week, when the ruling faction expelled from
its ranks a Palestinian mayor for hosting Jewish settlers at his son's wedding.
Pictures of settlers attending the wedding in the West Bank
town of Deir Qaddis have enraged Fatah leaders, who said they
formed a commission of inquiry to investigate the mayor and his family. The
mayor, Radi Nasser, has also lost his job with the Palestinian Ministry of
Education for hosting the settlers at the wedding. Fatah is now also demanding
that the mayor be removed from
The mayor has since been forced publicly to apologize to
Fatah and the Palestinians for inviting Jews to his son's wedding.
Last month, Fatah strongly condemned a
Palestinian businessman from the West Bank city of Hebron for inviting Jewish
settlers to a Ramadan iftar dinner after sundown. Fatah accused the
businessman, Ashraf Jabari, of promoting "normalization" with Israel
and being part of "suspicious American-Israeli schemes against the
Earlier this year, Fatah expressed outrage because Israel
arrested one of its senior terrorists in the West Bank -- Zakariya Zubeidi.
Zubeidi, former commander of Fatah's armed wing, Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades, was arrested for
carrying out several shooting attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.
Zubeidi was one of the leaders of Fatah's terrorist group
in the northern West Bank during the Second
Intifada (2000-2005). In 2007, he was pardoned by
Israel as part of a deal signed with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Because of his affiliation with Fatah, Zubeidi was
appointed member of the faction's Revolutionary Council, a key decision-making
body dominated by Abbas loyalists. In addition to this position, he was also
given a senior job with the PA's Commission for Palestinian Prisoners, a group
that provides financial and legal assistance to terrorists imprisoned by Israel.
Earlier this week, Zubeidi and Tarek Bargut were indicted for
carrying out shooting attacks between 2016 and 2019. According to the charge
sheet, the two terrorists used a
car issued to Zubeidi by the Palestinian Authority in his capacity as a senior
official of Fatah and the Commission for Palestinian Prisoners.
Instead of distancing itself from Zubeidi and his
accomplice for their involvement in terrorism, Abbas's Fatah rushed to condemn
Israel for arresting the terrorist leader and his friend. This is the same Fatah
whose leader, Abbas, says he
is committed to non-violence and is opposed to all forms of terrorism.
"The arrest of Zubeidi will lead to an open
confrontation [with Israel]," said Munir
Jaghoub, a senior Fatah official. "The arrest shows that Israel is headed
toward an all-out escalation against the Palestinians and their leaders. Israeli
leaders would be foolish to believe that the Palestinians will remain silent
toward their practices and crimes."
Fatah's Revolutionary Council also condemned Israel for
preventing Zubeidi from pursuing his plan to murder Jews. In a statement, the
council said that
the arrest of its member (Zubeidi) was an Israeli "violation of agreements
and understandings" with the Palestinian Authority.
The Fatah council claimed that Israel was preparing to
bring Zubeidi to trial for political reasons. "Israel wants to bring the
Palestinian struggle to trial," it said in
According to the logic of Fatah, it was Israel, and not the
terrorist, who "violated" the agreements and understandings signed
with the Palestinian Authority. In fact, Zubeidi is the one who violated the
agreements and understandings by continuing his terrorist activities.
As a gesture of goodwill, in 2008 Israel had informed the
Palestinians of its decision to stop pursuing dozens of Fatah terrorists in the
West Bank. A senior Palestinian official said at the time that the Israeli
decision to pardon the terrorists belonging to Fatah's armed wing, Al-Aqsa
Martyrs Brigades, had arrived after a three-month "trial period"
during which they refrained from launching attacks against Israel.
Under the terms of
the "pardon," the terrorists, including Zubeidi, were required to stay
inside Palestinian security installations after surrendering their weapons and
signing a pledge to refrain from terror activities.
Zubeidi's decision to continue his terror activities
against Israel did not come as a surprise to
Palestinians. The man who grew up in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West
Bank had spent most
of his life carrying weapons and launching terror attacks against Israel. The
group he headed in his camp, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, was established during
the Second Intifada on orders from Yasser Arafat.
In several interviews over the past few years, Zubeidi made
it clear that he never had any intention of renouncing terrorism. In one
interview, he said that
the Palestinian "resistance" could coexist alongside negotiating with
Israel. "Resistance is not defined yet," he explained. "It could
be armed resistance and it could be peaceful resistance."
Recently, Zubeidi told an
Israeli TV correspondent that he "misses the intifada and the
By its very own words and actions, Fatah makes it plainly
clear that it is anything but moderate and pragmatic. This is the same faction
that is supposed to be Israel's peace partner and whose leaders are welcomed
around the world as advocates of peace and coexistence. If this is moderation,
one wonders how do Palestinians define extremism? The international community
might check Fatah's communications in Arabic before answering that question for
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.