Fatah

Acronym for Harakat al-Tahrir al-Falistiniya, the Palestinian Liberation Movement, with the first letters in reverse order giving FATAH which means conquest (whereas the word derived from the normal abbreviation Hataf means « death »).

Fatah is the largest Palestinian political organization. It was founded in Kuwait in 1957 as a Palestinian nationalist movement opposed to Arab nationalism. Its founders include Yasser Arafat, Khaled Al-Hassan (1), Farouq Qaddumi (2) and Kalil Al-Wazzir (3).

Fatah took no heed of the creation of the PLO in 1964 and concentrated itself on preparing for the armed struggle against Israel as of 1965. Only after the Arab defeat in 1967 it joined the PLO together with other guerilla groups and its spokesman, Yasser Arafat, became later the Chairman of the PLO. Following the invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1983, Fatah experienced a crisis due to internal disagreements over Arafat’s policy of pacific dialog. These disputes led to a split and the creation of movement Fatah al-Islam.

Fatah has long been the largest political group within the PLO and it long held more than one third of seats within the Palestine National Council (PNC). Since the Oslo Agreements, Fatah is the main pillar of the Palestinian Authority, established in the territories wherefrom the Israeli army has withdrawn. However, local Fatah leaders, faced with the deadlock of the peace process and a certain carelessness of the Palestinian Authority, have progressively taken up the opposition discourse again. Still, they have not broken with Yasser Arafat nor questioned his leadership. It is in the West Bank that Fatah is most autonomous, under the leadership of Marwan Barghouti (elected to the Palestinian National Council in 1996), who was one of the first local politicians to demand a moratorious on the Oslo Agreements and an independent survey on the Palestinian Authority’financial management.

Since the beginning of the Intifada Al Aqsa, the local Fatah branches have increasingly coordinated their actions with the other Palestinian movements, including Hamas, to the displeasure of the Palestinian Authority. Since September 2001 Marwan Barghouti was the object of a warrant for arrest by the Israeli justice, accusing him of organising paramilitaries and conspiring to murder. The Palestinian Legislative Council member was arrested in April 2002 and is in Israeli custody since then. His defiance of the Israeli authorities –he does not recognise Israeli jurisidction- has boosted him prestige among Palestinians, who saw him as a possible successor to Yasser Arafat.

In 2005, he announced from his prison that he had formed a new party, Al Mustaqbal mainly composed of members of the young guard of Fatah. Fatah seems to be in desperate need of reform.

Yasser Arafat died in 2004, Farouk Kaddoumi was elected to head the party.

The resumption of the Intifada has clearly played against Fatah and in favour of Hamas which won the municipal elections of 2005 and the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006 : it is the first time that Fatah loses power. The head of the winning party list, Ismail Haniyeh said he was ready to work with Fatah.

Following the success of Hamas, the international community refused to help and Israel launches numerous raids in the Palestinian territories. Negotiations between the two Palestinian factions failed, what got Mahmoud Abbas to threaten to launch new parliamentary elections, although this competence belongs only to the Legislative Council following the Palestinian Fundamental Law. Hamas rejected this possibility, and both parties agreed to build a government of national unity Palestine.

Despite these efforts, Hamas and Fatah separated following a civil war in June 2007 after which Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. Mahmoud Abbas immediately dismissed Ismail Haniyeh appointing in his place Salam Fayyad. In doing so, the president of the Palestinian Authority has ignored the Fundamental Law which requires that the Prime Minister should be replaced by a member of the parliamentary majority, which is not the case with Fayyad and leads to distortions in the internal Fatah.

Since then, numerous attempts have been undertaken to reconcile the two movements, without success. The many sessions of discussions, initiated in March 2009 in Cairo have not yet resulted in an agreement.

On August 4, 2009 opened the sixth Congress, the first since the one held in Tunis in 1989. Marked by a resurgence of the dissensions between the establishment and the Young Guard, and among Palestinians in the Palestinian territories and those in exile, the Congress did not have revolutionary results. Mahmoud Abbas was elected by a majority, while the new generation got a more prominent place in the party. The election of Marwan Barghouti in one of the 23 seats of the Central Committee was one of the most publicized acts of the Congress. Considering the strategic line, the present members decided not to return to the negotiating table unless Israel accepts a series of 14 pre-conditions including the release of political prisoners, the freezing of settlements and lifting the blockade on Gaza.