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Will Fatah Give Up the Armed Struggle at Its Sixth General Congress?

Will Fatah Give Up the Armed Struggle at Its Sixth General Congress?

Pinhas Inbari  |  Palestinian Authority

The Sixth Fatah General Congress, convening for the first time in twenty years, will be judged mainly by two factors: its decisions and the composition of its new leadership. Here we will examine the nature of its expected decisions and leave the evaluation of the new leadership for future examination.

There is great international interest in the Fatah Congress since so much of the international community perceives the Palestinian problem as the key to the entire spectrum of conflicts in the Middle East. Many observers are watching to see to what extent the congress will advance or retard the prospects for re-launching the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and even launching a regional peace process based on the Israeli-Palestinian bilateral track.

In this regard, the crucial question is: Is Fatah going to waive its historical principle of "armed struggle" - muqawama - and devote itself to peace negotiations based on compromise, as was discussed extensively between the former Kadima-led Israeli government and Palestinian negotiators - led by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and former Prime Minister Abu Ala?


Two Documents: One for International Consumption and the Other for Internal Use

The two relevant documents to be discussed and approved by the Fatah Congress are the Political Program1 and Fatah's "Internal Order."2 The Political Program might be seen by many as reflecting progress in terms of accepting a political solution and rejecting violence - but it falls short of waiving the principle of armed struggle. The document endorses the Arab Initiative, talks in vague expressions of the "right of return" - using a formula "based on UN Resolution 181" and not on fulfillment of this resolution, and offers the model of the "Intifada of the Stones" (the first intifada) as preferred over the model of military struggle.

The principle of the "armed struggle" is mentioned as an option of the past that must be re-examined in comparison to other options of struggle. The model seen to fit our times is the anti-wall campaigns in Nil'in and Bil'in, but "10,000 times as fierce." The political program uses the term "the struggle" (not quite describing it as the "armed struggle") and even the "peaceful struggle." However, there is more than one reference to the term "the struggle of all options," that includes the armed struggle as well. In an interview with Maan News, the Fatah leader in Lebanon, Sultan Abu al-Einein, made it clear that the "struggle of all options" includes the armed struggle as well.


Fatah's Internal Order Presents a Different Face

Developing the Nil'in-Bil'in model of struggle is problematic because it can easily deteriorate into violence, as past experience shows, but the real problem lies in the Internal Order document. All of the phrases that were omitted in the Political Program are present in this would-be "bureaucratic" document. The term "armed popular struggle" appears at the very beginning. While the Political Program sought to subordinate the struggle to the need for "international legitimacy," the Internal Order is very clear in rejecting all international peace initiatives: "The projects, agreements, and resolutions that were issued or will be issued by the UN or group of states or any separate state on the Palestinian problem that waives the rights of the Palestinians on their homeland is null and void."3

Furthermore, Article 22 calls for: "objection by force to all political solutions that are offered as an alternative to the extermination of the occupying Zionist entity in Palestine and all the projects that aim for the elimination of the Palestinian problem, or seek to internationalize it or put an outside custodian on its people from any possible party."4 This article is in contradiction to the call in the Political Program for greater international involvement in the problem and its welcome for the involvement of international forces in Palestine. 

Article 9 states clearly that "the liberation of the Holy Land and the defense of its holy sites (that are forbidden to infidels) is an Arab, Muslim, and humanitarian duty."5


Fatah Retains the Strategy of the Armed Struggle

And here we come to the essence: Fatah retains the armed struggle as a strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestine and eliminate Israel. Article 12 calls for "the liberation of Palestine completely and the elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally."6 (Indeed, one of the methods mentioned in the Political Program for the "peaceful intifada" is an economic boycott of Israel.) 

Article 13 calls for "establishing a sovereign democratic Palestinian state on the entire Palestinian territory that will preserve the legitimate rights of the citizens on the basis of justice and equality without discrimination on the basis of race, religion and belief, and Jerusalem will be its capital."7 While the Political Program lists the "one-state solution" as an option in case the "two-state solution" fails, the Internal Order document mentions the "one-state solution" as the only solution.  
Article 17 says: "The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine."8

Finally, Article 19 notes: "The armed struggle is a strategy and not just a tactic and the armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a decisive factor in the war of liberation and the elimination of the Zionist existence, and the struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine."9

While Fatah's Political Program tries to accommodate international expectations and seems designed to mobilize international legitimacy for the re-launching of a "peaceful intifada," Fatah's "Internal Order" reminds us how deeply ingrained in Fatah is its ideology from the 1960s and 1970s.   


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1 http://www.e-fateh.org/paper_full_1.aspx.

2 http://www.e-fateh.org/paper_full_3.aspx.

3 المشاريع والاتفاقات والقرارات التي صدرت او تصدر عن هيئة الامم المتحدة او اية مجموعة من الدول او اي دولة منفردة بشأن قضية فلسطين والتي تهدر حق الشعب الفلسطيني في وطنه باطلة ومرفوضه.

4 لمادة (22) - مقاومة كل الحلول السياسية المطروحة كبديل عن تصفية الكيان الصهيوني المحتل في فلسطين، وكل المشاريع الرامية الى تصفية القضية الفلسطينية او تدويلها او الوصاية على شعبها من اية جهة.

5 لمادة (9) - تحرير الديار المقدسة والدفاع عن حرماتها واجب عربي واسلامي وانساني.

6 المادة (12) - تحرير فلسطين تحريراً كاملاً وتصفية دولة الاحتلال الصهيوني اقتصادياً وسياسياً وعسكرياً وثقافياً.

7 المادة (13) - اقامة دولة فلسطينيه ديمقراطية مستقلة ذات سيادة على كامل التراب الفلسطيني تحفظ للمواطنين حقوقهم الشرعية على اساس العدل والمساواة دون تمييزفي العنصر او الدين والعقيده وتكون القدس عاصمة لها.

8 المادة (17) - الثورة الشعبية المسلحة هي الطريق الحتمي الوحيد لتحرير فلســطين.

9 المادة (19) -الكفاح المسلح استراتيجية وليس تكتيكاً والثورة المسلحة للشعب العربي الفلسطيني عامل حاسم في معركة التحرير وتصفية الوجود الصهيوني ولن يتوقف هذا الكفاح الا بالقضاء على الكيان الصهيوني وتحرير فلسطين.

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Pinhas Inbari is a senior policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is also a veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently reports for several foreign media outlets. He is the author of a number of books on the Palestinians including The Palestinians: Between Terrorism and Statehood.

The Jerusalem Issue Brief series is published by the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation.

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