Skip to content

Fatah facing deepest crisis ever

  • by

Fatah facing deepest crisis ever
From Khalid Amayreh

Fatah leaders have accused Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his allies of seeking the “dismantling” and “disintegration” of the movement in order to facilitate “the liquidation” of the Palestinian cause.

Some of these leaders have charged that the Fatah organization Abbas is trying reconstruct is “closer to Netanyahu than it is to the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom and independence.”

According to Fatah sources in the West Bank , Abbas has been taking measures to consolidate supporters and allies in “sensitive positions” while “isolating opponents.”

The sources listed a number of steps taken by Abbas recently including his decision to hold the movement’s Sixth Congress in Bethlehem despite stiff opposition from the bulk of Fatah leaders both inside and outside Palestine .

Moreover, Abbas reportedly gave a green light for the formation of a “secret committee” comprising some of his top loyalists and confidants, people like Hussein al Sheikh, Muhammed Dahlan and Hakam Balaawi, whose main task will be to consolidate Abbas’s control of Fatah’s local, regional and national leaderships.

The Sixth Congress

The convening of Fatah’s long-overdue Sixth Congress has been the main contentious point eroding whatever semblance of internal unity the movement may have had.

The last time Fatah held a general convention was in 1989 in Algiers , which means that the movement has experienced no renewal ever since

This fact alone is generating indignation and disillusionment not only among the rank and file of Fatah itself but also among the Palestinian people as a whole.

Last week, Fatah leader Qaddura Fares was quoted as saying “what sort of democratic movement is that which doesn’t hold election for 20 years?” Fares is a close ally of imprisoned Fatah Marwan al Barghouthi, a key opponent to Abbas’s “compromising line.”

A few months ago, the top Fatah leadership decided to form a “Preparatory Committee” to prepare for the Sixth conference.

The committee, which held protracted and intensive meetings in Amman , was entrusted with the task of preparing the agenda of the conference, choosing participants, and selecting a venue for important event.

However, after many weeks of often acrimonious deliberations and heated debates, the committee failed to reach agreement on the main contentious issues.

In the meantime, the opposing camps within Fatah accused each other of manipulating the preparatory committee’s deliberations by using undemocratic and immoral tactics, such as “imposing delegates” for the purpose of predetermining the outcome of the conference.

At some point, the often heated debates deteriorated into cursing, name-calling and even fest-fighting.

Eventually, Abbas, exasperated by the committee’s refusal to heed his instructions and accept his nominees, decided to dissolve it and revoke all its decisions. The decision infuriated committee members, including Fatah’s historical figures such as Farouk al Qaddumi, Muhammed Jihad, and Abu Rateb Ghneim.

Moreover, Abbas decided, rather unilaterally and single-handedly, to hold the Fatah congress in Bethlehem on 1 July, against the wishes of many within Fatah.

This was confirmed later by Hussein al Sheikh, the head of the civilian affair department, which coordinates with Israel , who was quoted by the pro-establishment Maan News Agency as saying that “the conference will be held in Bethlehem on the proscribed date.”

Al-Sheikh pointed out that there was an agreement with Israel allowing Qaddumi, Ghneim and Muhammed Jihad to enter the West Bank for participating in the conference.

Stiff opposition

Accusing Abbas of indulging in “wanton authoritarianism and unilateralism,” Fatah leaders opposed to the Chairman’s “political line” accused him of “holding Fatah and the entire Palestinian cause hostage to the whims of a person known as Salam Fayadh,” the prime minister of the Ramallah-based regime.

Muhammed Jihad, a prominent Fatah leader based in the Jordanian capital, charged that Abbas was “firing the mercy bullet at Fatah’s coffin.”

He also castigated the formation of the new government in Ramallah and saluted Fatah leaders who refused to join it, calling on them to “be vigilant in order to confront the conspiracies being worked out against the Palestinian cause.”

Qaddumi: No to Bethlehem conference

Meanwhile, Qaddumi, widely considered the number-2 man within Fatah, reiterated his fierce opposition to holding the sixth conference in occupied Palestine , arguing that it was futile and absurd to hold Fatah’s convention in the shadow of Israeli tanks.

Speaking during an interview with the “al-Kefah al Arabi Magazine” (Arab Struggle ” on 22 May, Qaddumi lashed out at Abbas for exceeding his authority, saying that the Preparatory Committee, which emanated from Fatah’s Executive Committee, possessed the exclusive authority to determine the date and venue of the conference.

Asked how he would react and what he would do if Abbas went ahead with his plans to hold the conference in Bethlehem, Qaddumi said “This would be unconstitutional.”

” The important thing is that the Preparatory Committee decided to hold the conference outside Palestine since holding it inside occupied Palestine in the shadow of Israeli guns would seriously undermine its ability to take decisions that are incompatible with Israeli interests. There is simply no safety, no security, and no guarantees that everyone who should attend the conference would be allowed to attend. For all these reasons, we are not confident that the deliberations of the conference would be immune from Israeli interference. Hence, holding the conference in the West Bank under the canopy of the Israeli occupation would be illegitimate and unacceptable.”

Qaddumi lambasted Abbas for refusing to meet with the Fatah’s executive committee outside occupied Palestine , saying that “this sort of behavior was totally unacceptable.”

Finally, Qaddumi castigated the formation of the new Palestinian government in Ramallah, describing it as “meaningless.”

“My central preoccupation is removing the Israeli occupation. This is the main burden. As to the PA, it is one of the expressions of the Oslo agreement, a process aimed at anaesthetizing and distracting the Palestinian people in order to allow Israel to create facts on the ground and consolidate the economic siege on our people.”

Nonetheless, Qaddumi’s opposition to holding the Fatah conference in the West Bank, rather than abroad, seems to stem mainly from legitimate fears that Abbas would manipulate the conference in his favor.

Sources close to Qaddumi told the PIC that the veteran Palestinian leader was “worried that Israel wouldn’t allow Abbas’s opponents to access the conference” which would then enable the PA chairman to claim that a majority within Fatah was decidedly behind him.

Opposite lines

The internal crisis within Fatah is by no means a new phenomenon. An intense power struggle between the “pragmatists” and “patriots” has always existed within a movement once described as a “supermarket of ideas.” However, during Yasser Arafat’s reign, the “differences” were kept more or less under control, thanks to the charismatic figure of the late Palestinian leader.

Now, with Abbas, the leader of the “pragmatists” at the helm of Fatah, and enjoying the backing of Israel , the West and American puppet Arab regimes, the power struggle is moving up to the surface and seriously endangering whatever semblance of unity the movement may still have.

But the contentious issues go far beyond the personality issues.

Abbas is reportedly hell bent on “reaching a deal” with Israel, whatever the price, whatever the consequences, and in seeking such a “a hasty settlement,” the PA leader may well be willing to effectively sacrifice the paramount Right of Return and accept the annexation by Israel of nearly half of East Jerusalem in return of swapping land elsewhere.

To Shield himself from expected Palestinian and Arab anger over the liquidation of the Palestinian cause, the PA leader reportedly would seek an Arab and Islamic umbrella to give the impression that the “settlement” enjoys Palestinian, Arab and Muslim consensus.

On the other hand, Other Fatah leaders, who enjoy widespread support but lack the financial resources and especially western backing, insist on upholding the Palestinian constants, namely total Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied in 1967, the repatriation of all Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes by Israel in 1948, and the creation of a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state with E. Jerusalem as its capital.