by David Bedein
The Fatah general conference convened this week in Bethlehem, 20 years after the previous conference that was held in Tunisia. Discussions addressed the question of whether Fatah should give up the armed struggle.
Large posters featuring Palestinian children brandishing rifles decorated the conference hall.
“Our determination to choose the path of peace and negotiations-does not mean that we have abandoned our noble path of legitimate resistance, which is based on international law,” declared PA Chairman Abbas in his keynote speech at the three day conference of the Fatah, which is the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority.
“Yes, resistance is legal, and we are with this resistance”, Abbas repeated, over and over.
An Israeli Arab Member of the Israeli Knesset Parliament, MK Ahmed Tibi, former advisor to the late PLO founder, Yassir Arafat, also spoke at the conference, calling upon the delegates to expel Jews from the future Palestinian state, leading thousands of Palestinians in a chant: “Get out of the Palestinian lands. Get out of all of our souls. Get out already!”
Following Mr. Tibi's harangue, the Israel Legal Forum demanded that Israel Attorney General Meni Mazuz prosecute Mr. Tibi for incitement sedition and racism in his remarks
One of the possible future leaders of the Fatah, the former security chief Jibril Rajoub, presented a clear position:
“Fatah will never give up the armed struggle,” he said, “there are tactics of struggle and policy, but they depend on Israel's position and recognition of the existence of the Palestinian people.”
MEMRI, a credible middle east think tank, translated that Palestinian Legislative Council member Jamal Huwail’s speech at the Fatah conference, which reflected the tenor of events at the event: “This conference must confirm the right of resistance by all means, as they appear in U.N. conventions, considering that Fatah is a national liberation movement and its people are under occupation. The resistance is carried out not only with guns, but also [with] political activity and serious negotiations.”
MEMRI also translated Husam Khader, another senior Fatah member who has spent the last few years in an Israeli prison for active participation in the who declared that: “Fatah has not changed its national identity, and it retains the option of resistance and armed struggle. But now, for the first time... it is permitting the option of negotiations as one of the Palestinian people's strategic options and as a possible way of attaining its political goals.”
Interviewed in prison, where he is serving life for the murder of 13 Jews, Marwan Al-Barghouti, a senior Fatah member imprisoned in Israel, said in an August 4, 2009 interview with the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: “Resistance to the Israeli occupation is a national obligation, and it is a legitimate right...”
In an earlier interview, on July 21, he said: “Fatah believes in a combination of all forms of struggle, and it will not abandon, thwart, or rule out any form of struggle. As long as a single Israeli soldier or settler remains on the Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967, Fatah will not relinquish the option of resistance.
“There isn't a single Fatah member who does not believe in resistance, because the very essence of the Fatah [movement] is resistance, [more] resistance, and eventual victory. There isn't a single people in history that was under occupation and did not resist. Resistance is a legitimate right that is confirmed by religious law, U.N. resolutions, and international law.
“We in Fatah think that political activity and negotiations complement resistance, and harvest its fruits. Therefore, we have always called for adhering to the option of resistance, negotiation, and political activity alike.”
MEMRI also translated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades commander Zakariya Al-Zubeidi, called on the Fatah conference “to propose a plan that will combine the political line with the resistance line within Fatah, against the backdrop of the past failure of [each path alone] to obtain results favorable to the Palestinian cause.” He likewise rejected the possibility that Fatah would omit the armed struggle from its plan.
Fatah spokesman Fahmi Al-Za'arir stated: “It is not possible to rule out or to marginalize the military option. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are the jewel in Fatah's crown. We must strengthen their status... [and] maintain them in a state of alert..
During the Fatah conference, former PA Prime Minister Abu Alaa welcomed Khaled Abu-Usbah to the conference and referred to him and Dalal Mughrabi as Palestinian heroes for carrying out the bus hijacking in 1978, which killed 37 Israeli civilians, including 12 children.
At the same time, the Fatah party platform that was adopted at the conference, explicitly stated that Israel must not be recognized as a Jewish state.
Leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations sharply criticized the statements made by former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Abu Alaa and other Fatah officials at yesterday’s Fatah Congress.
Conference Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said,
“Statements by Abbu Allah praising suicide bombers who have killed dozens of people is wholly unacceptable and represents the true challenge to the chances for peace in the region. Statements by other Fatah officials urged the continuation of armed resistance and asserted that Fatah would not recognize the State of Israel. These declarations, made by the so-called ‘moderate’ Palestinian faction puts into sharp focus the question of the real beliefs of the party with whom Israel is to negotiate. Such rhetoric cannot be dismissed as it glorifies murderers and incites others to emulate their example. The U.S. has urged the Palestinians to address the issue of incitement, which is both an immediate and long-term obstacle to the prospect of meaningful negotiations. Too often such statements have been dismissed. But as history has shown, it is a serious impediment, not only undermining the confidence of Israelis, but exhorting this and future generations to violence and hate. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority must speak out against these actions to declare and take steps that all such incitement will be stopped."
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com.