Mission & Name
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Fat'h, Hold Your Applause:
Body Politic Rotten to the Core
By Ramzy Baroud
|Fat'h 7th Conference in
Ramallah, occupied Palestine, December 2016
In July 2003, the then Palestinian Authority Chairman, Yasser Arafat,
described Mahmoud Abbas as a 'traitor' who "betrayed the interests of
the Palestinian People."
Arafat loathed Abbas to the very end.
This particular outburst was made during a meeting with the United Nations
envoy, Terje Larsen. The meeting took place a few months after Arafat
was coerced, by the US, Israel and other Western powers to appoint
Abbas as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.
Historically, Abbas has been the least popular among Fat'h
(also known in the media as Fatah) leaders - the likes of
Abu Jihad, Abu Iyad, and Arafat, himself. These popular leaders were
mostly assassinated, sidelined or died under mysterious circumstances.
Arafat is widely believed to have been poisoned by Israel with the help of
Palestinians, and Abbas has recently alleged that he
knows who killed Arafat.
Yet, despite his unpopularity,
Abbas has remained in one top position or another. The power struggle
between him and Arafat which culminated in 2003, until Arafat's death in
November 2004, hardly helped Abbas' insipid reputation among Palestinians.
At times, it seemed that the less popular Abbas becomes, the
greater his powers grew. He has just been re-elected
as the head of his political party, Fatah, during their seventh
congress held in Ramallah on November 29. At 81, he is the leader of
Fatah, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President
of the Palestinian Authority.
However, his long-drawn-out speech
of nearly three hours on November 30 brought nothing new; rehashed
slogans, and subtle messages to the US and Israel that his
'revolution' shall remain subdued and non-violent. Considering this
critical period in Palestine's history, Abbas' impractical rhetoric
represents the depth of the crisis among Palestine's political elites. The
numerous rounds of applause that Abbas' tedious, unimaginative speech
received from the nearly 1,400 supporters who attended the conference is a
reflection of the deep-seated political tribalism that now controls Fatah,
the dominant PLO party and, arguably, the party that sparked the modern
But today's party is a far cry from its
Fat'h's founders were young, vibrant, educated
rebels. Their primary literature from 1959 spoke of their early
influences, particularly the guerilla war of Algeria’s resistance against
"The guerrilla war on Algeria had a profound
influence on us," wrote
Abu Iyad. "We were impressed by the Algerian nationalists' ability to
form a solid front, wage war against an army a thousand times superior to
their own, obtain many forms of aid from various Arab governments and, at
the same time, avoid becoming dependent on any of them."
Certainly, some circumstances have inevitably changed, but many aspects of
the conflict have remained the same: Israel's territorial war, unceasing
colonial expansion, backed by the United States' unhinged imperialism.
Yet, Fat'h has changed to the point that its founders would no longer
recognize the current political structure from what they had created. The
movement is now more keenly interested in consolidating the power of
Abbas' allies than fighting Israel; top members are conspiring against
each other, buying allegiances and ensuring whatever massive financial
perks that resulted from Abbas' Oslo accords remain intact, even after the
old leader retires.
Mohammed Dahlan's political clan was, of
course, excluded from the conference. In fact, the reason the conference
was held after all these years (seven years have separated it from the
last one) is partly to ensure the new Fatah hierarchy is set up in such a
way in order to prevent Dahlan's allies from staging a comeback.
The sad truth is that, regardless of who wins in the current power
struggle, Fatah's descent is inexorable. Both Abbas and Dahlan are
perceived as moderates by Israel, supported by the US, and extremely
unpopular among most Palestinians.
According to a
poll conducted in September 2015, the majority of Palestinians - 65% -
want Abbas to resign. The same poll indicated that Dahlan was nowhere near
popular (only 6% supported him) and Abbas' allies, Saeb Erekat and former
prime minister, Salam Fayyad, received 4% and 3% of the vote respectively.
Indeed, there is a chasm between Palestinians and those who
claim to represent them, and that rift is growing tremendously.
The Fat'h conference political theater on November 29 seemed far removed
from this reality. After Abbas - who was only elected to lead the
Palestinian Authority once in 2005 for a period of 4 years - purged all of
his opponents, he sought a new mandate from his supporters.
Predictably, "everyone voted yes," a spokesman for Fat'h, Mahmoud
Abu al-Hija told reporters.
When 'everyone' in Fatah's top
political circle votes for Abbas, while the majority of Palestinians
reject him, this leads one to conclude that Fatah is neither a fair
representation of the Palestinian people, nor is it remotely close to the
pulse of the Palestinian street.
Even if one is to ignore the
'yes-men' of Fatah, one cannot ignore the fact that the current fight
among the Palestinian elites is almost entirely detached from the fight
Palestinians are victims of daily violence:
Jewish settlements are occupying Palestinian hills and are ever expanding,
Israeli soldiers roam occupied Palestinian land, and Abbas, himself, is
not allowed free movement without prior 'security coordination' with the
Moreover, Palestinians are divided among factions,
regions and clans; political favoritism, financial corruption and
straight-out treason are eating the Palestinian body politic like an
incurable cancer. Talk of 'unity', 'reconciliation' and 'state building'
are just that - words - while Palestinians suffer their bitter existence
under the boots of soldiers, behind checkpoints, and under the quiet - but
maddening - humming of military drones.
Still, the Fatah elites applauded
Abbas nearly 300 times during his three hour speech. What are they
applauding, exactly? What has been achieved? What vision did he put forth
to end the Israeli occupation?
Much Palestinian land has been
lost between Fatah’s sixth congress in 2009 and seventh congress. That is
not an achievement but a cause for alarm.
The sad truth is, no
self-respecting Palestinian should be applauding empty rhetoric; instead,
the respected Fat'h members should urgently rethink this destructive
- Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the
Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder
of PalestineChronicle.com. His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The
Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom
Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
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