FATAḥ (Arabic : فتح _Fatḥ_), formerly the PALESTINIAN
NATIONAL LIBERATION MOVEMENT is a Palestinian nationalist political
party and the largest faction of the confederated multi-party
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Fatah is generally considered to have had a strong involvement in
revolutionary struggle in the past and has maintained a number of
militant groups .
Fatah had been closely identified with the
leadership of its founder
Yasser Arafat , until his death in 2004.
Since Arafat's departure, factionalism within the ideologically
diverse movement has become more apparent.
In the 2006 parliamentary election , the party lost its majority in
the Palestinian parliament to
Hamas . However, the
victory led to a conflict between
Hamas , with Fatah
retaining control of the
Palestinian National Authority in the West
* 1 Etymology
* 2 History
* 2.1 Establishment
* 2.2 1967–93
Battle of Karameh
Battle of Karameh
* 2.3 After 1993
* 2.3.1 Presidential and legislative elections
* 2.3.2 Internal discord
* 2.3.3 2009 Sixth General Assembly
* 2.3.4 Elections to Central Committee and Revolutionary Council
* 2.3.5 Reconciliation process with
* 3 Ideology
* 4 Structure
* 4.1 Armed factions
* 4.2 Constitution
* 5 See also
* 6 References
* 7 Bibliography
* 8 External links
The full name of the movement is حركة التحرير الوطني
الفلسطيني _ḥArakat al-TAḥrīr al-waṭanī
al-Filasṭīnī_, meaning the "Palestinian National Liberation
Movement". From this was crafted the reverse acronym _Fatḥ_
(_Fatah_) meaning "opening", "conquering", or "victory". The word
"fatḥ" or "fatah" is used in religious discourse to signify the
Islamic expansion in the first centuries of Islamic history –as in
_Fatḥ al-Sham _, the "conquering of the
Levant ". "Fatah" also has
religious significance in that it is the name of the 48th _sura_
(chapter) of the
Quran which, according to major Muslim commentators,
details the story of the
Treaty of Hudaybiyyah
Treaty of Hudaybiyyah . (During the peaceful
two years after the Hudaybiyyah treaty, many converted to Islam,
increasing the strength of the Muslim side. It was the breach of this
treaty by the
Quraysh that triggered the conquest of
Mecca . This
Islamic precedent was cited by
Yasser Arafat as justification for his
Oslo Accords with Israel.
Yasser Arafat was the main founder of
Fatah and led the movement
until his death in 2004.
Fatah movement, which espoused a Palestinian nationalist ideology
in which Palestinian Arabs would be liberated by their own actions,
was founded in 1959 by members of the
Palestinian diaspora – more
specifically, principally by professionals working in the Persian Gulf
States who had studied in
Beirut and had been refugees in
Gaza . The founders included
Yasser Arafat , then head of the General
Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) at
Cairo University ; Salah
Khalil al-Wazir ; and
Khaled Yashruti , then GUPS head in
Fatah became the dominant force in Palestinian politics after the
Six-Day War in 1967.
Fatah joined the
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1967. It
was immediately allocated 33 of 105 seats in the PLO Executive
Committee . Founder
Yasser Arafat became Chairman of the PLO in 1969,
after the position was ceded to him by
Yahya Hammuda . According to
BBC , "Mr Arafat took over as chairman of the executive committee
of the PLO in 1969, a year that
Fatah is recorded to have carried out
2,432 guerrilla attacks on Israel."
Battle Of Karameh
Battle of Karameh
Battle of Karameh
Fatah and other Palestinian armed groups were the
target of a major
Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operation in the
Jordanian village of
Karameh , where the
Fatah headquarters – as
well as a mid-sized Palestinian refugee camp – were located. The
town's name is the Arabic word for "dignity", which elevated its
symbolism to the Arab people, especially after the Arab defeat in
1967. The operation was in response to attacks against Israel,
including rockets strikes from
Fatah and other Palestinian militias
into the occupied West Bank. Knowledge of the operation was available
well ahead of time, and the government of Jordan (as well as a number
Fatah commandos) informed Arafat of Israel's large-scale military
preparations. Upon hearing the news, many guerrilla groups in the
area, including George Habash's newly formed group the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and
Nayef Hawatmeh 's breakaway
organization the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
(DFLP), withdrew their forces from the town.
Fatah leaders were
advised by a pro-
Fatah Jordanian divisional commander to withdraw
their men and headquarters to nearby hills, but on Arafat's orders,
Fatah remained, and the Jordanian Army agreed to back them if heavy
On the night of 21 March, the IDF attacked
Karameh with heavy
weaponry, armored vehicles and fighter jets.
Fatah held its ground,
surprising the Israeli military. As Israel's forces intensified their
campaign, the Jordanian Army became involved, causing the
retreat in order to avoid a full-scale war. By the end of the battle,
Fatah militants had been killed, as well as twenty
Jordanian soldiers and twenty-eight Israeli soldiers. Despite the
higher Arab death toll,
Fatah considered themselves victorious because
of the Israeli army's rapid withdrawal.
In the late 1960s, tensions between
Palestinians and the Jordanian
government increased greatly; heavily armed Arab resistance elements
had created a virtual _"state within a state"_ in Jordan, eventually
controlling several strategic positions in that country. After their
victory in the Battle of Karameh,
Fatah and other Palestinian militias
began taking control of civil life in Jordan. They set up roadblocks,
publicly humiliated Jordanian police forces, molested women and levied
illegal taxes – all of which Arafat either condoned or ignored.
In 1970, the Jordanian government moved to regain control over its
territory, and the next day, King Hussein declared martial law . By
25 September, the Jordanian army achieved dominance in the fighting,
and two days later Arafat and Hussein agreed to a series of
ceasefires. The Jordanian army inflicted heavy casualties upon the
Palestinians – including civilians – who suffered approximately
3,500 fatalities. Two thousand
Fatah fighters managed to enter
They crossed the border into
Lebanon to join
Fatah forces in that
country, where they set up their new headquarters. A large group of
guerrilla fighters led by
Fatah field commander
Abu Ali Iyad held out
the Jordanian Army's offensive in the northern city of Ajlun until
they were decisively defeated in July 1971.
Abu Ali Iyad was executed
and surviving members of his commando force formed the Black September
Organization , a splinter group of Fatah. In November 1971, the group
assassinated Jordanian prime minister
Wasfi al-Tal as retaliation to
Abu Ali Iyad's execution.
In the 1960s and the 1970s,
Fatah provided training to a wide range
of European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and African militant and insurgent
groups, and carried out numerous attacks against Israeli targets in
Western Europe and the Middle East during the 1970s. Some militant
groups that affiliated themselves to Fatah, and some of the _fedayeen_
Fatah itself, carried out civilian-aircraft hijackings and
terrorist attacks, attributing them to Black September,
Abu Nidal 's
Fatah-Revolutionary Council , Abu Musa 's group, the PFLP, and the
Fatah received weapons, explosives and training from the
Soviet Union and some of the communist states of
East Europe . China
Algeria also provided munitions.
Lebanese Civil War
Since the death of Eljamal in 1968, the Palestinian cause had a large
base of supporters in Lebanon.
Although hesitant at first to take sides in the conflict, Arafat and
Fatah played an important role in the
Lebanese Civil War . Succumbing
to pressure from PLO sub-groups such as the PFLP, DFLP and the
Palestine Liberation Front (PLF),
Fatah aligned itself with the
communist and Nasserist
Lebanese National Movement (LNM). Although
originally aligned with Fatah, Syrian President
Hafez al-Assad feared
a loss of influence in
Lebanon and switched sides. He sent his army,
along with the Syrian -backed Palestinian factions of as-Sa\'iqa and
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command
(PFLP-GC) led by Ahmad Jibril to fight alongside the Christian forces
against the PLO and the LNM. The primary component of the Christian
militias was the Maronite Phalangists .
Phalangist forces killed twenty-six
Fatah trainees on a bus in April
1975, marking the official start of the 15-year-long Lebanese civil
war. Later that year, an alliance of Christian militias overran the
Palestinian refugee camp of Karantina killing over 1,000 civilians.
The PLO and LNM retaliated by attacking the town of Damour , a
Phalangist and Tigers (Ahrar) stronghold, killing 684 civilians. As
the civil war progressed over 2 years of urban warfare, both parties
resorted to massive artillery duels and heavy use of sniper nests,
while atrocities and war crimes were committed by both sides.
In 1976, with strategic planning help from the Lebanese Army, the
alliance of Christian militias, spearheaded by the National Liberal
Party of former President Cammille Chamoun militant branch, the
noumour el ahrar (NLP Tigers), took a pivotal refugee camp in the
Eastern part of Beirut, the Tel al-Zaatar camp, after a six-month
siege, also known as Tel al-Zaatar massacre in which hundreds
perished. Arafat and Abu Jihad blamed themselves for not successfully
organizing a rescue effort.
PLO cross-border raids against
Israel grew somewhat during the late
1970s. One of the most severe – known as the Coastal Road massacre
– occurred on 11 March 1978. A force of nearly a dozen Fatah
fighters landed their boats near a major coastal road connecting the
Haifa with Tel Aviv-Yafo . There they hijacked a bus and
sprayed gunfire inside and at passing vehicles, killing thirty-seven
civilians. In response, the IDF launched Operation Litani three days
later, with the goal of taking control of Southern
Lebanon up to the
Litani River . The IDF achieved this goal, and
Fatah withdrew to the
Lebanon again in 1982.
Beirut was soon besieged and
bombarded by the IDF; to end the siege, the US and European
governments brokered an agreement guaranteeing safe passage for Arafat
Fatah – guarded by a multinational force – to exile in
Despite the exile, many
Fatah commanders and fighters remained in
Lebanon, and they faced the war of the camps in the 1980s in their
fight with the
Amal Movement and also in connection with internal
schisms within the Palestinian factions.
Presidential And Legislative Elections
Until his death, Arafat was the head of the Palestinian National
Authority , the provisional entity created as a result of the Oslo
Farouk Kaddoumi is the current
Fatah chairman, elected to the
post soon after Arafat's death in 2004.
Mahmoud Abbas in the Palestinian presidential
election of 2005 .
Hamas won in nearly all the municipalities it contested .
Salah Abdel-Shafi told the
BBC about the
Fatah leadership: "I think it's very, very serious –
it's becoming obvious that they can't agree on anything."
"widely seen as being in desperate need of reform," as "the PA's
performance has been a story of corruption and incompetence – and
Fatah has been tainted."
In December 2005, jailed Intifada leader
Marwan Barghouti broke ranks
with the party and announced that he had formed a new political list
to run in the elections called the _al-Mustaqbal _ ("The Future"),
mainly composed of members of Fatah's "Young Guard." These younger
leaders have repeatedly expressed frustration with the entrenched
corruption in the party, which has been run by the "Old Guard" who
returned from exile in
Tunisia following the
Oslo Accords .
Al-Mustaqbal was to campaign against
Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian
legislative election , presenting a list including
Mohammed Dahlan ,
Kadoura Fares , Samir Mashharawi and
Jibril Rajoub . However, on 28
December 2005, the leadership of the two factions agreed to submit a
single list to voters, headed by Barghouti, who began actively
Fatah from his jail cell.
There have been numerous other expressions of discontent within
Fatah, which is just holding its first general congress in two
decades. Because of this, the movement remains largely dominated by
aging cadres from the pre-Oslo era of Palestinian politics. Several of
them gained their positions through the patronage of Yasser Arafat,
who balanced above the different factions, and the era after his death
in 2004 has seen increased infighting among these groups, who jockey
for influence over future development, the political line, funds, and
constituencies. The prospect of Abbas leaving power in the coming
years has also exacerbated tensions.
There have been no open splits within the older generation of Fatah
politicians since the 1980s, though there is occasional friction
between members of the top leadership. One founding member, Faruq
al-Qaddumi (Abu Lutf), continues to openly oppose the post-Oslo
arrangements and has intensified his campaign for a more hardline
position from exile in
Tunis . Since Arafat's death, he is formally
head of Fatah's political bureau and chairman, but his actual
political following within
Fatah appears limited. He has at times
openly challenged the legitimacy of Abbas and harshly criticized both
Mohammed Dahlan , but despite threats to splinter the
movement, he remains in his position, and his challenges have so far
been fruitless. Another influential veteran,
Hani al-Hassan , has also
openly criticized the present leadership.
Fatah's internal conflicts have also, due to the creation of the
Palestinian Authority, merged with the turf wars between different PA
security services, e.g., a longstanding rivalry between the West Bank
Jibril Rajoub ) and Gaza (Muhammad Dahlan) branches of the powerful
Preventive Security Service. Foreign backing for different factions
contribute to conflict, e.g., with the United States generally seen as
supportive of Abbas's overall leadership and of Dahlan's security
Syria alleged to promote Faruq al-Qaddumi's challenge
to the present leadership. The younger generations of Fatah,
especially within the militant al-Aqsa Martyrs\' Brigades , have been
more prone to splits, and a number of lesser networks in Gaza and the
West Bank have established themselves as either independent
organizations or joined Hamas. However, such overt breaks with the
movement have still been rather uncommon, despite numerous rivalries
inside and between competing local
2009 Sixth General Assembly
The Sixth General Assembly of the
Fatah Movement began on 4 August
Bethlehem , nearly 16 years after the
Oslo I Accord and 20
years since the last
Fatah convention, after being repeatedly
postponed over conflicts ranging from who would be represented, to
what venue would be acceptable. More than 2,000 delegates attended
The internal dissension was immediately obvious. Saudi King Abdullah
Fatah delegates meeting in
Bethlehem that divisions among the
Palestinians were more damaging to their cause of an independent state
than the Israeli "enemy".
Fatah delegates resolved not to resume Israeli-Palestinian peace
talks until preconditions were met. Among the 14 preconditions were
the release of all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, freezing
Israeli settlement construction, and lifting the Gaza blockade .
Fatah members from the
Gaza Strip were unable to attend the
Hamas barred them from traveling to the
West Bank .
Fatah was appealing to
Palestinians who want a more hardline response
Israel by reaffirming its option for "armed resistance" against
Officials on the third day of the
Fatah convention in Bethlehem
unanimously accepted the proposal put forth by the chairman of the
Araft Institute stating that
Israel had been behind the
"assassination" of the late Palestinian Authority Chairman and
affirmed Fatah's request for international aid to probe the issue.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel,
Danny Ayalon , said the conference
was a "serious blow to peace" and "was another lost opportunity for
the Palestinian leadership to adopt moderate views."
Elections To Central Committee And Revolutionary Council
On 9 August, new members of the Central Committee and the
Revolutionary Council were chosen. Delegates voted to fill 18 seats
on the 23-seat
Central Committee of Fatah , and 81 seats of the
128-seat Revolutionary Council after a week of deliberations. At least
70 new members entered the latter, with 20 seats going to Fatah
representatives from the Gaza Strip, 11 seats filled by women (the
highest number of votes went to one woman who spent years in Israeli
jails for her role in the resistance), four seats went to Christians,
and one was filled by a Jewish-born convert to Islam,
Uri Davis , the
first Jewish-born person to be elected to the Revolutionary Council
since its founding in 1958.
Fatah activists from the Palestinian
diaspora were also represented and included
Samir Rifai , Fatah's
secretary in Syria, and Khaled Abu Usba.
Elected to the central council was Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of
Marwan Barghouti who is serving five life sentences in
Israel for his
role in terrorist attacks on civilians in
Israel during the Second
Reconciliation Process With Hamas
Main article: Fatah–
Hamas reconciliation process
A meeting of the Revolutionary Council was held in
18–19 October 2014. Many important questions were discussed,
including reconciliation with Hamas. Opinion was divided on this
Fatah has "Member Party" status at the
Socialist International and
has "Observer Party" status within the
Party of European Socialists .
The November 1959 edition of Fatah's underground journal _Filastinuna
Nida al-Hayat_ indicated that the movement was motivated by the status
Palestinian refugees in the Arab world: The youth of the
catastrophe (_shibab al-nakba_) are dispersed... Life in the tent has
become as miserable as death... o die for our beloved Motherland is
better and more honorable than life, which forces us to eat our daily
bread under humiliations or to receive it as charity at the cost of
our honour... We, the sons of the catastrophe, are no longer willing
to live this dirty, despicable life, this life which has destroyed our
cultural, moral and political existence and destroyed our human
From the beginning, the armed struggle – as manifested in the
1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine
1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine and the military role of
Palestinian fighters under the leadership of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni
1948 Arab–Israeli War – was central to Fatah's ideology of
Fatah's two most important decision-making bodies are the Central
Committee and Revolutionary Council. The Central Committee is mainly
an executive body, while the Revolutionary Council is Fatah's
Fatah has maintained a number of militant groups since its founding.
Its mainstream military branch is al-\'Asifah .
Fatah is generally
considered to have had a strong involvement in terrorism in the past,
though unlike its rival Islamist faction
Fatah is no
longer regarded as a terrorist organization by any government. Fatah
used to be designated terrorist under Israeli law and was considered
terrorist by the
United States Department of State and United States
Congress until it renounced terrorism in 1988.
Fatah has, since its inception, created, led or sponsored a number of
armed groups and militias, some of which have had an official standing
as the movement's armed wing, and some of which have not been publicly
or even internally recognized as such. The group has also dominated
various PLO and Palestinian Authority forces and security services
which were/are not officially tied to Fatah, but in practice have
served as wholly pro-
Fatah armed units, and been staffed largely by
members. The original name for Fatah's armed wing was al-'Asifah ("The
Storm"), and this was also the name
Fatah first used in its
communiques, trying for some time to conceal its identity. This name
has since been applied more generally to
Fatah armed forces, and does
not correspond to a single unit today. Other militant groups
Force 17 . Plays a role akin to the Presidential Guard for senior
Fatah leaders. Created by Yasser Arafat.
Black September Organization . A group formed by leading Fatah
members in 1971, following the events of the "
Black September " in
Jordan, to organize clandestine attacks with which
Fatah did not want
to be openly associated. These included strikes against leading
Jordanian politicians as a means of exacting vengeance and raising the
price for attacking the Palestinian movement; and also, most
controversially, for "international operations" (e.g. the Munich
Olympics massacre ), intended to put pressure on the US, Europe and
Israel, to raise the visibility of the Palestinian cause and to
upstage radical rivals such as the PFLP .
Fatah publicly disassociated
itself from the group, but it is widely believed that it enjoyed
Arafat's direct or tacit backing. It was discontinued in 1973–1974,
as Fatah's political line shifted again, and the Black September
operations and the strategy behind them were seen as having become a
political liability, rather than an asset.
Fatah Hawks . An armed militia active mainly until the mid-1990s.
Tanzim . A branch of
Fatah under the leadership of Marwan
Barghouti, with roots in the activism of the
First Intifada , which
carried out armed attacks in the early days of the Second Intifada. It
was later subsumed or sidelined by the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
* Al-Aqsa Martyrs\' Brigades . Created during the
Second Intifada to
bolster the organization's militant standing vis-à-vis the rival
Hamas movement, which had taken the lead in attacks on
1993, and was gaining rapidly in popularity with the advent of the
Intifada. The Brigades are locally organized and have been said to
suffer from poor cohesion and internal discipline, at times ignoring
ceasefires and other initiatives announced by the central Fatah
leadership. They are generally seen as tied to the "young guard" of
Fatah politics, organizing young members on the street level, but it
is not clear that they form a faction in themselves inside Fatah
politics; rather, different Brigades units may be tied to different
Fatah factional leaders.
During the Second Intifada, the group was a member of the Palestinian
National and Islamic Forces .
In August 2009, at Fatah's Sixth General Conference in
Fatah delegates drew up a new "internal charter".
List of Fatah members
* List of political parties in the
Palestinian National Authority
Palestinian political violence
Palestinian political violence
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