Is Fatah Moderate?

Since Hamas’ violent takeover of Gaza, Western leaders consistently exerted pressure on Israel to bolster what they call Palestinian moderates– the Fatah movement and its leaders. They were aided by Western media reports fostering an image of Palestinian moderation while frequently glossing over evidence to the contrary. In the past, Israel  released  Fatah prisoners, $360 million in tax and custom revenues that had been frozen since the Hamas government was elected in January 2006. In addition, Israel  authorized the shipment of 1,000 rifles to Fatah loyalists in the West Bank.

But these measures did not engender moderation on the part of Fatah and its leaders. Palestinian governing charters are still predicated on the central goal of eradicating the Jewish state through armed struggle. Yet the media ignores this, choosing instead to play up the periodic claims by Palestinian leaders they have changed their stance toward Israel—claims that have either proven to be duplicitous, like those of Yasir Arafat, or unsupported by the leaders’ constituents, like those of current Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas openly and consistently states its goal is to destroy the Jewish state and replace it with an Islamic one. Its charter calls for Jihad against “the Jewish occupation of Palestine” and dismisses any political solution. “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it, as it abolished that which was before it,” reads an introductory quote on the document.

But the constitution of the Fatah movement—now being cast by many in the media as the hope for peace—is no less belligerent than that of Hamas. It also calls for the “complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence” through violence, and similarly dismisses political solutions. And while many journalists have reported on Hamas’ openly stated goals, most continue to ignore those of Fatah.

Until the Abbas government announced on July 27 that it was dropping the phrase “armed resistance” from its government’s platform, the media had not reported such a clause existed. In any case, it is a moot point as Fatah members—such as those belonging to the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade—continue to adhere to the movement’s charter, rejecting efforts by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and President Mahmoud Abbas to moderate their stance toward Israel.

As long as Fatah’s charter is not rescinded and remains posted on the Fatah Web site calling for Israel’s destruction, it is clear it still serves as the movement’s governing document—no matter what the media chooses to ignore.

How Moderate is Fatah?

(The English translation of Fatah’s constitution could be found Fatah’s English Web site ( Fateh has since apparently eliminated its English-language Web site, but captured images of that site as of Aug 25, 2007 remain and can be accessed  by clicking here.)

According to the Web site description, the “pedestal of the [Fatah] Movement”—like that of Hamas—”is the principle of armed struggle.”

And like Hamas’s much criticized charter, Fatah’s governing document opposes any political solution and calls for the eradication of the Jewish State through armed revolution. For example:

Article 7 defines Israel— “the Zionist entity”—as “racial, colonial and aggressive in ideology, goals, organisation and method.”

Article 12 calls for the “complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence” through violence.”

Article 17 states: “Armed public revolution is the inevitable method to liberating Palestine.”

Article 19 states that “the Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.”

Article 22 puts forth Fatah’s opposition to “any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine, as well as any project intended to liquidate the Palestinian case or impose any international mandate on its people.”


Fatah’s armed units such as the Tanzim, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and Force 17 have organized, coordinated and carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks against civilians.

During the second intifada, Fatah Tanzim and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for over 300 attacks in which civilians were killed, and according to Israeli authorities, Fatah-linked groups have attempted or carried out more than 1,500 attacks. (International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT))

The Tanzim faction of Fatah, under the leadership of Marwan Barghouti, rose to prominence at the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada by intensifying the Palestinian fight through ambushes and drive-by shooting attacks against Israelis.

The Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade was established by Fatah in 2000 as a militia to further escalate the intifada with suicide bombings. It shared many of the same leaders as the Tanzim. Marwan Barghouti has been accused of helping establish and direct this unit. The brigade carried out more suicide attacks in 2002 than did Hamas and was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S., Canada and the European Union.

Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade continues to try to carry out attacks against Israel. A day after the announcement that the Palestinian government was dropping the phrase “armed resistance” from its platform, members of the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade attempted to launch an attack from the Gaza Strip. (It was thwarted by Israeli soldiers.)

Force 17 was the personal security force of Yasir Arafat and was equipped with light weapons and armored vehicles. Members of this force, together with members of terrorist organizations, perpetrated shooting attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Among such assaults by members of Force 17 was the Dec. 31, 2000 slaying of a young couple, the Kahanes, and the wounding of 5 of their 6 children.


Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is accused of personally orchestrating terrorist attacks and of playing an instrumental role in setting up and directing the Tanzim and Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade. He was sentenced to five consecutive life terms in an Israeli prison for his role in the murders of a Greek monk in 2001 and four Israelis in 2002, and an additional 40 years for attempted bombings and membership in a terrorist organization. During the intifada, Barghouti also established a coordinating body with representatives from various terrorist groups including Fatah Tanzim, Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad (called the “Nationalist and Islamic Forces”) to carry out joint attacks against Israelis. Marwan Barghouti was implicated by Tanzim operatives who had been detained and questioned by Israel as having been directly involved in shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians by ordering the attacks, funding them, and providing weapons to the terrorists. For more specifics, click here.

In the Western press and to Israelis, Barghouti has tried to portray himself as a moderate opposed to civilian killings within Israel. Yet over the past few years, Barghouti has repeatedly refused to condemn terrorist attacks and suicide bombings, instead blaming Israel for provoking them and applauding and encouraging the attacks.

For example, a Washington Post Op-Ed (“Want Security? End the Occupation,” January 15, 2002) by Barghouti contended that he and the Fatah movement to which he belongs “strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel.” Two days later, on January 17, Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade claimed responsibility for an attack on a Bat Mitzvah celebration in the Israeli city of Hadera in which civilians were targeted with an assault rifle. Six died and 35 were wounded.

According to Israeli security sources, the attack was perpetrated with Barghouti’s knowledge. The Fatah leader never made any pretense of condemning the attack–even in interviews with the Western media. In a telephone interview with the Washington Times, Barghouti insisted the violence was a legitimate response to Israeli “provocations.” He was similarly quoted in the Washington Post on Jan. 23, 2002 asserting that “The ones who have pushed Fatah to this new policy are the murderous rulers of Tel Aviv who are continuing their aggression against the Palestinian people.”

After the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade claimed responsibility for two deadly attacks on March 2 and 3, 2002—the first, a suicide bombing outside a bar mitzvah celebration in central Jerusalem wounding 50 civilians and killing 8 children and 3 adults, and the second, a shooting attack on soldiers and civilians near the Israeli settlement of Ofra killing 10, Barghouti congratulated “the Palestinian people and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades for their operations against soldiers and settlers” on Al Jazeera television. And according to London’s Independent, Barghouti blessed the terrorists, saying:

Blessed be the fighting hands of the heroes who dealt these blows to the army of occupation.

After a brutal suicide bombing on March 21, 2002 inside Israel that killed three civilians—including a pregnant woman and her husband—and wounded 86 others, Barghouti told al-Jazeera that the suicide bombing was in retaliation for an Israeli operation to arrest terrorists in the West Bank and pledged to continue the armed struggle against Israel.

On March 26, 2002, after months of escalating shooting attacks and suicide bombings killing and maiming Israeli civilians, Barghouti was quoted in the Washington Post asserting that “more killing of Israelis is the shortest road to end the occupation.”

And while Barghouti claims he merely wants an end to the Israeli “occupation” of lands beyond the 1967 line, he has indicated that this would be just the beginning. In answer to a question by New Yorker journalist Jeffrey Goldberg about whether Israel ceding all of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem would end the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, Barghouti admitted:

Then we could talk about bigger things….I’ve always thought that a good idea would be one state for all the peoples. (New Yorker, July 9, 2001)

Barghouti has thus never really departed from his Fatah movement’s declared goal of “liberating Palestine” by “eradicating the Zionist existence..”

(Notably, a June 26, 2007 Ha’aretz editorial calls for releasing Barghouti from prison, to “prove the sincerity of Israel’s statements regarding its intention to turn over a new leaf and bolster the moderate forces.” This is the same newspaper that has displayed striking indifference to factual accuracy in numerous “news” reports about Israeli-Arab issues.)


April 1996

With much hoopla, the media announces that the Palestinians have revoked the clauses in the PLO Charter calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.

“PLO Ends Call for Destruction of Jewish State” trumpeted the New York Times headline. “Closing the Era of Enmity” the lead editorial headline declared.

“The Palestine National Council wrote history last night, striking brief but virulent clauses from the PLO’s 32-year-old charter calling for an armed struggle aimed at destroying Israel,” proclaimed the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Decision to Revise Charter Clears Way for Final Talks,”announced a Washington Post headline. “Mr. Arafat Delivers” read the headline on its editorial.

But as it turned out, the charter was not revised. The much ballyhooed vote was merely a declaration of intent to do something at some future date. Indeed, a month later, PNC Chairman Selim Zaanoun asserted that no specific articles of the charter were cancelled, and on January 22, 1998—almost two years later—the head of the PNC’s legal committee, Faisal Hamdi Husseini, stated that no changes had yet taken place. Not surprisingly, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Philadelphia Inquirer did not feature banner headlines on this development.

December 1998

Five deadly suicide bombings later, upon U.S. President Clinton’s historic visit to the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Legislative Council meets in the U.S. leader’s presence to “revoke the Charter.” The media once again announces the making of history, and Israel is called upon to offer more concessions.

“Palestinians delete threat to Israel; Offending clauses dropped from charter” ran the headline in the Baltimore Sun.

“A historic vote for peace; Palestinians accept Israel’s right to exist” declared the Chicago Sun Times.

“Arafat’s Concession Deserves Like Response” lectured a Columbus Dispatch editorial.

“Now Israel must help Mr Arafat to deliver peace” read the headline on an editorial from London’s Independent.

Notwithstanding the media’s cheering, the Palestinians remained committed to their goal of armed struggle against the Jewish state. Fatah put forth its true position four days later on the pages of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, explaining the PLO covenant change was staged to “save face”:

There is no way but to [wage] a fight that will match [Israel’s] aggression and embolden the people’s will to rise up forcibly against all forms of aggression…

… Brother Abu ‘Ammar [Arafat] agreed to stage this event in such a way that would save our face, ignoring [the problematic] minimum [number of PNC member for legal quorum] and staving off any statement or action from the [PNC] speaker. This was realized by a round of applause and a [collective] raising of the hands as a salute to the United States President… (Al Hayat Al Jadida, Dec. 18, 1998, translated by MEMRI).

Within two years, in September 2000, an unprecedented wave of Palestinian violence was unleashed by Yasir Arafat.

Eagerness by many members of the media to present the story they prefer—one pointing to an imminent peaceful outcome of the Arab-Israeli conflict—too often overrides their professional responsibility to report what is actually happening. But oversimplification of the issues does not advance the cause of peace. The facts about Fatah should be covered honestly and fully.

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