New Fatah Central Committee Ties to Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades

The New York Times hailed the election of 14 new members to the Fatah Central Committee, noting, with optimism, that the “new leaders are considered more pragmatic than their predecessors.” ( Aug. 11, 2009)

It is not clear what the Times means by pragmatic. Several of the committee’s new members were deeply involved in terror attacks during the Second Intifada – a murderous campaign that began after the Palestinian Authority, led by Yasir Arafat, turned down offers to establish a Palestinian state by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and US President Bill Clinton in 2000.
Among the new members is the founder of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades during the Second Intifada and another who provided assistance to its terrorism. Two other new members have recently stated their opposition to any recognition of the Jewish state. Although several of the new members, including two commanders of Palestinian security services, have been portrayed as political moderates, the new members, in sum, represent a dubious form of pragmatism.

The following briefly reviews the backgrounds of some new members to the Central Committee:

Marwan Barghouti is currently serving five life terms for the murders of Israelis during the Second Intifada that began in September 2000. Barghouti is widely credited as one of the main instigators and leaders of the violence during the Second Intifada. He helped found and led the Fatah-based militias, the Tanzim and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, who carried out numerous suicide bombings. CAMERA detailed  in several articles Barghouti’s role in fomenting violence and launching the Second Intifada.

The original indictment against Barghouti contained  37 terrorist operations. Interrogations of captured terrorists by the Israeli Defense Forces during Operation Defensive Shield in April-May 2002, during the height of the suicide bombing campaign, provide testimonies documenting Barghouti’s involvement in terrorism. Summaries of  these interrogations were published by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and are still available for viewing.

Document: Palestinian Authority Security Services supplied guidance- weapons – funds to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in order to perpetrate terrorist attacks – May 1, 2002

Nasser Abu Hamid, 31, a senior and founding member of the Al-Aqsa Brigades and a senior Tanzim terrorist… responsible for shooting, bomb and suicide attacks in Judea and Samaria…described the considerable military and financial assistance that they received from the outset from Marwan Barghouti, Fatah Secretary-General in the West Bank, via the latter’s nephew Ahmed Barghouti.

Nasser admitted that he ultimately decided – along with the members of his organization – to join Marwan Barghouti, given their prior acquaintance and the former’s estimation that under the latter’s patronage, it would be possible to step up his activity. Nasser’s decision was adopted by his associates who agreed that Barghouti was the best choice for them. They also decided to adopt the name Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Document: Palestinian Authority Security Services were involved in directing attacks and preparing bombs by Tanzim operatives in the Jenin refugee camp– May 1, 2002

Ahmed Hussein Muhammed Abu Jildeh, 28, a Tanzim operative… said that Ziad Zabayde and Abd al Karim Aweis were responsible for the cell’s links with Marwan Barghouti, from whom they received instructions and funds.

During questioning, Abu Jildeh admitted his ramified involvement in the Tanzim, including his participation in numerous terrorist attacks.

Barghouti is not the only associate of the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades to win a seat on the Central Committee. He will be joined by Tawfik Tirawi, head of General Intelligence on the West Bank. An Israeli document puts it bluntly, Tawfik Tirawi- head of the PA General Intelligence Service in the West Bank- is directly involved in terrorist activities (April 21, 2002).
Nasir Abu Hamed admitted during his interrogation that 

Tawfik Tirawi proposed that Nasser integrate all Brigade members into General Intelligence, including the payment of their salaries. Nasser added that National Security members participated in several attacks and even took an explosive charge from its stores for one of them. (Palestinian Authority Security Services supplied guidance- weapons – funds to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in order to perpetrate terrorist attacks – May 1, 2002)

Ahmed Abu Jildeh confirmed Abu Hamed’s admissions of close coordination with the agency headed by Tirawi, describing “the network of links between PA National Security and Tanzim members, adding that the former instructed the Tanzim operatives in preparing bombs and even supervised their actions.”

Ahmed Abu Jildeh added that a senior member of the Palestinian National Security had instructed him and others in preparing the bombs and even stayed with them in the same apartment where they did their work. Abu Walid, responsible for security and intelligence in the Jenin area, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and an organizer of many military actions, frequented the apartment in order to oversee operations. (Palestinian Authority Security Services were involved in directing attacks and preparing bombs by Tanzim operatives in the Jenin refugee camp– May 1, 200 2)

Another document posted by the IDF on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site is titled, Involvement of the Palestinian Security Apparatus in Terrorism – April 14, 2002. This document states:

In the course of Operation Defensive Shield, the IDF seized a revealing document written by the Head of the Palestinian General Intelligence in the Tulkarm district. The document was addressed to Tawfiq Tirawi, Head of General Intelligence in the West Bank. It refers to members of the Fatah Tanzim organization, among them:

Bilal Ali Moussa Abu Amsha, a 28 year-old resident of Tulkarm
Khatem Yasser Muhammed Aljiousi, a 30 year-old resident of Tulkarm…

The two men were involved in the planning of the murderous terrorist attack at the “Armon David” wedding hall in Hadera, where six Israelis were killed and 25 others wounded…

In the document, the Head of General Intelligence in Tulkarm describes the terrorist attack as “a successful high-quality attack.” He also notes the ongoing contact, close ties and coordination between the terrorists and General Intelligence…

Even today, a wizened Tirawi expresses pessimism about the peace process. On his web site his current assessment (as of Aug. 12, 2009) is:

Another year has just slipped past us but we seem to be in the same situation we were in a year ago. No, come to think of it, we have regressed to a worse situation. The post-Annapolis era seems akin to the post-Madrid era some 16 years ago: much ado about nothing. Following the initial euphoria felt by most everyone, the flurry of talks, conferences, and pledges came to naught. The road map has led us to nowhere, if not into a blind alley. Will it be different this time around?

It does not look like it will be, if the recent news is any indication. No sooner had the Paris conference ended, with pledges of millions of dollars for the Palestinian Authority, than Israel announced the creation of a new Israeli settlement in Arab East Jerusalem. The situation in Gaza is getting more critical by the day. An explosion of sorts is in the pipeline that could – and should – be avoided at all costs.

Two other new members of the Central Committee, including one characterized as someone the Israelis could do business with have also made statements indicating no flexibility in their stance towards Israel.

Muhammad Dahlan, head of the Preventive Security Service in Gaza and often presented as a pragmatist, was quoted in April, 2009 as asserting,

They say that Fatah has asked them to recognize Israel’s right to exist and this is a big deception. For the one thousandth time, I want to reaffirm that we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather, we are asking Hamas not to do so because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist,” (Jerusalem Post citing Palestine TV. April 5, 2009).

Abbas Zaki, a recently selected Fatah leader in Lebanon proclaimed:

The PLO is the sole legitimate representative [of the Palestinian people], and it has not changed its platform even one iota. In light of the weakness of the Arab nation and the lack of values, and in light of the American control over the world, the PLO proceeds through phases, without changing its strategy. Let me tell you, when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Israeli ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine. (MEMRI, Palestinian Authority representative in Lebanon Abbas Zaki gave an interview to NBN TV on April 9, 2008)

Even former head of the Preventive Security Service in the West Bank, Jibril Rajoub, widely considered as among the most moderate of the Fatah leaders was quoted by Israel Radio, citing an interview with Al-Hayam newspaper, as saying during the Second Intifada

The Al Aqsa Brigades are the noblest phenomenon in the history of Fatah, because they restored the movement’s honor, and bolstered the political and security echelons of the Palestinian Authority.” Attacks on Israelis stemmed from the “crimes of occupation,” continued Rajoub, who is viewed as a relative moderate and pragmatist among the Palestinian leadership. “We do not justify this, but the Authority will not act against the Al Aqsa Brigades.

In fact, in sum, one of the significant results of the Fatah Central Committee elections seems to be the incorporation of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades into the Fatah mainstream. The Brigades were formed in the early days of the Second Intifada as a terror group specializing in suicide bombings. It was most notable for introducing the first female suicide bomber, Wafa Idris, on Jan. 27, 2002. The New York Times and others need to explain how elevating to key positions of influence individuals who incited and led previous campaigns of terrorism is a sign of pragmatism.

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