The Palestinian ruling Fatah faction is celebrating the 55th anniversary of its first terrorist attack against Israel by reminding everyone that it remains committed to the “armed struggle as the only way to liberate Palestine.” Pictured: Fatah supporters in Gaza City at a rally marking the 55th anniversary of its first terrorist attack against Israel. (Photo by Mohammed Abed / AFP via Getty Images)
The Palestinian ruling Fatah faction, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is celebrating the 55th anniversary of its first terrorist attack against Israel by reminding everyone that it remains committed to the “armed struggle as the only way to liberate Palestine.”
Thousands of Fatah supporters took to the streets in the Gaza Strip on December 29, 2019 to celebrate the anniversary. The celebration was organized by the armed wing of Fatah, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – Nidal Al-Amoudi Battalion, a rogue Fatah splinter group. Hundreds of masked Fatah gunmen dressed in military uniforms marched through the streets of Gaza City. Some carried rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.
The military parade could not have taken place without the consent of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has been ruling the Gaza Strip since 2007, when its members overthrew the regime of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA). Since then, Hamas and Fatah have been at each other’s throats – a fight that has resulted in the emergence of two separate Palestinian entities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hamas, it appears, perceives Fatah as a major threat to its rule over the Gaza Strip, which is presumably why it arrests and harasses Fatah members there on a regular basis. Similarly, the PA security forces and Fatah seem to consider Hamas a real threat to their rule over parts of the West Bank; they, too, have long been cracking down on Hamas members and supporters there.
Why did Hamas allow Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades to hold a military parade in the Gaza Strip? The Fatah group operating in the Gaza Strip shares the ideology of Hamas, which defines itself as the “Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Both Hamas and the PA seek to replace Israel with an Islamic state through violent jihad (holy war). The Hamas covenant, published in 1988, defines jihad as its highest priority for the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic Palestine “from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.”
It is worth noting that the published statements made in the past few days by the Fatah group in the Gaza Strip are almost entirely consistent with the Hamas ideology.
One statement by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – Nidal Al-Amoudi Battalions, boasted that Fatah was the first Palestinian group to launch a terrorist attack against Israel, on January 1, 1965. Then, Fatah members attempted to bomb the Israeli National Water Carrier. “Fatah launched the armed struggle and triggered the Palestinian revolution,” the statement read. “We greet our people on the anniversary of the launching of the glorious revolution, and we promise to follow in the footsteps of the revolutionaries and freedom fighters until the liberation of Palestine.”
Abu Ahmed, one of the commanders of the Fatah group, said in a speech during the military rally in the Gaza Strip that “the time will prove that the armed struggle is our path to liberate Palestine.” He added:
“We are proud of the history of Fatah and the glories of its leaders. The reality requires all of us to stand together behind a Palestinian leadership that believes in the confrontation and maintains the flame of the conflict with the Zionist enemy.”
For Hamas, any Palestinian who talks about the destruction of Israel and refers to Israel as the “Zionist enemy” is a friend and ally. Hamas leaders, who often demonstrate severe intolerance toward
s anyone who disagrees with their ideology or dares to challenge their policies, seem to embrace the Fatah members who operate in the Gaza Strip. The words of these Fatah members sound as if they are taken directly from the Hamas covenant, particularly regarding the “liberation of all Palestine.”
Another reason Hamas appears to be satisfied with its friends in Fatah is the involvement of the Fatah military wing in terrorist attacks against Israel.
In the past few years, the Gaza-based Fatah group has repeatedly claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Israel. The most recent attacks took place in November 2019, following Israel’s targeted assassination of senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata.
According to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – Nidal Al-Amoudi Battalions, three of its senior members were killed by the Israel Defense Forces after they fired rockets at Israel. The group identified the three as Wael Abdel Nabi, Rani Abu Nasr and Jihad Abu Khater – all members of its “rocket unit” in the Gaza Strip. The three men were killed in Israeli airstrikes while they were “carrying out their national duty,” the Fatah group said in a statement. “We will continue the struggle until the liberation of the entire Palestine lands from the filth of the Zionist occupation.”
For the sake of clarification: “national duty” is the term Palestinian groups use to label their terrorist attacks against Israel. Targeting Jewish civilians with rockets, in other words, is seen by Hamas and its allies as a “national duty” for Palestinians.
Fatah is often described by some Westerners as “the more moderate Palestinian party, particularly because some of its leaders continue to say that they support the two-state solution. “The only game in town is the two-state solution,” senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub was quoted as saying in 2017.
Fatah officials such as Rajoub, however, do not represent the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the Gaza Strip, an organization that seems to have forged an alliance with Hamas. The two-state solution term does not exist in the lexicon of the Fatah armed group in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The only solution this Fatah group and its members espouse is one that would see the annihilation of Israel.
Those who continue to refer to Fatah as a “moderate” Palestinian faction need to take into account that it speaks in different voices in Arabic and English and sends conflicting messages as to its true intentions.
The Fatah group in the Gaza Strip makes it clear through its statements that it remains loyal to Abbas and the Fatah leadership in the West Bank despite its reported commitment to the two-state solution.
Why? Either because the Fatah members in the Gaza Strip are convinced that the talk about a two-state solution is purely a ploy to gain international funding and sympathy, or because they want to ensure that Abbas continues to provide them with financial aid, notwithstanding their alliance with Hamas.
One thing remains clear, Abbas and the Fatah leadership in the West Bank have never uttered a word against their own loyalists in the Gaza Strip. By keeping silent Abbas and the Fatah leaders who are talking about a two-state solution are at the same time endorsing the strategy of their military wing to destroy Israel.
Bassam Tawil, a Muslim Arab, is based in the Middle East.
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