September 18, 2009 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 545

Fatah: We Never Relinquished the Right to Armed Struggle

September 18, 2009 | By B. Chernitsky and C. Jacob*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 545

During and after Fatah's Sixth General Conference, senior Fatah officials and columnists repeatedly emphasized that Fatah had never relinquished the right to armed struggle. [1] The armed resistance was also a main theme in a series of pamphlets titled "Al-Mutamar 6" ("The Sixth Conference"), published just before the conference, and during its first three days, in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam. These pamphlets, concerning the Fatah movement, its values, and its icons, glorified the armed struggle and the Fatah leaders who carried it out.

The following are collected statements by Fatah officials and by PA columnists on the armed resistance, as well as excerpts from the pamphlets published in Al-Ayyam.

Nabil Sha'th: Fatah's Political Plan Underlines Both Commitment to Peace and Adherence to Resistance, Armed Struggle

Fatah Political Bureau Chairman Nabil Sha'th declared at the conference that even though Fatah was committed to peace and to the two-state solution, "[its] plan sets out the forms and methods of the struggle, and underlines the right of the Palestinian people to resistance and to armed struggle, as guaranteed by international law, and to diverse types of struggle as devised during the Intifada of the Stones [1987-1991], including methods of struggle such as those used in Bil'in and Ni'lin, as well as various types of political and diplomatic struggle and negotiations." [2]

Fatah Central Committee Members: Fatah Never Relinquished the Armed Struggle

'Azzam Al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah faction in the Palestinian Legislative Council and member of the movement's central committee, declared: "Fatah's political plan is not new, because the movement still clings to the option of the two-state solution, and to the peace process. The movement never relinquished the option for struggle, not even for armed struggle, and this must be instilled in the consciousness of the Palestinian people; however, everything must be considered according to the existing circumstances. As long as there is hope for negotiation, we will give it a chance; however, if Israel continues to trample signed agreements underfoot, and to evade its obligations, we are entitled to use other means - and if we turn to struggle along the lines of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, it will be Israel's fault." [3]

Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub said: "The Fatah movement has not abandoned the option of resistance and will not do so.... We adhere to all options, and first and foremost, the option of resistance and armed struggle." [4]

Fatah Spokesman: "The Only Way to End the Resistance is to End and Remove the Occupation"

Fatah spokesman and Revolutionary Council member Fahmi Al-Za'arir said, "Resistance and struggle are legitimate means for any society under occupation. The only way to end the resistance is to end and remove the occupation.

"The existence of occupation means the emergence and existence of resistance - while the end of occupation means the end of resistance, including the armed struggle that Fatah established in the Palestinian battle, and [by means of which] it advanced everyone." [5]

Fatah Revolutionary Council Member: The New Leadership Will Act to Implement the Political Plan

Fatah Revolutionary Council member 'Abd Al-Fatah Hamail declared, "The new movement leadership will act to implement the political plan prepared by the Fatah conference's political committee, [because this plan] stressed the principles of the movement and of the Palestinian people and their right to struggle and resistance in the forms approved by the international legitimacy, as well as the option of negotiations - which is not only Fatah's option, but the national option, provided that the negotiations do not continue without end, but are of limited duration." [6]

Sixth Conference Members: Fatah Clings to Its Principle of Resistance

The Palestinian weekly Al-Bayadir Al-Siyassi interviewed members of the Fatah Sixth General Conference; in the interviews, the interviewees stressed that the movement was clinging to its principles and to resistance by all means:

Conference member Hassan Ahmad said: "The Fatah movement still adheres to in its program and in its fundamental principles, and it changed nothing, because the national goals have not yet been fully achieved. Because Fatah is the Palestinian national liberation movement and the pioneer of the national enterprise, that expresses the aspiration and hopes of the Palestinian public, it will continue to cling to its principles and political realism - which do not contradict resistance and the struggle to liberate the land and the individual."

Hassan Sabah, conference member, said: "The [conference's] victory will be real if the new leadership undertakes to carry out the plan that it approved - particularly the political part... [and] the commitment to legitimate resistance, and even more than that the armed struggle in the event that the negotiations fail..." [7]

Palestinian Academic 'Issa Abu Zahira: It Is Unimaginable that Someone Who Struggled His Whole Life for Palestine and Its Independence... Would Give All This Up

Political science lecturer 'Issa Abu Zahira wrote in the Al-Quds daily: "...What is the future direction of Fatah's political thought? Is it towards its essence - that is, the movement that struggled and bore arms for liberation - or is it towards political and diplomatic activity and negotiations, without resistance and struggle?...

"The Fatah movement's political thought is headed towards its essence, and will never relinquish its principles and its doctrines. This is certainly no accident; it is scientific, methodical, and rational, and I can find scientific proof, as following:

"1. The conference was held in Bethlehem, under an occupation that continues to act with coercion and tyranny - yet despite this, [the conference] stressed that the Palestinian people has the right to resist the occupation by all means, including armed struggle, in accordance with the principles of international law, which provides the right to resist occupation by all possible means, and first by armed struggle.

"2. The conference members - whether from the younger generation, the interim generation, or the founders - are the ones who struggled; who were imprisoned, arrested, and exiled; who bore arms; who resisted the occupation; and who tasted bitterness for many difficult years. Therefore, it is unimaginable that someone who struggled his whole life for Palestine and its independence, for Jerusalem, for the right of return, and for other national aims would give all this up in the space of a few days in exchange for some post or other.

"3. Fatah is not a private movement - that is, it does not belong only to Fatah members, but is the general property of the Palestinian people, and it is the one who defends the national enterprise. Therefore, its leadership knows that it is acting for the sake of the goals of the entire Palestinian people - not only for the good of the movement. And if, Heaven forbid, the movement makes a decision that harms the Palestinian people and its supreme interests, it would be a political mistake that would harm both [the movement] and the achievements of its national and historic struggle. In my opinion, this is not reasonable [that Fatah's leadership would do this].

"4. The people who won the elections, not mentioning any names, are the finest sons of the movement, and have an impressive record of resisting the occupation. [In addition], an interim generation has emerged, known for its persistence in defending the national legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. This is not sycophancy towards those who won; we know that those who did not win also struggled and suffered greatly from the occupation.

"5. [4 in the original] Building the [Palestinian] institutions, and the continued building of the country, do not under any circumstances mean relinquishing the sacred rights of the Palestinian people. Further, building and liberation complement each other.

"Fatah's future political thought will give equal weight to resistance and to negotiations, to liberation and to building, to toughness and to flexibility, to the broad popular [outlook] and to the detailed, specific, literal [outlook]. Fatah's political thought will never relinquish its essence, its principles, its sacred [values], its history, its present and its future. Anyone who gambles that the Fatah movement will keep calm and sit quietly - will lose." [8]

Palestinian Columnist: When Did Fatah Ever Relinquish the Armed Struggle?

Columnist Salah Subhiyya, who writes on Palestinian websites, wrote: "The conference was successful in discussing all the [Fatah] movement's issues, and in arriving at a political announcement that ratified 'the Palestinian people's right to resist occupation by all means, according to international law - including armed struggle.'

"This confirms that Fatah is still a national liberation movement, and this is what the conference confirmed when it said that it adhered to the movement as a national liberation movement aimed at defeating and removing the occupation and at realizing independence for the Palestinian people. [The conference confirmed that Fatah] is part of an Arab liberation movement, and of a front of international elements that strive [to realize] freedom for the peoples. [In addition, it confirmed] that resistance is a legitimate right of peoples under occupation, and that wherever there is occupation, there will be resistance.

"Resistance is not the reason for the occupation; it is the result of it. A people whose land is occupied must resist the occupation by all means at its disposal - and this is what the [Fatah] political plan stresses: 'The option of armed struggle is one of the methods and forms of the struggle. It emanates from the right of the Palestinian people to resist the occupation and the settlements, the expulsion and racist discrimination, and this is a right guaranteed by international law.'

"This is what sparked a debate in the Palestinian arena as well: Will the Palestinians revert to implementing the armed struggle? But we ask: When did Fatah [ever] announce that it had relinquished the armed struggle - Fatah, that has [always] believed in the principle of the rifle of the revolutionary fighter on the one hand and a green [olive] branch on the other? Do not take the green branch from Fatah, because the rifle cannot be knocked out of Fatah's hand...

"The Fatah movement implemented the armed struggle not out of love of murder and destruction, but in order to attain full rights on the land of Palestine. Thus, it adopted the principle that the armed struggle sows and the political struggle reaps - and it likewise implemented the path of negotiations, which superseded all forms of the resistance...

"Thus, the conference stressed that it is impossible to continue the negotiations endlessly, and that there are other options that Fatah has at its disposal - [options that are] essential, and 'propose alternatives in the event that it becomes impossible to continue the current negotiations (with Israel). [These alternatives] include the idea of a single democratic state that opposes racism, control, and occupation.' There is also another option: 'a return to the declaration of the establishment of a state within the 1967 borders (...) [Also,] escalating the international campaign for boycotting Israel, utilizing the experience of South Africa (...) and appealing to the U.N. and the Security Council to [discharge their] responsibility of ending the conflict and the occupation'...

Hamdi Faraj, columnist for the Al-Quds daily, wrote: "On the practical level, Fatah has not relinquished the armed struggle. In the prisons of the occupation, many of the best of our sons are behind bars. The vast majority of them joined the struggle following the Oslo accords - or, more precisely, when the second Intifada broke out. It was only logical that the conference participants would look to use words whose meaning would allow [the survival of] a political movement bent under the yoke of the military and settler occupation...

"Incidentally, not every violent action should be included under the term 'armed struggle.' Suicide [attacks] and murdering women and children do not constitute the armed struggle of the highest form against which neither Israel nor the U.S. can protest - [namely] the targeting of soldiers... This is why Hizbullah won the respect and esteem of the countries and the peoples - because it never carried out a single attack against women and children throughout its prolonged conflict with Israel. That is why they say that it advised Hamas to stop such operations." [9]

The "Sixth Conference" Pamphlets: Glorification of Armed Struggle Alongside Commitment to Peace Process

The armed struggle is a prominent theme in the "Sixth Conference" pamphlets, published July 30, 2009-August 6, 2009 in Al-Ayyam. This theme is expressed through images of Fatah leaders carrying weapons, articles about leaders who fought against Israel, slogans by Arafat and others, and various other texts. At the same time, the pamphlets stress that just as Fatah always led the armed struggle, it was also the first to pursue the political option. The following are examples:

Like the Fatah officials and columnists quoted above, the pamphlets also stressed repeatedly that resistance, in all its forms, is a legitimate right of the Arab and Palestinian people. [10]

One of the pamphlets includes the following text extolling the heroic nature of Fatah's armed operations: "Fatah waged a military campaign of outstanding courage against the enemy, carrying out thousands of fidayoun [self-sacrifice] operations, [infiltrating Israel] through its borders with the Arab states, from the sea or from the air, and during one phase also targeting Israeli and Western interests overseas by means of the Black September organization. It also led the first intifada (1987-1993), with the Amir of Shahids, Khalil Al-Wazir [Abu Jihad]." [11]

Another text reads: "From the orange groves of Al-Karama and the canyons of the [Jordan] valley region, the young men of the Fatah [movement] set forth, spreading around them the scent of paradise [12]... [They] confronted the mightiest military force in the Middle East using [only] dynamite sticks, explosive belts and Kalashnikov rifles." [13]

The following poem stresses the connection between the armed struggle and the devotion to the homeland:

"O my homeland, my homeland, my homeland, homeland of my forefathers

"O fidai, fidai, [14] O my people, my eternal people

"With my determination, my fire, the volcano of my vengeance and the yearning in my blood for my land and my home,

"I climbed mountains and waged my battle...

"O my homeland, my homeland, my homeland, homeland of my forefathers

"O fidai, fidai, O my people, my eternal people

"By the determination of the spirit and the fire of the gun

"And the devotion of my people to the land of struggle,

"Palestine is my home, Palestine is my fire..." [15]

The political option is occasionally mentioned as a strategy complementing the armed struggle. For example, one section quotes Abu Jihad as asking, "Why don't we negotiate while we fight?" [16] Another text states: "The rifle and the olive branch - this was the slogan coined by the Al-Aqsa Brigades as a revolutionary [ideal] that accompanied the intifada of the glorious Palestinian people after [Ariel] Sharon's feet trampled [the sanctity of] the Al-Aqsa mosque in 2000. [This ideal was] a revolutionary reaction to the unacceptable proposal presented to Arafat at the second Camp David summit, a proposal that he rejected out of hand... because [nobody] may disdain the firm national principles of the Fatah movement, which were ratified by the PLO. This is what [Yasser] Arafat taught us as a living man and as a shahid, [bearing] the rifle and the [olive] branch..." [17]

Arafat emerging from a cave with a rifle slung over his shoulder. [18]

*C. Jacob and B. Chernitsky are research fellows at MEMRI


[1] For more on the Fatah Sixth General Conference, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 541, "Fatah Sixth General Conference Resolutions: Pursuing Peace Option without Relinquishing Resistance or Right to Armed Struggle," August 16, 2009, Fatah Sixth General Conference Resolutions: Pursuing Peace Option Without Relinquishing Resistance or Right to Armed Struggle.

[2] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), August 10, 2009




[6], August 16, 2009.

[7] Al-Bayadir Al-Siyassi (Palestinian Authority), August 29, 2009.

[8] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), August 27, 2009

[9] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), August 12, 2009.

[10] Al-Mutamar 6 (published as supplement to Al-Ayyam), August 3, 2009.

[11] Al-Mutamar 6 (published as supplement to Al-Ayyam), August 1, 2009.

[12] This is a reference to the scent of musk which, according to the Muslim tradition of jihad, emanates from the bodies of fighters martyred in battle.

[13] Al-Mutamar 6 (published as supplement to Al-Ayyam), August 5, 2009.

[14] One who is willing to sacrifice himself in battle.

[15] Al-Mutamar 6 (published as supplement to Al-Ayyam), August 3, 2009.

[16] Al-Mutamar 6 (published as supplement to Al-Ayyam), August 1, 2009.

[17] Al-Mutamar 6 (published as supplement to Al-Ayyam), August 6, 2009.

[18] Al-Mutamar 6 (published as supplement to Al-Ayyam), August 3, 2009.

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