November 13, 2003 Special Dispatch No. 608

Three Fatah Leaders Visit Washington, D.C.

November 13, 2003
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 608

In late October 2003, a Palestinian delegation of Fatah leaders visited Washington, DC. The London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat reported that "this is the first invitation for leaders from a Palestinian faction that carries out 'armed struggle' and martyrdom operations against Israeli targets inside Israel and in the Palestinian territories."[1]

The delegation consisted of Ahmad Ghuneim, a member of Fatah's High Committee in the West Bank and of the High Revolutionary Council; Qaddoura Fares, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who took part in drafting the "Geneva Understandings;" and Hatem 'Abd Al-Qader, also a member of the Legislative Council.

The following are excerpts from the Arab media's coverage of the delegation in addition to past statements made by delegation members:

On the Dismantling of the Terrorist Infrastructure: Two Languages – Two Opposing Positions

Hatem Abd Al-Qader explained, in English, that "Achieving a ceasefire is the most immediate priority, though. Any such agreement must include a halt to armed demonstrations and protests, the confiscation of weapons, and the prompt arrest of anyone who violates the ceasefire."

According to Ahmad Ghuneim the new ceasefire proposal contains "serious actions by the Palestinian Authority to combat any group violating the ceasefire, and to shut down missile factories, stop the armed protests, close the tunnels, and halt arms smuggling."

He added that another part of the ceasefire deals with "local and union elections, with the participation of militant groups, to increase representation, reform, and national unity in Palestinian society. Involving the armed groups in the political process gives them a constructive alternative to violence."

Qaddoura Fares explained that "in the worst-case scenario, if Hamas did openly reject a peace agreement signed and approved by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Authority would fulfill its role as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and take all measures and actions required to implement the agreement."[2]

However, in an interview with Al-Jazeera TV Fares said: "We clarified that the dismantling of the Palestinian organizations is an irrelevant idea and that it is impossible to find a partner for that among the Palestinians."[3]

Similarly, in an interview with the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, Fares said that the delegation expressed "opposition to what is called the dismantling of the foundations of the armed [Palestinian] organizations… We stressed that this is a hollow slogan that cannot be implemented and that the alternative is a cease-fire." According to Fares, the implementation of the road map "will only be through… a mutual cease-fire under international supervision. Within its context the Palestinians will take a few steps on the Palestinian level that will demonstrate that they are serious [about] the cease-fire."[4]

In the Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas, Fares revealed that the U.S. administration suggested to the delegation that the dismantling of the armed organizations will be reciprocated by Washington's involvement in stopping Israeli settlements. But, he said, "It is hard to talk about dismantling the so-called terror's infrastructure because we consider it a legitimate resistance to the occupation and its policy… No one has the will or is capable of opposing the resistance forces as long as the occupation exists."[5]

Hatem Abd Al-Qader told the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi that "the [Fatah leaders] urged Washington and Israel to give up the illusion of dismantling the armed Palestinian organizations." He also explained that the most the delegation could offer was "mutual and simultaneous Hudna to put an end to the Israeli aggression, with American guarantees and supervision."[6]

Ahmad Ghuneim told the Palestinian daily Al-Quds: "We stressed to the Americans that the various Palestinian organizations, including Hamas and Islamc Jihad are part of the social fabric of the Palestinian people and that this [Palestinian] nation will not accept a civil war… the idea of dismantling [the armed organizations] is faulty, unrealistic, hollow and unacceptable to the Palestinian people."[7]

In The Jerusalem Times Ghuneim said: "We clarified to U.S. officials that these [armed] factions are part of Palestinian society and the demand to dismantle them is illogical and meaningless. We stressed that only a mutual truce will end violence and revive the peace process, but disarming factions will push for a civil war, which is totally unacceptable."[8]

Past Statements Made by the Fatah Leaders

Past statements made by delegation members are in line with the statements they made in Arabic regarding the visit and with their long-time national record.

Peace Negotiations Should Go Along with Armed Struggle

Qaddoura Fares is the founder and head of the "Palestinian Prisoners Club." He suggested that Marwan al-Barghuthi be the head of the Palestinian Legislative Council when Abu 'Alaa was nominated to be the Palestinian prime minister.[9]

In an interview with Al-Hayat following the "Geneva Understandings" talks, Fares said that the majority of Palestinians, including himself, reject the "Nusseiba-Ayalon Document," because it acknowledges that Israel is a Jewish state and ignores more than a million Palestinians [living inside Israel]."[10]

On another occasion Fares stated that "there is no contradiction between negotiations and the struggle. Both are means of getting rid of the occupation, establishing an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and securing the return of refugees... The peace process does not nullify the Palestinian people's right to struggle to accomplish its goals, when the negotiations did not lead to the results the Palestinians had hoped for."[11]

In an interview with the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, Palestinian Legislative Council member Hatem Abd Al-Qader said: "The PLO sees no other alternative but confrontation. This is not in contradiction with the [possibility] that the Palestinian Authority will have political negotiations which won't be at the expense of the national principles… It is true that there are differences of opinions inside the Fatah movement… but the clear-cut majority supports the struggle to restore the rights through the Intifada and [believe] that there is no way to achieve the national demands without it…"

Question: "Does it mean that you reject the suicide operations inside Israel?"

Al-Qader: "We do not reject the suicide operations, but these actions must be carried out in a way that fits the goals. These operations should not necessarily target Israeli civilians. There are other goals that perhaps we can turn to. Of course we want to get rid of the occupation…

"As for the military factions, these are groups that we will never renounce because they are our weapon. These are the teeth and nails of the national and Islamic movement that aim to resist the occupation. Thus, how can we uproot our teeth and nails? All the attempts and pressure to put an end to the existence of these [armed] groups are going to fail because their existence is an important national issue in order to protect our people…

"We have paid a heavy price… but the Palestinian people want their Authority to translate their resistance into positions and a fruitful political reality and not to sell out or gamble on this brave resistance just for worthless tactic goals… If we choose the path of Intifada and confrontation, we should sacrifice and sustain casualties… And to those who 'went down' one mountain in order to pick up the booty because they believe that the battle is over [referring to the near defeat of the Muslims at the battle of Uhud in the early Islamic period], we say: those who went down [from the mountain] must climb again immediately."[12]

In a forum on, Al-Qader said: "[The Hudna's] purpose is not that we lay down our arms, but that we join forces [to rebuild] and continue our struggle. It is not damaging; it is the 'respite of the fighter…'"

On June 19, 2003 Al-Quds published a statement against suicide attacks which was signed by, among others, Sari Nusseiba and Hanan Ashrawi. Al-Qader refused to sign the statement.

In an interview with the Arab-Israeli weekly Al-Sinara, Al-Qader said: "This statement is not acceptable to the Fatah movement. It is an unbalanced statement because it refers to operations against Israeli citizens but not to crimes being perpetrated by Sharon against the Palestinian people. The [signatories] should have also focused on these crimes. If these operations are terrorist, then what Sharon is carrying out is also terror, and terror cannot be looked at with only one eye."[13]

'The Falsely Alleged Holocaust…'

Al-Qader dismissed "the falsely alleged Holocaust." In a discussion regarding the possibility of introducing the teaching of the Holocaust into the Palestinian curriculum, Al-Qader told the Islamic Jihad Weekly Al-Istiqlal that teaching the Holocaust in Palestinian schools "is a great danger to the developing Palestinian mentality… First, the Jews should learn about our disaster, the massacres, the murder and the exile, because this disaster is still alive. As for the falsely alleged Holocaust, it has already been moved into the museum of history.

"We cannot annul the Palestinian historic dream, even if we remove it from the official Palestinian rhetoric… This land was promised to us by Allah, and not by Balfour as it was promised to the Jews. If such a decision [about teaching the Holocaust] is made, it will undoubtedly ruin the Palestinian dream and aspirations. It will entirely obliterate the past, present, and future of the Palestinians. We, in the Legislative Council, will oppose any experiment that might harm the mind, the identity, or the historic roots of the Palestinians."[14]


[1] Al-Hayat (London), October 20, 2003.

[2] The Washington Institute's Special Report on the Arab-Israeli peace process #435, November 6, 2003.

[3] Al-Jazeera (Qatar), October 21, 2003.

[4] Al-Ayyam (PA), October 25, 2003.

[5] Al-Qabas (Kuwait), October 30, 2003.

[6] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), October 28, 2003.

[7] Al-Quds (PA), October 28, 2003.



[10] Al-Hayat (London), October 14, 2003.

[11] Al-Ayyam (PA), November 24, 2000.

[12] Al-Quds (PA), May 15, 2003.

[13] Al-Sinara (Israel), June 21, 2002.

[14] Al-Istiqlal (PA), April 20, 2000.

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