Note: This is Part 2 of an article examining whether or not the Palestinian party Fatah is really as moderate is we have been led to believe. Part I provided an analysis of Fatah’s own trademark logos and posters. Part 2 will examine some of the recent statements and actions of Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas and current Fatah leadership.
A revealing irony came to light while writing this article. The West is debating whether it is appropriate to publish (or even show) the post-attack issue of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, which includes a caricature of Muhammad. At the same time, Muslim leaders from several countries have issued explicit warnings about the consequences of publishing such images. In fact, after Friday prayers on Jan. 16, 2015, Muslims across the Middle Eastern marched and protested against the new Charlie Hebdo cartoon, while several countries issued warnings that the drawing could “fuel hatred.” Meanwhile, this is all happening while Fatah observes its 50th anniversary by posting images and/or issuing statements that are orders-of-magnitude more violent than any Charlie Hebdo cartoon, but without any discernible response from the Western media, let alone the Islamic world.
The ‘moderate’ Mahmoud Abbas
In one form or another, Mahmoud Abbas has been the leader of Fatah, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and/or the PLO since 2003, when the U.S. refused to conduct any further peace negotiations with Yasser Arafat. Often described as a “moderate” alternative, Mr. Abbas has frequently renounced violence and terror, but has nonetheless remained complicit as other members of Fatah and/or the PA maintain an intense campaign of provocation and incitement to violence.
Recognition of Israel
On Nov. 29, 2014, Abbas declared that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state, while also accusing Israel of “establishing an apartheid government.” In addition, he threatened to terminate all security cooperation between the PA and Israel in the West Bank, unless the stalled peace negotiations were revived. This was not the first time Abbas has made such statements in public. On Dec. 13, 2013, Abbas attended an Arab League meeting in Cairo, where he presented his terms for accepting a U.S.-backed framework agreement with Israel. Among his conditions, Mr. Abbas insisted there would be “no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.”
While attending Fatah’s Sixth General Assembly conference on Aug. 4, 2009, Abbas declared that the Palestinians would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state and refused to hold any further peace talks with the Israelis until they 1) halted all settlement building in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and 2) recognized the undeniable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their pre-1948 homeland. Abbas also threatened “legitimate armed resistance” if Israel refused to meet these pre-conditions to any future peace talks. On April 27, 2009, Abbas also dismissed a demand by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, stating, “I do not accept it. It is not my job to give a description of the state.”
The Fatah-Hamas unity government
On March 15, 2013, Mr. Abbas was asked the following question on Russia TV Today: “It is said that the EU [European Union] plans to remove Hamas from the list of terror organizations. Do you view this as a step toward complete recognition of the legitimacy of the [Hamas] government?” Abbas replied: “As far as I am concerned, there is no difference between our policies and those of Hamas. So, why are they labeled as terrorists? In my opinion, [they] can remove Hamas … why not?” On Dec. 17, 2014, an EU court in Luxembourg removed Hamas from its list of terror organizations.
As of Jan. 13, 2015, Hamas remains on the U.S. Treasury list of “Specially Designated Terrorist Organizations,” aka the newly-renamed “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List.”
On Sep. 25, 2014, Fatah and Hamas reached an agreement in Cairo to allow the PA government to operate in the Gaza Strip, while also announcing that both parties had been holding “reconciliation talks” in efforts to end their differences. The agreement called for the PA government to “immediately” assume its responsibilities in the Gaza Strip. At the same meeting, Musa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official (and Specially Designated Global Terrorist), announced that the PA government would soon manage all the border crossings in the Gaza Strip. However, less than three months later, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh publicly complained that the PA consensus government had failed “to keep its commitments, by not carrying out reconstruction, nor unifying institutions under the Palestinian Authority, nor organizing elections.”
The U.N. & International Criminal Court
On the same day the EU removed Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations (Dec. 17, 2014), Jordan submitted a resolution to the U.N. Security Council to “end the occupation [of the West Bank and East Jerusalem] by 2017.” As expected, this effort failed to garner enough support. On Dec. 31, 2014, Mr. Abbas met with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, where he made his future intentions clear: “We want to complain. There’s aggression against us, against our land. The Security Council disappointed us.” On Jan. 2, 2015, the Palestinians delivered documents to U.N. headquarters to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and on Jan. 7, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon confirmed that the Palestinians will become a formal member of the ICC on April 11, 2015.
Events on the ICC front have already began to unfold. On Thursday, the ICC prosecutor announced that he would launch a preliminary probe that could “clear the way for a full-scale investigation into possible war crimes in Palestinian territories,” thus “plunging the court into the most politically charged conflict it has ever investigated.”
Recent statements and actions by current Fatah leadership
Also Thursday, Fatah posted a PhotoShopped image portraying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a Nazi SS officer. This posting was the latest in Fatah’s long-term program to use provocative imagery from the Holocaust era to defame and delegitimize Israel. On Jan. 4, 2015 (just five days after Abbas signed the Rome Statute of the ICC), Fatah posted a picture of Prime Minister Netanyahu and a noose with a caption that reads “Soon” in both Hebrew and Arabic.
During a Jan. 2, 2015, interview, Fatah Central Committee member Abbas Zaki both condemned and threatened the U.S.: “The whole world should understand that the U.S. is an enemy, pushing Israeli extremists to carry on with their actions, depriving us of our rights, and supporting Israel in everything.” Mr. Zaki also made the following statement on Oct. 2, 2011: “If Israel withdraws from Jerusalem, evacuates the 650,000 settlers, and dismantles the wall, what will become of Israel? It will come to an end. If we say that we want to wipe Israel out …C’mon, it’s too difficult. It’s not [acceptable] policy to say so. Don’t say these things to the world,” he warned. “Keep it to yourself.”
On Aug. 19, 2014, Yahya Rabah, a member of the Fatah Leadership Committee and a columnist for official Palestinian Authority (PA) daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, claimed that Israel invented the murders of three Israeli students (also see Part 1) as a “pretext” for “continued Israeli aggression against our people, its unity, its reconciliation and its national project,” i.e., as an excuse to launch Operations Brother’s Keeper and Protective Edge.
On July 12, 2014, Mr. Rabah posted another column in the PA daily, which said: “We have nothing with which to speak to these Israeli murderers, who go too far with their crimes. … We have nothing with which to open a dialogue but these rockets“.
In the shadow of Charlie Hebdo attack
Part 1 included the following observation: “At this point in time, it is also important to consider that 2015 is being celebrated as Fatah’s 50th anniversary. If the first postings on the Fatah and/or PA official websites provide any indication, we will see a steady stream of violent anti-Israel propaganda in 2015.”
Indeed, during the first two weeks of January 2015, Fatah, the PA and/or Mahmoud Abbas have been predictably true to form. Perhaps I should thank them all; by choosing to post their most important commemorative events in the last 50 years, they’ve made my job a lot easier. The following series of pictures (and captions) were posted on Fatah’s official Facebook page during the first two weeks of January 2015:
On Jan. 11, (the same day that Mahmoud Abbas attended the Charlie Hebdo rally in Paris), Fatah posted the left and middle two pictures (notice the Fatah symbol in the middle picture). The picture on the left was taken at the Paris rally, while the middle picture commemorates an event that occurred in Lebanon in 1982, perhaps during the “Beqaa Valley War,” aka “Operation Mole Cricket 19,” when members of Fatah dragged the body of a downed Israeli pilot through the streets of Sidon.
On the very next day, Fatah posted the right-hand picture (again, notice the Fatah symbol), with the following caption: “Here Dalal [Mughrabi] raised the Palestinian flag at the front of the bus used by the heroes of Shahid (Martyr) Kamal Adwan’s group. They drove with 90 hostages …from Haifa to Tel Aviv, but the Zionist forces refused to negotiate with them. They fought a fierce battle that lasted from afternoon to evening on March 11, 1978.”
What Fatah failed to mention is that the group of 13 Fedayeen (Warriors) had hijacked the bus and killed 38 Israeli civilians (including 13 children) and wounded 71 during the “fierce battle.” The attack became known as the “Coastal Road Massacre” in Israel, while Fatah calls it the “Operation of the Martyr Kamal Adwan.”
On Dec. 25, 2014, a Palestinian stabbed two Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem, causing light injuries. On Jan. 5, 2015, an editorial in Al-Asima, a biweekly supplement to the PA daily (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida), stated: “These kinds of confrontations which frighten the enemy are excellent Palestinian examples of willpower and determination to win. … The [publicly released] video of the Palestinian storming and stabbing of Zionists serves as a school. … Now, every Palestinian raises his hand holding a knife together with this young Palestinian, and stabs the Zionists.:
On the same day, Al-Asima also commemorated Ghassan and Uday Abu Jamal, two cousins from Jerusalem who attacked worshippers in a synagogue on Nov. 18, 2014, with guns, knives and axes. After killing four people and injuring seven more, both men were killed in a firefight with Israeli Security Forces that had arrived on the scene.
If Fatah and Mr. Abbas really are reliable “moderate” partners in the Peace Process, then who among us can hope to define who (or what) is “radical”?
Today, as Abbas finds himself caught between Hamas and a pragmatic Israeli government, he is no closer to defining the borders of a Palestinians state than when he became the PA’s first prime minister more than a decade ago. With no clear successor, Abbas has also been unwilling to fulfill his promise to hold new elections.
As stated in Part 1, it appears that Mr. Abbas is adopting a new tactic, i.e., a calibrated effort to diminish the role America plays in the Peace Process, while appealing to the sympathies of the U.N., EU and ICC to endorse his goals of “Statehood-Through-International-Recognition.”
This “trump card approach,” which Mr. Abbas has tried before, is certain to increase tensions between 1) Israel and the Palestinians, 2) between the Palestinians and the U.S. Congress, and will 3) destabilize the situation for the next few years, at least. All this, while Fatah continues its ongoing campaign of Thawrah Hatteh Al-Naser (Revolution Until Victory).
Bruce Phillips is a professional observer of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Islamic theology and the strategy and tactics of the Global Islamic Movement, with nearly 40 years of experience in Middle East affairs.