Last updated on: 5/16/2008 4:46:00 PM PST

What Is Fatah?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in an article posted on its website May 14, 2007, titled "Palestinian Rivals: Fatah & Hamas," wrote:

"Full name:Reverse acronym of Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filistiniya (Palestinian Liberation Movement) meaning 'conquest' in Arabic.

Origins and development: Founded by Yasser Arafat in the 1950s to promote the armed struggle to liberate all Palestine from Israeli control.

It developed into the largest Palestinian political faction and, after recognising Israel's right to exist, led efforts towards a two-state solution with Israel under the 1990s Oslo peace accords.

Fatah members formed the backbone of the Oslo-inspired administration, the Palestinian Authority (PA), especially its bureaucrats and security forces. The party lost power in the 2006 parliamentary elections to Hamas, after Fatah officials came to be perceived as corrupt and incompetent. The shift in power heralded a period of violence on the streets of Gaza.

Attitude to Israel: PA President Mahmoud Abbas advocates restarting the peace process and is strong critic of armed 'resistance' and attacks on Israeli civilians. His goal is to establish a Palestinian state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as capital.

The Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades has participated, along with Hamas, in an informal militant ceasefire since 2005, but conducts what it calls retaliatory attacks against Israel.

Current status: The 2006 election defeat put Fatah on the defensive and subsequent events raised fears it would try using its political influence and military power to maintain predominance. The PA's 70,000 police and security forces are mainly Fatah loyalists. After months of factional street fighting in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed, Fatah struck a deal with Hamas to join a unity government as a junior partner."

May 12, 2007 - British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 

Dilip Hiro, MA, author and journalist, in his 2003 book The Essential Middle East / A Comprehensive Guide, wrote:

"Fatah was founded in 1958 by Yasser Arafat, Salah Khalaf, and Khalil Wazir in Kuwait. They set up secret party cells in Kuwait and the Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, a process accelerated by the publication of a monthly magazine, Falastinuna (Our Palestine), in Beirut in 1959. By then the basic theory of Fatah ideology and tactics was that revolutionary violence, practiced by the masses, was the only way to liberate Palestine and liquidate all forms of Zionism.

Fatah remained underground until 1964, when the Arab League established the Palestine Liberation Organization under the leadership of Ahmad Shuqairi. Of the radical Arab states then, only Algeria volunteered in 1963 to provide military training facilities to Fatah. In 1964, in Baathist-run Damascus, Fatah leaders decided on guerrilla actions against Israel from Syria. The first such act, on 1 January 1965, was aimed at blowing up the pipes of Israel's National Water Carrier at Ain Bone on the west bank of the Jordan River. Fatah then had about 200 members.

The loss of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to Israel in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War weakened Shuqairi's position in the PLO, whose Palestine National Council had been boycotted by Fatah and other armed groups. Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser met Fatah's chairman, Arafat, and promised to aid Fatah. In March 1968 Fatah members engaged in a much-publicized battle with Israel near the Jordanian border settlement of Darameh. This raised Fatah membership to 15,000.

By now Fatah's overall objective had emerged as the establishment of a democratic, secular state in all of (British) mandate Palestine [map] with equal rights to Jews, Muslims, and Christians. In July 1968 Fatah and other armed groups attended the PNC session in Cairo, which rejected U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 mainly because it made no mention of Palestinians. Fatah emerged as the PLO's largest constituent. In early 1969 the PNC elected Arafat chairman of the PLO's executive committee, which included three more Fatah leaders. In 1970 Fatah, based in Amman, claimed membership of some 40,000, with half of them active in its militia, al Assifa (the Storm). The party leadership was evenly divided between right and left, with Arafat often acting as a mediator between Salah Khalaf and Faruq Qaddumi on the left, and Khalid Hassan and Khalil Wazir on the right. But Fatah's involvement, along with other mainly leftist forces, in the Palestinian conflict with the Jordanian army in September 1970 moved it leftward. This changed after Fatah's expulsion from Jordan and its new base in Beirut in 1972.

Prodded by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, in June 1974 Fatah accepted the idea of a transition stage for achieving the liberation of mandate Palestine with an independent entity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the Lebanese Civil War, which started in 1975, Fatah, along with other Palestinian commando groups, sided with the leftist Lebanese National Movement to fight the right-wing Lebanese Forces. Its opposition to the Camp David Accords in 1978 led Fatah to adopt a radical stance, with its fourth congress in Damascus in May 1980 resolving to 'liberate Palestine completely.'

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, Fatah was expelled from Beirut. From its new headquarters is Tunis, Arafat tried to reestablish a base in Lebanon, but failed. In the mid-1980's Fatah's policy of coordinating with King Hussein of Jordan with regard to peace talks with Israel failed to take off. In 1988 the Fatah leadership decided to disavow violence against Israel and backed moves for the declaration of the State of Palestine, with Arafat as its President. Having failed to build on this moderated policy, the party leaders backed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein when, having occupied Kuwait in August 1990, he tried to link Israeli evacuation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to his evacuation of Kuwait, but in vain. They were divided on the Oslo Accord of September 1993, with Qaddumi opposing it. In the end, Fatah accepted the Accord. It became the political backbone of the Palestinian Authority. In the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1996, Fatah won fifty-five of the eighty-six contested seats, with seven other members describing themselves as Fatah Independents. Following the eruption of the al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, it set up an armed wing in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, called Tanzim (lit., Organization), which resorted to suicide bombings against Israelis."

2003 - Dilip Hiro, MA