By Dr. Elias Akleh
Finally, after 20 years since its last meeting in 1989 in Tunis, the Fatah congress convened last week, Tuesday August 4th, in the city of Bethlehem to, ostensibly, rejuvenate itself with younger blood. At the end of the convention, which was extended from three days to a week, it appeared clearly that the whole convention, from beginning to end, was tailored for the sole benefit of Mahmoud Abbas, whose presidency was expired since January 2009, and for his hired gang. Most of the alleged new rejuvenating blood seems to be as tainted and as corrupt as the old one.
Since Oslo Agreement and their return to the West Bank some of the Fatah top leaders had, gradually, turned into docile and corrupt leaders. They had hijacked the movement and turned it from a national liberating movement to a political party oppressing the same people they wanted to liberate through the Palestinian Authority. To maintain their power positions and their control over the Palestinian economy and the donor’s money they sabotaged every attempt to convene the congress for the last 20 years.
Israel would not have kept any of the Palestinian leaders alive except those who call for “futile” peace negotiations and are ready to give political concessions to Israel. Those honorable leaders, who wanted to continue the liberating struggle, such as Mustafa Alhaj the Secretary General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was assassinated by the Israeli forces in his house in Ramallah in August of 2001. Other leaders such as Marwan Barghouthi, an Intifada leader, was kidnapped and dumped in Israeli dungeons. Even Arafat, himself, was poisoned when he could not give any more concessions to Israel.
Following previous successive American administrations Obama’s administration is about to come out with its own flavor of “peace plan” for the Arab (Palestinian)/Israeli conflict. Such a plan requires a new Palestinian leadership seemingly more honest and more respected than the previous known corrupt leadership, who would turn the Palestinian Authority into a huge security apparatus to ensure the Palestinian people’s submission to such a plan. Fatah’s Congress convention was called for to produce such seemingly more honest leadership.
To guarantee the victory of the so-called “moderate” Abbas, the salesman of most generous concessions to Israel, the convention was carefully planned and manipulated by the Israelis, Americans, and some Arab leaders. After Jordan and Egypt had refused to host the convention it was decided, despite many objections, to have the convention in Bethlehem under the watchful eyes of Israel.
Israel had refused entry to many Fatah delegates, especially from the refugee camps in Lebanon. Many other delegates from North African countries and from Gulf States refused to enter the occupied territories. 400 Delegates from Gaza Strip were refused entry by Hamas led government. This worked out for the benefit of Abbas, who filled the vacant seats with his men and enlisted some more. Originally 2000 delegates were supposed to convene, yet later on the number totaled to 2300 with 700 delegates added by Abbas.
Many Fatah leaders outside of the occupied West Bank, especially in the Gulf States and in Lebanon, had published a declaration criticizing and questioning the legitimacy of the convention. They accused Mahmoud Abbas, an expired president, and his Ramallah-based Fatah leaders as illegitimate group trying to hijack Fatah. They considered the Bethlehem convention illegitimate and sponsored by the American Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, the security coordinator for the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. They declared that they would not recognize any outcome of this convention. They announced that they recognize only Fatah in Diaspora led by Farouq Qaddoumi, the Secretary General of Fatah, and they called on Qaddoumi to arrange for their own convention in the Diaspora to elect new and separate Fatah Central Committee and a Revolutionary Council.
Qaddoumi, who is also the head of the political department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, had accused Abbas of despotic tactics within Fatah. In a news conference in Amman, Jordan, in July 12th and on Al-Jazeera television Qaddoumi had accused Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan, former Chief of PA Security Forces, of conspiring with the Israelis and Americans to assassinate Arafat and all Palestinian military and political leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, so that they would control the Palestinian Authority, and manipulate the negotiations with Israel. As a proof of his accusations Qaddoumi produced the minutes of a meeting in March of 2004 between Abbas, Dahlan, Israeli Prime Minister at the time Ariel Sharon, and William Burns, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. The minutes were sent to Qaddoumi by Arafat for safe keeping.
The Ramallah-based Fatah leaders questioned Qaddoumi’s motives for such accusations, and accused him of trying to sabotage and manipulate the outcome of the convention for his own interests.
Despite Qaddoumi’s accusations the Bethlehem meeting took place as scheduled. It had witnessed a huge presence of Abbas security forces, which had aggressively controlled the progress and the quality of the convention. The security forces had harassed and physically beaten some delegates, some of whom had to be sent to the hospital for treatment. Speakers, who attempted to question or criticize Abbas’ leadership, were violently shut up and/or taken down from the podium.
The convention did not follow the conventional protocols for such political meetings. No reports about Fatah’s accomplishments for the last 20 years were given. There was no financial report explaining the income and expenditure of the movement. Most importantly, and most dangerously, there was no political policy or agenda for future actions of the movement. When some delegates demanded such reports and planning they were told that they have to consider Abbas’ opening speech as the official reports and political policy.
Abbas’ opening speech is considered the most dangerous for the Palestinians, and the best gift for the Israelis. After the usual cheap clichés of struggle for liberation and building an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, Abbas proceeded to deliver a skewed history of the PLO beating his own drum as an active co-leader of it.
He praised the past Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation then he turned around and labeled it as terrorism when he stated that Fatah had renounced terrorism and is seeking the path of peaceful negotiation. He acknowledged that for the last 15 years “… these negotiations are in vain” but insisted “but still, there is a glimpse of hope and we have to continue this way for the interest of the people.”
Abbas insisted that the only way to achieve statehood is by peace negotiations and adopting the Road Map starting with the elimination of all “Palestinian terrorism” against Israelis. Basically this meant safeguarding Israeli security by fighting all the Palestinian resistance groups. That means turning the Palestinian Security Forces against the same people they are supposed to serve and protect in order to protect their worst enemy; the Israelis.
Although insisting on hopeless negotiations with Palestinians worst enemy, Israelis, and giving them more free concessions, Abbas made it clear that he is not ready to negotiate with Palestinian brothers in Gaza, Hamas, whom he called “the princes of the darkness and coup makers, who are dividing the homeland and the people and harming democracy by preventing Fatah members from joining the conference.”
To exonerate himself and Dahlan from the capital crime of assassinating Arafat, Abbas accused Israel of causing Arafat’s death, and assigned a committee to investigate how Arafat died not who assassinated him.
Abbas claimed that the Oslo Agreement had allowed thousands of Palestinians to return to their home land; West Bank and Gaza Strip. He made it clear that the right of return means the return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip only, and not to Palestine proper.
At the end of the conference Abbas, as expected, was nominated, not elected, as the supreme leader of Fatah. The election of the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council had resulted in the election of many of Abbas’ hired men, many of whom could be considered traitors than patriotic. Fatah delegates from Gaza, backed by others from West Bank, called it pre-arranged fraudulent election, and resigned from the movement as a protest.
Fatah convention had succeeded only in weakening and dividing the once patriotic liberating movement into a docile ready to negotiate only Ramallah-based Fatah, an orphaned Gaza-based Fatah, and a confused Diaspora-Fatah.
Financed by pro-Zionist American administration and virtually led by American general Keith Dayton, the Ramallah-based Fatah, in the form of Palestinian Authority, would be internationally recognized as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and would be groomed to accept whatever peace plan the American administration imposes on it through what is called peace negotiations.
It was said that a nation who negotiates with its occupier over its own independence is signing, at the same time, its own enslavement contract.
– Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer of Palestinian descent, born in the town of Beit-Jala. Currently he lives in the US. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.