Fatah Almost As Islamist As Hamas
April 2, 2008

A detailed article by Ido Zelkowitz in the latest edition of the Middle East Quarterly, produced by Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, shows that Fatah, the party co-founded by Yasser Arafat and Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, is increasingly Islamist in its orientation and character and becoming less and less distinguishable from Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that controls Gaza and which is dedicated in its Charter to the destruction of Israel (Article 15) and the murder of Jews (Article 7). Zelkowitz, a PhD candidate in Middle Eastern history at Haifa University, presents impressive evidence to show why this is the case:

  • A Palestinian public opinion survey (conducted between November 1997 and March 1999) shows that 87.6% of Fatah supporters believe that Islam should play a major role in the future life of Palestinian society, while 80% believe that the PA should be run according to Islamic sharia law.
  • It was Fatah which placed a religious character on its terrorist offensive against Israel in September 2000 by calling it the Al-Aqsa intifadah, referring to the Muslim holy site upon Jerusalem‘s Temple Mount.
  • Fatah named its chief terror arm during September 2000 violence started the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, founded by Marwan Barghouti, now jailed by Israel for multiple counts of murder, which engages in suicide bombings, like avowedly Islamist terrorist groups, even though Fatah never actually mentions Al-Aqsa or Jerusalem in its Constitution.
  • Fatah’s icons today are infused with religious imagery, like the Islamic flag and Quranic verses reproduced on Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade’s banners.
  • Even during the Arafat era, increasingly Islamist imagery was used by Fatah, including by Arafat himself, who vowed to die a martyr rather than be captured by Israeli forces in 2002, and who cited Quranic teachings even in 1981 to justify his terror campaign against Israel.
  • Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, like other Palestinian terror groups, received external support from outside Islamist forces, like Hizballah.
  • The Fatah Hawks, another armed wing of Fatah, used to describe itself in nationalistic terms opposed to Islamists but today boast that “upon God’s great name … they will protect the beautiful Islamic land of Palestine.” Additionally, its communiqués abound in Islamic discourse, its shield reproduces a map of Israel in the Islamic green color and its flag boasts its profession of faith and the Islamic religious cry of “God is Great.”
  • Another Fatah armed faction, the Shahid Ahmad Abu’r-Rish Brigades, also accords Islam a central role in its identification, calling itself Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam) on their internet site. It also says that it strives, not only to “liberate Palestine,” but to exalt Allah: “we believe that Allah is god, and Islam is our faith, for the Prophet is a model and teacher for us. For our way is the way of jihad for the sake of Allah.”
  • Yet another Fatah armed group, the Clear Victory Brigades, derives its name from the Quran.
  • The Fatah Holy Warriors Brigades, active in Gaza, is an off-shoot of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, has been described by one of its senior activists, Abu al-sheikh, as bearing a name that symbolizes “those who stand for the Islamic ideal within Fatah.”
  • A further Fatah armed group, the Pioneers of the Army of the People – the Brigade of the Return – possesses a banner bearing the Quranic verse, “Kill those who fight you everywhere,” while its members devote themselves to the “liberation” of the land “completely under the aegis of God and in the fulfillment of His commandments.”

Zelkowitz concludes that “Today, the gap between Fatah and Hamas in terms of the role of Islam has narrowed … both agree that Palestinian society should be Islamist … it is not a coincidence that Fatah organized mass prayers in public areas in the Gaza Strip to protest against Hamas policies …. Fatah has deepened its own Islamic terminology and now preaches on the importance of prayer and faith in God during training and indoctrination of its new members. Fatah has also started a propaganda campaign accusing Hamas of being a servant of Iranian interests and Shi’i supporters, thereby using Islam to criticize its rival.”

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is very eye-opening to see the transformation of Fatah into an increasingly Islamist terror group, not merely a secular one. The findings in this article are important because it has often been held out that Fatah is secular and pragmatic, not Islamist and fanatic, and thus worthy of discussions, rewards and concessions. The evidence provided by Zelkovitz shows that this distinction no longer has any justification, if it ever did.”







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