The Sixth Fatah General Congress, convening for the first time in twenty
years, will be judged mainly by two factors: its decisions and the
composition of its new leadership. Here we will examine the nature of its
expected decisions and leave the evaluation of the new leadership for future

There is great international interest in the Fatah Congress since so much of
the international community perceives the Palestinian problem as the key to
the entire spectrum of conflicts in the Middle East. Many observers are
watching to see to what extent the congress will advance or retard the
prospects for re-launching the peace process between Israel and the
Palestinians, and even launching a regional peace process based on the
Israeli-Palestinian bilateral track.

In this regard, the crucial question is: Is Fatah going to waive its
historical principle of “armed struggle” – muqawama – and devote itself to
peace negotiations based on compromise, as was discussed extensively between
the former Kadima-led Israeli government and Palestinian negotiators – led
by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and former Prime Minister Abu Ala?

Two Documents: One for International Consumption and the Other for Internal

The two relevant documents to be discussed and approved by the Fatah
Congress are the Political Program and Fatah’s “Internal Order.” The
Political Program might be seen by many as reflecting progress in terms of
accepting a political solution and rejecting violence – but it falls short
of waiving the principle of armed struggle. The document endorses the Arab
Initiative, talks in vague expressions of the “right of return” – using a
formula “based on UN Resolution 181” and not on fulfillment of this
resolution, and offers the model of the “Intifada of the Stones” (the first
intifada) as preferred over the model of military struggle.

The principle of the “armed struggle” is mentioned as an option of the past
that must be re-examined in comparison to other options of struggle. The
model seen to
fit our times is the anti-wall campaigns in Nil’in and Bil’in, but “10,000
times as fierce.” The political program uses the term “the struggle” (not
quite describing it as the “armed struggle”) and even the “peaceful
struggle.” However, there is more than one reference to the term “the
struggle of all options,” that includes the armed struggle as well. In an
interview with Maan News, the Fatah leader in Lebanon, Sultan Abu al-Einein,
made it clear that the “struggle of all options” includes the armed struggle
as well.

Fatah’s Internal Order Presents a Different Face

Developing the Nil’in-Bil’in model of struggle is problematic because it can
easily deteriorate into violence, as past experience shows, but the real
problem lies in the Internal Order document. All of the phrases that were
omitted in the Political Program are present in this would-be “bureaucratic”
document. The term “armed popular struggle” appears at the very beginning.
While the Political Program sought to subordinate the struggle to the need
for “international legitimacy,” the Internal Order is very clear in
rejecting all international peace initiatives: “The projects, agreements,
and resolutions that were issued or will be issued by the UN or group of
states or any separate state on the Palestinian problem that waives the
rights of the Palestinians on their homeland is null and void.”

Furthermore, Article 22 calls for: “objection by force to all political
solutions that are offered as an alternative to the extermination of the
occupying Zionist entity in Palestine and all the projects that aim for the
elimination of the Palestinian problem, or seek to internationalize it or
put an outside custodian on its people from any possible party.” This
article is in contradiction to the call in the Political Program for greater
international involvement in the problem and its welcome for the involvement
of international forces in Palestine.

Article 9 states clearly that “the liberation of the Holy Land and the
defense of its holy sites (that are forbidden to infidels) is an Arab,
Muslim, and humanitarian duty.”

Fatah Retains the Strategy of the Armed Struggle

And here we come to the essence: Fatah retains the armed struggle as a
strategy in order to liberate the whole of Palestine and eliminate Israel.
Article 12 calls for “the liberation of Palestine completely and the
elimination of the state of the Zionist occupation economically,
politically, militarily, and culturally.”6 (Indeed, one of the methods
mentioned in the Political Program for the “peaceful intifada” is an
economic boycott of Israel.)

Article 13 calls for “establishing a sovereign democratic Palestinian state
on the entire Palestinian territory that will preserve the legitimate rights
of the citizens on the basis of justice and equality without discrimination
on the basis of race, religion and belief, and Jerusalem will be its
capital.” While the Political Program lists the “one-state solution” as an
option in case the “two-state solution” fails, the Internal Order document
mentions the “one-state solution” as the only solution.
Article 17 says: “The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to
the liberation of Palestine.”

Finally, Article 19 notes: “The armed struggle is a strategy and not just a
tactic and the armed revolution of the Arab Palestinian people is a decisive
factor in the war of liberation and the elimination of the Zionist
existence, and the struggle will not end until the elimination of the
Zionist entity and the liberation of Palestine.”
While Fatah’s Political Program tries to accommodate international
expectations and seems designed to mobilize international legitimacy for the
re-launching of a “peaceful intifada,” Fatah’s “Internal Order” reminds us
how deeply ingrained in Fatah is its ideology from the 1960s and 1970s.

Pinhas Inbari is a senior policy analyst at the JerusalemCenterfor Public
Affairs. He is also a veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent who formerly
reported for
IsraelRadio and left wing Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently reports
for several foreign media outlets. He is the author of a number of books on
the Palestinians including The Palestinians: Between Terrorism and