Commentary Magazine


Looking for Fatah’s Guns Amid the Seat Belts

The Palestinian Fatah party began its first conference in 20 years with a meeting in Bethlehem yesterday. This ought to have been the Palestinians’ big opportunity to illustrate how eager they are for the United States to pursue negotiations to revive the peace process. But even though the coverage it received in the Western press was far from critical, it looks as if this event highlighted the fact that even within Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s own party, there is little enthusiasm for him, and the movement as a whole is deeply ambivalent about the idea of renouncing violence.

That reporters from both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times were able to find delegates who insisted that “armed resistance” against Israel is still the essence of Fatah doesn’t even do justice to how successfully Fatah has portrayed itself as a “peace partner” to the West all the while keeping its terrorist bona fides with the Palestinian public. Absent from both articles was any mention of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Fatah-sponsored terrorist group that was financed by the Palestinian Authority’s leadership. Much like the fiction that allowed the Palestinians to portray Black September as separate from Arafat’s PLO in the 1970s, the ongoing connection between Al-Aqsa (an entity created to allow Fatah to compete with Hamas for the title of the group that killed the most Jews during the Second Intifada) and Fatah isn’t usually discussed when either the United States or Israel needs to promote Abbas as a viable peace partner.

The New York Times quotes Abbas citing the widespread use of seat belts by Palestinian drivers as evidence of the advance of the rule of law — a point about which we are told he is a “stickler” — in the territories. But so long as this same group not only supports a terror faction but also foments hatred of Israel and Jews via the P.A.-controlled media, the notion that it has become an adherent of Gandhi-like nonviolent protest is a joke.