Commentary Magazine


Nobody Here but Us Moderates

Who to believe in reportage of the Fatah conference: the New York Times‘s Isabel Kershner or Khaled Abu Toameh, the Jerusalem Post‘s veteran reporter on the Palestinians, himself an Arab Muslim?


The new leaders [elected at the conference] are considered more pragmatic than their predecessors and grew up locally, in contrast to the exile-dominated leadership they are replacing. . . . By the end, many of the participants seemed buoyant. They said that Fatah, led by the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, had emerged from the conference energized and more unified than it had been in years.

The rest of her report is a litany of mostly self-serving quotes from Fatah leaders, interspersed with Kershner’s own credulous analysis.

Reading Toameh, one wonders if they attended the same event:

The assumption that [the newly-elected] Muhammad Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub, Marwan Barghouti and Tawfik Tirawi are more moderate than old-timers like Ahmed Qurei, Nabil Sha’ath and Hani al-Hassan is completely mistaken. . . .

In fact, all the newly-elected Central Committee members voted during the Fatah convention in Bethlehem last week in favor of a political platform that does not rule out the armed struggle option against Israel.

The kind of thing that might have been useful for Kershner to point out, no?

The young guard members also voted in favor of a series of hard-line resolutions that were brought before the conference, including one that endorses Fatah’s armed militia, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, as an official organ of the faction, and another that states that the Palestinians will never relinquish the “right of return” for refugees to Israel proper and that they are willing to make “sacrifices” to liberate Jerusalem. . . .

During the Fatah meetings in Bethlehem, most of the young guard activists appeared to be more radical than their older colleagues, especially with regards to the peace process with Israel.

The power struggle between the old and new guards in Fatah has never been over ideology or the future of the peace process. On these issues, there’s almost no difference between Barghouti’s views and those of Sha’ath and Qurei.

Rather, it’s a power struggle between a camp that for two decades denied young guard activists a larger say in decision-making and access to public funds and jobs, and those younger activists.

You’d know none of this reading the Times‘s coverage. But that sort of might be the point.