Archive for Fatah conference in Bethlehem 2009

Israeli wins Fatah top body seat

Posted in Fatah, Israeli politics, Palestine, Pictures, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , on 16/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 16th August 2009

Source: BBC News

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Uri Davis

Mr Davis has been a harsh critic of Israel for years

A Jewish-born Israeli has been elected to the governing body of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.

Uri Davis, 66, an academic who is married to a Palestinian, is an outspoken critic of what he calls Israel’s “apartheid policies”.

As the only Israeli member of the Revolutionary Council he says he wants to represent non-Arab people who support the Palestinian cause.

He called for an international campaign to boycott Israel to be toughened up.

Dr Davis said his Israeli citizenship made no difference to his election.

“Within the conference itself the welcome was most heartfelt and enthusiastic – the Fatah movement is an open, international movement – membership is not conditional on ethnic origin, it’s conditional on agreement with the main part of the Fatah political programme,” he told the BBC News website.

Dr Davis said he did not define himself as Jewish but as “a Palestinian Hebrew national of Jewish origin, anti-Zionist, registered as Muslim and a citizen of an apartheid state – the State of Israel”.

Fatah congress delegates cast their votes

He was one of around 700 Fatah members competing for 89 open seats in the body, which oversees the group’s day-to-day decision making.

Others elected to Fatah’s revolutionary council included Fadwa Barghouti, the wife of the senior Fatah figure, Marwan Barghouti, who was jailed by Israel five years ago for the murder of five people.

The old guard of Fatah retained only four of the 18 elected seats. The rest went to younger men.

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Fatah votes for new council members

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, Fatah, Hamas, History, Israel, Israeli occupation, Non-violent resistance, Palestine, Peace process, Pictures, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 10th August 2009

Source: Al Jazeera English

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President Abbas cast his ballot as voting for Fatah’s governing bodies got under way [AFP]

Delegates at Fatah’s conference in the occupied West Bank have begun voting for a new executive body and assembly that many hope will be filled with fresh faces.

The much-delayed vote got under way on Sunday, with voting expected to last for at least 10 hours and little indication of when results would be due.

Delegates are choosing among 96 candidates, six of them women, standing for election to the 21-member central committee.

They are also selecting from 617 party members, including 50 women, vying for the 80 places open in a 128-seat Revolutionary Council, the movement’s parliament.

The Bethlehem conference has been billed as an opportunity for Fatah to rejuvenate itself and shed its image as corrupt and nepotistic.

Delegates ‘encouraged’

Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh, reporting from Bethlehem, said: “Despite the accusations of nepotism and political money a lot of the delegates we’ve been speaking to have been encouraged by the voting process and the names on the list of nominees.”

One of the favoured candidates for election is Marwan Barghouthi, at 50 a younger, articulate and popular member of the movement, currently in an Israeli jail.Also in the running is Mohammed Dahlan, 48, a Fatah strongman from Gaza
blamed by many for the Hamas takeover there.

While delegates in Bethlehem filled in their voting sheets, about 300 Fatah members from the Gaza Strip, barred by Hamas from attending the conference, dictated their votes by telephone or sent them in by email.

The voting has twice been delayed and what was billed as a three-day conference has dragged on.

But Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator and a nominee for Fatah’s central committee, said that this was in itself positive for Fatah.

“Many people think that Fatah is like many other parties in this region where its leader sits somewhere in the mountain and he sends something and people will see with one eye, hear with one ear, speak with one tongue,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Fatah is unlike this, we have, I think, 2,325 delegates. We had 2,325 opinions, every point [was discussed] … but at the end of the day, now, we have a political programme.”

Political programme

Delegates adopted the new political programme, which calls for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, earlier on Sunday. Erekat said that while the programme was a call for peace, it required Israel to fulfil its commitments.”Fatah wants peace, but peace cannot be obtained without Israel withdrawing to the 1967 border, establishing a Palestinian state on the ’67 border with East Jerusalem as it capital,” he told Al Jazeera.

The adopted programme reads: “The aim of Fatah as a liberation movement is to end the Israeli occupation and achieve independence for the Palestinian people in a state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

While the platform reserved the movement’s right to take up arms against Israeli occupation, it also encouraged Palestinians to use more peaceful means to
pressure Israel, like demonstrations and support of a boycott of Israel abroad.

“At this stage, we are focusing on popular struggle, but the armed struggle is a right reserved to us in international law,” Nabil Shaath, a senior party member, said.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, described the Fatah platform as “not very promising.”

“But there is no other way for the Middle East but to sit down and strike a deal and agree on a peace for the region and arrangement between us and the Palestinians,” Barak said, calling on Abbas to enter negotiations.

Controversy plagues Hamas West Bank conference

Posted in Everyday life in the West Bank, Palestine, Videos, West Bank with tags , , , on 05/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 5th August 2009

Soure: Al Jazeera English

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A senior official in the Palestinian Fatah movement has accused the party’s leaders of abusing their positions and pocketing party cash for themselves.

Farouk Kaddoumi made the accusation as Fatah met in the West Bank town of Bethlehem for its first conference in 20 years.

But as Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh reports, the conference was dominated by infighting and controversy.

Can Fatah reinvent itself?

Posted in Everyday life in Gaza, Everyday life in the West Bank, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Pictures, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/08/2009 by 3071km

Written by Heather Sharp

Date published: 4th August 2009

Source: BBC News

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Delegates at 6th Fatah Council, Bethlehem

Fatah has not held a conference for 20 years

By Heather Sharp
BBC News, Bethlehem

The gleaming black Mercedes, Jaguars and BMWs are lined up in front of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.

Fatah cars in front of church of nativity (03.07.09)

Many Palestinians are angered by Fatah leaders’ expensive cars

With blasting horns, Mahmoud Abbas’s convoy sweeps through cordoned off streets, whisking the Palestinian Authority president to the first general conference of his Fatah movement in 20 years.

The 2,000 or so gathered members range from ageing Palestinian exiles returning after decades abroad, to former militant commanders from West Bank refugee camps, to Mr Abbas and his suited contemporaries.

The conference’s task, as many see it, is to save Fatah – formed by Yasser Arafat five decades ago to lead armed struggle against Israeli occupation – from disintegration and decline.

The movement’s critics see it as a nepotistic, corrupt and ineffective body whose leadership has given away too much to Israel, and failed to hold the Palestinians together after Mr Arafat’s death in 2004.

When Palestinian voters handed the militant Islamist faction Hamas victory in 2006 parliamentary elections, it was widely seen to be as much punishment of Fatah as it was endorsement of Hamas.

Occupation continued

About 15 years ago, Fatah threw its weight behind peace negotiations as the route to Palestinian statehood.

Attallah Awwad, 17, Bethlehem
We tried armed struggle, it didn’t work; we tried negotiation, it didn’t work – maybe new people will have new solutions
Attallah Awwad, student

But now, to many Palestinians, occupation seems more entrenched than ever with Israeli settlements still growing and the current right-wing Israeli government setting out tougher negotiating lines than the last.

“Fatah has lost a lot,” says Palestinian analyst and editor Khalil Shaheen.

Now, international observers are watching to see whether the movement will update its charter – currently committed to “liquidating the Zionist entity” – and shift formally from liberation movement to political party.

But while Fatah may soften its language on armed struggle, it is thought unlikely to outlaw it altogether.

Doing so would “lose the Palestinian people,” says Mr Shaheen, referring to the risk that frustrated voters would be pushed towards the violent “resistance” espoused by Hamas – a particular concern if unity talks lead to elections tentatively slated for next January.

Infighting

But in any case, he says, the struggle between personalities seems to be eclipsing the actual issues at stake.

Woman with poster of Marwan Barghouti, Lebanon (03.07.09)

Marwan Barghouti is seen as a potentially unifying figure

A key task for the conference is to re-elect the organisation’s powerful 21-member central committee, a number of whom have died in post in the 20 years since the last conference.

The battle lines within Fatah have long been characterised as a struggle between the ageing exiled ideologues who founded it and the locally born pragmatists who backed peace talks.

But also vying for a say are members of an even younger generation, who have come of age during the two intifadas, or uprisings, of recent decades.

‘Low, dirty and petty’

The talk at the conference is of bringing in fresh blood, controlling infighting and rooting out corruption.

But there are already concerns over who the 700 extra delegates suddenly added to the conference list are and who their votes will go to.

Fatah figure Mohammad Dahlan

Mohammed Dahlan denies claims of corruption

And the run-up to the conference saw an angry row as Fatah’s 78-year-old exiled chairman, Farouk Kaddoumi, who opposes peace talks and refuses to return to operate under Israeli occupation, accused Mr Abbas of conspiring with Israel to murder Yasser Arafat.

“They really fight their rivals in a very low, dirty and petty manner,” says veteran Palestinian journalist Wafa Amr. And, she says, the new generation is no more united.

There are two younger figures considered most likely to gain central committee seats.

One is Marwan Barghouti, a popular leader currently held in an Israeli prison on five counts of murder.

The other, Mohammed Dahlan, is the former head of a powerful security force in Gaza. But he is a divisive figure and widely believed to be corrupt.

While both hold to the general Fatah position of support for a two-state solution, with armed resistance retained as an option if talks fail, they diverge when it comes to dealing with Hamas.

Mr Barghouti, a militant leader during the second intifada who says he is opposed to attacks on civilians, has long been seen as the only figure likely to have anything close to the unifying power of Arafat.

In 2006, he and prisoners from other factions, including Hamas, drafted a document outlining a unifying platform of principles.

Kaddora Fares, Fatah activist close to Marwan barghouti

Mr Fares says Fatah should reach out to Hamas

Kaddora Fares, a Fatah activist close to Mr Barghouti, describes it as the “only comprehensive document” on Palestinian unity so far.

“We have to be realists, to recognise the truth – that Hamas represents a wide community… We have to stop thinking it will be possible to dismantle a movement,” he says.

Mr Dahlan, however, as the leader of security forces in Gaza during street battles with Hamas in 2007, is at the forefront of the feud between the two factions.

His security forces were supported by the US in what some documentary evidence suggests was a Washington-backed attempt to remove Hamas from power.

And well before that, he was reviled by Hamas for his role in previous PA crackdowns against Islamist militants.

‘No-one like Arafat’

In the bustling streets outside the security cordon, there is little hope that anyone can unite the divided Palestinians.

“No Hamas, no Fatah – all no good,” mutters a man carrying a tray of glasses of tea.

“If I am suffering from the sunrise to the sunset who will I elect? Those people who ride a jeep worth 500,000 Israeli shekels ($125,000), or have $1m villas? Will he be my representative?” asks travel agent Khalil Salahat, 50, his voice rising in anger.

Attallah Awwad, 17, may get his first chance to vote next year.

“We tried armed struggle, it didn’t work. We tried negotiation, it didn’t work. Maybe new people will have new solutions.”

But who? He looks blank. “There is no-one like Arafat.”

Fatah holds key party congress

Posted in Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, Israeli occupation, Palestine, Pictures, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , on 04/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 4th August 2009

Source: BBC News

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Fatah leaders at the congress in Bethlehem

Thousands of delegates are in Bethlehem for the congress

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction has begun a congress – its first in 20 years.

Speaking at the congress, Mr Abbas said Palestinians sought peace with Israel but “resistance” remained an option.

Fatah is widely seen as corrupt and ineffective, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Tim Franks says.

Our correspondent says there will be close interest in who is elected to the faction’s main internal positions of power.

Some 2,000 delegates are convening for Fatah’s three-day congress in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

An estimated 400 Fatah delegates who live in the Gaza Strip were banned from travelling to Bethlehem for the conference by the territory’s rulers, Hamas.

The Palestinians of course are committed to a peaceful solution, however, we maintain the right for armed struggle when it is necessary and as an option
Mahmoud Abbas

Israel had allowed about 500 delegates who live abroad to travel to the congress.

“Having the conference at all is a miracle, and having it in the homeland is another miracle,” Mr Abbas said on Tuesday.

Commenting on the conference, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, said: “Israel seeks peace and reconciliation with our Palestinian neighbours – reconciliation that must be based on both sides recognising the rights of the other: Israel recognising that the Palestinians have national rights, and the Palestinians recognising that Jews have national rights too.”

Renewal

The congress will be discussing a new platform that seeks to rejuvenate the movement.

Another key test will be whether the conference alters the wording of Fatah’s charter, which refers to eradicating Israel.

Palestinians install a poster bearing a portrait of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Bethlehem

The draft document proposes to keep the option of “armed struggle” if peace talks with Israel fail.

It also says that an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank is a precondition for any further talks with Israel.

The congress comes as the US is hoping to broker a new round of peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Maybe more important is the issue of who the delegates elect to the internal positions of power, our correspondent says.

He adds that – in the words of one reformer – the current leaders are like princes in the Gulf.

Opinion polls still suggest that Fatah is currently more popular than its main rival – the Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip.

But without a strong infusion of freshness, in the long-term Palestinians say that Fatah will only decline, our correspondent says.