Among Palestinians, the Fatah movement is known as a "supermarket" - a mix of ideologies, with a variety of social and behavioral movements. Left and right, religious and secular, with those who support the right of return and those who gave it up, fabulously rich and desperately poor, sycophants and self-critics, senior officials who still refer to Israel as "the Zionist entity" and believe in the one-state solution (in which the Jews are a tolerated minority) and those who are friends with Zionists and dream of two states living side by side with excellent relations between the two countries. As long as the common goal is achieving independence, say Fatah members, this messy business can continue existing. But when it comes to the liberty some members of the movement take unto themselves with the use of weapons, that already goes beyond the charming folklore of ideological chaos.
The murder of five Israeli civilians in Kibbutz Metzer by a member of the military wing of the Fatah once again proved how the senior and mid-level echelons of the Fatah don't have real control over those who pick up a gun in the name of Fatah. As opposed to the centralized decision-making processes in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement any three youngsters can join together, decide they are a military cell, and conduct this or that "operation" sometimes "responding" to a call by their leaders not to go over the Green Line, and sometimes going over the line. Maybe they get a green light from this or that Fatah official in their neighborhood, but they allow themselves to take action that blatantly contradicts the logic and common sense of the Palestinian Authority's diplomatic campaign to win active Western support for a solution leading to the Israeli withdrawal from the territories captured in 1967. On the one hand they allow themselves to threaten those who criticize Arafat, and on the other to kidnap suspected collaborators out of the hands of the Palestinian police and murder them.
Many well-known Fatah activists are disgusted by the criminal behavior in the guise of the national struggle of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. In the last two days, those who tried speaking out against the attack heard the well-worn counterarguments: Aren't our children murdered in their beds? Does it matter they were killed by a shell or bomb and not by a rifle? Don't the Israeli bombs leave widows and orphans on our side? Wasn't it the Israelis who began the shooting on
Apparently the criminal and infantile characteristics in the behavior of the armed youths of Fatah in the Tanzim is balanced out in the eyes of the Palestinian public by the fact they are perceived as people who are responding with their weapons to the collective pain. But the military arms of Hamas and Islamic Jihad do it better - because their leadership sets a clear policy and openly encourages mass attacks on Israeli civilians. Thus, the Fatah youths and their field commanders find themselves in an internal competition with the other Palestinian movements. The competition determines their "decisions" about using weapons more than the declared policies of their leader, Arafat.
There is no Palestinian who disagrees with the well-known arguments from other national liberation struggles in the
Academic researchers will no doubt come up with many answers why those activists allowed the armed groups to act in their name and dictate such a disastrous agenda. It's impossible, after all, to blame it only on Arafat's personality and the quality of his volatile leadership. One of the answers was provided recently by a senior Fatah man in
It was an indirect reference to the failure of
Amira Hass, West Bank correspondent for Ha'aretz