Fatah, or al-Fatah, was co-founded in about 1959 by Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. The organization’s name is a reverse acronym standing for Harakat Al-Tahrir Al-Watani Al-Filastini (“the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine”). Its military wing is known as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. As a word, “Fatah” in Arabic means “conquest by means of jihad [Islamic holy war].” From its inception, Fatah’s overriding objective, as expressed in its original Covenant, was to bring about the annihilation of Israel. (Notably, this Covenant explicitly disavowed any interest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which were then under the control of Jordan and Egypt, respectively. Only in 1968, after Israel had taken control of these regions following its victory in the Six Day War, was the Covenant amended to demand the establishment of a Palestinian State on the entire territory of the nation of Israel.)
With the backing of Syria, in 1965 Fatah began carrying out dozens of terrorist raids each year against Israeli civilian targets, launching these attacks from Jordan, Lebanon and Egyptian-occupied Gaza. By 1969, Fatah had grown into the largest constituency of Yasser Arafat’s multiparty confederation, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and was under Arafat’s direct control.
In the 1960s and the 1970s, Fatah provided training to numerous European, Middle Eastern, Asian, and African rebel and terrorist groups. Fatah was supplied with weaponry during this period by the Soviet Union, the Communist states of eastern Europe, and Communist China.
When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 (as a means of combating Arab terrorist groups that were using the region as a launching pad for artillery attacks against northern Israeli towns), Fatah members based in southern Lebanon dispersed to several Middle Eastern countries, among them Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, and Iraq. From 1982 to 1993, Fatah’s leadership was based in Tunisia.
Fatah officially endorsed the 1993 Oslo peace accords between Israel and the PLO. Thirteen years later, In a July 4, 2006 interview on Alam TV, Fatah operative Ziyad Abu’Ein revealed the reason for that endorsement: “The Oslo Accords were not what the Palestinian people dreamt of. The dream of the Palestinian people is the return, self-determination, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, and the liberation of its land. However, there would have been no resistance in Palestine if not for Oslo. … If not for Oslo, the weapons we got through Oslo, and if not for the “A” areas of the Palestinian Authority [where the PA was given full political control], if not for the training, the camps, the protection provided by Oslo, and if not for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners through Oslo — this Palestinian resistance could not have carried out this great Palestinian Intifada, with which we confronted the Israeli occupation.”
Today Fatah defines as its principal goal the achievement of the “complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military, and cultural existence.” According to Fatah, this objective is not to be accomplished by peaceful means; nor does it allow for Israel’s continued existence: “Armed public revolution is the inevitable method to liberating Palestine. … [T]he Palestinian Arab People’s armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.” Candidly opposed to “any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine,” Fatah has made its organizational emblem a grenade and crossed rifles, superimposed on a map of present-day Israel. Fatah’s military arm, Tanzim, is funded by the Palestinian Authority and has played a leading role in Palestinian violence in recent years.
Fatah enumerates as the “Essential Principles” of its Constitution the following tenets, among others:
Fatah currently has “Observer Party” status at the Socialist International.
On February 15, 2007, Fatah scored a political victory when it was announced that after months of difficult negotiations and violent street fighting, the Hamas-led Palestinian government resigned in order to pave the way for a “unity government” that would include both Hamas and its rival Fatah.
In a September 23, 2011 interview with Al Jazeera, Abbas Zaki — a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee (which is led by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas) — said that any final Israeli-Palestinian agreement “should be based on the borders of June 4, 1967…everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go.” He added: “If Israel withdraws from Jerusalem, evacuates the 650,000 settlers, and dismantles the wall, what will become of Israel? It will come to an end.” At the same time, Zaki advised circumspection: “If we say that we want to wipe Israel out…. C’mon, it’s too difficult. It’s not [acceptable] policy to say so. Don’t say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself.”
In January 2015, Rabbi Aryeh Spero wrote: “The Fatah Party Central Page recently featured a picture: a pile of skulls and skeletons as seen in concentration camp photos, topped with a rifle. The skulls and skeletons are Jewish and covered with blood, with a Star of David. The message: kill the Jews.”
In a January 2016 interview, Fatah Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi said: “Let us talk logically. Hitler was not morally corrupt. He was daring.”