Fatah council calls for ‘escalation of unarmed resistance’ against Israel

Declaration by West Bank-ruling Palestinian party contrasts with ongoing violence from rival armed groups, which have been eroding its authority

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (on stage, second from right) chairs the 11th session of Fatah's Revolutionary Council on August 26, 2023 in Ramallah (Thaer Ghanayem/via WAFA)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (on stage, second from right) chairs the 11th session of Fatah's Revolutionary Council on August 26, 2023 in Ramallah (Thaer Ghanayem/via WAFA)

After three days of meeting, Fatah’s Revolutionary Council (FRC) ended its latest session on Saturday with a call for an “escalation of the unarmed resistance” to end the Israeli occupation, and a call on all Palestinian factions to join the struggle.

The FRC is considered Fatah’s internal parliamentary body, and its second most prominent institution after Fatah’s Central Committee. It is made up of approximately 80 members, who were elected in December 2016.

In its session last weekend, the Council called for the formation of “popular resistance committees to confront the [Israeli] settlers’ aggression,” and emphasized the importance of Jerusalem for Islam and Christianity and for the Palestinian national project, describing the Holy City as “Palestine’s Eternal Capital.”

Fatah’s declared policy of nonviolent resistance is in sharp contrast with the violent approach adopted by its main rival Hamas, which on Sunday threatened Israel with an “all-out regional war.”

Marouf Alrefai, one of the leaders of the Fatah movement in Jerusalem, stressed to The Times of Israel that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “always called for peaceful popular resistance free from violence and the use of weapons,” even though, according to international covenants, Palestinians, as a people under occupation, have “the right to resist in all forms.”

The PA ruling party is often accused by many Palestinians of doing the “dirty work” on behalf of Israel for maintaining security in the West Bank, and not doing enough to combat the occupation and the settlements expansion.

Even within Fatah, there are dissenting voices. The party’s armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, has reportedly joined forces with terror cells of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in Jenin and Nablus, areas over which the PA has progressively lost its grip. It also claimed responsibility for a recent attack near Hebron, an area under firm Fatah control, in which an Israeli woman was killed.

Israeli forces at the scene of a deadly shooting attack near the West Bank city of Hebron, August 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

Grisha Yakubovich, a former Israel Defense Forces colonel and head of the IDF’s civil department for the Palestinian Authorities, recently declared in an interview to i24News Arabic channel that the attack was a message to Abbas to halt security cooperation with Israel, or risk seeing the current instability in Nablus and Jenin expanding to the rest of the West Bank.

At the end of its meeting, the Revolutionary Council reiterated calls to boycott Jerusalem’s municipal elections, to be held alongside votes in other cities in Israel on October 30. Ever since Israel took control of East Jerusalem in 1967, its Arab residents have repeatedly abstained from voting in local elections to avoid “normalizing” Israeli sovereignty.

The lack of political clout by East Jerusalemites — who make up 40 percent of the city’s population — in the city council has contributed over the decades to the municipality’s severe neglect of Arab neighborhoods, with a visible shortage of investments in infrastructure and services. This year, for the first time since 1967, an Arab candidate will be running for mayor, an act strongly opposed by the PA.

In its statement, Fatah’s Revolutionary Council further highlighted its continuous efforts in support of Palestinian terrorists incarcerated in Israel, as well as of the families of Palestinian “martyrs,” and condemned Israel for withholding millions of dollars it collects in taxes on behalf of the PA to prevent it from being funneled to the terrorists and their families.

The Council declared it will convene its next Congress on December 17. National dialogue among Palestinian factions will be high on the agenda.

“While Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are not formally invited — since it will be an internal PLO event — they may participate in informal dialogues or discussions, as happened recently in Cairo,” Fatah member Alrefai said. The Cairo event held in late July saw the participation of most Palestinian factions, including Hamas, in an attempt to achieve reconciliation and organize elections for the first time since 2006 to strengthen the authority’s legitimacy among Palestinians. It was boycotted by Islamic Jihad, in protest of the Palestinian Authority’s recent arrests of its members.

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