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July 7, 2020 6:01 am

Ahead of West Bank Move, Fatah Threatens Terrorist Uprising, Unity With Hamas

avatar by Steven Emerson

Opinion

Supporters celebrate Fatah’s 55th anniversary in Gaza City on January 1, 2020. Photo: Fatah.

An adviser to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened Israel with the possibility of a third Intifada (violent uprising) if Israel decides to extend its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.

“When things flare up and it becomes a fully-fledged Intifada, we will see a combination of forces between Gaza and the West Bank,” Nabil Shaath told the Arabic-language version of France 24.

Shaath’s comments came days after Fatah and Hamas agreed to cooperate against the Trump administration’s proposed initiative and Israel’s possible annexation plans in the West Bank.

“There will be popular resistance in which everyone participates,” said Fatah official Jibril Rajoub from Ramallah at a joint video news conference on Thursday, adding that “all the options are open if Israelis start the annexation.”

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Abbas sanctioned Fatah’s participation in the event.

Abbas claims to support a two-state solution, but has previously spread antisemitic conspiracies that delegitimize any Jewish presence in the state of Israel. Fatah’s decision to publicly support a return to terrorism matches Abbas’ long-held views and rhetoric.

Beyond stating that “all the options” are on the table, Rajoub also threatened that “popular resistance” could take several forms, including violence. “Intifada for us is a means, the end is to end the occupation, to end and remove the annexation from the table,” he said.

For international audiences, Fatah uses the word “occupation” as a reference to Israel’s rule over Palestinian territories after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. However, to Palestinians, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) generally refer to all of Israel as occupied territory.

Hamas, on the other hand, does not shy away from its ultimate goal of destroying the Jewish state in its entirety, regardless of previous attempts at presenting a more moderate face.

Despite their shared animosity towards Israel, Palestinian factions have been fragmented for more than a decade, with competing visions on how to engage the Jewish state. Several attempts at presenting a common approach between Hamas and Fatah have failed to produce tangible results.

But recent developments show that both Palestinian rivals are trying to overcome their differences and unify their efforts to confront Israel, including through terrorism.

An increase in terrorist activity may already be underway. On Sunday, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired three rockets into Israel. Israel’s air force struck several terrorist targets in response later that day. A similar tit-for-tat occurred last month.

At Thursday’s online news conference, Hamas was represented by Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut, a senior Hamas official who has directed numerous terrorist plots in the West Bank, including the 2014 murder of three Israeli teenagers. Al-Arouri used to be based in Turkey but has since moved to Lebanon and serves as deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau. The State Department issued a $5 million bounty for his arrest in 2018.

Hamas, Arouri said, would “use all forms of struggle and resistance against the annexation project.” Whereas Fatah tends to invoke the term “popular resistance” as an implicit threat of violence, Arouri’s statement puts terrorist activity front and center as an option to challenge Israel.

By joining Hamas, Fatah has decided to throw its lot in with a designated terrorist organization dedicated to killing Jews and Israelis. Terrorist groups, even ideological rivals like Fatah and Hamas, often collaborate if they believe that they can mutually benefit, especially when trying to combat a common enemy

Though Hamas is a Palestinian Islamist offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and Fatah is a relatively secular nationalist organization, both groups are vehemently opposed to Israel’s proposed annexation plans.

“Fatah never differed with us on confronting the occupation and resisting its plans, even when we had disagreements,” Arouri said.

During the conference, Fatah’s representative also labeled Palestinians who doubt unity between Hamas and Fatah as “traitors” and Israeli collaborators.

Rajoub’s comments also complement the PA’s latest incitement campaign. Last month, official PA TV repeatedly shared messages threatening the death penalty for any Palestinian who cooperates with Israel, according to Palestinian Media Watch. Fatah officials and institutions often stress that any form of collaboration with the Jewish state is “treason.”

“Every day I ask all our institutions if we know that someone is cooperating [with Israel], we should shoot him. We should fire at him because [cooperation] is forbidden now,” Abbas Zaki, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, said last month.

Ironically, Fatah depends heavily on Israel for foiling Hamas plots to spark a third Intifada in the West Bank and to carry out a coup to oust the PA. Yet Rajoub still agreed to share a stage with Al-Arouri, a terrorist leader behind Hamas’ expansion in the West Bank.

Despite Israel’s help, Fatah and the PA systematically praise terrorists who kill Israelis and use Palestinian institutions, such as media outlets and educational material, to encourage future generations to carry out attacks.

Last month, PA TV repeatedly aired a music video glorifying terrorists with lyrics such as “Martyr, we must follow in your footsteps.” The music video includes footage of an actual stabbing attack against an Israeli police officer in 2015.

Recent developments suggest that Fatah’s violent incitement campaign may soon be backed up with operational support for terrorist attacks. If the two main Palestinian rivals unite, Israel could face a coordinated violent uprising like the Second Intifada, which included Fatah and PLO-affiliated organizations joining Islamist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to carry out high-casualty terror attacks.

Fatah’s support for a third Intifada appears to be an attempt at deterring Israel from pursuing annexation plans. But threatening terrorism may also be a strong signal to Palestinian constituents. A recent poll found that just over half of Palestinians support armed struggle in response to proposed annexation measures.

In this context, Fatah’s recent posturing is primarily driven by a desire to confront Israel and remain relevant in the Palestinian political arena. It is unclear whether Fatah and Hamas can make this latest attempt at unity last. However, Fatah’s latest open embrace of violence fits with the organization’s track record of perpetuating and encouraging terrorist attacks against Israelis.

Steven Emerson is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing, and operations. He serves as the Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit organization that serves one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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