The massive resignation of about 370 members of Yasser Arafta’s ruling Fattah party, has raised a debate among Palestinians about the immediate need for reform. The letter came according to signatories to protest
In their letter addressed to Arafat and the Fatteh Central Committee, resigning members protest against what they describe “the disastrous situation” of the movement .explaining their position “We, the sons of the Fatteh movement, place in your hands our collective resignations” stating their reasons behind this move “Fatteh is beginning to disintegrate as a result of internal contradictions” the letter read “Fatteh is not united there is a city, a village and a camp Fatteh. There is official and the popular Fatteh, there is a part that is pro the Geneva understandings and another against it” the statement went on describing the friction among the different branches of the movement “we have different military wings and we have different local leaders.”
Signatories who described themselves as "lower ranking members”, demanded their leadership to take serious actions against corruption and mismanagement in the Palestinian Authority, referring to a number of “corrupt” people who still hold their positions as “deputy ministers, general attorneys, judges and military officials.”
Senior Fatteh official Sakher Habbash undermines the move and questions its reality “most of the names are unknown and some are of martyrs who died years ago. I am confident that a group of people made up the names with the aim of destroying the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization by creating contradictions on the ground, because causing a shake in Fatteh means causing a general shake in the Palestinian society because Fatteh is the only movement that can unite all people”.
Habbash who believes that Israel and the United States are trying to motivate few Palestinians is targeting Yasser Arafat personally “Sharon and the Unites States would like to see Arafat gone. Sharon wants him dead but the US wants him removed in other means, and therefore they motivate few people, who are known to us in an attempt to create another Fatteh tailored according to the American and Israeli standards. The standards Bush highlighted in the speech he made last June when he said that he wants to see a new Palestinian leadership.”
Nevertheless Habbash believes that “there is no smoke without a fire. This is an alerting signal” warning that the Palestinian leadership should not ignore it “we should work hardly to reform our institutions and especially within Fatteh itself by holding elections and removing those officials involved in any case of corruption. We have actually, in the last meeting of the Central Committee decided to hold the General Congress and called to start the arrangements for elections that have not been held since 1989.”
The Palestinian Authority made no official statement regarding the letter but according to a PA official who spoke under the condition of anonymity “The PA is investigating the matter and will get to the person or group of people who are threatening the national security.”
Asked whether the PA or Fatteh is the target the official said “there is no difference between both and who tries to jeopardize any Palestinian institution is working against the national interest. Those people who are behind the signatures are the ones who need to be reformed.”
The official did not send messages of threats, but affected by the criticism of Fatteh, the majority of signatories refuse to speak to the media and other even deny any relation to the letter. The majority have send letters to Yasser Arafat condemning the use of their names.
Abdel Jabbar Barghouthi, whose name appeared on the letter, refuses to comment but says he is still a committed member in Fatteh "I was surprised to find my name among signatories without my knowledge. I have no intention to resign from Fattah and will continue to serve the movement faithfully as I have always done.”
Fatteh, founded by Yasser Arafat in 1959 is the largest movement and strongest organization in Palestine which has always gone through such frictions says political analysis Dr. Ali Jarbawi “since its establishment and throughout the years Fatteh had a broad agenda. It started as a revolutionary movement and now is taking the burden of ruling the Palestinian Authority” and therefore Jarbawi resumes “the organizational structure of the movement collapsed.”
Jarbawi who could foresee this crisis does not look at the resignation as a major factor that can change the situation inside Fatteh but believes that it should be ignored “whether real or unreal, this massive resignation it an attempt by some members to make a point. It is true that there are hundreds of thousands of Fatteh members but the resignation of almost 400 people should be taken seriously because it indicates a deep crisis in Fatteh and since it is the ruling party then the general Palestinian situation is at stake.”
Jarbawi described the fact that many of the signatories had withdrawn their signatures as a “symptom” of the crisis “people are being used by some prominent Fatteh members and branches to play against each others and to score points and this is why there were no one among the signatories who is a leading member or from the top hierarchy of the pyramid. I do not believe that fear of the Palestinian Authority is the reason because the move itself did not have an influence on the public.”
What the statement describes as a non-united Fatteh is most obvious in the friction among its different branches “to the extent that ordinary Palestinians can’t tell who is who in Fatteh, everyone can claim to be a member and there were incidents when armed masked men attacked people claiming they were members of Fatteh and no one could really tell if true or not” says Jarbawi and explains “this means that the ordinary Palestinian on the street is not sure what sort of life to expect especially with the absence of any kind of personal security.”
The majority of ordinary Palestinians are lost between internal conflicts and the continuation of Israeli occupation. “While we witness the activities of Israeli occupation every day in the West Bank and Gaza we at the same time suffer from conflict amongst ourselves” says Ramallah shopkeeper Amjad Salah.
For Salah, the main issue is personal security “we do not feel that there is a Palestinian Authority, even with the deployment of security forces few weeks ago, we still feel that our lives are threatened by the Israelis on one hand and by the Palestinians on the other. Look what happened in Gaza some days ago, the Israelis were bulldozing houses in Rafah and on the same day a group of masked Palestinians opened fire at the police chief in Gaza” Salah angrily elaborates.
Like Salah, many Palestinians worry about running their daily life that has been under fire for more than three and a half years. The removal of Israeli occupation is weighed in one side of the scale and the reform of Palestinian institutions is weighed in another. And although the points made in the resignation letter highlight the demand of ordinary Palestinians, the public is concerned about the way these demands were presented.
University student Basima Ahmad believes “dialogue and constructive criticism is the only way for us to exit and resolve our differences” she resumes “we must admit that there is corruption and mismanagement, but mistakes should not be corrected with mistakes. Those people who have signed the letter, if true, should have done it in different way and not send it to the media in the first place. I believe that their action only benefits our enemies, what is inside the house should be resolved indoors and should stay in the house.”