What Palestinian Moderation Looks Like
What’s Arabic for plus ça change? Because that was the message last week from the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, where the “moderate” Fatah party held its first general congress since 1989. Fatah—founded by Yasser Arafat in the 1960s and led since 2004 by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas—demonstrated that Palestinian national politics remain as mired as ever in conspiracy theories, duplicity and the glorification of terrorists.
In opening the congress, Fatah elder statesman and former chief Palestinian peace negotiator Ahmed Qurei announced “We have in our midst the hero Khaled Abu-Usbah.” Abu-Usbah’s “heroism” derives from a 1978 terrorist attack that killed 37 Israelis. Time magazine (back then able to distinguish terrorists from “militants”) described Abu-Usbah’s mission: “The terrorists hijacked two buses filled with tourists and sightseers, took them on a wild ride down the road toward Tel Aviv, shooting along the way at everyone in sight, and finally destroyed one bus in an orgy of fire and death.”
Lest anyone think the accolades accorded Abu-Usbah were merely a trip down memory lane for Fatah, the party still emphatically claims the right of “resistance”—code for killing Israelis, soldiers and civilians alike. “We stress that we have endorsed the path of peace and negotiations,” said Mr. Abbas to the congress. But “we also reserve our authentic right to legitimate resistance.”
An “Internal Order,” published on Fatah’s website, is clearer: “The armed popular revolution is the only inevitable way to the liberation of Palestine…The struggle will not end until the elimination of the Zionist entity.”
Palestinian leaders have long made an art of doublespeak. As Mohammed Dahlan, elected last week to Fatah’s chief governing committee, explained recently: “I lived with Chairman Yasser Arafat for years…Arafat would condemn [terror] operations by day while at night he would do honorable things.”