The 21st Century Phenomenon




Fatah Central Committee, of 23 members, is the executive leading committee of the Fatah movement. The committee is headed by the chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who has the privilege to personally nominate 4 other members. The rest 18 seats were elected in the Fatah convention in Bethlehem, on Tuesday 08/11/2009.

Despite concern and skepticism (including in this website) the Bethlehem Convention resulted in a major earth shake in the Fatah movement and on the nature of the Palestinian issue.

From the 18 elected members only one, Mohammed Dahlan, who is living in Cairo, Egypt, since the Hamas took over Gaza Strip in summer 2007, represents the Gaza Strip although the number of Palestinians in Gaza is equal to those in the West Bank.

Only two of the new elected committee members do not live, at least partially, in the West Bank or do not have property and economic interests in the West Bank: the hardliner Muhammad Ghneim, 71, who came from Tunisia and was elected to the top of the list and as no 2 in the Central Committee (see – Step Backwards) and Col. Sultan Abu al-Einen from the Palestinian refugee camp Ain al-Hilweh, in Southern Lebanon, who is also the only genuine representative of the Palestinian refugees Diaspora.


The other newly elected are: Marwan Barghouti, the 50-year-old member, now jailed by Israel and seen as a likely future president; Jibril Rajoub, 56, a former security chief in the West Bank; Tawfiq Tirawi, the former head of the Palestinian General Intelligence; Hussain a-Sheikh, in charge on the coordination with Israel; Azzam al-Ahmed, 62, Fatah’s leader in the Palestinian parliament; Mahmoud Aloul from Jenin who was released from Israeli jail just a month ago; Naser al-Kidwa, the nephew of Yasser Arafat, originally from Gaza but is living nowadays in Ramallah; Othman Abu Gharbiyeh, 63, chairman of Fatah’s sixth General Assembly (the Bethlehem Convention) from East Jerusalem; Mohammed al-Madani former Bethlehem governor; Jamal Muheisen – Nablus governor and  Mohammad Shtayyeh Minister for Housing and Public works from Nablus.  

Re elected: Abbas Zaki, a long-serving Central Committee member from Hebron Area; Nabil Shaath, 71, Veteran Fatah official from the old guard and negotiator. He lives in the West Bank since 1995; Saib Arikat, the chief Palestinian negotiator from Jericho; Salim Zanoun, 78, a Jordan-based Fatah founder with economic interests in the West Bank and Tayeb Abdelrahim, the secretary of the Palestinian Authority. Tayeb Abdelrahim lives in Ramallah and belongs to the Fatah old guard.  


According to Jibril Rajoub, the outcome represents a break from the movement’s previous leaders, many of them in their 70s. “This is a coup against a leadership that had monopolized the movement for a long time without even presenting a report about its work,” he stated.


The Fatah congress, the first in 20 years, was originally scheduled to last three days but dragged into its eighth day.


The Fatah always put the Palestinian Diaspora and the “Right of Return” in the epicenter of the Palestinian struggle. The convention resulted in the raise of the Palestinian West Bank as the epicenter of the Palestinian problem with a particular identity and interest on expense of the representation either from Gaza or the Palestinian Diaspora.


The Fatah convention reflected the loss of interest of the Palestinians in the West Bank in Gaza Strip and deepens the gape between the two factions in which each faction is heading in another direction. Gaza is heading toward Islamic radicalization and the West Bank toward international legitimacy (see – Gaza-Drift ).



The make up of the new Central committee suggests the “Right of Return”, so far interpreted as the right to return into Israel to the villages they allegedly were forced to leave in 1948, might be redefined as the right to return to the Palestinian state. The obvious massage from the convention is loud and clear – “West Bank First”     


The question whether it is a new beginning for the Fatah or a rearguard battle with the Hamas over the Palestinian society – remains open. 


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