Opinion

America must put Fatah on its list of terror groups

Even the party’s own officials admit that the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is its “military arm.”

Armed members of the Palestinian Fatah movement in the West Bank city of Nablus, July 27, 2020. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Armed members of the Palestinian Fatah movement in the West Bank city of Nablus, July 27, 2020. Photo by Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

Imagine if the ruling party of any country announced that it had begun carrying out terrorist attacks. Imagine the shock and horror if the U.K. Conservative Party, Canada’s Liberal Party or the U.S. Democratic Party made such a declaration. Yet that is exactly what Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, just did—and the international community is silent.

After the killing of an IDF officer near the city of Jenin in Judea/Samaria on Sept. 14, the official Fatah Facebook page featured a video praising the murder. A translation by Palestinian Media Watch states that the video referred to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades organization as Fatah’s “military arm.” It further declared that Fatah “takes responsibility for the operations of its military arm” and that the Brigades “is officially announcing” that it will be carrying out additional “operations.”

Nobody had ever heard of the Brigades until the autumn of 2000, when the Palestinian Arabs launched what they called the Second Intifada. That campaign of terrorism was led by what was described by the media as a “new” group called the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

But it was obvious that a terrorist group couldn’t spring up fully formed overnight, with an entire network of highly trained bombers and shooters already in place. And it didn’t. The Brigades was a front group constructed by Fatah in order to continue the violence the party had promised, in the Oslo Accords, to give up.

The most notorious of the attacks by the Brigades was a January 2002 assault on a bat mitzvah celebration in Hadera that killed six and wounded 33; a March 2002 suicide bombing in front of Jerusalem’s Yeshivat Beit Yisrael that killed 11 (including two infants) and wounded more than 50; and a suicide bombing at the Tel Aviv central bus station in January 2003 that killed 23 and wounded more than 100.

In March 2002, the U.S. State Department added the Brigades to the official U.S. list of terror groups, but refused to acknowledge that the organization was a front group for Fatah. The reason was strictly political—admitting that Fatah is a terrorist movement would have made it impossible for the U.S. to keep giving money to the P.A.

Yet over the years, the evidence that the Brigades is part of Fatah has mounted. In Nov. 2003, a team of investigative journalists from the BBC revealed that Fatah allocated $50,000 a month to the Brigades. A June 2005 study by the U.S. government’s own Congressional Research Service reported: “On Dec. 18, 2003, Fatah asked the leaders of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades to join the Fatah Council, recognizing it officially as part of the Fatah organization.”

Palestinian leaders themselves have sometimes admitted the truth. In June 2004, then-P.A. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei declared in an interview with the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, “We have clearly declared that the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are part of Fatah. We are committed to them and Fatah bears full responsibility for the group.”

Some in the media remain in denial. Articles in The New York Times, for example, have described the Brigades as “an armed group loosely linked to Fatah.” But others in the media don’t resort to such slippery language. The official BBC News profile of the Brigades states, “The Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades is an armed Palestinian group associated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization.” National Public Radio has described the group as “Fatah’s armed militant wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.”

Moreover, a Council on Foreign Relations report on the Brigades found that it is “aligned with Fatah” and “affiliated with former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction.”

This week’s proclamation on the Fatah Facebook page hammers the final nail in the coffin of the myth of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. No reasonable person can pretend that the Brigades is separate from Fatah any longer. The truth has been revealed by Fatah itself. It is now time for the Biden administration to take the next step and put Fatah on the official U.S. list of terrorist groups.

Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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