What is Fatah?

On October 10, 1959, a group of about twenty Palestinians met in Kuwait and secretly formed Fatah (or al-Fatah, which is an acronym standing for Harakat Al-Tahrir Al-Watani Al-Filastini – the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine), an organization that became the principle component of the Palestine Liberation Organization under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. The actual date of founding is controversial; sources give various dates in the 1950s or early sixties.
Backed by Syria, Fatah began carrying out terrorist raids against Israeli targets in 1965, launched from Jordan, Lebanon and Egyptian-occupied Gaza (so as not to draw reprisals against Syria). Dozens of raids were carried out each year, exclusively against civilian targets. Fatah's original Covenant called for the destruction of pre-1967 Israel and disavowed interest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- then held by Jordan and Egypt respectively. Only in 1968, in the aftermath of the Six Day War, the PLO altered the Covenant to demand the establishment of a Palestinian State on the entire territory of the Land of Israel. Thus, Fatah and the PLO was built around the refugees of 1948-49, and, more than a generation later, these refugees still constitute the core of the organizations' leadership and support cadres. Fatah was originally opposed to the founding of the PLO, which it viewed as a political opponent. Fatah's popularity among Palestinians grew until it took control of the PLO in 1968. Since then it has been the PLO's most prominent faction, under the direct control of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. As part of a strategy to gain mainstream recognition, PLO Chairman Arafat publicly renounced terrorism in December 1988 on behalf of the PLO. The United States considers that all PLO groups, including al-Fatah, Tanzim, Force 17, Hawari Group, PLF, and PFLP, are bound by Arafat's renunciation of terrorism. The facts contradict the speeches, however, and PLO-supported terrorism against Israel continued through the 1990s and accelerated after the start of the al-Aqsa intifada in 2000, during which senior Fatah officials were found to be cooperating closely with Islamic militants in directing the violence. The Tanzim, the military arm of Fatah party, funded by the Palestinian Authority, has played a leading role in Palestinian violence, including regularly carrying out ambushes and shootings of Israeli vehicles and facilities.

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