What is Tanzim?

Fatah or al-Fatah is an acronym which stands for Harakat Al-Tahrir Al-Watani Al-Falastini (the Movement for the National Liberation of Palestine). This was a group which was originated after a meeting of some twenty Palestinians in Kuwait on October 10, 1959 by the chairman of Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat. The Tanzim was setup as a quasi-military force to shake the growing authority of the Palestinian Islamist groups. Part of the motivation to establish the Tanzim came to Fatah after some incidents leading to armed confrontation between the opposition groups. One such incident occurred in November of 1994 where 13 civilians were killed in a showdown between Hamas in Gaza and PA security forces.

The Tanzim is seen to have grown steadily in popularity on the Palestinian political scene and has shown great influence over it since its founding. The organization is separate from PA but works as its subordinate and is seen as a popular, grass roots movement. Serving as a counterweight to the Islamists, the Tanzim channels the passion of Palestinians on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.


The Tanzim acts as a counterweight not only to the military might of Hamas but also to that of the Palestinian security forces. The Tanzim is an “insider” organization working for the common Palestinian as opposed to the “outsiders”, the PLO officials, who are engaged in gaining their personal interests rather than the Palestinian cause.


The Tanzim sticks to the Palestinian nationalist ideology as a part of Fatah and considers their leader Arafat as embodying the Palestinian struggle. The difference lies in the fact that the Tanzim is a grass-root organization working against what many Palestinians see as a corrupt leadership. The Tanzim members see themselves as guardians of the future of Palestine and are known to live on the ideology of self-sufficiency. They motivate the youth to take part in nationalistic movements and in political activities as Tanzim sees the youth as prospective reformers.


The basic structure of the Tanzim is divided into geographical structures and subdivided into cells. Every neighborhood is further divided into branches apart from the headquarters. The Tanzim claims to have a membership going in tens of thousands of Palestinian men of ages ranging from 20 to 35. The day-to-day activities of the Tanzim are financially supported by Palestinian Authority.


Senior leaders of the Tanzim used to be selected by Arafat personally; however, the members received orders from their commanders instead of Arafat or other officials of PA. This way, Arafat could maintain that he is not related to the activities of the organization although it is a common knowledge that he maintained links with commanders, finances the organization and employed its members in confrontations with Israelis. Most of the leaders of the Tanzim are “graduates of Intifida” and has served years in Israeli prisons. Marwan Barghouti is one of the top leaders of the Tanzim and has remained the secretary general of Fatah in the West Bank.


Being the largest faction of Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Tanzim has significantly taken part in clashes and demonstrations with Israeli Security forces. The organization was among the leading parties who participated in the demonstrations which are cited by Israel as the cause of the failure of peace talks, when it reached a dead end in October 2000. Other prominent roles which the Tanzim played was in the Nakba riots of May 2000, the Tunnel riots of September 1996 and in the activities of Al-Aqsa Intifada where the organization took up bombings, armed roles and worked with Palestinian policemen. Thus, Tanzim has proved a great Palestinians force to confront Israel and initiate attack without the risk of any political backlash.

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