Following the Simchat Torah Massacre, prominent western leaders have expressed their support for Israel in its war against Hamas. American President Joe Biden, the Prime Ministers of Britain and Italy, and the Chancellor of Germany arrived in Israel to demonstrate their support for Israel in person. It is understood by all that Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization, much like ISIS and al-Qaeda, and that Israel, for its own survival, cannot make peace with its continued existence. However, alongside this show of support, Israel’s allies continue to insist that Hamas does not represent the larger Palestinian public, and they stress their continued commitment to the two-state solution.
In the thick of Israel’s unrelenting fight against Hamas, we are bearing witness to the restoration of the PA’s image and its return to center stage internationally. In a recent speech from the White House, President Biden stated that we must not give up on peace or the two-state solution. Additionally, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen and stressed his support for a Palestinian state. Italian Prime Minister Georgia Meloni similarly met with Abu Mazen in Cairo and declared the PA to be the “legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” It seems quite plausible to glean from these responses from the international community that after the battles end, there is a strong possibility that Israel will be forced to cope with a renewed wave of political pressure to advance a PLO state in the territories of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. We must not fall into this trap of accepting an oversimplified dichotomy of a “bad” Hamas and a “moderate” PA.
Despite the weak condemnations issued by Fatah—the dominant party within the PA— intended to pacify western bodies, the movement continues to incite their people to the murder of Israelis. As the Middle East Media Research Institute revealed, the Fatah Central Committee recently published a statement praising “the armies of heroism… protecting… the West Bank and Gaza,” and called for “escalating the conflict with the occupier.” On October 14, Abbas Zaki, a senior leader of the organization, in a joint interview with a Hamas leader for a Lebanese channel promised to “crush the skulls of the Jews,” and hoped to see similar attacks in Judea and Samaria. The Fatah Secretary in Lebanon, Fathi Abu al-Ardat, was amazed at the expressions of “Palestinian unity,” stressing that “our unshaken position is that all our weapons are directed at the Zionist enemy.”
These statements are no empty rhetoric or bravado meant to play to the Palestinian crowd. The PA allocates some $300 million a year for terrorists, “martyrs,” and their families. The PLO’s monetary support for terrorists goes so far as to amount to some seven percent of its budget, or more than a fifth of the international aid it receives. These payments are not limited to murderers affiliated with the PA and Fatah; they will likely also be sent to the perpetrators of the Simchat Torah Massacre and their families. The PA rewards terrorists in a variety of other ways, such as preferential hiring of released prisoners to official positions, and even the celebration of them as societal role models.
The PA wholeheartedly promotes and sanctifies ideological war against Zionism and the State of Israel. This mission is disseminated to the Palestinian public via the educational system, religious institutions, and its official media. According to the Palestinian narrative, which is shared across the Palestinian political spectrum, the Jews are not a nation, but rather a religious group which never at any point exercised rightful political sovereignty in Palestine.
The PLO Charter, which has never been amended, states that “the claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history or with the true basis of sound statehood. Judaism, because it is a divine religion, is not a nationality with independent existence. Furthermore, the Jews are not one people with an independent personality, because they are citizens of the countries to which they belong.” And if the founding doctrines of the PA are not to be trusted to convey their guiding—and inherently anti-semitic and anti-Zionist—ideals, there is plenty of present day proof of such views to be found out of the mouths of the PA’s current leadership. Just a month ago, Abu Mazen, at a speech at a Fatah conference, promoted a baseless theory that Ashkenazic Jews are actually descendants of a Turkish tribe which converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages. He also said that antisemitism, including the Nazi Holocaust, was a consequence of the Jews’ exploitative conduct, such as loaning money at interest.
Furthermore, the strongly stressed international preference to give Gaza on a silver platter to the PA ignores the circumstances which led to Hamas’ rise to power in the first place. When Israel evacuated the Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip, it handed the keys to power to the PA. As we know, in 2006, American President George W. Bush pushed for democratic elections within Gaza, which the PA held that year. Hamas—an acknowledged terrorist group—won the majority of votes, and in 2007, the rivalry between Fatah and Hamas escalated into a civil war. After a few weeks of struggle, Hamas succeeded in expelling the PA from the Strip, though not before throwing Fatah activists off of Gaza towers.
Since then, there has been no evidence that the popular support for Hamas’ reign over Gaza has decreased. In May 2021, Abu Mazen put off the holding of elections, the first announced in seventeen years, lest Hamas win once again. Israeli, Jordanian, and Egyptian security officials met with Abu Mazen to warn of a coming Hamas victory in the elections. Even in the most up to date polls from July 2023, most of those polled in Gaza, Judea, Samaria, and East Jerusalem expressed support for Hamas. Thus, there is no reason to think the PA will succeed in preventing Hamas or some other extremist group from taking over once again.
Hamas may only be one organization, but they reflect and express a worldview common to the larger Palestinian public. The participants in the Simchat Torah Massacre were not just “official” Hamas terrorists, but also a mass of Gazans who joined in on the wave of rioting and murder. Security footage from Kibbutz Be’eri shows Gazan citizens entering the kibbutz to loot and to burn its community. Many Israeli citizens were taken hostage by “ordinary” Gazans, and Senior Hamas leader Salah Arouri admitted to news network Al-Jazeera that Gazan citizens took an active role in the pogroms. A clear and terrifying example of this is the phone call of such a terrorist bragging to his parents on the phone about the ten Jews he personally killed. His parents, from the comfort of their home, blessed him in the name of Allah.
Even today, the IDF and security forces continue to fight Hamas in Judea and Samaria. The PA has not succeeded in preventing Hamas from building up its strength inside its territory. The little it does, under Israeli and international pressure, earns it fierce criticism among Palestinians. Large swathes of the Palestinian public view them as a collaborator of Israel, as well as a corrupt and tyrannical body. Indeed, the fate of the PA after 87-year-old Abu Mazen passes from the scene is not at all clear. There is no reason to believe that the PA will want or even be able to prevent a second coup launched by radical Islamist forces.
Three weeks ago, the People of Israel received a bloody reminder that its struggle to maintain and reside in a Jewish State within the Land of Israel is not over. We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that the murderous hatred of Israel is limited to Hamas alone. The PA is neither a partner for peace nor a competent moderating force. Instead, for decades its senior leaders and institutions have taught Palestinian youth to engage in “resistance,” and have incited terror attacks and rewarded their perpetrators. And in spite of all of this, the Palestinian public is sick of the PA. We should not expect it to fight even worse murderous extremist forces among it, even if it wished to do so.
We must not replace a Hamastan with a Fatahstan. Our continued existence in the country demands we erect an iron wall against all our enemies, rather than accepting them as a more preferable moderate option under international pressure.
The content of this article is a translated version of its initial Hebrew publication. it was first published in the hebrew version of Hashiloach Frontlines and is available on the Hebrew website here: https://hashiloach.org.il/fatahstan/
This article was translated from its original Hebrew form by Avi Woolf and edited by Gavriella Cohen.