By Ido Zelkovitz (Ph.D. candidate, Haifa University)
Reviewed by Colonel Norvell B. DeAtkine
In this article from the Middle East Quarterly, Zelkovitz convincingly argues that FATAH has evolved from simply an armed nationalist organization to one that has absorbed Islamist beliefs. He also correctly describes Western leaders as simplistic when they regard FATAH as a secular bulwark against the Islamist ideology of HAMAS. In addition, his research implies that with religion now embedded in the Palestinian issue, the peace process becomes vastly more complicated.
The Palestinian struggle has long been seen, rightly or wrongly, as a nationalist struggle between a mostly secular Zionist movement and an Arab nationalist, and later Palestinian, nationalist movement, a view much too simplistic from the beginning. As a graduate student at the American University of Beirut in the late sixties, I observed the growth of the Palestinian movement following the mythical 1968 Palestinian victory of Karamah, when Israelis launched an attack across the Jordan River and were mauled by mostly Jordanian forces. Though subdued, the religious aspect was always there. Looking at Arafat's speeches to the Arabs and Palestinians at the time, I found them heavily laced with Islamic verbiage and symbology.
Despite FATAH's few Christian Arab members, Christians were much more likely to join the Christian-led Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine or the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Both...