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Update – 5 August 2009

Dear All,

Yesterday Fatah held its first congress since 1989 in Bethlehem. Members of Fatah from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and even Tunisia were given permission to enter into the West Bank, following a list submitted to the Israel government. Some with links to terrorist activity (such as one linked to Hezbollah and another involved in the murder of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics in 1972) were denied entry (see more). Meanwhile, members of Fatah who live in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip were threatened with prosecution if they left the Strip. We all know what members of Hamas are capable of doing when it comes to its rival Fatah (see more).

Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah’s chairman, declared that the Palestinians must not “mar their legitimate struggle with terror”, in a speech that was just as much directed towards the Western world, who favour Fatah over Hamas in leading the Palestinians, as it was to the congress itself (see more).

He declared, “While we stress that we have endorsed the path of peace and negotiations on the basis of international legitimacy, we also reserve our authentic right to legitimate resistance as guaranteed by international law”.

Interestingly, while Abbas tried to emphasize that the Palestinians rejected “all forms of terrorism”, other high-level officials in Fatah advocated that an “armed struggle” against Israel could not be dropped from their platform. Jerusalem Post quotes Nabil Amr, the PA ambassador to Egypt, who defended the calls for sticking to armed resistance as a “legitimate right”. The article then states, ‘but he added that when the Palestinians talked about resistance, they were not necessarily referring to violence’ (see more). Sure Mr. Amr, there is nothing violent about advocating armed resistance.

If you rely on receiving international news from our local newspapers then you would have read about the Fatah congress only in today’s Australian in an article entitled ‘Abbas urges a new direction for Fatah’. The article makes references to the problems facing the Palestinian leadership, which has been massively divided following Hamas’ win in the 2006 legislative elections and their bloody takeover of Gaza in 2007. It also exposes the corruption that has plagued Fatah for many years and has threatened their influence over the general population. Apparently, the editors at the Age didn’t find this to be of interest to its readers.

A more worrying story has not made its way online on the Age this morning is one about Hezbollah’s latest round of threats to fire rockets onto Tel Aviv. In an article that appeared at 9:30am this morning on The Australian website entitled ‘Hezbollah threat to rain rockets on Tel Aviv’, the claim is made that ‘according to Israel, United Nations and Hezbollah officials, the Shia Muslim militia is stronger than it was in 2006.’ The group now has up to 40,000 rockets and their missiles are capable of hitting Tel Aviv.

Last month an explosion in southern Lebanon seemed to expose the massive build-up of weapons that Hezbollah is stock-piling. Surveillance footage has now been obtained and shows Hezbollah men trying to salvage rockets and other munitions from the blast and retreating to underground bunkers (see more). This build up of weapons and the threat of an attack which could reach as far as the streets of Tel Aviv shows that the situation could “explode at any minute” according to Brigadier-General Alon Friedman, the deputy head of the Israeli Northern Command. It is also in clear violation of UN Resolution 1701, which was put in place after the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and, inter alia, forbids armed groups, foreign or domestic in Lebanon and establishes an embargo of weapons to Lebanese groups other than the government (and enforced by the 15,000 UNIFIL troops). It also bans Hezbollah from returning to southern Lebanon.

If this story does make its way into the Age tomorrow, it’s a better than even money bet that Hezbollah will be painted as a boy scout group rather than as a proscribed terrorist organisation that threatens neighbours with indiscriminate bombing attacks directed at civilian populations.

Best wishes,

Emily Chrapot
Israel Advocacy Analyst
Zionist Council of Victoria
9272 5507