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Fatah conference has "stormy" second day

Aug. 5, 2009 6:01 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 6, 2009 6:26 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Fatah delegates nearly came to blows Wednesday after participants in 18 different committees demanded information on the 20 years of Fatah activities and finances since the last conference in Tunis in 1989, and discovering that the Central Committee had prepared no reports for the conference.

Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was called into the meeting hall several times from side meetings he was conducting, to quell the arguments between members and the Central Committee. Finally Abbas told parties that his 46-page speech from the day before, which glossed the history of the movement including the 20 years since the last conference, would be the reference document to replace the non-existent report from the Central Committee.

Members accused Abbas of protecting members of the Central Committee from accusations that they had failed to do their jobs. Abbas said everyone will be punished for any mistakes they made and no one is being protected or sheltered, adding. Underlying the accusation was the notion that if the conference had been organized outside the West Bank a better conference could have been put together. To this Abbas answered, the “Fatah conference in the homeland is million times better than being held abroad.”

Fatah conference spokesman Nabil Amr called the second day of the meetings "stormy" in a news conference following the morning session.

Committees

The controversy arose as 18 committees charged with developing suggestions for policy around a myriad of issues began to meet Wednesday morning.

Tuesday night delegates had to decide whether they wanted to break down into committees and then discuss policy, or discuss policy and then breakdown into committees. Amr said disagreement erupted even around the order of events, but in the end “It was decided to form committees first, and then open general discussion.”

“Such heated arguments are not substantial,” he said, and explained that a spirit of agreement reigned at the conference proceedings. “Members have united against the outside forces that want the congress to fail,” Amr said.

Gaza Committee

One major committee has been charged with determining Fatah policy in Gaza, including how to deal with Fatah after the party has “broken the jar [i.e. passes all limits]” in banning the departure of Fatah delegates from Gaza to Bethlehem, Amr said.

Tuesday night Gazan leaders including Samir Mashharawi, put forward a suggestion on including Gazans in the Central Committee and Revolutionary Council elections and even said 30% of the seats on both bodies should be reserved for Gazans. Amr said the Gaza committee took note of the suggestion and would discuss the issue and make suggestions.

“The situation in Gaza will be of exceptional importance due to Hamas attitude and the difficulty to accept or refuse that Fatah delegates from Gaza absent,” he said.

The spokesman revealed that a special Fatah commissariat for Gaza might be recommended.

Conference may be extended

The controversy also prompted delegates to wonder how they could come up with suggestions and policy when little information on the activities of Fatah was compiled or even available to members. In his news conference Amr said the conference would not necessarily end on Thursday. He referred to president Abbas’ comment to the convened members: “Take your time to discuss whatever needs to be discussed.”

Remaining program

At the end of the conference proceedings Wednesday Fatah delegates elected Othman Abu Gharbiyya head of Fatah congress, and Sabri Saydam his deputy. The program for Thursday is as follows:

Morning session:

1- General discussion

2- Naming committee members

3- Each committee elects chair and two rapporteurs for the committee

The evening session:

1- General discussion continues

2- Committees continue discussions

3- Nomination for the Central Committee and Revolutionary Council as follows:

a- Distribution of nomination forms

b- Nominees fill their forms

c- Nominees’ names announced

d- Nomination closed

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