Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Fatah’s “Palestinian Hebrew” Councilman
The elections for Fatah’s sixth conference, which just ended in Bethlehem, had an unusual first: their first Jewish Israeli member elected to the 120-member Revolutionary Council. Uri Davis, an Israeli citizen living in the West Bank, has been a member of Fatah for 25 years.
Here are some excerpts from Reuters correspondent Ali Sawafta’s article on new council member Uri Davis for Reuters Arabic-language service:
Uri Davis, who calls himself a “Palestinian Hebrew”, joined the Fatah movement in 1984, and told Reuters he plans to work in the Council’s committee for foreign relations.
“I am of Jewish descent, and was born in Jerusalem in 1943 before the establishment of the racist State of Israel. I oppose Zionism.”
Davis hopes to work towards restoring Fatah’s relations with foreign volunteers who worked with Fatah over the years to fight Israeli occupation.
“I spoke at the sixth conference and said there are hundreds of non-Palestinians who served Fatah and there are thousands who volunteered in all parts of the resistance and the International Solidarity Movement. They worked to defend the rights of the Palestinians, educationally and socially, politically and even militarily. But these reserves have returned to their countries. In the past years Fatah has neglected to connect with them.”
Davis, who lives in Ramallah with his Palestinian wife, is currently a lecturer at Al-Quds University, and was a friend of the late Yasser Arafat, and used to frequent the Palestinian leader’s headquarters.
Davis is one of the 81 members just elected to the Revolutionary Council (the rest will be appointed by the president.) The election results were considered promising for reformists, as 70 of those elected were new faces, including 11 women.
Many believe that members of Fatah movement, which has the support of the West, will be in a better position to seek reconciliation with the Islamic Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, and to restore of a degree of unity among Palestinians.
“The movement will come out of this conference more powerful and united,” said Davis. “Some believed that the conference would lead to a split in the movement, but Abu Mazen (PA and Fatah president Mahmoud Abbas) succeeded in choosing the right time and place. It was a brave decision.”
In an interview with Reuters, Davis said that there may be more Jewish Israelis who would participate in Fatah in the future. It used to be illegal, he says, but since the mutual recognition between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization under the Oslo Accords, it is now permissible. He hopes to be the first of a more substantial presence in future Fatah conferences,, which could be similar to “the small minority of white members in the ANC when South Africa was an apartheid state” .
Check out the clips from our interview with Davis above, where he discusses his personal background and his political stance on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
You can learn more about Uri Davis and his political and academic work at his website.