Freed Fatah member wants reforms

Husam Khader: "We don't want another Arab dictatorship here. We have suffered a lot."

September 1, 2008 00:19
Freed Fatah member wants reforms

Khader 224.88. (photo credit: Steffan Jensen )

A large banner at the entrance to Husam Khader's three-story home here reads: The occupation and corruption are two faces to the same coin. This slogan sums up the story of Khader, a young Fatah member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who was released from an Israeli prison last week along with 197 other security prisoners. Prior to his arrest by the IDF in 2002, Khader was an outspoken critic of financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority. His recurring attacks on Yasser Arafat and the veteran Fatah leadership earned him many enemies over the years. Khader is even convinced that his arrest by the IDF was part of a plot by senior Fatah security officials to get rid of him. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being found guilty of financing and directing armed Fatah cells in Nablus. But the threats by Arafat and the subsequent arrest by the IDF have not stopped the young Fatah leader from pledging to pursue his campaign against the "corrupt people" in Fatah. Almost immediately after his release, Khader started holding meetings with scores of Fatah members in the northern West Bank to discuss ways of reforming the faction. Thousands of supporters have flocked to Khader's home here to congratulate him over the past week, turning him into a local hero. His posters are now hanging in almost every corner of the camp, as well as many places in Nablus. Khader's release is almost certain to retrigger the power struggle between the young guard and the old guard in Fatah. His continued attacks on the veteran Fatah leadership in Ramallah have embarrassed many senior officials in the mukata presidential compound. Yet Khader's statements are not falling on deaf ears. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, he said that most of those who visited him in the past week agreed with him about the urgent need to reform Fatah and rid it of all the corrupt figures. "I'm more determined now that the occupation should leave and that we should establish a democratic state," he said. "We don't want another Arab dictatorship here. We have suffered a lot." He also criticized Hamas for failing to deliver and endorse pragmatic policies after the movement won the 2006 parliamentary vote. "Hamas missed an historic opportunity and failed, exactly as Fatah did before," he said. "If we read our history, we will see that our leaders have always failed us. Our leaders have always led us to the abyss." Asked if he thought that Fatah had changed since he entered prison six years ago, Khader said: "When I was arrested it was a very difficult situation because of the curfew and the closure. Now it's more difficult for me and I feel I should carry two letters: one against the Israeli occupation and the other against corruption. We must start rebuilding Fatah from the beginning. "I started to connect with the good leaders in Fatah and the practical local leaders in the area. Thousands of them came to my house to say hello and we talked about that," he said. "All the Fatah members and elements have their own criticism against the traditional leaders. We have to rebuild Fatah, because I believe that Fatah is the best Palestinian movement through which we can achieve our goals. Fatah is a pragmatic movement and all the Palestinians accept it as a leader." Asked to explain the failure of Fatah in the 2006 election, he added: "I welcomed Hamas's participation in that election. I talked about the era in which Hamas would lead the Palestinians. I was hoping that Hamas would bring the Palestinian people the change and good things they promised. "But Hamas is facing many difficulties. Its own ideology has made it difficult for the people and the rest of the world to deal with it. Fatah still has the possibility and ability to achieve the aims of the Palestinians. I hope there will be a united government in which all factions would participate." Khader said that thousands of Fatah members have fled from Fatah "because of the corruption and the traditional mentality of the Fatah leaders and because they ignore democratic aspects and democratic needs to heal Fatah as we wish." He complained that the old guard Fatah leaders were continuing with their attempts to block the emergence of a new leadership. "Our traditional leaders still don't accept the young generation," he said. "They have blocked all the ways in front of us and they have even broken the ladders to prevent us from rising. Our generation participated in four or five uprisings and we the young people brought a new type of political action and we made our people live in dignity even while under occupation." The Fatah legislator expressed hope that the long-awaited sixth conference of Fatah would bring about some changes in the faction. "We are facing a very difficult problem with Fatah," Khader added. "But I believe that if we succeed in convening the sixth conference of Fatah there will be a real change and there will be a new Fatah and new leaders will lead the Palestinians." Vowing to lead a campaign against corruption in the PA, Khader expressed fear that corruption already had deep roots "in all aspects of life in Palestine." Before, he went on to say, "We had a person here or there who acted in a corrupt way. Now corruption has become institutionalized. It's become part of our culture. Today it's worse than before. We are the only people in the world who are marching backward. "There is a separation between the body and the head. The body is the people who believe in Palestine and who are ready to make sacrifices. But most of our leaders are harvesting the benefits. The world is turning a blind eye and is continuing to support the corrupt people." Khader also warned that unless Fatah reformed itself and got rid of all the icons of corruption, Hamas would take over the West Bank. "Hamas will take over through elections," he said. "From the beginning the West in general supported the corrupt people and the corruption. At that time they wanted us to be just bodyguards protecting Israel. They have been pouring money on these guys without holding them accountable. Millions went directly to their bank accounts." Khader predicted that the power struggle within Fatah was headed toward escalation. "It's possible that we are headed toward a conflict inside Fatah, especially if they continue to ignore our calls to reform Fatah and put an end to corruption and jail the corrupt people," he said. "Unless we do all this, Hamas will continue to increase its popularity and then we will reach a critical point."

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