Reporter's Notebook: Attending the Fatah Congress

Nikolay Mlandenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said: “Fatah is Palestine’s democracy” and “the mother of the masses for all Palestinians.”

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November 30, 2016 23:47
2 minute read.
PARTICIPANTS CLAP and cheer before a speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during

PARTICIPANTS CLAP and cheer before a speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during the Fatah Congress in Ramallah. (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)

 
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I arrived at the Mukata, the PA presidential headquarters, at 2 p.m. on Tuesday to attend the opening session of the 7th Fatah General Congress, a major meeting of the top Fatah leadership, where PA President Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to deliver a very important speech.

At the entrance, security confiscated my cellphone, but allowed me to take my laptop.

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I then passed through a medal detector and was directed to a press room, where the Mahmoud Abu Haija, the official spokesman of the Fatah Congress, had just delivered remarks and answered a handful of questions.

Following the press conference, some 80 Palestinian, Israeli, and international journalists attending the congress gathered in an adjacent room, where we waited for three hours ahead of Abbas’s highly anticipated speech. Congress organizers told us that we have to remain in the room and cannot speak to the hundreds of delegates standing outside.

Just before 6 p.m., organizers came into the press room and welcomed journalists to enter the main hall and stand on a stage in the back. Top Palestinian officials and personalities poured in through the various entrances, but immediately walked to the front of the congress hall. When I tried to walk to the front, security barred me and directed me back to the stage.

Shortly thereafter, everyone found their seats and Abbas entered the congress hall followed by interesting, but not necessarily newsworthy speeches by various officials from around the world. Most of the speakers offered words of praise for Fatah and Abbas and wished delegates a successful congress.

Nikolay Mlandenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said: “Fatah is Palestine’s democracy” and “the mother of the masses for all Palestinians.”



Approximately two hours into the speeches, the congress president Abdullah Franji made a surprising announcement: “We are enjoying these speeches and we feel that the whole world is standing with us... and because we want to give the opportunity to the greatest number of speakers possible today, President Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen,...decided he will deliver [his speech] to us tomorrow.”

Immediately, many delegates and journalists made their way to the exit. After waiting for six hours, I had hoped to hear what Abbas had to say and what topics he might address.

“I’m sorry, but you will have to return tomorrow at 7 p.m.,” a congress organizer told me.

Outside the congress hall, hundreds of delegates had gathered, smoking cigarettes and chatting in small circles. I figured that I could now seek comment from some of the congress delegates. I approached Uri Davis who is a member of the Revolutionary Council, Fatah’s second most authoritative body. Davis answered some questions I had about what he hopes to see accomplished at the congress.

I also approached a top PA official and minister and asked for comment, but he declined.

“You can ask, but I won’t answer,” the official said.

On the way out, I retrieved my phone and left with some colleagues to a local restaurant.

After hours of waiting and little material to write a story, we all decided to at least satisfy our hunger.

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