Fatah (the dominant faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization) derived its doctrine from the authoritarian secular Arab Nationalist tradition of the 1950s-60s era of Nasserism in Egypt and Ba’thism in Iraq and Syria.

Even though it won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, Hamas is an offshoot of the authoritarian Islamist tradition, as is the smaller Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

There are also movements such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a hybrid Arab Nationalist and Marxist-Leninist group) and the Democratic Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a more purely Marxist-Leninist group).

There has not, however, been a powerful liberal democratic Palestinian movement similar to those that emerged in Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War and the so-called “color revolutions” that arose in several former Soviet republics in subsequent years, or even the democratic movements that played an important role in the initial phases of the Arab “spring” uprisings of 2011.


A strong liberal democratic Palestinian movement, though, would undoubtedly get much more sympathy and support in the West than either the murderous Hamas or the corrupt and ineffectual Fatah.

Perhaps, though, the creation of a truly democratic Palestinian movement is something that could prove especially inconvenient to those in Israel and among its Western supporters who continue to resist the formation of any sort of Palestinian state.

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It is the many flaws within Fatah and the unwillingness of Hamas to compromise that has given Israel its justification for not having a realistic “partner” to make peace with. There would be little reasonable defense for continuing to avoid a “two-state agreement” with a truly liberal democratic Palestinian movement.

But it is not just hardline Israelis or their supporters in the West that could be threatened by the establishment of a democratic Palestinian movement. Authoritarian governments throughout the Middle East, both pro or anti-Western, would fear that this democratic Palestinian movement could inspire similar movements in their own countries.


Traditionally pro-Western regimes in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and elsewhere along with anti-Western ones in Iran and Syria are all united in their opposition to “real” democracy.

Even Western democratic governments would fear how the rise of a democratic Palestinian movement, let alone a democratic Palestine, might impact the relative stability of the authoritarian Middle Eastern order which they have supported for decades.

Similarly, authoritarian Islamist opposition movements do not want to face competition from powerful democratic movements in Palestine or other Muslim countries.

Both Russia and China would also fear such a movement and how this might inspire democratic opposition movements and attract Western support among their own populations.

It is highly unfortunate that a liberal democratic Palestinian movement has not developed - or been allowed to develop - since it would offer great advantages to Palestinians as well as appeal to democrats in the West and elsewhere.

As we can see, there are undoubtedly numerous reasons why it has not occurred and has been resisted by those who would see a stable Palestinian state as a threat to their own stability and interests.


In short: the rise of a liberal democratic Palestinian movement would be highly inconvenient for the many vested interests opposed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and/or to the rise of democracy in the Middle East more broadly.

Should a democratic Palestinian movement ever arise, there will be many parties that will either not support it or even act to suppress it. That authoritarian actors both inside and outside the Middle East would do so is to be expected. That democratic actors would do so is just as likely and, tragically, even more misguided.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

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Comments ( 1)

Robert Honeyman
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The foundation of a liberal movement might have been found in the technocratic sector amongst civil servants dedicated to improving infrastructure such as water and sewage systems, as well as cross-border cooperation. Sadly, Fatah saw - and its supporters - saw anyone competent and willing to work with Israelis as either a political threat or a traitor.

The result is a stagnant political class that is not overly concerned with things such as the recent lynching of people accused of - buy never tried for - "collaboration." This may have as much to do with the lingering non-leadership of the aging Abbas and his cohorts of kleptocrats. There is more money to be made siphoning off aid money that actually running a functional civil structure.