‘Fatah to the bone’: Who is Palestinian official Nasser al-Qudwa ?

Al-Jazeera  /  March 30, 2021

The dismissal of Nasser al-Qudwa highlights political divisions within the Palestinian party Fatah in upcoming elections.

Senior Palestinian official and diplomat Nasser al-Qudwa was sacked from the Fatah political party after his surprise announcement to run a separate list from Fatah in the May 22 legislative elections.

His dismissal on March 11 came after a statement issued by Fatah’s Central Committee said it took the decision “in order to preserve the unity of the movement”. The statement also said the ultimatum given to Al-Qudwa to retract his intention to run in his new National Democratic Forum list had expired.

For his part, the senior official and diplomat responded by saying: “The decision taken by an influential party in the Central Committee raises concern and pity over the state of affairs in the movement, as it does not respect the internal order or the political logic.”

Al-Qudwa also stressed he will remain “Fatah to the bone” and that he will remain invested in “the interests of Fatah”.

He also backed Marwan Barghouthi, a Fatah leader currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison, for president in the July 31 presidential election.

The saga, which reflects the political divisions within Fatah and outdated agenda to the younger Palestinian population as a whole, comes 15 years since the last legislative elections, which rival movement Hamas won with a comfortable majority.

Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has made it clear the party will run as one unified list, amid fears that votes will be diverted to Hamas, which has already announced it will run as one unified list.

A few days after his sacking, Al-Qudwa called for Fatah leaders to stand against the 85-year-old Abbas, whose presidential term formally ended in 2009 but has been effectively governing by decree ever since.

“I think a lot of the Palestinians want to change as they believe it is the time to choose a new track for hope,” he said.

Who is Nasser al-Qudwa?

Al-Qudwa, the nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was born in April 1953 in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

He received a degree in dentistry from Cairo University in 1979, and spent the following years (1980-86) as the head of the General Union of Palestine Students in Egypt.

Al-Qudwa has been affiliated with the Fatah movement since 1969, and held many positions within the movement and later, the PA upon its establishment in 1995. He was appointed as a member of the Palestinian National Council in 1975, and in 1989, he was elected to the Fatah Revolutionary Council.

In 2009, he was elected as a member of the Central Committee – the highest leading body of the movement – up until his dismissal in March 2021.

Al-Qudwa represented the PLO as well as Palestine at the UN from 1991 to 2005 and was appointed foreign minister during 2005-06 and the head of the Palestinian delegation before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

He chairs the board of directors of the Yasser Arafat Foundation since 2007.

In 2012, he was appointed as a joint envoy of the UN and the Arab League on the Syrian issue for two years. In 2014, he was appointed as an envoy of the secretary-general of the League of Arab States on Libya until 2015.

Al-Qudwa became the second political leader of Fatah from the Gaza Strip to be dismissed from the party.

Mohammed Dahlan, Abbas’s rival, was suspended from Fatah in 2011 following allegations of carrying out a coup against the Palestinian Authority as well as embezzlement. He was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to two years in prison, and has been banned by Fatah’s Central Committee from running for president.