Middle East Studies

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Fatah and the Politics of Violence

The Institutionalization of a Popular Struggle

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The institutionalization of Fatah mirrors the evolution of the PLO and the Palestinian national cause generally. Understanding the factors that have influenced Fatah’s politics of violence, and its political path – and the balance between the two – help to explain the political history of the Middle East in recent decades. This book documents Fatah’s rise to prominence within the variegated Palestinian national movement through a detailed analysis of the organization’s evolution – from its inception in 1959, through the climactic institutional accomplishment of 1993 with the signing of the Oslo Accords, to the institutional regression that was marked by the eruption of the Intifada in 2000.

Fatah’s institutionalization is marked by alternating bases of the organization’s legitimacy: organizational, communal, and external. Transformations from one phase to another are distinguished by the shifts in relative importance assigned to the different sources of legitimacy, which in turn dictated different courses of action for the organization. Analyzed according to these concepts, Fatah’s dynamic evolution comprises phases characterized by oscillating shifts between a violent and political struggle, and between dominant sources of legitimacy. The study of Fatah’s institutionalization reveals an ongoing interplay of intra-organizational considerations, relations between the organization and its national constituency, and environmental opportunities and pressures.

Published in association with the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-032-3
Hardback Price: £49.50 / $69.50
Release Date: October 2005
Page Extent / Format: 000 pp. / 000 x 000 mm
Illustrated: No




The Institutional Analysis of Popular Struggles

Institutionalization and Legitimization
Organizations and Movements: An Institutional Distinction
Institutional Transformation

Fatah's Struggle for Institutionalization

The First Institutional Phase, 1959–1965: Regulative Formation

Blowing in the Wind: Palestinian Political Action in the 1950s
The Sinai Campaign of 1956
Establishing Regulative Legitimacy
Mobilization in Theory

The Second Institutional Phase, 1965–1967: Coming to the Surface

The Establishment of the PLO
Violent Mobilization in Practice
Regional Responses

The Third Institutional Phase, 1967–1968: Violent Mobilization in Action

The June 1967 War
Modes of Action
The First Stage: Struggle in the Territories
The Second Stage: A Stronghold in Jordan

The Fourth Institutional Phase, 1968–1970: Regulative Challenges, Political Opportunities

The Battle of Karamah and Regulative Reorganization
Taking Over the PLO
Losing the Jordanian Sanctuary

The Fifth Institutional Phase, 1971–1973: Reconstruction

Regulative Mobilization, Political Gains
Black September and Institutional Regression
Normative Compulsion
Politics of Violent Mobilization
The October 1973 War

The Sixth Institutional Phase, 1974–1982: Violent Lead, Political Backup

Institutional Pragmatism
Entrenchment in Lebanon
Political Backup
Further Entrenchment
The War of June–September 1982

The Seventh Institutional Phase, 1983–1987: Time Ou
Political Maneuvers, Violent Backup
Back to the Territories

The Eighth Institutional Phase, 1988–1993: Political Lead, Violent Backup

Politics of Violent Mobilization
Sidelining "the Inside" – I
Institutional Regression
Sidelining "the Inside" – II

Epilogue: New Setting, Old Dilemmas
The Post-Oslo Years
The PA's Institutional Regression
Politics of Violent Mobilization
The Challenge of Disengagement



Dr. Kurz’s analysis of the origins and evolutionary dynamics of the organizational change of the Palestinian Fatah is a unique contribution to both fields of political science and Middle Eastern politics. By virtue of proceeding beyond the descriptive and idiographic level of analysis, this book elucidates in a most compelling and impressive way the processes by which Fatah emerged as a significant actor on the Middle Eastern stage. These processes incorporated the gradual acquisition of intra-organizational, communal and international legitimacy.
Professor Abraham Ben-Zvi, Department of Government, Georgetown University, Washington DC; Department of Political Science, Tel Aviv University

Anat Kurz has written a unique book whose relevance goes beyond its empirical setting. She, among all other scholars, understands that popular fronts are not simply emotional and violent expressions from frustrated political ambitions. She understands that such movements cannot be dismissed and relegated to the periphery of the state or civil society. She understands that in order to confront such movements, in order to live with them, co-opt them, diffuse them, or integrate them, it behoves us to understand their organizational dynamics. Anat Kurz, and Anat Kurz alone, has brought organizational analysis to these 21st century issues. She has combined historical knowledge with political theory, organizational theory, and years of experience to create a book which stands alone in its importance in showing that popular movements are, if nothing else, organizational phenomena. This is an ingeniously clever volume.
Samuel B. Bacharach, McKelvey-Grant Professor of Labor-Management Relations; Director, Institute for Workplace Studies; Director, Smithers Institute, Cornell University

This is a welcome application of the analytical tools of social science – and of organizational theory more particularly – to explain the political and military behavior of the Palestinian national movement Fatah over nearly five decades. By focusing on Fatah’s institutional development, and by situating its fluctuation between violent and non-violent strategies in different phases within this analytical context, Kurz takes us beyond the emotive and Manichean terminology of ‘terrorism’ to a clearer, hence more useful, understanding of popular struggles and the courses they take.
Professor Yezid Sayigh, Chair in Middle East Studies, Department of War Studies, Kings College London

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