Nasser al Qudwa was discarded from Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah, and has now become serious player in the opposition.
When the date for legislative elections were announced in Palestine for May 22, one Fatah member’s bold criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas caused a stir within the party. Nasser al Qudwa not only challenged the leadership’s politics, but also announced that he’d run in the election through a separate list.
Qudwa had already announced that he would support the jailed Fatah figure, Marwan Barghouti, should he run for the presidential elections on 31 July - this would make him a competitor to Abbas.
Then Fatah, led by Abbas, kicked him out of the party. Qudwa not only caused discomfort within the party, but reopened old wounds.
Qudwa’s late uncle, Yasser Arafat, founded Fatah and was the iconic first leader of the Palestinian people on the global stage. Abbas and Arafat had serious disagreements, the former becoming disgruntled that Arafat refused to hand him control of Palestinian security forces when he appointed him as the Prime Minister. He resigned in response. After Arafat’s death in 2004, Abbas was nominated as leader and has kept the position since.
Even after he was sacked, Qudwa says he’s still Fatah to the core, but insists that it’s time for change. The 85-year-old Abbas’s term formally expired in 2009, but he kept governing the Palestinian Authority (PA) by decree for 12 years.
“For my part, I remain a faithful member of Fatah and this step will not change that. As always, I remain committed to the interests of Fatah, but more importantly, I am committed to the national interest and shall work towards advancing our cause,” Qudwa said in a statement following his expulsion.
He says Palestinians want change as they believe it is time to choose a new track for hope.
Then UN diplomat, now challenger to Abbas
Qudwa, 67, was born in southern Gaza’s Khan Younis. He studied dentistry in Cairo and became the head of the General Union of Palestine Students in Egypt for six years after his graduation in 1979.
Qudwa’s ties to Fatah date back to 1969. He held varying positions within the movement and the Palestinian Authority that was founded in 1995.
He was appointed a member of the Palestinian National Council in 1975, and elected to the Fatah Revolutionary Council four years after.
He finally became a member of the Central Committee, the faction’s highest decision-making body in 2009, until he was sacked in March 2021.
He’s now a strong challenger to Abbas, not only because of his family ties, but also for his foreign experience that earned him the reputation of being an effective diplomat.
Arafat appointed Qudwa as the permanent representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to the United Nations, where he later worked as the PA’s envoy between 1991 and 2005.
At the UN, he made a successful case against Israel’s separation wall at the International Court of Justice, leading it to be deemed illegal, and ran as a UN peace envoy to Syria among other high-level diplomatic positions.
In between, he shortly served as the foreign minister between 2005 and 2006 and has been leading the board of directors of the Yasser Arafat Foundation since 2007.
He’s the second leader from Gaza who was sacked from Fatah after Mohammed Dahlan, a controversial figure in exile who faces legal trouble in Palestine and Turkey.