Fatah is generally considered to have had a strong involvement in revolutionary struggle in the past and has maintained a number of militant groups. Fatah had been closely identified with the leadership of its founder Yasser Arafat, until his death in 2004. Since Arafat's departure, factionalism within the ideologically diverse movement has become more apparent.
In the 2006 parliamentary election, the party lost its majority in the Palestinian parliament to Hamas. However, the Hamas legislative victory led to a conflict between Fatah and Hamas, with Fatah retaining control of the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank.
The full name of the movement is حركة التحرير الوطني الفلسطيني ḥarakat al-taḥrīr al-waṭanī al-Filasṭīnī, meaning the "Palestinian National Liberation Movement". From this was crafted the reverse acronym Fatḥ (Fatah) meaning "opening", "conquering", or "victory". The word "fatḥ" or "fatah" is used in religious discourse to signify the Islamic expansion in the first centuries of Islamic history –as in Fatḥ al-Sham, the "conquering of the Levant". "Fatah" also has religious significance in that it is the name of the 48th sura (chapter) of the Quran which, according to major Muslim commentators, details the story of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. (During the peaceful two years after the Hudaybiyyah treaty, many converted to Islam, increasing the strength of the Muslim side. It was the breach of this treaty by the Quraysh that triggered the conquest of Mecca. This Islamic precedent was cited by Yasser Arafat as justification for his signing the Oslo Accords with Israel.
The Fatah movement, which espoused a Palestinian nationalist ideology in which Palestinian Arabs would be liberated by their own actions, was founded in 1959 by members of the Palestinian diaspora – more specifically, principally by professionals working in the Persian Gulf States who had studied in Cairo or Beirut and had been refugees in Gaza. The founders included Yasser Arafat, then head of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) at Cairo University; Salah Khalaf; Khalil al-Wazir; and Khaled Yashruti, then GUPS head in Beirut.
Fatah became the dominant force in Palestinian politics after the Six-Day War in 1967.