Palestinians must get their act together in 2012
By Khalid Amayreh
2011 was not a particularly bad year for Palestine. In this year, hundreds of Palestinian political and resistance prisoners were able to see the light, having been released from Israeli dungeons and detention camps.
Needless to say, many of these heroes would have spent the rest of their lives in Zionist jails, had it not been for the so-called Shalit deal and Israel’s effective capitulation to Hamas’s conditions for the release of the captive Zionist soldier.
Thanks to the deal, hundreds of Palestinian families, which had lost the hope for ever seeing their beloved ones alive again, breathed a sigh of relief as they were reunited with their children, brothers, husbands and daughters.
Needless to say, Israel had tried every conceivable effort and intelligence act to locate the captive soldier, but to no avail. After all, Shalit was held under Israel’s nose somewhere in the Gaza Strip for more than 60 months.
This fact alone should make us look with admiration and gratitude to those unknown but heroic soldiers who were able to keep this valuable secret all these months and years.
2011 brought us the Arab Spring, which consigned several tyrannical pro-American regimes to the dustbin of history. Some of these regimes, such as that of ex-president Husni Mubarak of Egypt , had been a serious liability for the Palestinian struggle and steadfastness.
For example, in 2008-09, the Egyptian regime colluded, connived and collaborated with the Zionist entity to murder, torment and vanquish the Gaza Strip, enabling Israel to carry out its Nazi-like onslaught on the virtually unprotected coastal territory, killing, incinerating and maiming thousands of Palestinians men, women and children.
More to the point, the regime sought effectively to consolidate the criminal Israeli siege on Gaza, by building another concrete wall to make it virtually impossible for Gazans to smuggle even a pack of milk from the Egyptian side of the borders to their starving children on the other side.
Hence, the removal of that regime is considered a great victory for both the Egyptian and Palestinian peoples, for the Egyptians because the corrupt Mubarak regime suppressed human rights and civil liberties in deference to Israeli and American interests, and for the Palestinians because the regime was viewed as a strategic asset for the Zionist regime since it allowed the Zionist entity to savage the Palestinians in exchange for American aid and political protection.
The elections that occurred in Tunisia and Egypt were also auspicious news for the Palestinian cause. The triumph of Islamic or quasi-Islamic parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, is probably some of the best news the Palestinian cause and people have received in many decades.
True, we don’t expect to see miracles very soon as a result of the Arab Spring. However, there is no doubt that the strategic changes taking place in the Arab world have confused and unsettled Israel’s strategic calculations in the region.
Israel, which is becoming a fully-fledged fascist state, had probably planned to embark on unthinkable measures against the Palestinians, possibly including genocidal massacres, induced emigration and ethnic cleansing.
However, thanks to the Arab Spring, especially the Egyptian revolution, Israel is very likely to think twice before pursuing its lebensraum policy against its neighbors.
The end of 2011 also brought the Palestinian people much closer to national reconciliation and unity.
Hamas agreed to join the PLO and all the sides agreed to form a government of national unity, release political prisoners and hold elections for the Palestinian Authority (PA) as well as for the Palestinian National Council.
What is especially important is that the psychology of the Palestinian people improved significantly during 2011 despite unrelenting Zionist aggressions and provocations.
None the less, there is much to be done in 2012. The National reconciliation must materialize on the ground and ordinary Palestinians must feel its tangible effects.
However, It is probably unlikely that true national unity between Fatah and Hamas will be achievable unless the PA and the Ramallah regime end the ignominious cooperation and coordination with the Zionist occupation army.
Indeed, the security coordination has been a sad chapter in recent Palestinian history and it must be ended sooner than later.
Moreover, with the unmitigated theft of Palestinian land continuing at the hands of the Zionist regime, the PA should have the courage to declare the end of the mendacious peace process.
Yes, dismantling the PA infrastructure may not seem easily done as said. However, if it becomes clear that the existence of the PA militates against and hinders the establishment of a viable and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, then Palestinian leaders must not flinch from embarking on dissolving the PA. After all the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is the raison d’etre of the PA itself, as PA official Sa’eb Erikat said on several occasions.
In any case, the Palestinian leadership should stop playing games with the fate and destiny of the Palestinian people and cause.
We have indulged in futile political games too much and for too long, and must therefore come to the hour of truth.
And reaching the hour of truth should also mean a realization that the creation of a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank, one with Jerusalem as its capital, is no longer a realistic option given the phenomenal spread of Jewish colonies.
Hence, the Palestinian leadership, including Fatah and Hamas, must get its act together in 2012 and make sure it is not going to be another year of futile waiting.
Page by page, Marwan Barghouti’s anti-war tome walked out of prison
Barghouti is a figure of towering reverence among Palestinians and even some Israelis, regardless of political persuasion. Yet, he was reluctant to begin a life in the political spotlight. In fact, the Israeli occupation came to him, his long-time friend Sa’ad Nimer noted during a long conversation in a dank Ramallah coffee shop. When Barghouti was just 15, living in the small village of Kober just outside Ramallah, Israeli soldiers shot his beloved dog during a military sweep of the village. From that moment on, Nimer said in a haze of nostalgia, the occupation was a personal issue for Barghouti.
A natural leader with admirable charisma and an unwavering hatred of Israeli occupation, Barghouti has been an active political leader since the early 1980s. At age 18, during one of his early stints in an Israeli prison for political organising, he was elected the prisoner representative, a task which required him to unify competing political affiliations of prisoners and negotiate with Israeli authorities. The appointment foreshadowed a long career of uniting Palestinians regardless of political agenda.
Despite his vocal support for the two-state solution and attempts at reconciliation with Israeli civil society, Barghouti has remained a puzzling and aggressive figure for Israel. “When Marwan got out of jail the second time [in 1982 at age 23], the Israelis did not know what to do with him,” said Nimer, who is the director of the Free Marwan Baghouti Campaign based in Ramallah. In the early 1980s, Barghouti was a primary organiser in the Shabibia movement, a Fatah-based student group that campaigned for better education standards in Palestine. The movement, still active in the West Bank, was a primary organising vehicle of the First Intifada.
While not overtly against the occupation, Barghouti’s early political activity was understood by Israel as a threat and he was deported to Jordan under extraordinary circumstances. According to Nimer, “Jordan was not taking deportees at the time, so the Israelis just put him on a helicopter and dropped him into the middle of the Jordanian desert, desperate to get rid of him”.
From Jordan, Barghouti helped organise the First Intifada, relaying messages and tactics to Palestinians, mostly aligned with Shabibia, in the West Bank. After the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1994 he returned to the West Bank as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), the parliament of the Palestinian Authority, and embraced the peace process wholeheartedly.
During his time as a PLC member, he maintained a tough stance on corruption inside Palestinian politics and won himself many enemies in the upper echelons of power in the West Bank and Gaza. Unlike many of his colleagues in the PLC, Barghouti was never appointed to public office and derived his political capital directly from the people who consistently provided him with strong electoral results.
For Kadoura Fares, the current president of the Palestinian Prisoners Association and former member of the PLC, Barghouti’s pragmatic approach to peace during the 1990s demonstrated his overarching desire to end Israeli occupation at all costs. “We had a meeting with Israeli officials in Jerusalem in 1996,” Fares told me in his comfortable Ramallah office adorned with paintings of the Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish. “I was very worried because of the negative reaction of many Palestinians towards meeting with the Israelis, but Marwan calmed me down. He told me that it was the time for peace and we must pursue it despite the public pressure. He would always say that there is a time for peace and a time for resistance. It was a time for peace.”
When Oslo collapsed and the Second Intifada engulfed Israel and the Palestinian territories in violence, Barghouti embraced armed resistance. He assumed a leadership position in Fatah’s armed wing, coordinating attacks against the Israeli military in the West Bank and Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv. It is for these activities that Israelis understand Barghouti as a terrorist leader. His friends and colleagues maintain that his support of armed resistance as a vehicle to achieving an end to occupation was in line with the popular sentiments expressed on the street at the time.
“He got credibility for supporting armed resistance from the Palestinian street,” recalls Laila Jamal, a member of the Palestinian Authority’s media department from the village of Salfit in the central West Bank. “During that time, we saw the occupation in action and everyone supported armed resistance. He understood this and acted in line with the popular sentiment.”
Barghouti was arrested by Israeli forces conducting sweeps in Ramallah in April 2002 while he was a sitting member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He was quickly transferred to Israel for trial in a civilian court on multiple counts of murder including authorising and organising an attack in Tel Aviv in which many civilians were killed, attempted murder and membership in a terrorist organisation.
Citing the illegitimacy of the Israeli legal system over occupied Palestinians, Barghouti refused to accept the charges or stage a defence in the Tel Aviv court. During the drawn out proceedings, he delivered impassioned and researched speeches arguing that the court and the practices of the Israeli military in the West Bank were illegal under international law.
He never recognised the authority of the Israeli court system from his first statement to the judge in which he proclaimed, “I am a political leader, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, elected by my people. Israel has no right to try me, to accuse me, judge me. This is a violation of international law. I have a right to resist occupation.” Dismissing the allegation, Israel charged him with five life sentences for murdering Israelis and 40 years imprisonment for attempted murder, which he is currently serving.
Since his conviction, Barghouti has done what he knows best; actively campaigning for the reunification of Palestinian political factions. After the 2006 Hamas-Fatah split, which resulted in bloody infighting among the factions, Barghouti organised a prisoners’ campaign with members of Hamas, Fatah as well as PFLP and DFLP that called for immediate reunification. According to those close to him, like Fares, his work on Palestinian unity is a reason why so many Palestinian politicians are afraid of his freedom and a possible reason why he was left out of the recent prisoner swap.
If there is one experience that has the potential to unify the Palestinian people, it is the experience of being a prisoner in an Israeli military jail. Barghouti’s new book, One Thousand Nights in Solitude, is, at its core, a book about dealing with the Israeli prison system as a Palestinian. Reading like an instruction manual for coping with the experiences of interrogation and prolonged detainment, the book breaks new ground in the underreported subject of Israel’s treatment of Palestinian political prisoners.
Israel’s military court system has processed roughly 750,000 Palestinians according to the Red Crescent, but exact numbers are hard to obtain. In fact, any sort of exact information about Israel’s military jail system is difficult to find given its role as one of the primary Israeli mechanisms of controlling Palestinian dissent and nascent resistance to the occupation.
According to a recent expose by the Israeli liberal daily Haaretz, military courts have an astonishingly high conviction rate of 99.74 per cent. Many Palestinian defendants are put through a programme of psychological and physical torture that often results in coerced testimonies necessary in the maintenance of a high conviction rate. Haaretz has also released reports seemingly confirming the widespread belief that torture is widely used and that Israeli military judges are often aware that information used in tribunals is obtained through psychological and physical torture.
“He is trying to create a civil resistance inside the military prison system,” said Majad Abdel Hamid, a young artist and political activist in Ramallah. “If all Palestinians refused to recognise the legitimacy of the Israeli military court system, Israel would be in big trouble. This is partly what the new book is about.”
Kept in solitary confinement for an extended period and put through various periods of psychological and even physical torture, Barghouti’s book details the tenacity required to not wilt under such difficult conditions. In the first chapter, he describes in verbose language how Israel used various interrogators to coerce information out of him regarding senior Fatah leaders in the West Bank. This common procedure was extremely tough on Barghouti since, in the words of Sa’ad Nimer, “they wanted information tying Yasser Arafat to terrorism and they never got it from Marwan”.
Following a political career best understood as leading by example, Barghouti sets out to demonstrate how Palestinians can achieve a meaningful non-violent resistance against the military court system. In addition to the practical information of surviving within the Israeli prison system, he details his arguments for Palestinian political unity as a means of resistance to Israeli occupation.
The book devotes great detail to his three years housed in a tiny cell (measuring one by 1.5 metres) in solitary confinement. It is from this experience that the title, One Thousand Nights in Solitude was born.
Fadwa Barghouti is a carefully appointed woman who has spearheaded her husband’s awareness campaign since the beginning of his current imprisonment. From the same village of Kober, Fadwa is a distant relative of Marwan, sharing the same fourth-generation great grandfather. Sitting in her comfortable office overlooking the Muqata compound where Yasser Arafat was confined by Israeli forces at the height of the Second Intifada, Fadwa remains confident that her husband will be released soon, but is visibly upset at the recent failure by Hamas to gain his freedom. “I know why he was not released,” she told me sipping sugary tea, “but I am not going to tell you.”
Sitting under the ubiquitous photo of her husband surrounded by Israeli prison guards with handcuffed hands held high, she glowingly reports that he is using his time in prison to enrich himself intellectually.
He is a ferocious reader, consuming books in English, Arabic, Hebrew and French on topics ranging from French colonial rule in Algeria to the latest biographies of the former US president Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister. He also has a deep respect for the work of Paulo Coehlo and the Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Liebowitz. Additionally, Barghouti has written two books and completed his PhD from the University of Cairo entitled, The Legislative and Political Performance of the Palestinian Legislative Council and its Contribution to the Democratic Process in Palestine from 1996 to 2008. His doctorate, like the recent book, was smuggled out of jail one page at a time and took years to complete.
In addition to maintaining public and international pressure on Palestinian and Israeli leaders for the release of her husband, Fadwa has had to raise her family without a father. One of their three sons is now living in the United Kingdom while completing his higher education. His other two sons and one daughter live in the West Bank and are known in Ramallah for their active social lives and lack of interest in Palestinian national politics. Fadwa’s dedication to her husband is demonstrated in the romantic language used to describe his meaning to the Palestinian people.
“Marwan Barghouti is the natural leader of the Palestinian people,” Fadwa said. “In opinion polls, he is regularly shown to be the choice of Palestinians because of his adherence to the two-state solution, his fight against corruption and for the rights of women and democracy. The people want Marwan Barghouti to lead them in their fight against occupation.”
Palestinians are exhausted from the emotional and physical toll of the Second Intifada. Most express dismay at the infighting that has plagued the political establishment since the 2006 fallout between Hamas and Fatah but offer little solution for dealing with it. There is also a sense that the political establishment is no longer working in the interests of the people despite the highly popular attempt to achieve statehood recognition at the United Nations earlier this year, which Barghouti supported from jail.
“I think what is needed now from the leadership is to have honesty and self-reflection. In a way, this is one of the strengths of Marwan Barghouti in that he is honest with Palestinians. He doesn’t b******* us. We are sick and tired of Palestinian leaders who [do],” said Majd Abdel Hamid, who is part of the March 15th youth movement that demanded reconciliation of political factions earlier this year after the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia reshaped the Middle East. He does not support any Palestinian political party, like many in the March 15th movement, but believes that Barghouti has the power to open a new chapter in the Palestinian national struggle if only he is released from jail.
Dancing around the subject of the recent prisoner swap, Fadwa Barghouti remains confident that the current political leadership is afraid of a free Barghouti. For five years she was told by Fatah and Hamas leaders that her husband’s freedom would come in the form of the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. But, at the last minute, a month before the controversial deal between Hamas and Israel was signed in Egypt, Barghouti, along with nine other senior political prisoners, were dropped from this list.
“I believe that there was a weak attempt in the prisoners swap to free my husband,” Fadwa said, asserting that securing her husband’s release was indeed possible. “I am talking about the Palestinian leadership of Hamas and Fatah. The people have been demanding his release for the last 10 years and they simply ignored the people’s will.”
Indeed, Marwan Barghouti is often cited as a potential replacement for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Barghouti along with Kadoura Fares and Mohammad Dahlan threatened to begin an independent party called Al-Mustaqbal (The Future) in 2005 after Abbas offered Barghouti second place in Fatah despite clear indications that Barghouti would win national election. Ultimately, according to Fares, Barghouti felt that a second party would harm Palestinian unity and ran on the Fatah party ticket, securing a seat in the PLC as a Fatah member.
Due to the belief that Barghouti would be part of the recent prisoner swap, the grassroots movement to free him has lost momentum in recent years.
But, according to Fadwa Barghouti, things have changed and with the release of his new book there are renewed efforts to pressure the Palestinian leadership to negotiate his release. The Free Marwan Barghouti campaign is planning to stage several demonstrations in March under the banner that Palestinians refuse negotiations with Israel without a free Barghouti to lead them.
“The pressure is on the politicians, all the politicians, to release Marwan if they want to move forward with negotiations with Israel,” Fadwa told me. “Palestinians want their leader to move them forward and the political establishment will have to deal with this reality in the new year.”
Whenever discussions arise about Marwan Barghouti in Israel or Palestine, one name is unavoidable: Nelson Mandela. In the 1990s, dovish Israeli politicians and political thinkers such as Uri Avenry began calling Barghouti Palestine’s Mandela. The comparison is not without merit: both leaders have refused to swear off armed resistance, both have spent long periods of time in jail, unwilling to cooperate with authorities, and both have enjoyed a unique loyalty from their people that has transcended political affiliations. Israeli society will continue to see Barghouti as a symbol of the violent Second Intifada, but after his inevitable release, they will likely be seeing him sitting at a negotiations table working to end the conflict and dismantle the Israeli occupation.
After the statehood campaign in the UN that failed to achieve independence, Palestinians are left with a power vacuum and a tough road to reconciliation. Now, more than ever, a leader is required to bring Palestine’s political factions together. When asked who might be the leader to open a new chapter in Palestinian politics, Kadura Fares paused, and took a long drag from his ever present cigarette, “it is not necessarily one individual who can do that with the snap of his fingers. Abu Mazen tried, he did a lot, but it was not enough, but I do think that Marwan could be the person.”
We share the joy of Israelis over the release of Sgt. First Class Gilad Shalit, who was held by Hamas for five years. We will leave it to the Israeli people to debate whether the deal — which includes the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners — will make their country safer or lead to more violence or more abductions of Israeli soldiers or other citizens.
We are already concerned that the deal will further thwart an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, the only real guarantee of lasting security for both sides.
Now that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has compromised with Hamas, we fear that to prove his toughness he will be even less willing to make the necessary compromises to restart negotiations. And we fear that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his Fatah faction, who were cut out of the swap altogether, will be further weakened.
Both Mr. Netanyahu and Hamas were looking for a political win after Mr. Abbas grabbed the international spotlight — and saw his popularity soar — when he asked the United Nations last month to grant his undefined country full membership.
Mr. Netanyahu twisted himself in an ideological knot to get this deal. Only five months ago, he wanted to cut off tax remittances to the Palestinian Authority and urged the United States to halt aid because Mr. Abbas tried to forge a unity government with Hamas, which controls Gaza.
One has to ask: If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate with Hamas — which shoots rockets at Israel, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence and, on Tuesday, vowed to take even more hostages — why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to help keep the peace in the West Bank?
Mr. Netanyahu’s backers claim that his coalition is so fragile that he can’t make the compromises needed to help revive peace negotiations. But he was strong enough to go against the grief-stricken families of those Israelis killed by the Palestinian prisoners he just freed. “I know that the price is very heavy for you,” he wrote to them. Why can’t he make a similarly impassioned appeal for a settlement freeze for the sake of Israel’s security?
The United States and its partners should keep trying to get negotiations going. Mr. Abbas should see the prisoner swap for what it is — a challenge to his authority and credibility. The best way to bolster his standing is by leading his people in the creation of a Palestinian state, through negotiations. As for Mr. Netanyahu, we saw on Tuesday that the problem is not that he can’t compromise and make tough choices. It’s that he won’t. That won’t make Israel safer.
UPDATE Sent By Paola Pisi @ Uruknet…
good news from Gaza: Abu Yazan got released & he just arrived home after 3 days of illegal arrest by hamas authorities.
Is this their way of getting Israel’s ‘nod of approval’ to rule when Palestine is a Free State?
Yesterday, news spread about arresting a young activist by the local authorities in Gaza. Hamas called him to take his confiscated things (laptop & mobile) then arrested him banning him from contacting his family or lawyer! But how it all started..?
Well, Abu Yazan & I were chosen to travel to Paris for a social media program for 5 days! It was coordinated via the French Cultural Center in Gaza. We both study English-French literature, students in the French Center, blog, known social & political activists which make us qualified candidates for this program! But was it enough for Hamas?
After the five-day program finished we stayed extra more days in Paris then we left heading to Egypt. Abu Yazan was deported from the Egyptian side to Gaza and humiliated, but I was allowed to get in to Cairo! He got to Gaza, nothing happened. One month later on my way to cross the Palestinian hall in Rafah Crossing to finally get into Gaza that I missed so much, Hamas officers stopped me. They asked where and why was I travelling, I answered them saying that I went to France for some social media program, then to Egypt to meet with my aunts and attend the opening of the revolution movie “18 days” that I was invited to. Then later they knew that Abu Yazan was with me in France. They immediately started to look for more information about him. They interrogated me for more than 2 hours and searched through all of my stuff, clothes, opened presents in a very humiliating way as if I’m a drug dealer! A lot of things were confiscated (digital camera, flip camera, external hard disc, flash and memory cards, ipod, my mobile with the Egyptian, French and the Palestinian sim cards, a notebook, and all of the political magazines and leaflets I had with me! Most of those were mine but some were not, they just didn’t care. That was on Thursday July, 27. I had no contact with my family or a lawyer and when I asked what kind of accusations I might be having to get all of this, they said that it’s none of my business, I have no right to ask and I’ll know next time I get interrogated which was Sunday August the 7th! At the meantime, Abu Yazan received a paper saying he should go to the internal security office for interrogation. We both went there twice after that incident on the border on my way back to Gaza.
It turned out that our crime is that we’ve been very active in the March 15 protests that called for unity between Fatah and Hamas. We were interrogated separately, but had the same reaction when we felt that they deal with this movement as a crime and actually going after its members now. We tried to explain that we didn’t go against anyone and what we called for was in our cause’s interest which is the only thing that matters to us! What we did understand from their questions is that we’ve “as in March 15 members” been meeting with politicians (both Palestinian and foreign), implying their agendas as getting funded by them and asking them for visas. Also sitting with Israelis “which means we’re spies” and they’re holding all kinds of evidences against us! It doesn’t matter how repeatedly we denied all of this madness and how we asked them to show us those evidences and give us a fair trial then if that is the case. As you all should be aware of that there’s no such a thing called “law” here in this small coastal enclave. All we could do is go to human rights organizations to fill complaints which is what we’ve been doing for ages now every time a violation happens, but it’s all in vain! I assigned a lawyer this time, but what could he possibly do? He came to my first interrogation and wasn’t allowed to stay, wasn’t informed of any accusations held against me, simply, he did nothing more than I’d do and couldn’t make them (god forbid) abide by the law! All these organizations and centers could offer is their monthly report about Hamas violations after taking your statement. That is their one and only accomplishment and they seem to be satisfied with it
During the interrogation we were asked about our activities and about what the social media means. I tried over and over to explain them that social media is about civilian journalists. It’s that you are your own media which sometimes and recently much more effective than the mainstream media! After trying so hard to make them get it, they kept asking if our study in college has anything to do with media and for our press card, we said that social media requires no cards and no certificates! I mentioned that a video we (a group of activists) did on the Rafah crossing is a good example of what I’m trying to explain them, but they weren’t interested! And when my friend told them about the weekly demonstration we’re part of against the Israeli Occupation and the buffer zone northern Gaza, their immediate response was “Yeah, you go there, take photos of yourself to show off on facebook”!!!! Abu Yazan said: “Yeah, anything for facebook photos, even going standing only 80 meters far from the wall under live bullets!”. “Apparently, you’ve never been there!”
Abu Yazan & I were waiting for this big, unjustified mess to be over so we can at least blog about it. No one could’ve imagined that he’d be arrested!! We were told that we’ll be no longer interrogated and they’ll call us to get our stuff back. I had no call, but Abu Yazan did and that’s how they arrested him!
My dear friend had to listen to their inappropriate accusations of me and him being in a relationship when he told them that we’re classmates, bloggers and activists and that’s how we know each other!
And I’ve had to cover my head in order to be interrogated by them. They refused to meet me and give me back my things (that I still don’t have yet) unless I put on a hejab. I told them I don’t have any, so they brought me one, a stinky one! And also they brought a praying mattress to cover my legs. Wooo, wait a minute, no I wasn’t wearing a dress or a mini skirt. Nope, I was wearing trousers, baggy ones! We both had to put with their insults and religious preaches as being liberal and secular for them = an infidel!
This is day two, and no one knows anything about him. I really wanted to blog about my very-first-time-to-get-out-of-Gaza experience, but I couldn’t escape posting about Hamas’s warm welcome for me that has been lasting for more than half a month now.
Free Abu Yazan..Free your minds!
*About Ebaa Rezeq
A Palestinian girl from the craziest yet most unique place, Gaza! I automatically support mass uprisings and revolutions against injustice, oppression and violations of freedom of speech. I come from a family who lived under the rule of Mubarak (Egypt), Hafez El Asad (Syria), Hussein Ben Talal (Jordan), Al Qaddafi (Libya) and now Gaza, so I guess you all understand my obsession in revolutions. I have one BIG enemy, deadlines. And I’m a feminist.
Perhaps, as a youth, President Mahmoud Abbas was never told the parable of the boy who cried wolf. I suggest this because the Palestinian Authority leader has with such monotonous regularity brandished the threat to quit his job that he appears to believe it is a vital weapon in the Palestinian diplomatic arsenal.
Image by Skulz Fontaine
A Palestinian deal cannot be won if Abbas keeps crying wolf
By Tony Karon
Perhaps, as a youth, President Mahmoud Abbas was never told the parable of the boy who cried wolf. I suggest this because the Palestinian Authority leader has with such monotonous regularity brandished the threat to quit his job that he appears to believe it is a vital weapon in the Palestinian diplomatic arsenal.
In March Mr Abbas warned the US and Israel that he would walk away from his post if the peace process did not continue. Last December, he extended that threat to include dissolving the Palestinian Authority. He had also made the threat three months earlier, and in May 2008. And so on.
But this year Mr Abbas has introduced new variations on the theme, threatening to defy US instructions by forming a unity government with Hamas, and by moving to seek UN recognition of Palestinian statehood, in September.
Despite appearances, however, neither of these is a done deal, and Mr Abbas keeps insisting that he’d really rather be negotiating with the Israelis – if only they would offer more credible terms.
All these threats express Mr Abbas’s exasperation at the poor return on the two decades he has invested in US-anchored negotiations with Israel. The “you’ll be sorry” subtext of his posturing is never directed at his own people, but always at the US and Israel, to whom he clearly believes his services are indispensable. His message is that if they fail to provide what he needs, they’ll have to face his people without the benefit of him as their accommodating interlocutor.
Heaven knows what the Palestinians Mr Abbas is supposedly leading make of this constant threat to quit. He has long adopted his predecessor’s attitude of knowing what’s best for his people, and engaging with the West and Israel on their behalf – but out of earshot.
Just as Yasser Arafat made himself, and not the institutions of the PA, the epicentre of Palestinian national political life, so Mr Abbas was encouraged by the Bush administration to do the same, after the Authority’s democratic institutions fell to Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian election.
Even now, the hype around Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – appointed at the Bush administration’s behest, rather than being elected – often ignores the fact that he and Mr Abbas have ignored and suppressed the PA’s institutions of democratic decision making. The PA is a competent bureaucracy and security service, entirely dependent on western financial succour. Nor is public dissent tolerated.
Hamas, for its part, has found its writ reduced to Gaza, and runs a similarly authoritarian administration – and often appears caught between competing instincts for “resistance” and governance.
The PA and Hamas were both somewhat alarmed by the stirrings of popular protest ignited on their turf by the Arab Spring. But when Mr Abbas and Hamas’s Khaled Meshaal agreed seven weeks ago on a reconciliation pact, it seemed an important step on the road towards statehood – as demanded by the grassroots protests. The deal would put a unity government in charge of rebuilding and politically reintegrating Gaza and preparing for new elections.
But as the unity process flounders over whether Mr Fayyad will remain in charge of government, some Palestinian analysts suggest that the unity pact itself is now viewed by Mr Abbas in the same way as his threats to quit: as leverage over the US and Israel.
With a new flurry of US and European diplomatic activity being aimed at restarting peace talks to head off any UN vote, Mr Abbas may believe his threats are bringing about a more credible peace process. There’s no evidence to support such a belief, of course – Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is the most rejectionist Israel has had since the peace process began, and will offer Mr Abbas less than the Palestinian leader turned down from Ehud Olmert. Nor are there any sane grounds for expecting the Obama administration to press the Israelis to do more.
But Mr Abbas has spent the past decade hoping against hope, appearing to see his people’s choices as limited to either the Quixotic madness of a renewed terror campaign (which he has wisely rejected), or passively waiting – metaphorically speaking – in the back seat of the US limo, hoping that the driver ignores the instructions of the more powerful Israeli passenger, and eventually drops him off at a Palestinian state.
The idea that Mr Abbas’s threats to break with Washington’s script have forced the Israelis and Americans towards more serious negotiations is the charitable explanation for Mr Abbas appearing to back away from a unity government if Hamas won’t accept Mr Fayyad as prime minister. (Mr Fayyad was always going to be a non-starter for Hamas, given his centrality to a US-backed strategy to crush Hamas on the West Bank and throttle it in Gaza.)
The less kind explanation would be that money talks: the threat to cut off the western funds on which the PA is wholly dependent may be scaring Mr Abbas into retreat.
Either way, Mr Abbas backing away from a unity government could signal a lack of intent to pursue the UN vote. Those who meet with Mr Abbas say his constant refrain about preferring negotiations with the Israelis is heartfelt.
That’s because the unity government and the UN route reflect a return to Palestinian reliance on their own energies and efforts, heading down a new and uncharted path of struggle to claim their rights, in the spirit of the courageous risks taken by those of who have risen against despotism across the Arab world.
Such a course would take Mr Abbas and his circle out of their comfort zone. Their politics, common to Arab leaders of their generation, reflects a profound lack of confidence in their own people.
The danger for Mr Abbas remains, however, that the spirit of the Arab Spring could yet persuade his own people to return the compliment.
A Palestinian Revolt in the Making?
At 10:30 on May 15, two battalions of Israeli combat soldiers opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets on hundreds of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators at the Qalandia checkpoint dividing Ramallah from Jerusalem, sending people scrambling into the adjacent refugee camp. These were the opening shots of Israel’s response to protests commemorating the Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe, used to define Israel’s creation of 750,000 Palestinian refugees in 1948. By nightfall Israeli soldiers had killed thirteen Palestinian refugees and wounded hundreds with live fire on its borders with Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and inside the West Bank.
The May 15 demonstrations reinvigorated the long-alienated Palestinian refugee community; although it is 70 percent of the Palestinian population, it has been largely shut out of the negotiations process with Israel. The emerging unity was on display at Qalandia, where youth trying to symbolically march from Ramallah to Jerusalem wore black T-shirts with the slogan “Direct Elections for the Palestine National Council, a Vote for Every Palestinian, Everywhere.” The PNC is the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation organization and is responsible for electing its executive committee. Traditionally, seat allocation in the PNC has been divided to represent the influence factions within the PLO, of which Hamas is not a member.
The Nakba protests have been the largest so far of a growing Palestinian youth revolt. The protests—launched with unity protests on March 15 in the Palestinian Authority–controlled West Bank and Hamas-governed Gaza Strip—are the Palestinian response to the outbreak of revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. While it is a new development, this manifestation of popular anger against Palestinian Authority concessions in the failed negotiations process—shockingly revealed with Al Jazeera’s January release of top-secret negotiation minutes, known as the Palestine Papers—and Israel’s practice of divide and rule has been simmering under the surface for the past three years.
“The unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas gave people hope to be here today and continue with this new phase of struggle,” said Fadi Quran, a founding organizer of the March 15 movement, amid the clashes with Israeli soldiers at the Qalandia checkpoint. “It showed us that something was possible and we must continue,” he added, coughing from tear gas.
The March 15 movement marks a generational shift in Palestinian politics. Demanding that Palestinians shape their future through full democratization of the PLO, March 15 has sought to reshape national identity through unity and the relaunching of a popular struggle.
Following a surge of momentum that has forced a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas, ending four years of official national division, the Nakba Day protests expanded the concept of unity from below to encompass Palestinian refugees living on Israel’s borders.
According to Nathan Stock, the assistant director of the Carter Center conflict resolution team who was inside the Egyptian-brokered unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas, the momentum created on March 15, in concert with the uprising across the region, was a central catalyst in getting the parties to reconcile. Fresh from the closed-door negotiations in Cairo, Stock contended that “while the number of protesters was not huge, the demonstrations sent a clear signal to the leadership in Fatah and Hamas that the Arab Spring had reached Palestine, and that the public was getting increasingly frustrated with the division.” Stock noted that the revolution in Egypt, which brought about a command change in the Egyptian General Security Service and Foreign Ministry, enabled Egypt to become an honest broker and foster an environment of trust and compromise.
While the region in revolt was the immediate impetus for change in the Palestinian movement, the issues being addressed and the solutions now demanded on the street have long been seen as necessary to break the current Israeli-Palestinian impasse.
Speaking at her home in Amman, Jordan, in May 2008, Leila Khaled—a leading member of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian National Council member of the PLO and famed icon of Palestinian resistance who hijacked two airplanes in the late 1960s and early ’70s—was unequivocal about what she saw as the problems facing the Palestinian struggle.
“The PA and Hamas are not playing the game properly with Israel,” said the woman whose picture with a kaffiya and AK-47 is still an international symbol of Palestinian resistance. “They are not understanding its nature as an apartheid system. Which means both sides are giving illusions to the people that we are getting somewhere, when in fact we are getting nowhere,” she added between drags of a cigarette, sitting in her living room next to a photo of her son in his university graduation gown.
Khaled was frustrated with both the collusion and concessions being made by the PLO leadership to Israel (made clear to all with the recent release of the Palestine Papers), as well as the lack of progress in a then-divided Palestinian resistance and decline of national consciousness. “Nothing is moving forward, either on the political, economic or social level. On the contrary, we are witnessing the return to the family, to the village, to the tribe.”
Still, Khaled was optimistic, discussing the need for a democratic, grassroots movement to transform the PLO and push the cause forward. “We stress the popular resistance… wherever it is. We believe that it is the people that need to be involved in the struggle and find the means to mobilize society, ” she said. Now, three years later, the demands and popular action that Khaled cited as necessary are materializing in the emergence of a new generation of Palestinians, who are making their demands heard through mass unarmed protest.
Already successful in forcing Fatah and Hamas to forge a unity agreement, this uprising-in-the-making is showing no signs backing down. Fadi Quran had strong concerns that Fatah and Hamas would prioritize the narrow political aim of holding onto the power they have, instead of contributing to a national Palestinian consensus. This, he felt, was demonstrated by the accord’s avoidance of calls for PNC elections.
It is in this context that Palestinian youth are taking control of their struggle, shaking up representation internally and presenting an emboldened and united face to Israel on all fronts. “We do not know what is going to happen, but we have set something in motion. It is now up to the Israelis and how they react,” said Quran at the Qalandia checkpoint, as injured protesters were carried by on stretchers.
|Fatah supporters take part in a rally celebrating the reconciliation agreement, at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City
The extreme rightwing government of Israel is carrying out threats to financially scuttle the Palestinian Authority (PA) for daring to restore national unity with Hamas.
Israeli leaders are worried Palestinian national unity will strengthen the overall Palestinian stance vis-à-vis Israel and might expedite international recognition of a prospective Palestinian state.
Israel has refused to transfer to PA coffers an estimated $100 million in tax and customs revenue, which Israel collects on the Palestinians’ behalf. Israel receives administration and other fees for collecting the money that the PA government uses to pay salaries for tens of thousands of civil servants.
Consequently, the PA has so far not been able to pay salaries for April. This is already generating discontent within the Palestinian community. Some Palestinian political leaders have urged the PA to respond stringently to Israel’s draconian measures by suspending or ending security coordination with Israel.
Israel and its guardian ally, the United States, view the continuation of security coordination between Israel and the PA as a sine qua non for the existence and survival of the PA as well as for the continuation of any semblance of peace efforts in the region.
However, with a growing feeling among Palestinians, including Fatah supporters, that Israel is effectively blackmailing the Palestinian leadership, some prominent Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leaders and officials have voiced exasperation at the Israeli behaviour.
“Look, we are not seeking money from Israel, which murders our children and is occupying our land. We are demanding our own money. So Israel is not really doing any favour to us by transferring these monies,” said Abbas Zaki, a leading Fatah figure in the West Bank.
“If Israel thinks that by withholding the transfer of our money we will surrender and succumb to its impossible demands, it is mistaken. This won’t happen because, if necessary, we will rock the whole boat and bring the temple down on everybody’s head.”
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters in Ramallah this week that the Israeli decision to freeze Palestinian funds was putting the Ramallah government in a very difficult financial situation.
He said the PA paid salaries to its 150,000 employees promptly on the 5th of each month, adding that “now is the 9th of May, and we have not been able to meet that obligation.”
A certain solace seems to have come from the European Union, which is less affected by pressure exerted by Jewish lobbies and other pro-Zionist circles in comparison to the United States. The EU reportedly has agreed to grant the PA the sum of $85 million, which would help the Ramallah government pay overdue salaries.
However, even this solace is going to be temporary and have a short lasting effect as the same problem will reappear and might even exacerbate next month. This, PA officials say, will necessitate the adoption of political measures that would extricate the PA from a situation where it is tightly held hostage to Israeli whims and blackmailing tactics.
“This situation is unacceptable. It could cause a real implosion or explosion. The Europeans, the Americans and all those concerned ought to take note of this,” warned Ghassan Khatib, head of the government’s press office in Ramallah.
“They are telling us either you have civil war and internal fighting or we will choke you and make your life an enduring hell. No dignified people under the sun would accept this kind of blackmail, and we are a dignified people.”
The Israeli decision has drawn less than angry reactions from the US administration but unreserved support from the excessively pro-Israeli US Congress.
Refraining from using strong epithets to denounce the Israeli decision, the US State Department described the withholding of funds from the PA as merely “premature”.
Deputy spokesman Mark Toner admitted that the Israelis “have their own government’s position” and that “we believe that we need to wait and see. We believe it’s important that the Palestinians ensure the implementations of the reconciliation agreement in a way that advances the peace process.”
“We are looking to see what this reconciliation agreement looks like in practical terms before we make any decisions about future assistance,” Toner added.
The Obama administration hinted that the warnings of some members of Congress to cut financial aid to the PA following reconciliation with Hamas would not be constructive.
“We understand these concerns, and I would just say, as the new Palestinian government’s formed, we’ll assess it based on its policies and we’ll determine the implications for our assistance,” Toner said, adding that training the Palestinian police force was “worthwhile” as “they are an effective force and they have made significant gains in providing security” for Israel .
Israel is adopting a conspicuously opportunistic and hypocritical attitude towards Palestinian reconciliation. Prior to the conclusion of the reconciliation agreement in Cairo last week, Israeli leaders and officials complained that Israel could not make peace with a divided people and that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had only partial authority over his people.
Meanwhile, one of the main terms of the reconciliation agreement states that calm with Israel is to be maintained with the consent of all Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas.
However, Israel is worried that the inclusion of Hamas into the mainstream Palestinian leadership would radicalise the overall Palestinian stance and thwart Israel’s efforts to wrest far-reaching concessions from the PLO, especially concessions pertaining to such fundamental issues as the refugees and Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Israeli President Shimon Peres suggested that a “line of communication” should be opened with Hamas. “We shouldn’t be overly concerned about the name or title of our interlocutors on the Palestinian side. We encountered the same problem when we first started talking to [late PLO leader Yasser] Arafat. Many argued then, how could we talk to a terrorist organisation?”
Peres argued that the creation of Palestinian statehood would have to be coupled with concrete security guarantees for Israel. “I have also said this to the UN secretary-general. I asked him, ‘Sir, you want to take a decision for a Palestinian state? Can you stop the terrorism? Can you stop the gunfire? Can you stop the incitement?”
Peres ignored that fact that Palestinian “terrorism, gunfire and incitement” has, in the overwhelming majority of cases, come as a desperate and less-than-proportionate reaction to far-greater Israeli terrorism, gunfire and provocations.
According to a recent UN report, Israel murdered as many as 1300 Palestinian children since 2000. During the same period, less than two or three-dozen Israeli children were killed by Palestinian fire.
However, it is important to keep in mind that Peres, a co- engineer of the Oslo Accords, which were vehemently rejected by the Likud Party and its current head, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, represents a small and diminishing minority in Israel as the bulk of Israeli Jewish society continues to drift towards jingoism and fanaticism.
Text of the Agreement between Fatah and Hamas
Under the auspices of Egypt, delegations from the Fatah and Hamas movements met in Cairo on April 27, 2011 to discuss the issues concerning ending the political division and the achievement of national unity. On top of the issues were some reservations related to the Palestinian National Unity Accord made in 2009.
Both political parties mutually agreed that the basis of understanding made during the meeting are committing to both parties in the implementation of the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement. The basis of understanding agreed upon by Fatah and Hamas are as follows:
A. Election Committee:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree to identify the names of the members of the Central Election Commission in agreement with the Palestinian factions. This list will then be submitted to the Palestinian President who will issue a decree of the reformation of the committee.
B. Electoral Court:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree on the nomination of no more than twelve judges to be members of the Electoral Court. This list will then be submitted to the Palestinian President in order to take the necessary legal actions to form the Electoral Court in agreement with the Palestinian factions.
C. Timing of Elections:
The Legislative, Presidential, and the Palestinian National Council elections will be conducted at the same time exactly one year after the signing of the Palestinian National Reconciliation Agreement.
2. Palestine Liberation Organization
The political parties of both Fatah and Hamas agree that the tasks and decisions of the provisional interim leadership cannot be hindered or obstructed, but in a manner that is not conflicting with the authorities of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
It was emphasized that the formation of the Higher Security Committee which will be formed by a decree of the Palestinian President and will consist of professional officers in consensus. 4.Government
A. Formation of the Government:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree to form a Palestinian government and to appoint the Prime Minister and Ministers in consensus between them.
B. Functions of the Government:
1. Preparation of necessary condition for the conduction of Presidential, Legislative and the Palestinian National Council elections. 2. Supervising and addressing the prevalent issues regarding the internal Palestinian reconciliation resulting from the state of division. 3. Follow-up of the reconstruction operations in the Gaza Strip and the efforts to end the siege and blockade that is imposed on it. 4. Continuation of the implementation of the provisions of the Palestinian National Accord. 5. To resolve the civil and administrative problems that resulted from the division. 6. Unification of the Palestinian National Authority institutions in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. 7. To fix the status of the associations, Non-Governmental Organizations and charities. 5. Legislative Council:
Both Fatah and Hamas agree to reactivate the Palestinian Legislative Council in accordance to the Basic Law.
Occupation remains the obstacle to Palestinian unity
Posted by Joseph Dana
Put simply, Palestinian unity strikes fear in the hearts of Israeli strategists and military planners. A unified Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza which adopts nonviolent resistance tactics has the potential to inflict incredible damage on the Israeli occupation. Actually, Israel does not have an effective strategy to combat Palestinian nonviolence and unity. Look at the amount of military resources Israel have used to crush small West Bank villages like Nabi Saleh, which embrace unity and nonviolence against occupation. The agreement signed last night between Fatah and Hamas does not represent unity. The reconciliation agreement represents a move to appease growing popular movements on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank which are demanding real unity, one that might not even involve the PA and Hamas, in order to combat Israeli occupation.
At the heart of the problem of unity is the Palestinian Authority. After Israel firmly crushed the nonviolence of the first Intifada, the state employed a tested and true method of colonial control during the peace processes of the 1990’s, the formation of a small and wealthy elite which could act as an arm of the occupation itself. Through the creation of the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the international aid which supports it helped establish an elite class which ruled the Palestinians from inside the occupation. As years of endless negotiations dragged on, it has become clear that the Palestinian Authority is not connected to the people. Given the aid structure and relations with the Israeli government, the PA has remained the sole recognized leadership of the Palestinians in the international community.
Following the colonial principle of sowing division to stop resistance, which worked well but ultimately failed for the Apartheid South African government, Israel funded various Palestinian groups in the 1980’s that it felt could challenge the PLO‘s legitimacy among Palestinians and undermine support for the PLO. One such group was Hamas.
The policy has so far worked for Israel. Over the past five years, there has been a relatively quiet status quo while the government has maintained and expanded its military occupation of Palestinian land. Israeli leaders have also continued to lie to the world about their intentions in the occupied territories with no abandon. The seemingly endless peace negotiations receive media attention while Israeli intransigence goes unpunished by the United States or international community.
All of a sudden the Egyptian and Tunisian revolution began to ignite new popular sentiments in Palestine which materialized in a call for national unity. In light of the revolutions and the Palestine Papers, the Palestinian Authority is now franticly trying to maintain what little control they have on the Palestinian street. The reality is that the PA has been mostly discredited by Palestinians as their legitimate representative. It is largely perceived as an instrument of Israeli occupation which does not work in the interest of the Palestinian people in the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora.
That brings us finally to the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement. In solid political reality, the agreement means very little. Elections will not be held in the near future and the types of elections that will take place have not even been laid out. The agreement, however, shows that the voice of Palestinian civil society is heard by the leadership in the West Bank and Gaza. Afraid for its survival in a revolutionary climate, the PA and Hamas are taking pre-emptive measure to co-opt popular sentiment to ensure their continued governance.
There are so many factors in the air—Palestinian statehood, increasing international isolation of Israel, continued revolution in Syria—which make this reconciliation agreement meaningless because of its lack of concrete action. Therefore, it is reckless to project how Israel will interact with a unified Palestinian leadership because the likelihood of one is small. We ought to think about what Palestinian unity and nonviolence means for Israel, her occupation and international standing. Israel, the PA and Hamas are all scared of the revolutionary sentiment brewing on the Palestinian street. This unity agreement does not address that sentiment.
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WASHINGTON – Senior congressmen said Thursday that if the Palestinian Authority follows through on its intention to reconcile with Hamas, the move may jeopardize the United States’ aid to the Palestinians, and perhaps even bring it to a halt.
The United States Foreign Assistance Act names stipulations for such aid, which the Palestinian Authority – if it forms a government with Hamas – will fail to meet. The US considers Hamas a terror organization, and naturally, will halt any funds which may fund their way to it.
House Foreign Affairs Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen released a statement saying that, “The reported agreement between Fatah and Hamas means that a Foreign Terrorist Organization which has called for the destruction of Israel will be part of the Palestinian Authority government. US taxpayer funds should not and must not be used to support those who threaten US security, our interests, and our vital ally, Israel.
“According to existing US law, such a hybrid government cannot be a recipient of US taxpayer funds because the law stipulates that the PA government must recognize the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist, among other things.
“By entering into this partnership with Hamas, Abu Mazen’s Palestinian leadership has shown again that it is not a partner for peace. If reports are correct, the PA would then be standing with those who want only death and destruction for Israel,” Ros-Lehtinen’s statement said.
‘PA making the wrong choice. Again’
Congressman Gary Ackerman, the top Democrat on the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, echoed the sentiment: “The purported deal, which does not require Hamas to accept Israel’s right to exist, or the binding nature of prior Palestinian commitments, or even to require Hamas to temporarily forgo violence against Israel… is a recipe for failure, mixed with violence, leading to disaster. It is a ghastly mistake that I fear will be paid for in the lives of innocent Israelis.
“Rather than seizing the dynamic of this amazing Arab Spring to simply push for national elections and constitutional reform, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority has once again naively decided to test the trustworthiness of a bloody-handed bunch of terrorist want-to-be theocrats.
“While this step may be popular among Palestinians, many of whom wish to preserve the fantasy that they can have peace and so-called ‘resistance’ (also known in English as terrorism). As in prior cases, the United States will be compelled by both law and decency to withhold any assistance that could fall into the hands or control or even partial control of anyone reporting to, or belonging to a terrorist entity, as is Hamas,” said a statement by Ackerman.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey Nita Lowey, the highest ranking Democrat on the House foreign aid subcommittee, issued her own statement, warning that “Unless Hamas accepts the Quartet Principles, which include renouncing violence and recognizing Israel, the formation of a unity government with Fatah will be a deathblow to the peace process…
“A unity government with Hamas would put US assistance and support at risk, based on restrictions I authored as Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations.”
See THIS report for a more realistic view of the situation….
Fatah and Hamas: Palestinian reconciliation will end Israeli occupation
Forging Palestinian unity is regarded as crucial to reviving any prospect for an independent Palestinian state, but Western powers have always refused to deal with Hamas because of its refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Hamas must rebrand and take the wind out of Israel’s and America’s sails
In the five years since I became interested in the Palestinians, only two things of positive note have happened in the occupied territories.
The Palestinians held full and fair elections in 2006 to establish themselves as a democracy – and much good it did them.
And in Gaza these amazing people have resolutely survived a vicious land and sea blockade imposed by Israel and aided and abetted by the Western powers as soon as those elections put Hamas into government. They have resisted almost daily air strikes and armed intrusions for four years and courageously withstood the cowardly Israeli blitzkrieg of 20 months ago.
And during all that time they have endured unending barbarity and betrayal, which would have brought a lesser nation to its knees. They have come through.
I often wonder if the British could have clung on through the London blitz, which my family lived under, if they’d had nothing to fight with and nowhere to run and, in addition, they’d had to contend with Nazi tanks in the streets, thousands of checkpoints, Nazi rifle butts smashing down their front doors, and the foul stench of Nazi stormtroopers in their jackboots ransacking their homes and dragging off family members.
Palestinians have been put through that sort of mangle for decades. Death and misery still stalk their daily lives thanks to piss-poor Palestinian leadership and the international community’s moral bankruptcy.
When Palestinians elected Hamas, sore losers Fatah set out to cause maximum trouble. The relentless pressures of occupation and bribery succeed in causing internal divisions and self-destruction. When an attempted coup was beaten off there were claims that Hamas “seized control” when it simply acted to enforce its legitimate authority.
With Palestine’s internal squabbles continuing – even now – Yasser Arafat would be spinning under his mausoleum slab if he could see the depths to which his party has sunk.
Meanwhile, Israel’s propaganda machine, unchallenged, churns out the lies that Western politicians and Western media feed on and broadcast in order to sustain the racist entity.
“Impossible to reach agreement with Israel”
Khalid Amayreh, writing in Desert Peace, describes how the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas is being pressed yet again by Washington to resume “seemingly futile” peace talks, while two of Fatah’s veteran heavyweights speak out against any more concessions to the Obama administration.
Ahmed Qurei, a one-time aide to Arafat and a former prime minister of the PA, argued that, in view of Israel’s refusal to give up the spoils of the 1967 war, it was pointless to keep talking just for the sake of it. Nineteen years of talks had achieved nothing. “It seems utterly impossible to reach an agreement with Israel. Therefore, the Palestinian people must seek alternatives… Israel is not willing to end its occupation and allow for the creation of a viable Palestinian state.”
He didn’t say what the “alternatives” might be, which is a little unhelpful.
At the same time Nabil Amr, former Palestine Liberation Organization ambassador in Cairo, condemned the Abbas leadership as “vacillating, inconsistent, and unable to withstand external pressure”. He also had harsh words for “the mantra of American pressure”, which was designed to push the Palestinian people into submission or capitulation. “There are those among us who are trying to portray American pressure as if it were expedient to our interests,” said Amr. Actually, Obama is no friend. He has become a coercer, even a bully, while Netanyahu is given a free hand to dictate the rules of the game.
OK, so not all Fatah people are useless.
But there’s a gaping hole at the heart of the Palestinian Authority’s battered credibility – quite apart from a sickening lack of integrity. It’s their failure to understand that the war of words, if conducted effectively, is more important than the war of bullets. Israeli spin doctor Mark Regev and his team of lie-mongers would be easy meat for a Palestinian media outfit that was properly trained, alert and reasonably well resourced.
Alas, the Palestinian Authority refuses to gear up to meet the challenge. So the Israelis run rings round their victim – though not as much as they used to. The Zionist regime’s “crapaganda” effort has been significantly blunted not by the Palestinian Authority, which remains paralytic, but the actions of student groups and other pro-Palestinian activists around the world, who are beginning to put the Israelis in their place.
It is hugely disappointing to friends and supporters that Ramallah’s hot-shots have failed to put a coherent message across, supposing they actually had one. When I was writing my book (in 2006) I tried several times through London and Ramallah to arrange a meeting with Fatah bosses. They wouldn’t even give me the time of day. They simply didn’t care about communicating with the outside world. So I joined the growing multitude who wrote them off as a waste of space. Their antics since then have confirmed my assessment.
It is vitally important for Palestinian embassies in London and other key capitals to become a ready source of newsworthy material, and to proactively set the news agenda with spokespeople speaking clear and faultless English. Until this happens it will not be possible to engage the interest of mainstream media, and Palestinians will continue to lose the propaganda battle even though truth and justice are on their side.
Yes, we all know the British media are biased. But editors say they receive press releases from the London embassy “once in a blue moon”, while the Israelis take the initiative on the news front and fall over backwards to make a reporter’s life easy.
“We are not trained like the Israelis,” I heard one senior PA man say. Exactly. That’s the problem. The PA was offered media skills training some four years ago and turned it down. There may be murky reasons. It has been suggested that the PA, in its game of “footsie” with the US, was made to promise not to embarrass Israel publicly. This has given rise to suspicions that Palestinian ambassadors around the world are gagged by the regime in Ramallah and prevented from crossing swords with their blood-thirsty opponents. Why else would headquarters have left its London office, in particular, so woefully lacking in the skills and resources needed to make a proper impact at this important time?
I don’t believe they are batting for Palestine at all. But that’s just a personal opinion.
The wreckage of Gaza, the great suffering and the day-to-day air-strikes against its civilians – these ongoing crimes are allowed to be lost in the smoke and mirrors of Netanyahu’s scheme to divert attention towards Iran.
Netanyahu briefs Western journalists on his outrageous programme of conquest, implying that Palestinians must accept settlements declared illegal under international law and insisting that Israeli “sovereignty” over Jerusalem cannot be questioned. The PA’s media experts – if they had any – could make mincemeat of Israel’s preposterous claims and reframe the occupation in a way that told the world the truth.
“A house divided cannot stand”
Ordinary working people from countries far away, who put their hands in their own pockets and bravely drove with Free-Gaza convoys or sailed with mercy-mission ships, have done far more for the Palestinian cause than the internationally-funded, natty-suited poseurs who have no democratic mandate but strut the international stage achieving – well, achieving what?
Fatah have done themselves (and others) irreparable damage. They have shot their bolt. How will they command respect in the foreseeable future?
Meanwhile, it is four-and-a-half years since the fateful day Hamas was elected to power. They may have been surprised and unprepared then, but there is no excuse for squandering such a heaven-sent opportunity now. If, as the Islamic resistance movement has said before, it is prepared to accept the reality of Israel behind the internationally-recognized pre-1967 borders, its much criticized Charter no longer has a place in Hamas diplomacy. Why hasn’t it been consigned to the wastepaper basket of Palestinian history and replaced with something more constructive?
Hamas must do (within chosen limits, of course) whatever it takes to abolish its sinister image and make the rest of the world feel comfortable. It must erase its ‘terrorist’ reputation, whether justified or not.
It must remove obstacles to cooperation. It must take the wind out of Israel’s and America’s sails. In short, it must reinvent itself as a matter of urgency.
It must re-brand, open the door and make itself more approachable.
This wouldn’t be difficult. Hamas’s government team are well educated and competent. They have been tested like no other. Some are described as hardliners but they are not generally seen as Islamic extremists, and I heard no serious complaints from the Christian community when I was there. There is every reason to believe that the tradition of getting along together is still cherished despite the best efforts of “Christian” warmongers of the West to drive a wedge between Muslim and Christian.
It seems to me that if Western politicians can enthusiastically hobnob with rabid Zionists, ignore their war crimes and persistent lawlessness, and even wave the Israeli flag for them back in London and Washington, they should find it perfectly agreeable to sit down with not-so-rabid Islamists.
But how do we get to that point?
Two years ago a Palestine strategy group produced a report called “Regaining the Initiative – Palestinian Strategic Options to End Israeli Occupation” (PDF). Besides reminding Palestinians what their strategic objectives should be, it urged them “to seize their destiny in their own hands” by refusing to enter into peace negotiations unless the international community dealt first with issues relating to national self-determination, liberation from occupation, individual and collective rights, and enforcement of international law.
Only when these priorities were met could peacemaking and state-building begin.
First things first, right?
Secondly it spelled out the need for national unity. “A house divided against itself
cannot stand… Palestinian strategic action is impossible if the Palestinian nation is unable to speak with one voice or to act with one will.”
Right again. Well-wishers like me shake their heads in disbelief at the ongoing disunity.
The report, which was funded by the EU, concluded by saying:
What Palestinians must be prepared to undertake is nothing less than a final and conclusive strategic battle with Israel… The main conclusion of the strategic review conducted by the Palestine Strategy Study Group is that Palestinians have more strategic cards than they think – and Israel has fewer.
If that’s the case, the authors might consider turning their report into a fully-fledged action plan taking into account what has happened in the last two years and what might happen next if the paralysis continues, and making it a working document for the international community as well as the PA and Hamas to study.
Perhaps they have already done so.
But whoever rules in Palestine will never win any battles with Israel or the US without a proper media set-up and an effective communications strategy.
Fatah says no
Historic party figures are speaking out against resuming, on Washington’s bidding, unconditional and open talks with Israel, writes Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah
With Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas pressed hard by Washington to surrender to an Israeli fait accompli, mainly agreeing to resume open-ended but seemingly futile peace talks, prominent Fatah leaders in the West Bank have come out against any concessions to the Obama administration.
This week, two heavyweight Fatah leaders have castigated the “current political course”, calling it “disastrous” and “catastrophic”. The critics include veteran Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) officials Ahmed Qurei, a long-time negotiator and aide to former PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
In a far-ranging interview this week, Qurei noted that 19 years of talks with Israel achieved no results. “Not a single file has been sealed,” he said. Qurei argued that given the futility of talks and Israel’s adamant refusal to give up the spoils of the 1967 war, it was pointless to keep going just for the sake of it.
“It seems utterly impossible to reach an agreement with Israel. Therefore, the Palestinian people must seek alternatives,” Qurei said. The elderly Fatah leader tacitly criticised the present Palestinian leadership in Ramallah for “succumbing to the meaningless controversy” over having direct or indirect talks with Israel. “This is not the problem. The problem is that Israel is not willing to end its occupation and allow for the creation of a viable Palestinian state.”
Qurei also castigated US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, saying he was dealing with secondary and procedural issues while shunning real issues of substance pertaining to Jewish settlement expansion and the alteration by Israel of the landscape of the occupied territories. “The Americans are telling us just to sit down with the Israelis and talk and talk and talk. That is all.”
Much harsher words lambasting the futility of the peace process, especially US-coordinated proximity talks between the PA and Israel, came from Nabil Amr, former PLO ambassador to Cairo and an increasingly harsh critic of the present Palestinian leadership.
Amr told reporters in Ramallah this week: “We are facing a real dilemma and anyone denying this fact is either detached from reality or thinks that rhetorical overindulgence is the solution for every predicament we face.” Amr harshly criticised the Abbas leadership, describing it as vacillating, inconsistent, and unable to withstand external pressure, even when so doing is extremely detrimental to the Palestinian cause.
Amr further criticised capitalising on “the mantra of American pressure” to push the Palestinian people into submission or capitulation. “There are those amongst us who are trying to portray American pressure as if it were expedient to our interests, not Israeli interests.” Amr said the Obama administration was now dealing with the PA from the viewpoint of “trying to please a losing player”, citing, as an example, the upgrading of PLO representation to Washington.
“Obama has already been transformed from a friend and supporter, as portrayed by some of our genius politicians, into a coercer, even a bully, while Netanyahu is given near carte blanche to dictate the rules of the game,” Amr added.
Asking who has brought the Palestinians to this point of helplessness, Amr said the question was not really important itself, as “we have already reached what we have reached.” “The vital question is how we will get out of this predicament,” said Amr, adding that, “in the past we paid dearly for our extemporaneous and unstudied political behaviour. Now, the conditions we face force us to seek real answers without which we can’t deliver ourselves from these pitfalls. Getting out of the predicament requires more than verbal manoeuvres on satellite TV networks.”
Amr concluded his remarks by saying that, “the blunders of the past condemned us to falling in the heart of the ambush, and if we allow these blunders to be repeated, it will mean the end. I say this because political blunder will be fatal from now on.”
Such grave warnings by historic Fatah figures are also being echoed elsewhere. In recent days, imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and former Gaza strongman Mohamed Dahlan voiced their opposition to abandoning Palestinian preconditions for the resumption of talks with Israel, direct or indirect.
But this is not to say that Abbas can no longer cajole the bulk of Fatah’s ranks and file to back whatever steps he might take to get out of the current fix. The PA leadership can always tread on Fatah’s sensitive nerve — arguing that Washington, upon whose monetary aid the financial survival of the PA depends, cannot be alienated.
In the final analysis, Abbas, facing a “recalcitrant” Fatah and a Palestinian public that is disillusioned with the bankrupt peace process, will have to study his options carefully.
On the one hand, if Abbas decides to meet Washington’s dictates, his leadership, especially at the personal level, would be weakened. On the other hand, if he decides to follow the “beating heart of the Palestinian street”, he will risk upsetting the US administration and playing into the hands of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The Palestinian cause is already undergoing one of its most crucial episodes. Any wrong move, purposely or inadvertently, could have disastrous consequences for the Palestinian people.
If unable to make the right move, Abbas could announce his “practical” resignation. The Palestinian leader already announced his resignation more than a year ago, but then said it would go into effect at an undesignated date.
As to Fatah, it must soon chose whether the so- called peace process is really worth the trouble, lest it be seen by default as defending it and its public standing suffer vis-à-vis Hamas, or the Palestinian people as they become ever more repulsed by its theatrics.