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.

Hamas must rebrand and take the wind out of Israel’s and America’s sails

Stuart Littlewood

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.



“It seems utterly impossible to reach an agreement with Israel. Therefore, the Palestinian people must seek alternatives.”

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.


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

The Palestinian Authority is imprisoning Gazans

The same government that includes a call to end the blockade on Gaza, in practice aids in imprisoning the Gazans by preventing them from holding valid Palestinian passports.

By Amira Hass

Lies and power go hand in hand. But what is considered outrageous in a sovereign state is catastrophic for a society fighting for its freedom. The Palestinians have two sets of leadership under occupation competing for the dubious title of “government” – and both are generating lies to perpetuate their status. The Hamas government, which won the majority of the vote in democratic Palestinian legislative elections, is not recognized by most countries. Yet these countries warmly accept the Palestinian Authority government, which was appointed by the president and leader of the party that lost the election, Fatah.

A Hamas policeman checks passports at Rafah A Hamas policeman checks passports at the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, June 2010
Photo by: AP

This is the government that has explained its decision to postpone the municipal and local elections, originally scheduled for July 17 this year, by its desire to prevent the political rift between the West Bank and Gaza from widening. Parallel elections would not have been possible in the Gaza Strip because of the split between the parties and clashes over authority and legitimacy.

It is possible to argue over the logic of the initial stubbornness to hold elections that would have fortified the double-rule reality (one political experience in Gaza, and a different one in the West Bank ). This is why, indeed, independent circles in Gaza welcomed the decision to postpone. But everyone knows the real reason behind the postponement was internal disputes within Fatah, as well as a possible fear that competing slates would succeed – despite the fact that Hamas announced it would boycott the elections.

The same government that includes a call to end the blockade on Gaza in every one of its statements, in practice aids in imprisoning the Gazans by preventing many of them from holding valid Palestinian passports. Not only does the Fatah government refuse to send blank passports to Gaza to be filled out, thus forcing Gazans to use the services of special go-between agencies which send the applications to Ramallah, but its general intelligence service even intervenes – as has been revealed lately – and in many cases vetoes passports for Gaza residents.

Now, with Egypt easing the restrictions on entry through its border with Gaza, this arbitrary cruelty has become even more pronounced. The feeling of imprisonment, and the lies accompanying it, generates bitterness toward the government in Ramallah – even among those who are not Hamas supporters.

Security forces in the West Bank continue to arrest people identified with Hamas. The fact that the vast majority of these people are imprisoned for extended periods without a trial or any charges brought against them, raises the suspicion that this practice is not meant to foil security risks, but to actually take revenge for Fatah’s defeat in Gaza and to repress its political opponents.

Take Murad Amira, for example, from the village of Na’alin. As a volunteer paramedic in the Red Crescent he goes every Friday to the demonstrations held in his village against the separation wall. He was arrested by the Palestinian general security service six weeks ago and only released yesterday – without any explanation provided to him, his family or friends.

The Ramallah government supports the popular struggle in its words, but at the same time its security services continuously harass activists in Na’alin who are close to Hamas: They arrest them for two or three days, release them, and arrest them again. That is why official support for the popular struggle is viewed as just another fabrication. It’s no surprise the protests have remained the private domain of those directly affected by the lands expropriations and haven’t drawn the masses, certainly not those who fill the coffee houses, restaurants and festivals in Ramallah.

These are the same security authorities that have won praise from the occupier for the quiet they’ve achieved while the occupier acts: confiscating land, demolishing homes, expelling people, arresting children, preventing free movement and killing. The lies that accompany these activities and their close affiliation with Fatah cast a shadow over the trustworthiness of the leadership in the eyes of its people.



Can there be free elections under Fatah?

By Khalid Amayreh

Image by Bendib

The American-backed Fatah group has been demanding the organization of  general elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as soon as possible. However, the demands don’t seem to reflect genuine concern about democracy as one might  take it at face value.

Fatah officials and apologists argue that elections represent the only exit out of the present political deadlock at the Palestinian arena, including the enduring rift between Fatah and the Islamic movement, Hamas.

However, in the absence of real guarantees for holding truly free elections, the raucous blather about elections by the Fatah organization, or any other Palestinian group, remains an expression of deception and hypocrisy.

Today, the PA regime in the West Bank is more or less a police state apparatus. Human rights and civil liberties are virtually non-existent as the PA security agencies exercise absolute control over all aspects of life. People are unceremoniously fired from their jobs at the slightest suspicion regarding their political or ideological orientations. And the justice system is in a state of chronic paralysis due to the often wanton interference by the security apparatus.

Since 2007, hundreds of institutions have been seized and the “wrong”, e.g. Islamic-oriented,  governing bodies  sacked and replaced by Fatah loyalists. In many cases, capable and highly skilled teachers and civil servants were rather vindictively  dismissed only to be replaced by others whose main qualification is their membership in the Fatah organization.

And when the victims appeal to the courts for redress, they are told that their dismissal was justified due to “security reasons.”

In other words, one must sing all the songs of praise for Fatah and  give unflinching  loyalty to Abbas and his American-backed junta, or else he will be considered a security risk and consequently fired from his or her  job.

In addition, there is a huge amount of abuse of people’s basic human and legal rights under the rubric of the whoring security coordination with Israel.

According to this regime, any Palestinian arrested by Israel is rearrested upon his or her release by the Palestinian Authority security agencies, and vice versa. Even a Palestinian freedom fighter or political prisoner who has spent 10 or 15 yeas of his life, is rearrested as soon as he sets foot in his village or town.

Needless to say, this is more than just security coordination with Israel. This is outright treachery since these heroic people who have spent the prime of their lives in Zionist jails  deserve every appreciation and gratitude, not arrest, humiliation and imprisonment inside a dark, slimy cell.

In recent days and weeks, the PA has allowed student elections to take place on several campuses in the West Bank . However, the elections had no semblance of real elections whatsoever.  In many cases, prior to the elections hundreds of Islamic-oriented students were rounded up and warned against participation in the elections. The message was too clear: If you participate in the elections, you will be arrested twice: First by the PA and then by the  Israelis. Given the police state atmosphere, most of the student population either boycotted the polls or cast blank ballots in protest against the conspicuous absence of freedom and fairness.

The same pattern of behavior,  the anti-Hamas inquisition,  has prevailed and continues to prevail in every other institution in the West Bank whereby people are harassed and persecuted for their political views and suspected affiliation.

Hence, one would really wonder how free and fair elections can be carried out under such circumstances.

Well, the answer is clear: No true elections worthy of the name can be conducted under existing conditions in the West Bank where the Fatah-run government views an important part of citizenry as enemies. How else can one relate to the mass dismissal of people from their jobs, with many forced to seek work at Jewish settlements in order to provide food for their families?

More to the point, true elections require a healthy environment that is free from intimidation and interference by the security agencies, a requirement that is conspicuously absent especially in the Wes Bank.

Indeed, allowing elections, whether local or general, to take place under the current police-state atmosphere would be a serious insult to the Palestinian people’s intelligence.

This is why, Hamas and other Palestinian factions which value true democracy are urged to reject Fatah’s  exploits and explicit efforts to falsify the Palestinian people’s will by concocting elections that have little or no credibility, elections that would give the impression that a majority of the Palestinian people are surrendering to Israel and readying themselves to  sell out al-Quds al Sharif (the Noble Jerusalem) and the refugees’ right of return in exchange for a comical, hamburger statelet on parts of the West Bank.

We all know that Fatah came to regret  having allowed elections to take place in 2006. Now, Fatah and the PA are assuring their ultimate patron, the United States (which is at Israel’s beck and call), that Hamas will not be allowed to win again.

Which means that Fatah, ostensibly with American and Israeli blessing and support, will use every conceivable means, including the intended  falsification and rigging of elections, in order to ensure Fatah’s victory.

If so, it would be more dignifying and wise for Hamas, and other dignified Palestinians, to boycott such dishonorable elections as taking part in these elections would probably exacerbate the already volatile  atmosphere with Fatah and might lead to the outbreak of violence.

Undoubtedly, Hamas might see itself coming under  growing pressure from certain Arab regimes to agree to hold elections under the present circumstances. Well, Hamas must resist such pressures, especially coming  from these repressive regimes which are utterly unqualified to lecture us on elections and democracy.

In the final analysis, the vast majority of our people shall not and will not commit adultery with our enduring and sacred cause by succumbing to the American-Israeli conspiracies, even if these conspiracies assume  a Palestinian face.


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff


By Dr. Ellen Rosser, President
Friendship and Peace Society

From September 2006 to June 2007, I had an office in Gaza and was
witness to some of the events that led to Hamas’ takeover of Gaza.   Did
Hamas stage  a coup, a planned overthrow of the Palestinian Authority
in Gaza?  The answer is definitely  no.  What then did happen?

My first experience of the conflict between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza
occurred the first day that  I arrived in Gaza City  by taxi from the
Erez border crossing,  I needed to use an ATM to get shekels, and the
driver took me to a bank next to the central park.  But  people were
running away from the area and at the bank the men  waiting to use the
ATM were flat against the wall.  Bullets were flying a little farther
down the street.  I  ran from the taxi to the ATM, where the men
politely put me at the front of the line, as they always do for
women,.  I  took the shekels, and ran back to the taxi, looking down
the street to see where the bullets were coming from that I should

Some months later, the next events that I personally  was aware of
in the tragic series occurred when the  Hamas minister of the
Interior, Siam Siyad, wanted a video tape showing who had killed a
Palestinian Authority soldier and wounded two others. It had been in
the possession of  Jad, who was killed, and then in the possession of
Major  Baha Balouja of Fatah, who  refused to give it up.

Subsequently, Major Baha was threatened, and a few days later his two
young sons were  killed when gunmen opened fire on the car with dark
windows in which the children were being driven to school.

I went with a Fatah friend to offer condolences to Major Baha, and while we were there,  a man  came from Prime Minister Haniyeh, who was waiting at the  Rafah border to return from Egypt,  and said that the Prime Minister wanted to come to offer his condolences and wanted to know if that would be alright. Major Baha said “yes.”    In other words,  Prime Minister Haniyeh knew nothing about  who killed  the two little boys and wished to express his sorrow at the tragedy.   A few days later, however, he may have heard Indications that Hamas members were involved,  for on television he said that if  “we,” i.e. Hamas,  have done anything wrong, we will pay “diwa,” (blood money, a traditional Palestinian way of resolving such an issue)..

However, that night when Haniyeh was entering Gaza after being
held at the border for eight hours  while Egypt decided what to do
about the millions of dollars he was bringing with him,   there was an
assassination attempt on his life by some men who guarded the border,
Mohammed Dahlan’s men.   Haniyeh  was not hit by the bullets shot from
the roof of the border crossing terminal, but his son and Ahmed Yusef
, who were next to him, were wounded.     Haniyeh did not dwell
extensively on the attempt, saying merely on television that he was
willing to be a martyr.  President Mahmoud Abbas,  I am sure,  was not
aware of the attempted assassination of Haniyeh any more than Haniyeh
was aware of  who killed the two boys.    Indeed, after the Fatah and
Hamas men began attacking each other in the city every day, the two
leaders both called for peace and an end of the fighting several
times, and after a joint call for peace, the fighting would stop for a
day or two,  but then it would resume.

A number of  times I  had to wait in my office/apartment until
the shooting moved away from my area,  then  hurry down to the street
to go to the nearby bakery and vegetable  stores to stock up on food
for a few days.  Usually an armed man on the corner–I  never knew
whether he would be Hamas or Fatah–would look up and down the street
for me and then wave me across.   Both sides were courteous and
helpful to the  old, American woman.

At one point, while the  bullets were volleying back and forth
down the main streets in Gaza City and elsewhere, the US or more
precisely, I’m  sure,  Gen. Keith Dayton, tried to intervene on behalf
of Fatah, by  sending in a truckload or more of weapons.   Hamas
learned of the shipment, however,  seized it and used it.

But it is important to note that the anger of the Hamas men on
the street was not directed against the Palestinian Authority nor
President Abbas but rather against the Fatah leader who had
arrested—and tortured—Hamas men during the second intifada: Mohammed Dahlan.     One night I heard from my office window someone reciting through a very loud speaker what sounded like a poem.   But in the middle of it I heard  “Mohammed Dahlan,  Israelian, Americaniya”   In
other words,  Dahlan because of his previous actions was considered to
be an Israeli and an American—not a Palestinian nationalist.  One
wonders what would have happened if Dahlan had not been the Head of
Security for the P.A.; would the conflict in Gaza  have happened?

The people of Gaza and all the other political parties were very angry at Fatah nad Hamas for fighting and disrupting the lives of all the people.  However, I must emphasize again that it was not the leaders—Abbas and Haniyeh—who were responsible.   Indeed, one day the Gaza director of the Friendship and Peace Society, who is neither Fatah nor Hamas,  and I organized a children’s demonstration against the fighting.   Forty children in white shirts and white caps with signs saying in Arabic:: “ Peace Fatah and Hamas”; “Stop the Fighting”;  and a quotation from
the Koran—“If Muslim kills Muslim of set intent,  he has eternal punishment.”   When the bus full of children drove up to Haniyeh’s office,  his office director welcomed us and thanked us, saying he agreed with us.  And when the bus drove up to Abbas’ office, his office manager welcomed us and thanked us, saying he agreed with us.

Then we went to the central park to join the other political parties and civil societies who were protesting the fighting.

Since the leaders were unable to prevent the fighting on the street and gunmen were shooting down the boulevards and from the tops of tall buildings,  it was a relief for the people of Gaza when one party won, the fighting stopped and people could resume their lives without fear of becoming a civilian casualty.

Was there a “coup” in Gaza?   I don’t think that is the proper word for what happened.There were some people on both sides who wanted to overthrow some individuals on the other side.   Mohammed Dahlan was
hated by Hamas, though he was not present in Gaza then,  and there was
an attempt on the life of Haniyeh by  Dahlan’s men.  However,  I think
one might call what happened more a  vendetta than a coup.   And  I
think everyone should emphasize that the leaders—Haniyeh and Abbas—were  not responsible for the fighting and indeed tried to stop
it several times.

In other words,  it would be appropriate for  Abbas and Haniyeh
to continue their peacemaking roles.    Abbas could emphasize to the
world, especially to Gen. Keith Dayton, that Hamas is not a
“terrorist” organization, it should not be on the “terrorist” list,
and its members should not be in prison for belonging to Hamas.
Moreover, Abbas could encourage the EU and US to talk to Hamas, which
is currently being unjustly  boycotted just as the PLO was boycotted
from l987-1991, during which time Arafat was calling for peace just as
Hamas is calling for the two state solution now.   And Haniyeh could
reciprocate by becoming part of the peace-loving unity government and
by calling for elections so that the Palestinian people can exercise
their right to freely choose a new government.


Image from Al-Ahram

Something is cooking…. and smelling rather foul! Israel is ‘reaching out’ to the Palestinian Authority to renew ‘Peace Talks’ on one phone, while on the other is giving orders to bomb Gaza.

Are we seeing the ‘final solution’ in the making as far as Gaza is concerned? The picture seems clear, the Egyptian wall, the unrelenting siege, the war games Israel is playing now to get ready for a new invasion, to this time, occupy Gaza and hand it over to those who work with Israel, Mahmoud Abbas in particular. Could this also be a good practice run for a possible upcoming war on Iran. Practice makes perfect you know. Never mind how many Muslims are murdered. And all of this under the watchful eye and approval of Obama and his zionist oriented cabinet.

U.S. President Obama seems to have started his campaign for reelction already by ‘concentrating’ on internal issues and closing his eyes to the slaughter of the Palestinians.

He’s got to morph into George W. now if he stands any chance of being more than a one term President. With Clinton and other right of centre Democrats on his coat tails and the Republicans foaming at the mouth with their growing “tea parties”, this is what will shape the path of his decision making now.

One of Obama’s biggest mistakes was not focusing on the Middle East and standing up to Israel early on, forcing them to do the deed and make peace early enough in his term as President, so he’d have enough time to recover from the zionist AIPAC fallout and then use the Peace Deal as a victory and proof of his election promises to then focus on his next run for election. He has left it far too late for this term in office. Now any peace deal can only be one that Israel wants, no matter how badly the result is for Palestinians. We are witnessing Obama’s desperate attempt to save his own arse, at any cost. And as always, it is the Palestinians that will suffer.

In America itself, there is a very bleak picture. With Obama’s approval ratings in the basement and heading for somewhere underground. There is no chance of him standing up to Israel or the war mongers within America, not if he wants to have even a remote chance of re-election. All those cross over voters, Republicans and independents, won’t be voting for him again. And what of the Democrats themselves? No harmony there either, judging from the fiasco of Obama’s healthcare package war and ultimate watered down approval.

So as always, Palestine cannot depend on America to help stop the genocide of its people. We are heading into the 62nd year of the most brutal occupation of the century, how much longer must it be before the world at large helps put a stop to it? Do we have to see a replay of a Cast Lead before this happens? Do we have to see the issuance of another report condemning such actions??

Enough with the reports!

We want PEACE!!

We want FREEDOM!!

We want STATEHOOD!!!

N O W !!!!


By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Days pass by here each one very unpredictable.  Yesterday we heard significant complaints about the rumored plans by the accomodationist branches of Fatah for the creation of a department for “Mughtaribeen” (expatriates) dropping the language of exile and diaspora and coming closer to abrogating fully the internationally recognized rights of refugees.   Whatever the real story is, the sensitivity shows that the issue of refugees remains the core of the Palestinian struggle.  Earlier, we went to help a farmer in Um Salamone to reclaim his land by planting trees and clearing rocks.  We are told that a settler had come and uprooted the trees of another farmer and burned them the day before.  The settler comes from the nearby colony of Migdal Oz which is surrounded by video cameras so clearly if they want to stop this they could.  In any case, the farmer actually follows procedure and lodges a complaint with Israeli police via phone, a policeman arrives and takes his statement and asks him to go with him to (where else) the colony of Migdal Oz.  Not more than ten minutes after they leave, heavily armed Israeli occupation soldiers arrive and ask us what we are doing then pick on the younger Palestinian men volunteering with us (asking them for their ID cards and asking them questions).

We toured the Old city of Hebron with visitors of mixed background including a Jewish and Catholic couple (even though not religious).  The soldier at the gate to the Ibrahimi Mosque says the woman with Jewish background needs to go from another entrance to the section that is just for Jews. The building has been a mosque for 1400 years but has always welcomed visitors of all religions. After a Jewish terrorist killed 29 worshippers and injured over 100 in 1994, the Israeli authority did not react as you would have hoped (by removing the 400 racist fanatical settlers living in the heart of this city of 400,000 Palestinians) but reacted by securing more space for the colonial settlers, taking over more buildings in the heart of Hebron and dividing the mosque into a “Jewish” and “nonJewish” areas.  As we walked in the old section of Hebron (now very much commercially dead thanks to the settlers), we encountered Israeli soldiers on patrol and we talked to a young man who took us into the roof of his house showing us along the way a room that had been burnt by settlers. On the roof we see the building next door (connected actually) that was taken over by settlers and soldiers.  A soldier in the watch tower and settlers on their window is what the 9 Palestinian Children in the house see as they play in the balcony.

We also encounter wonderful Jewish and non-Jewish colleagues and supporters who do not swim with the tide of oppression.  Many Israelis who do not buy their government’s lie about avoiding “Area A” (the 5% of historic Palestine that now is the concentration camps for us Palestinians).  They come, share meals with us and learn new things and yes build friendships.  These kind of unexpected encounters are common here every day.  Life with human camaraderie and solidarity in the Unholy/Holy Land remains beautiful despite all of the problems and challenges.  We hope you come experience it.

I will be in Spain 14-15 Dec in Madrid, 16-18 in Barcelona participating in conferences and giving talks.  In Madrid, in the frame of joint activities carried between The Culture, Piece, and Solidarity Haydee Santamaria Association, and AIDUN Center for Refugee are convening the second international symposium entitled : ”Middle Eastern Politics: Myth & Reality http://www.culturaypaz.org/conferencias-las-politicas-en-oriente-medio-mitos-y-realidades-ii-los-dias-14-y-15-de-diciembre-en-el-circulo-de-bellas-artes-de-madrid-a-partir-de-las-1830h

(I will be in Italy in early January and in the US in March also on speaking tours)

Video: Palestinians being evicted from their home in Jerusalem to be taken over by settlers


Action 1: European Union demands Israel ends all its settlement and occupation of areas beyond the Green Line including in Arab East Jerusalem [This is significant but European public needs to push their governments to now follow-up with sanctions until Israel complies with International law http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8401913.stm

Action 2: The March on Gaza Dec. 27-Jan 1 will be accompanied by demonstrations and vigils around the world.  We will have a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) in Bethlehem area to plan actions. Email me for details.  Please plan events in your city and try to include BDS actions (http://www.bdsmovement.net )


Quote of the day from the chief Rabbi of the city of Safad (a city that was before 1948, 80% Palestinian and has since been ethnically cleansed of its native Palestinian population, see http://www.palestineremembered.com/Safad/Safad/index.html ): “From a Jewish Law perspective, their [the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip] electricity and water need to be shut off” (of course Rabbis from Rabbis for Human Rights and Naturei Karta would have a different perspective but there is unfortunately a lot of officials/leaders here who believe this)


Perpetual predicament

Delayed elections will not resolve the deep national crisis facing the Palestinians, Khalid Amayreh reports from Ramallah

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to formally announce the postponement of Palestinian general elections until further notice.

One PA official close to Abbas was quoted this week as saying that Abbas had no choice but to delay the polls. “The president has reached the conclusion that it is impossible to hold elections without the Gaza Strip. We are also not sure if Israel would allow the people of Jerusalem to participate in the elections.”

A few weeks ago, Abbas issued a decree calling for “presidential and legislative elections” to be held in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip on 24 January 2010. However, a standoff in reconciliation efforts between Fatah and Hamas, and especially a seemingly hopeless peace process with Israel, eventually prompted the PA leader to announce that he wouldn’t take part in the upcoming elections. In a series of recent interviews with Arab and foreign media, Abbas emphasised that his decision was no bluff and that he was likely to end his political career. “Perhaps they [the elections] will be delayed by a year, or less, I don’t know. What I am saying now is that I will not be a candidate,” the PA leader said during an interview with the BBC Arabic Service.

Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) leadership would take unspecified “measures” to avoid a constitutional vacuum when his term of office expires on 25 January 2010. The PLO leadership, including Fatah, has been trying in vain to convince Abbas to reconsider his decision. Fatah leaders said they wouldn’t choose a successor to Abbas, which would further exacerbate a political and constitutional crisis facing both the PA and the PLO, endangering the continued survival of the former.

Attempting to deal with the mounting crisis, the PLO Central Committee is expected to hold an important meeting in the middle of December. According to Fatah officials, the committee, which occupies an intermediate status between the Palestinian National Council (PNC) and the PLO Executive Committee, will try hard to change Abbas’s mind vis-à-vis his intention to resign. However, in case Abbas insisted on leaving, which is widely expected, the Central Committee would take “far-reaching decisions” including dissolving the Hamas-controlled — but effectively paralysed — Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) as well as empowering the PLO to assume many of the key functions and powers of the PA — the Western-backed government of Salam Fayyad.

The dissolution of the PLC, which is a de facto Palestinian parliament, could be fraught with complications. The council, an elected body, is an integral part of the self rule authority, and dissolving it without dissolving the entire PA structure would be interpreted by Hamas as a hostile act by Fatah aimed first and foremost at the Islamic group. “An unelected body can’t dissolve an elected body,” Ahmed Bahr, deputy speaker of the PLC said. The same remark has been made repeatedly by Aziz Duweik, PLC speaker.

It is not clear as yet what retaliatory measures Hamas would take against Fatah and the PLO in case the Central Committee decided to dissolve the PLC. What is clear is that the ensuing crisis, if such a decision was made, would seriously worsen the existing crisis.

Azzam Al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah leader, expressed the fear that Abbas’s departure from public life would “plunge the Palestinian leadership and people into a real crisis”. “If the president doesn’t backtrack [on his decision not to run in the next elections], this would lead to the total collapse of the Palestinian Authority and not only its dismantlement,” Ahmed told the Jerusalem-based Arabic newspaper, Al-Quds.

In recent weeks, conflicting indications have come from Hamas as to the future of the Egyptian-mediated national reconciliation efforts. The Gaza-based leaders of the Islamic movement have been affirming Hamas’s desire to reach an agreement with Fatah as soon as possible. Some spokespersons even predicted that Hamas would sign the Egyptian- formulated document after the Eid Al-Adha holiday. However, some of Hamas’s leaders based outside occupied Palestine have indicated that reconciliation with Fatah is still a long way off. They argued that the current atmosphere in the occupied Palestinian territories, especially in the West Bank, was by no means conducive to holding elections.

In a related development, the Egyptian government has invited “the National Reconciliation Committee”, which is made up of non-partisan Palestinian intellectuals and community leaders, to Cairo to discuss Hamas’s reservations and observations about the draft reconciliation document. A committee member, Iyad Al-Sarraj, a neuro-psychiatrist from Gaza, spoke optimistically about the prospects of Hamas signing the document in the near future. The head of the committee, Yasser Wadiya, pointed out that reconciliation efforts would be resumed after Eid Al-Adha. He was quoted by Maan News Agency as saying that delegates, in coordination with Egypt, would provide guarantees and adopt confidence-building assurances to reach a final agreement.

Meanwhile, the propaganda war between the two sides continues unabated. Abbas, for his part, has been reiterating accusations that Hamas has been holding “secret talks” with Israel in Geneva, saying the movement was in no position to claim “a moral high ground”. The accusations, vehemently denied by Hamas, seem to lack credibility unless Abbas and his aides were referring to German-mediated indirect talks about a possible prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas. Fatah is particularly worried that the release by Israel of hundreds of Palestinian leaders from Israeli prisons in exchange for the release by Hamas of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit would be a huge popularity booster for Hamas.

This explains the fact that PA officials have been trying to belittle as much as possible the significance of the prospective deal lest it strengthen Hamas and weaken Fatah. Fatah spokespersons have been attacking Hamas for allegedly agreeing to Israeli demands that an undisclosed number of would-be released Palestinian prisoners would be sent abroad for a number of years. Hamas has not confirmed reports in this regard. Fatah is also worried that the release by Israel of PLO leaders such as Marwan Al-Barghouti, a potential successor to Abbas, and Ahmed Saadat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), would leave Fatah indebted to Hamas and could block Abbas were he to renege on his threat to quit politics.



Apathy, as Mahmoud Abbas abandons an irrelevant presidency
By Daoud Kuttab

A political leader’s decision not to seek re-election usually triggers fervent discussion about potential heirs. Yet, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ withdrawal from the presidential election scheduled for January 24, 2010, has produced nothing of the kind in Palestine – not because of a dearth of leadership or a reluctance to mention possible successors, but because the presidency of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has become irrelevant.

Abbas’ withdrawal comes at a time when Palestinian frustration with the political process has rendered suspect the entire rationale behind the PA, established in the mid-1990s, following the Oslo Accords. The main component of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s (PLO) agreement with Israel was a five-year interim period during which talks were expected to lead to an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Sixteen years later, it has become clear that the Israelis have made no effort to come to terms with Palestinian national aspirations – and that no effective effort has been made to convince them. The number of illegal Jewish settlers in Palestinian areas has doubled, leaving Palestinians increasingly convinced that negotiations are a waste of time. Many recall the preferred strategy of the former Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir: “I would have conducted negotiations on autonomy for 10 years, and in the meantime we would have reached a half-million people in the West Bank.”

Initially, the five-year interim agreement called for the election of a Palestinian Legislative Council and an executive leader whom the Israelis wanted to call a “chairman,” spurning the word “president.” Because Arabic makes no distinction between chairman and president, the Israelis accepted use of the Arabic word rayyes in the official English text.

Palestinian refugees in exile and other Palestinians living in the diaspora were not allowed to vote. East Jerusalem Palestinians were allowed to vote only at the post office or at booths outside the city limits.

Abbas’ withdrawal merely confirms the obvious. Another such election in the near future, including the one set for January, is unlikely to occur, mainly owing to the continuing rift between the PLO and the Hamas Movement, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Hamas participated in the 2006 legislative elections, which followed Israel’s military withdrawal from Gaza. But for years Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups have rejected the Oslo process, on the grounds that free elections under Israeli occupation would be absurd. Hamas has the power to stymie the vote and has indicated that it would do so.

Moreover, Abbas has not given up his positions as head of the PLO and leader of its biggest faction, Fatah, which remains in control in the West Bank. Abbas cannot resign from his post for the foreseeable future, lest the Hamas-backed speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council take over. At the same time, no PLO official is likely to seek the presidency without Abbas’ approval, which he will withhold until a new mechanism for ending the occupation is found.

The PLO will likely gain much from Abbas’ decision, because it de-emphasizes the status of the PA president and raises the profile of his post as chairman of the PLO’s executive committee. That shift, in turn, clears the way for a generational change in leadership – and, more importantly, a transition to post-Oslo politics.

The PLO’s old guard – men like Yasser Arafat and Abbas, who led the liberation organization from exile and returned home with the Oslo Accords – have dominated the Palestinian political landscape up to now. After they depart the scene, Palestinian leaders who were born under occupation and spent time in Israeli prisons will most likely fill the vacuum.

The most prominent such figure is Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the student movement at Bir Zeit University in the 1980s and one of the main organizers of the First Intifada, resulting in his deportation by Israel in the late 1980s. In 2002, he was arrested and sentenced to a long prison term on charges that he led the Second Intifada, which had begun two years earlier, and ordered some of its military attacks.

Despite being imprisoned, Barghouti was recently elected to Fatah’s central council, and a number of others who spent time in Israeli prisons will join him. One is Jibril Rajoub, imprisoned for 19 years and deported in the First Intifada, only to return to lead one of the security services after the PA was established. Another is Mahmoud Dahlan, also an ex-prisoner and former security official, although the loss of Gaza to Hamas, for which many Palestinians hold him partly responsible, has dimmed his leadership prospects.

Finally, there is Nasser al-Qudwa, the former PLO representative to the United Nations. Qudwa is a dark-horse candidate to succeed Abbas – a possible compromise figure who has never been directly involved in security or military activities. For many Palestinians, Qudwa, a soft-spoken, multi-lingual nationalist (and Arafat’s nephew), presents an acceptable face for Palestine both locally and internationally.

The coming months will reveal whether we are, indeed, witnessing the dawn of the post-Oslo era in Palestinian politics, and whether a new leader, with new supporters, will be required to revive the Palestinian cause. Whoever emerges on top will have to present an effective strategy to end four decades of military occupation and bring about a truly independent state that a majority of Palestinians can embrace.



Mourning uprooted olive trees in West Bank villages
By Gideon Levy

The old tractor sputtered up the hill, its engine seemingly about to expire, but its big wheels bumping across the rocky terrain. We stood in the back, swaying wildly, holding on for dear life. On the hilltop loomed the big antenna of the settlement of Yitzhar, whose houses lay on the other side of the hill. The very knowledge of their presence inspired dread. It was a glorious sunny day, the spectacular valley sprawling below. The houses of the Palestinian village of Burin lie in this valley, which lies between two hills: on one stands Yitzhar; on the other, Har Bracha, outside Nablus.


Burin is caught between a rock and hard place, between Har Bracha and Yitzhar. We have visited Burin often, most recently after settlers burned down some of its homes. Settlers once stole a horse from a villager, torched fields, demolished a home in the village and uprooted olive trees. We have frequently documented the uprooting of olive trees: Less than a month ago, in this space, we told the story of the beautiful vineyard belonging to the agriculture teacher Mohammed Abu Awad from the village of Mureir, whose 300 trees were felled by intruders – probably from the illegal outpost of Adei Ad – using buzz saws.

Here, clues left by the criminals suggest that they used handsaws and ripped out the crowns of the trees with their hands, one crown after another, one branch after another, rending and wounding the trees. In Mureir, the agriculture teacher wrapped the stumps in sacks, giving them the look of figures in shrouds. Here, in Burin, the stumps remain where they were hurled on the ground, stacks of dead wood, branches withering, until finally the farmer will use them as firewood to heat the village’s clay ovens, the tabuns.

But the feeling is the same, the affront is the same and so is the grief. In October, the farmer Abu Awad said about the ruins of his vineyard in Mureir: “What must you feel if you plant and tend and then it’s all cut down? What must I feel? If I had been there, I’d have told them, cut off my hands, but don’t cut down my trees – What did the tree do to them, for them to treat it like this?” (Haaretz Magazine, October 16)


And now the farmer Ibrahim Imran tells us in Burin: “These trees are like my children.” Hands or children, the grief of those who tend their olive groves is searing and deeply moving. The inability of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces and of the officers of the Israel Police to protect the groves of these farmers, to protect their property and their honor, is the inability of all of us.

We stood on the rear fender of the tractor as it clambered its way up the hill. Standing with us was Ruth Kedar, an activist from Machsom Watch, which monitors checkpoints, and Yesh Din (Volunteers for Human Rights). She has crisscrossed the territories in her private car for years, documenting wrongs and injustice. Her husband, retired colonel Paul Kedar, is also active in Yesh Din. It’s worth lingering over his riveting biography: Paul Kedar comes from a Revisionist family; his father was one of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s secretaries. He himself was one of the founders of the Israel Air Force and later served as air attache in Paris during the period of the Sinai Campaign. He has been in the Mossad and served as consul general in New York, among other state posts. He was a friend of Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres. He too now devotes his time to documenting the occupation and struggling against its abuses. The Kedars, now in their eighties, will soon receive the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and deservedly so.

Above the noise of the tractor, one of the Palestinian farmers tells us that he heard that his neighbor, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, from Yitzhar, has permitted the killing of all non-Jews. Indeed, Shapira, head of the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva in Yitzhar (named for the biblical Joseph), recently published a book, “The King’s Torah,” in which he states that it is permissible to kill every gentile who constitutes a threat to the Jewish people, even if he is a child or an infant.

When Imran arrived to work his land early Thursday morning, he was appalled. It was, he says, “the height of frustration,” and adds: “After God, I rely only on my olive trees. These trees are no less than 70 years old. My great-great-grandfather planted them.”

Imran called everyone he could think of – the District Coordinations Offices, the International Red Cross, B’Tselem and Yesh Din – and also filed a complaint with the Israel Police at Ariel. Investigators came to the grove and took fingerprints, he says, but he has yet to receive confirmation of having submitted a report. Yesh Din is now handling his complaint.

An IDF jeep suddenly arrives to see what’s going on – just the kind of jeep that rarely shows up when the settlers go on a rampage.

A spokesman for the Shai (Samaria-Judea) District of the police stated in response: “On November 12, a resident of Burin complained that he noticed that 90 olive trees on his land had been chopped down. The damage was documented by the criminal investigations department at the site, and trackers scoured the area to find footprints. Testimonies were taken from two locals: the owner of the land and his worker. The police are conducting additional investigative activities, among them locating suspects and witnesses. The Samaria District police are also operating on the intelligence plane.”



Hamas: don't allow sham elections to take placeBy Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah

Anyone listening to Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas these days would think the man is a paragon of democracy and liberty.  Abbas, who has remained at the helm of the PA despite the expiration of his term in office, has been exhorting Palestinians to prepare for “presidential and legislative elections” which he called a “constitutional imperative.”

However, a deeper look into Abbas’s behaviors at home shows that the PA Chairman is not really interested in holding true, free and honest elections. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Today, Abbas is presiding over a ruthless despotic regime where the level of repression is unprecedented since the start of the Israeli Occupation in 1967.

There is a nearly total absence of human rights and civil liberties. As to the rule of law, it is virtually paralyzed. Some human rights groups which wronged  citizens used to turn to for help have closed their doors, apparently under pressure from the PA security agencies.

A few weeks ago, I met a young Palestinian teacher who was fired from his  job by the security apparatus for reasons he is yet to know or understand.

“I don’t know why they did it. I am a good teacher and had been lawfully appointed as a teacher.  Suddenly, I was notified by the headmaster that I was fired for undisclosed reasons.”

The teacher, a father of three children, said he suspected that the main reason for his dismissal had to do with his relatives who happened to be outspoken critics of the PA regime.
In addition to the  dismissal, the PA is refusing to pay him thousands of dollars of unpaid salaries which he says could help him reorganize his life.

The teacher appealed to European Union (EU) and other donors to see to it that the PA treats its citizens with a semblance of justice, dignity and decency.

“Don’t enable the PA to deny its own citizens their basic human rights. Don’t enable the PA to oppress, savage and humiliate us.”

The teacher who hails from the Hebron region says he was already contemplating emigrating to Scandinavia to escape “the Fatah tyranny.”

“I am not a member of Hamas, I have never been a member of Hamas. I am not even a particularly religious person. Yet, I was hounded and eventually fired from my job on no ground other than the fact that some of my relatives are religious people.

“I have been a teacher for three years, and now they’ve decided to jettison  me like an old pair of shoes. They wouldn’t even pay me my dues which could help me re-organize my life. So what am I supposed to do? Become a collaborator with the Shin Beth? Or go to Jewish settlements to find work to support my family? Or emigrate to Australia or Canada or any other country.”

In truth, that teacher, who was reluctant to give his identity for fear of further retaliation,  epitomizes hundreds  of civil servants who have been unceremoniously fired from their jobs on suspicion of sympathizing with Hamas.  However,  their efforts to find justice have been to no avail as the PA establishment has enacted “emergency laws” stating that the security agencies had the right to fire any public employee without having to justify the decision.

In other words, one has to worship the government if one is interested in keeping  his or her  job.

There is a name for such a government. It is called a fascist government, straight and simple.

The absence of justice  in the West Bank goes hand in hand with the absence of civil liberties including freedom of expression.

Today, any gesture of opposition to the American-backed regime is reported to the security agency. As many as 9,000 people, mostly suspected Hamas sympathizers,  have been arrested by these agencies in the West Bank since 2007.  Many or most of the detainees are subjected to physical and psychological torture. Indeed, at least ten detainees died under brutal torture in police facilities maintained thanks to American and European tax-payers’ money.

This writer personally knows many young people who have been  arrested and maltreated for hoisting the green Islamic banner bearing the Islamic article of faith. Others were subjected to harsh interrogation over which political party they had voted for in the January-2006 elections.

At colleges throughout the West Bank, half of the students have been made to inform on the other half of the student population. This is  really poisoning the college atmosphere and creating deep mistrust among students.

Similarly, newly-recruited  PA informers all over the West Bank have replaced, or more correctly, augmented Shin Beth collaborators, in carrying out the “job” of informing on any opposition to the Ramallah regime and the Israel occupation. Some of the informers even inform on people frequenting mosques especially those attending the dawn prayers.
In short, there is a real virulent police-state atmosphere prevailing throughout  the West Bank where the security agencies are playing a dominant role.

Hence, one really wonders  if free and honest elections can be held under these conditions.

We have to be honest about this issue because free elections require true freedom which would enable citizens to choose candidates without the  fear of getting arrested, or subjected to reprisals by the government and its security arms.

More to the point, how can true elections be held when one party, e.g. Fatah,  is allowed to campaign freely while another party, e.g. Hamas,  is denied that right?

Can Hamas, for example, organize a single rally in the West Bank today? Are there guarantees that the PA security agencies wouldn’t riddle with  bullets Hamas supporters and then claim that the Islamists “were trying to carry out a coup against Palestinian legitimacy.”?

One more point, let us suppose that Hamas would win the elections, that is if and when truly free elections were held. Would Fatah then accept the results? Would the so-called International Quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia) accept the outcome? Would Gen. Keith Dayton, the de facto ruler of the West Bank,  and his bosses and subordinates accept the outcome? Would Hamas be recognized as the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people?

More importantly, would Israel allow Hamas to take part in the elections? And would the Israeli Occupation army refrain from arresting Hamas’s candidates on the ground that Israel, not the PA, had the final say with regard to  the elections?

These are legitimate questions that must be answered before the organization of elections.

If the Palestinian masses don’t get satisfactory answers to these  legitimate and most logical questions, then the Palestinian people will  just repeat the same bitter experience which started immediately after the 2006-elections when millions of Palestinians were severely punished for electing Hamas.

In truth, it seems that nothing really has changed ever since, as the Quartet continues to insist that Hamas recognize the“legitimacy” of  Israel, even without a reciprocal Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state.

Indeed, the persistence of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, along with Israel’s refusal to allow building material to get through to Gaza, is a clarion proof that the elections designated for 24 January  are not being pursued in order to allow the Palestinian people to choose a new leadership but rather in order to get rid of Hamas by concocting and falsifying elections.

Hamas must never allow this to happen.


Futility Much Anticipated With Israel’s Occupation

By Khalid Amayreh

Journalist — Occupied Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas talks during a news conference after his meeting with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak at the Presidential palace in Cairo October 20, 2009, (Reuters Photo)

In a measure that has already vexed the internal Palestinian political arena, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmud Abbas has called for “presidential and legislative elections” to be held in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank, East Al-Quds and the Gaza Strip on January 24, 2010. The decision is expected to widen and deepen the  state of contention between Fatah and Hamas, the two largest political groups in occupied Palestine.

Fatah, which have been in control of the PA security agencies connived  with Western powers and also  Israel against Hamas after the Muslim liberation group won the 2006 elections.

This prompted Hamas to oust Fatah militias from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

The cold-bloodedness between the two sides has evolved into a kind of unprecedented enmity as all Arab, especially since Egyptian efforts to reconcile the two groups have so far failed.

It is not exactly clear what prompted Abbas to embark on this feat now, especially with reconciliation efforts going nowhere and with the current Israeli government of Benyamin Netanyahu refusing to freeze Jewish settlement expansion despite constant American demands.

Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, has castigated the decision to hold elections without consultation or coordination with Hamas, as a “grave blunder that would have serious repercussions on the Palestinian national cause.”

For his part, Abbas sought to defend his decision, arguing that the elections were a “legal, national and constitutional imperative.”

To this, Hamas retorted that it is futile to speak  of constitutional imperatives when Israel controls every street and corner in the West Bank, and when Abbas himself, as the head of the Palestinian Authority, cannot even move from his office in Ramallah to the next street without getting Israel’s consent beforehand.

Palestinians, Hamas argued, must not get themselves accustomed to the “normality” of living under the Israeli military occupation.

Objective Facts


This means that Israel, not the PA, has the final say in all matters pertaining to elections. If Israel says “No”, Abbas obviously cannot do much. He will probably succumb to the Israeli decision, and perhaps complain to Israel’s guardian-ally, the United States.Hence, it is probably safe to say that Israel will not allow  the organization of real, fair, and transparent elections in the West Bank and East Al-Quds if the Jewish state does not receive an “appropriate price” from the weak and vulnerable PA government.

In 2006, when Israel felt that Hamas was poised to win Palestinian legislative elections, it unceremoniously rounded up hundreds of pro-Hamas candidates for PA parliament and local (municipal) councils.

In the West Bank, nearly all elected Muslim MPs were arrested and sentenced to lengthy periods of imprisonment ranging from 32 months to 48 months. Their only “crime” was their participation in elections under the umbrella of a “terrorist organization”.

On October 26, 24 MPs, including formers ministers, such Sheikh Nayef Rajoub, are still languishing in Israeli dungeons on no ground other than the fact that they earned the trust of their people in a fair election that was okayed by Israel and the United States and meticulously observed by observers from around the world.

This means that there is no guarantee whatsoever that Israel will not resort to the same draconian measures again. If so, one would really wonder if it is wise to hold elections under such conditions.

Police State Without a State

To be sure, Israel is not the only obstacle impeding the organization of fair and truly democratic elections. The PA itself is very much a police state without a state.A police state because there is a nearly total absence of the rule of law in the West Bank as human rights and civil liberties are routinely and constantly violated.

And “without a state” because the PA has no sovereignty of its own and is thoroughly subservient to Israel’s whims.

Needless to say, an atmosphere of fear now prevailing throughout the West Bank inhibits organizing truly democratic elections.

People suspected of holding “non-conformist” views, such as sympathizing with Hamas, will be dragged to jails and interrogation dungeons where they are often beaten, humiliated, and even tortured.

At least 10 pro-Hamas sympathizers have been tortured to death at the hands of PA interrogators since 2007.

In addition, thousands of people have been detained and hundreds are still languishing in PA jails without charge or trial.

The police state atmosphere is so rampant in the West Bank today that a petty act like hoisting a green Islamic flag bearing Islam’s article of faith (I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammed is His messenger) is enough to make one  land in a PA interrogation center.

Hence, it is only logical to question the plausibility, let alone wisdom of holding elections under such circumstances.

This is not to say that “elections” cannot be organized at all. They can, but it is highly likely that they would be seriously rigged in daylight, although this would not prevent the PA’s Western donors and bankrollers , such the United States and the United Kingdom, from haling the elections as “democratic and honest”.


Hard Questions

The PA leadership claims that it will respect the outcome of the elections, regardless of which party wins the polls. However, any serious observer of the Palestinian arena can hardly take this claim for granted.

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that Hamas would win the elections, even by a narrow margin. Would Fatah then cede power to the victorious party?  Would the United States and Britain and Israel’s Western allies come to terms with the results? Would Israel recognize Hamas as the true representative of the Palestinian people? Would the American-trained PA security forces agree to be answerable to the new government?

Obviously, the answer for all these crucial questions is absolutely “No”.
It is amply clear that Abbas is not intending to hold elections for the elections’ sake.

His ultimate goal is to avenge Fatah’s defeat in Gaza more than two years ago, as well as to outmaneuver Hamas into a serious  political predicament.

Ultimately, Abbas wants to get rid of Hamas as a key political player at the Palestinian arena in order to be able to give Israel all or most of the concessions it is now demanding without  facing any serious Palestinian opposition.

Abbas and his aides did try to achieve this ominous goal, namely to decapitate Hamas in 2007, in concert with US intelligence through such people as Elliot Abrams and Keith Dayton.

However, Hamas managed to outsmart them when its “Executive Force” defeated and ousted Fatah’s militias from the entire Gaza Strip.

Moreover, Fatah and Hamas differ sharply on the entire rationale behind the elections. Hamas views the elections as part of an overall program for resistance that would eventually enable the Palestinian people to wrest freedom from the Israeli occupation.

On the other hand, Fatah views the election as an opportunity to “settle scores with Hamas” and to willy-nilly re-impose the group’s erstwhile hegemony over Palestinian lives, using a variety of stick-and-carrot tactics.

Fatah is bent on remaining in “power”, a term which in the Palestinian context is devoid of any real meaning since the PA has no real power and only functions as a submissive sub-contractor for the Israeli occupation.

In light, there is no doubt that holding elections in the West Bank  under the present circumstances would seriously complicate and exacerbate the internal Palestinian crisis and might lead to an irreversible divorce between Gaza and the West Bank.

Certainly, this is not what most Palestinians want.



Image By Arzeh

Abbas says elections decree irrevocable
Ramallah Facing criticism from the Hamas movement and others, President Mahmoud Abbas vowed on Saturday that elections would be held as scheduled.
 “The decision is irrevocable,” he said, speaking in Ramallah at the opening session of the PLO’s central committee.

Abbas issued a presidential decree late Thursday night, setting the date for the next round of Palestinian legislative and presidential elections for 24 January 2010. Hamas wants the date moved back six months.

“This decision came after conciliation efforts failed and Hamas foot-dragging,” he explained, slamming the Islamic movement for rejecting “Egypt’s proposal to end the division constitutionally.”

But the president vowed to nevertheless continue reconciliation efforts.

Abbas also said he hoped to restart peace talks with Israel, and confirmed reports that “bilateral American contacts are ongoing, since Israeli and Palestinian parties have failed to narrow the gab between their stances on resuming these negotiations.”

In any case, the president reiterated his rejection of certain “Israeli proposals,” including a suggestion that a Palestinian state be declared with temporary borders. Abbas reiterated his main demand, that Israel roll back settlement activities in the Palestinian territories.

“This isn’t a Palestinian precondition, rather an Israeli commitment to the Road Map peace plan,” he noted.

The central council was expected to hold two day sessions on a number of issues, including reconciliation and elections, as well as Richard Goldstone’s report on the Gaza assault, what the council termed Israeli violations in East Jerusalem, and reforms within the PLO, itself.

Saturday’s meeting was entitled, “Jerusalem is the capital of the independent Palestinian state.”




While Fatah looks to use Palestinian elections as a means to destroy Hamas, it is the Israeli occupation that ultimately uses elections to control the Palestinian struggle, writes Khalid Amayreh


A Palestinian boy throws stones at an Israeli army watchtower at the Qalandia checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah

Reeling from the so-called “Goldstone scandal”, Fatah has been waging a fresh war of words against Hamas, accusing the Islamic movement of sabotaging chances for Palestinian reconciliation.

The decision by the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership to seek to defer the adoption by the UN Human Rights Council of the Goldstone Report on Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip, which nonetheless the PA successfully reversed, created an unprecedented storm of criticism among Palestinians at home and in the Diaspora.

Seizing the moment, Hamas castigated the PA leadership, accusing it of colluding with Israel against Palestinian national interests and arguing that the PA was no longer fit to represent the Palestinian people and cause.

This week, Fatah leaders and spokespersons sought to settle scores with Hamas, accusing the Islamic group of hindering and thwarting Egyptian-mediated reconciliation efforts.

Fatah leader Mohamed Dahlan, a member of Fatah’s Executive Committee, spearheaded verbal attacks against Hamas. During tours of the West Bank, Dahlan charged that Hamas was “hostage to the Muslim Brotherhood” in Jordan and Egypt and that as such the group was subservient to foreign powers.

A pivotal figure in the Fatah-Hamas standoff, Dahlan also warned that Fatah would organise general and presidential elections in the West Bank with or without Hamas’s consent. Hamas official Ahmed Youssef dismissed Dahlan’s remarks as “futile rhetoric”.

“I think our brothers in Fatah should put an end to these verbal theatrics and stop fabricating accusations against Hamas,” Youssef told Al-Ahram Weekly. He added that Hamas was awaiting clarifications with regard to some aspects of the reconciliation document. “We want to know if the international community, including the Quartet, will accept the agreement once it is signed. We also want to know if the upcoming elections will be fair and free and accepted by the international community.”

Asked if Hamas was worried about possible unilateral elections in the West Bank, Youssef warned that such a step would consolidate the division between Gaza and the West Bank. “I think such statements by Abbas and Dahlan are merely balloon tests. It is a kind of pressure tactic on Hamas, and Hamas is not going to be intimidated by these silly games.”

Youssef added that any elections organised by Fatah in the West Bank would be boycotted by a large segment of the Palestinian people. “Besides, there is no Arab or international consensus supporting such a step,” said Youssef. “If Abbas decided to unilaterally organise elections in the West Bank, such elections would be more of a referendum on Fatah than true Palestinian elections.”

Meanwhile, Moussa Abu Marzouq, deputy head of the Hamas politburo, was quoted as saying in interview Tuesday, 20 October, that Abbas “won’t be able to hold elections in the West Bank alone, and all that we hear in this regard is nothing more than psychological pressure on Hamas. If he decided to go ahead with elections, then we will have our choices that we will declare in due time.”

Abu Marzouq said Hamas would sign the reconciliation document forthwith if certain terms and stipulations dropped from the document were reincorporated into it.

Meanwhile, the stipulation on Hamas that it recognise Israel and accept to honour past agreements — particularly the Oslo Accords — reached between Israel and the Palestinians has resurfaced as a supposed precondition for Hamas’s participation in elections.

However, Palestinian writer Hani Al-Masri dismisses the thought of excluding Hamas as both destructive and impractical. He pointed out that the fact of Israeli occupation and the absence of Palestinian sovereignty make Palestinian national unity a sine qua non condition for the organisation of successful elections.

Moreover, Al-Masri argues that in the light of the bitter experience of the 2006 elections, Hamas has the right to demand that the outcome of the upcoming elections be respected not only by Fatah but also by Israel and the international community.

“For these reasons, it is essential that national unity and national reconciliation precede the organisation of elections. The elections are, after all, by no means a magical wand that would solve the problems of the Palestinian people in one fell swoop.”

In addition to disagreements over whether elections should precede or follow national reconciliation, Hamas and Fatah also differ on the purpose and goals of elections. Hamas views elections as part of an overall resistance platform aimed at wresting freedom and liberation from Israel. Fatah appears to view elections as a means to re-impose its hegemony over the Palestinian masses.

Some Fatah leaders, who view Hamas as a strategic enemy whose danger supersedes that of Israel, would like to use the elections as a means to avenge the ousting by Hamas of Fatah militias in Gaza in 2007. What seems to be forgotten is that the storm between Fatah and Hamas is all taking place under Israeli military occupation.

Indeed, according to Al-Masri says, holding elections under Israeli occupation is a heresy “of our own making” that was supposed to be a one-time event pursuant the Oslo Accords and would lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. But via Oslo process Israel continued to control nearly all aspects of Palestinian life while stealing more Palestinian land for Jewish-only settlement expansion.

Hence many ordinary Palestinians, as well as intellectuals, are beginning to question the logic of holding elections if these elections are not going to contribute to ending the Israeli occupation. Since Israel has the final say in matters pertaining to the elections, it is unlikely to tolerate the participation of Hamas and other Palestinian factions whose main goal is ending the occupation.

This is the crux of the Palestinian dilemma.


respect my authority
Mahmoud Abbas’ chronic submissiveness
By Amira Hass

In a single phone call to his man in Geneva, Mahmoud Abbas has demonstrated his disregard for popular action, and his lack of faith in its accumulative power and the place of mass movements in processes of change.

For nine months, thousands of people – Palestinians, their supporters abroad and Israeli anti-occupation activists – toiled to ensure that the legacy of Israel’s military offensive against Gaza would not be consigned to the garbage bin of occupying nations obsessed with their feelings of superiority.

Thanks to the Goldstone report, even in Israel voices began to stammer about the need for an independent inquiry into the assault. But shortly after Abbas was visited by the American consul-general on Thursday, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization got on the phone to instruct his representative on the United Nations Human Rights Council to ask his colleagues to postpone the vote on the adoption of the report’s conclusions.

Heavy American pressure and the resumption of peace negotiations were the reasons for Abbas’ move, it was said. Palestinian spokespeople spun various versions over the weekend in an attempt to make the move kosher, explaining that it was not a cancelation but a six-month postponement that Abbas was seeking.

Will the American and European representatives in Geneva support the adoption of the report in six months’ time? Will Israel heed international law in the coming months, stop building in the settlements and announce immediate negotiations on their dismantlement and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories? Is this what adoption of the report would have endangered? Of course not.

A great deal of political folly and short-sightedness was bared by that phone call, on the eve of Hamas’s celebration of its victory in securing the release of 20 female prisoners. Precisely on that day, Abbas put Gaza in the headlines within the context of the PLO’s defeatism and of spitting in the face of the victims of the attack – that is how they felt in Gaza and elsewhere.

Abbas confirmed in fact that Hamas is the real national leadership, and gave ammunition to those who claim that its path – the path of armed struggle – yields results that negotiations do not.

This was not an isolated gaffe, but a pattern that has endured since the PLO leadership concocted, together with naive Norwegians and shrewd Israeli lawyers, the Oslo Accords. Disregard for, and lack of interest in the knowledge and experience accumulated in the inhabitants of the occupied territories’ prolonged popular struggle led to the first errors: the absence of an explicit statement that the aim was the establishment of a state within defined borders, not insisting on a construction freeze in the settlements, forgetting about the prisoners, endorsing the Area C arrangement, etc.

The chronic submissiveness is always explained by a desire to “make progress.” But for the PLO and Fatah, progress is the very continued existence of the Palestinian Authority, which is now functioning more than ever before as a subcontractor for the IDF, the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration.

This is a leadership that has been convinced that armed struggle – certainly in the face of Israeli military superiority – cannot bring independence. And indeed, the disastrous repercussions of the Second Intifada are proof of this position. This is a leadership that believes in negotiation as a strategic path to obtaining a state and integration in the world that the United States is shaping.

But in such a world there is personal gain that accrues from chronic submissiveness – benefits enjoyed by the leaders and their immediate circles. This personal gain shapes the tactics.

Is the choice really only between negotiations and armed-struggle theater, the way the Palestinian leadership makes it out to be? No.

The true choice is between negotiations as part of a popular struggle anchored in the language of the universal culture of equality and rights, and negotiations between business partners with the junior partner submissively expressing his gratitude to the senior partner for his generosity.



abbas shame

Submitted by Mazin Qumsiyeh

It is hard to describe our emotions in the past three days in Palestine since we heard of the Palestinian “leadership” withdrawal of the discussions at the UN Human Rights Council about the Goldstone report.  Can those who made the decision look straight in the eyes of the families of the 400 children butchered in Gaza and tell them that this was politically necessary because Hillary Clinton asked them to do it (the same administration that failed to even get the rapist to have a short pause in his rape!)? Maybe just one family (attached picture)? And will the rest of us (and yes each of us is responsible) be able to look into these same eyes and tell them we were satisfied with expressing sympathy and uttering words? Who decreed that popular civil action cannot be directed at those who harm the cause and happen to also be Palestinian?  Will our shame, anger and revulsion be NOW moved to civil action?  Will we really have a democratic civil society or one ruled by a clique of elites? Will decent people in Fateh stand-up to correct this trend? Will we say enough is enough and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Demonstration in AlManara Square Ramallah today (monday) at noon.


Palestinians drop endorsement of Goldstone report on Gaza war

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied: Decision of Palestinian Leadership and International Pressure an Insult to the Victims

And below is the urgent statement by the The Palestinian NGOs Network (PNGO)……

PNGO condemns PA request of delaying endorsement of Goldstone recommendations

PNGO expresses its bewilderment and strongly condemns the Palestinian Authority’s withdrawal of its draft resolution supporting the recommendations contained in the Goldstone Report, resulting in a deferral of a vote to endorse the report in the Human Rights Council to March 2010. The report suggests that war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity were committed by the Israeli military during its 23-day offensive in Gaza from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009.

PNGO considers that this move by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is an insult to the victims of Operation Cast Lead, and actively facilitates the ongoing impunity of suspected Israeli war criminals; while the siege on Gaza enters its 28th month, Israeli military attacks on the Palestinian population are ongoing and settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continues unabated. PNGO is shocked at the suggestion by the PA that accountability for the victims in Gaza could adversely affect the peace process.

PNGO asks Palestinian political parties to immediately adopt a clear position about the PA decision and to request from the PA a public explanation. This decision has triggered embarrassment and disappointment among Palestinians and activists in the international community, who have made efforts to bring perpetrators of war crimes in Gaza to justice. The Palestinian Authority has wasted an important opportunity towards ensuring accountability of the State of Israel for their war crimes and human rights violations.

In the words of Justice Goldstone at the presentation of his report at the HRC on 29 September: “This is the time for action. The lack of accountability for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity has reached a crisis point; the ongoing lack of justice is undermining any hope for a successful peace process and reinforcing an environment that fosters violence.”


It didn’t take long for the more responsible leadership of Fatah to tell Mahmoud Abbas, in no uncertain terms, that his position on the settlement freeze was not acceptable. Abbas must now decide whose side he is on…. Israel’s or Palestine’s. Hopefully Fatah itself will decide that and replace him with a real leader who will work in the interests of the Palestinian people, one who will work together with Hamas , and then together negotiate with the Israeli government.

There MUST BE A CHANGE…… even in Palestine!

Fatah tells Abbas: No talks without settlement freeze
fatah supporters

Supporters wave Fatah flag [MaanImages]

Bethlehem –  President Mahmoud Abbas’ party, Fatah, demanded he refuse to continue peace talks with Israel until the Netanyahu government agree to halting settlement construction, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Fatah Central Committee member Mohammed Dahlan told the news agency that the 23-member committee was unanimous on the issue, and also insisted an agenda for the talks be set ahead of time.

Analysts say the move may help Abbas request that US President Barack Obama remove his pressure from the Palestinian side to let go of their earlier condition. Reports last week said Abbas had bowed to US pressure over the settlement issue shortly after the tripartite meeting between Israel, Palestine and the US in New York on 22 September.

The meeting was held at Obama’s personal request, after US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell failed to secure a meet after a week of intensive shuttle diplomacy in the region.

Follow-up talks have continued in New York and Washington following Abbas and Netanyahu’s return to the region. According to the AP report, the Israeli delegation met with Mitchell on Wednesday.

While Europe, the UN and International Quartet remain adamant that settlement construction in the West Bank and Jerusalem halt, US policy on the matter seemed to shift as officials tried to coax sides to the negotiating table.




Obama, you won’t make peace without talking to Hamas
By Gideon Levy

It’s as if U.S. President Barack Obama did the least he had to. He “rebuked” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. That’s not how a president with star power acts. That is not how a superpower does things. America is again falling down on the job, and Obama is betraying his mission and the promise of his presidency.True, it’s an anomaly that the United States wants a peace settlement more than the hawkish parties to the conflict, but the leader of the free world has a crucial role, and iheis not fulfilling it. Nine months after Obama assumed the presidency, precious time has been totally wasted, in the Middle East at least, and suspicions are growing that the promise of his presidency is on the wane, even if the man is attractive and uproariously funny on David Letterman. Laugh, laugh, but ultimately, where are the results?

Beautiful speeches like the one last night at the UN General Assembly are no longer enough. Being America means enjoying numerous international privileges, but also involves a few obligations. One of them is to look after world peace. Just as it set off for war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan in the name of global goals, however dubious, and just as it is working to prevent a nuclear Iran, America is also obligated to act to settle the Middle East conflict. That is not its right but its obligation. Locals don’t want its services in either Iraq or Afghanistan, but America is shedding its own blood there nonetheless. Why? Because it believes this is essential to world security.

When he was elected, President Obama declared that the Middle East conflict was endangering world peace. Nothing is more true. The potential danger between Jenin, Gaza and Jerusalem is no less serious than that in the killing fields of Kandahar and Mosul. But what is the president doing to eliminate the fuel that feeds international terrorism? Or at least to show that he is doing something? He ruins nine whole months over the issue of a construction freeze in the settlements, and even that pathetic goal was not achieved.

It has to be one way or the other: Either Obama thinks a solution to the conflict isn’t a worthy goal and so should get out of the picture and devote his energies elsewhere or he means what he said and must use all his power and act. Meanwhile, instead of change, we have gotten distressing continuity. Instead of “yes we can,” we have gotten “no we can’t.”

Obama needs to turn things upside-down and break with convention. That’s why he was elected. Two decisive steps would change things completely: an American effort to introduce Hamas into the negotiations and pressure on Israel to end the matter of the occupation. Simplistic? Perhaps, but the complex and gradual solutions haven’t gotten us anywhere up to now. Like it or not, without Hamas peace is not possible. The fact that Obama has put his trust only in Abbas’ Fatah has guaranteed failure, which was foreseeable. History has taught us that you make peace with your worst enemy, not with those who are seen as collaborators by their own people.

You also don’t make peace with half a people, in half of the territory. Obama didn’t even try to break this unnecessary spell and automatically went, unbelievably, down the path of his predecessor, George W. Bush. The president who was willing to engage North Korea and Iran and dares Venezuela and Cuba didn’t even think about entering negotiations with Hamas. Why is it okay to talk to Iran but not to Hamas? Obama, too, thinks Hamas is fit for negotiations only over the fate of a single soldier, Gilad Shalit, but not over the fate of two peoples.

The second step, which is no less essential, is applying pressure on Israel. Given Israel’s total dependence and in the face of its blindness to the price of the occupation, Obama’s friendship with Israel is actually to be judged by the steps he would seemingly take against Israel. As Israel’s isolation in the world only grows, and the danger of Iran threatens the country, Israel’s best friend must pressure its ally and save it from itself. Instead, we got another condemnation of the Goldstone Commission report, this time from the new American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who had held the promise of major change.

It’s not too late. True, the initial momentum has been lost, but now, following this week’s “summit of rebukes,” America must hurry up and rebuke itself and mainly ponder how to get out of the booby trap to which it has succumbed. Now, too, only America can (and must) do it.




By Khalid Amayreh 

Political schizophrenia has always been one of Fatah’s dominant characters. It continues to shape the overall Fatah discourse. 

When addressing Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, Fatah indulges in all sorts of bombastic rhetoric about the liberation of Palestine. 

However, in negotiations with Israel and meetings with visiting Western officials, the leaders of the movement would dutifully  assure their interlocutors that the rhetoric was only meant  for public consumption and that Fatah would eventually accept  a “peace” deal  with the Zionist state even if  such a deal didn’t meet Palestinian expectations. 

I recently asked a prominent Palestinian intellectual who maintains close  ties with the Palestinian Authority (PA)  leadership if he  thought that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is Fatah’s undisputed leader,  had any alternative plan in case the Obama peace efforts collapsed. 

My interlocutor didn’t mince his words. He said that the only alternative Abbas had to failed negotiations with Israel was more failed negotiations. 

Unfortunately, this seems to be completely true.  

Abbas views lightly, even contemptuously Fatah’s occasional allusion about resuming “armed struggle” in case Israel refuses to end the occupation. Well, Israel not only refuses to end the occupation, but is also consolidating and perpetuating it by making the prospect of creating a Palestinian state on the West Bank unrealistic and illusive. 

But why would Abbas look  down on these late-time pseudo revolutionaries within his party, who threaten to rise up anew against Israel while enjoying the fruits of political and security coordination with the enemy they are threatening to fight? 

Well, the answer is clear. Abbas thinks, probably correctly, that these Fatah leaders are either hypocrites or liars, or both. After all, most of them have reached the positions they are now having thanks to the close cooperation and collaboration with Israel, mainly against other Palestinians, especially Hamas. 

Moreover, Abbas knows that most if not all of them, probably with the exception of a few patriotic elements  such as the imprisoned  leader Marwan el Barghouthi and Hussam Khadr, would think twice before sacrificing their perks and  lavish lifestyles to return to armed struggle. 

The PA chairman  also realizes that all the rhetoric about taking an uncompromising stance against Israel with regard to continued Israeli settlement expansion is only meant to appease the local Palestinian public opinion and keeps Fatah ahead in the polls, especially vis-à-vis Hamas. 

This is because Fatah has been effectively emasculated not only through  protracted cooption by Israel but also through systematic containment and domestication by the American-backed PA government of Salam Fayyad. 

This is the reason that Abbas doesn’t take Fatah seriously and is clearly intent on using the weight of the organization to expedite a deal with Israel that would more or less constitute a de facto liquidation of the Palestinian cause. 

Abbas and his aides have been saying that they won’t resume “peace talks” with the Netanyahu government. However, in private talks with visiting American and European officials, they voice their willingness to resume talks, without conditions, as soon as Israel is ready. 

This dishonest discourse only further enforces the argument Israel often makes,   that the Palestinians would eventually budge to Israeli conditions if only Israel displayed strength and determination in her position. 

Well, the ostensible  PA strictness with regard to the resumption of talks with Israel is really pretentious and  disingenuous to a large extent.  

After all, this is the same leadership that was indulging in  protracted and failed negotiations with the previous Olmert government when Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank was going on at the highest speed. 

This is what the former Israeli Foreign Minister and acting prime minister Tzipi Livni alluded to recently, saying that if only the Netanyahu government moderated its public statements, the settlement-expansion issue would cease making headlines in the international media and disappear from the international agenda. 

Livni argued correctly that during the previous government, settlement expansion and peace talks with the Palestinians went hand in hand and the Palestinians lived with this and refrained from making a big fuss about it. 

Unfortunately,  Livni’s prognosis is correct as the  increasingly authoritarian PA (Fatah) leadership continues to behave rather haphazardly and irresponsibly, giving Israeli leaders the impression that the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has no red lines to observe  and would sell out vital Palestinian interests and inalienable rights for the sake of obtaining a “state” that has all the hallmarks of capitulation to  Zionist insolence. 

In fact, what Abbas and his coteries in Ramallah are indulging in these days  is more than just pacifying and domesticating Fatah to accept a  prospective disgraceful deal with Israel on the ground that Palestinians have to be realistic. He is also trying  to deactivate  the overall Palestinian consensus with regard to national constants on cardinal issues such as Jerusalem and the refugees. 

Palestinians, irrespective of their political and ideological orientations, have consistently agreed that no deal with Israel would be possible without a total Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, including all of East Jerusalem . The other cardinal and sacred issue is of course the implementation of the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees uprooted and expelled from their ancestral homeland when the criminal state of Israel was created in 1948. 

Unfortunately, there is mounting evidence that Abbas and his camp are slowly but definitely abandoning these constants and adopting diluted positions compromising Palestinian rights. 

For example, the PA leadership seems to be slowly coming to terms with the issue of “land swap” whereby Israel would retain the bulk of Jewish colonies, especially in al-Quds and its vicinity, in return for receiving unspecified  land, possibly in  the barren Negev desert. 

This would be a scandalous deviation from Palestinian national consensus because a deal as such would really decapitate Palestinian hopes for the creation of a viable and territorially contiguous state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 

Similarly, the PA leadership seems  willing to accept the liquidation of the refugee cause whereby some of the refugees would be resettled in the West Bank while others would be permanently settled in the host countries, such as Lebanon , Jordan and Syria in which case they would be granted Palestinian passports. 

Well, accepting such a deal would be a treacherous sell-out of Palestinian rights and perfidious betrayal of generations of Palestinian martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of their country and their people. 

It would also constitute a huge contempt for the PLO, or whatever has remained of it, since that organization has always sought to justify its very existence by claiming to safeguard Palestinian national constants. 

Well, treachery doesn’t become Halal  (religiously lawful) when practiced by an organization that had a revolutionary legacy.  This is what everyone must understand.  


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff


Some Ramblings For The Day….
The Holy months of Elul and Ramadan will both end in about a week and a half. The end of Ramadan will herald in the wonderful feast of Eid al Fitre. For the Jews, it will be the New Year, Rosh HaShanah.
As much as I would have liked to see our two peoples come closer during this period, Israeli policies annually make that an impossibility…
Muslims were forbidden to pray at their holy sites, those that were allowed to encountered great difficulties.
Despite the promise by Israel to put a freeze on settlement expansion, 455 new housing units were approved by the Ministry of Defence earlier in the week.
Innocent civilians continue to be killed in the Gaza Strip.
The list goes on and on…..
A group known as ‘The Elders’ visited Israel and the Occupied West Bank. They came, they saw, they reported! Did anyone bother to listen to their reports?
Israel diverts the attention of its war crimes by creating non issues for the press abroad to cover. The real problems remain hidden from the western world. When accused of organ harvesting, they speak of growing anti-Semitism in Sweden.
When accused of not abiding by the promise of a settlement freeze, they speak of Palestine’s non willingness to talk Peace.
When accused of illegally evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers, they speak of the strife between the religious and non religious Jews in Jerusalem.
Always an excuse, always a diversion.
IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE! Not only in the United States, but right here as well. Obama sits by silently as Israel continues with its genocide policies. The EU condemns some of the policies but stops at that…. there is never a follow-up or sanctions. The same with the United Nations.
Fatah and the Palestinian Authority are too occupied with their political opportunism to deal with the real problems facing their people.
After almost a month of reflection, we have not come closer. After 61 years of oppressive occupation of the Palestinians, we have grown further apart.
It really is TIME FOR A CHANGE!
The clock is ticking!!


By Khalid Amayreh 

abbas scarePalestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, whose term in office had expired in January 2009, has been vowing to organize general elections in January 2010, giving the impression that these elections will be a magical cure for the many problems facing the Palestinian people and their enduring just cause. 

The call for elections, however, doesn’t seem to be motivated by goodwill as the main real aim behind this gambit is apparently to outmaneuver the Islamic resistance movement, Hamas. 

In fact, it is very difficult to be euphoric or even optimistic about elections held under a sinister foreign military occupation. 

In 2006, Palestinians were cajoled by the Bush administration into holding general elections and were told that the polls would be a paramount task embodying Palestinian sovereignty. 

True, many Palestinians eager to see a loosening of the Nazi-like Israeli stranglehold on their lives and also to see an end to the rampant corruption infesting the Fatah-led PA, accepted the idea, preferring to give the idea the benefit of the doubt. 

However, even before the elections began, it was amply clear that Israel was insisting on exercising its repressive function as the occupation authorities began arresting “the wrong” candidates and brazenly interfering with election campaigns. 

As we all know, the elections did take place, and Hamas won a landslide victory. However, neither Israel and her guardian-ally, the United States, nor Fatah came to terms with the democratic outcome of the elections. 

Israel, as soon as the initial results showed that Hamas was having the upper hand at the ballot boxes, decided to impose draconian and vengeful punishments on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including laying a hermetic siege to the Gaza Strip and barring its 1.5 million inhabitants from accessing food and essential consumer products. 

Similarly, the Zionist-controlled Bush administration bullied the entire world, with the exception of a few courageous states that wouldn’t cave in to American coercion, to boycott the democratically-elected government of Hamas. 

The arrogant coalition, led by the US and directed behind the scenes by international Zionist circles, clamped a tight and suffocating financial siege on the Gaza Strip, preventing financial transactions to the coastal enclave. 

The manifestly murderous siege pushed Gaza to the brink of famine and hundreds of innocent Gazans succumbed to preventable illnesses caused by the absence of appropriate medical care due to the cruel siege. 

In addition, the US intelligence agencies began funding and arming Fatah elements in the Gaza Strip in order to overthrow Hamas and create a quisling-collaborationist regime that would make “peace” with Israel according to Zionist terms. 

Fortunately, Hamas preempted the vicious conspiracy, forestalling a civil war that would have shed a lot of Palestinian blood for Israel’s sake. 

In light, one is prompted to ask what guarantees Abbas and his aides have that Israel would allow free and fair elections to take place. 

Indeed, the bulk of the Islamic-oriented candidates who won the elections of 2006 are still languishing in Israeli jails and dungeons for the “grand crime” of participating in the elections, the very elections that had been Okayed by Israel and the Bush administration. 

I am talking about dozens of Palestinian politicians, people like Nayef Rajoub, Muhammed Abu Jheishe, Azzam Salhab, Nizar Ramadan, and others, who committed no violation apart from wining a seat in the Palestinian legislative council. 

More to the point, it is clear that even if the Israeli occupation army, which controls every corner and street in the West Bank, didn’t interfere with the elections, which is very unlikely given Israel’s hostile fixation on Hamas, the police state apparatus now prevailing in the West Bank, would make the idea of conducting free elections not only unlikely but impossible. 

We are talking about a total absence of basic civil liberties whereby political opponents are arrested, tormented and often tortured to death. 

Furthermore, every conceivable political activity, even an act as simple as raising an Islamic flag, is immediately criminalized. In some cases, the “perpetrators” wouldn’t live to regret their “misdeeds.” 

In fact, it is perfectly safe to claim that insistence on holding elections under these morbid circumstances reflect a malicious intent to falsify the results of the elections beforehand.

Finally, it is difficult to fathom how elections can be organized in an extremely unhealthy atmosphere in the midst of the enduring crisis between Fatah and Hamas. 

There is no doubt that Hamas will not succumb to the fait accompli created by Abbas, possibly in coordination with his foreign backers, along with the Israelis, who are perpetuating the criminal siege on Gaza and preventing building materials from reaching the blockaded enclave. Needless to say, these building materials are badly needed for rebuilding homes and civilian infrastructure destroyed by the Zio-Nazi war machine earlier this year. 

Unfortunately, there are clear signs that Mr. Abbas and his PLO have been active conspirers in prolonging the Gaza suffering in order to weaken Hamas in the eyes of the people. 

For all these reasons, it is imperative that Hamas must not fall into the trap and reject this trick by the man who had called resistance “futile” and who voiced his willingness to compromise inherent Palestinian rights pertaining to al-Quds al Sharif and the refugees. 

The Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) said “A true believer shouldn’t be bitten from the same snake hole twice.”


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