Friday, October 9, 2009

Mahmoud Abbas collaborates with Israel and US to suppress the Goldstone report

This week the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva was to vote on a resolution to refer the report of the UN fact finding mission led by South African jurist Richard Goldstone to the UN Security Council for further action. Goldstone's investigation concluded that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during Israel's assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009. Israel and the US worked overtime to get the Human Rights Council to postpone considering the resolution for six months. Ha-Aretz correspondent Amira Hass reports that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas instructed the PLO representative in Geneva to collaborate with the US-Israeli effort and abandon support for the resolution. Abbas's action aroused a storm of protest among Palestinians around the world (for an example of the vociferous Palestinian denunciations of Abbas see the editorial of Ali Abunimah on the Electronic Intifada website, Hass argues
that Abbas could have adopted the path of pursuing "negotiations as part of a popular struggle anchored in the language of the universal culture of equality and rights." Abandoning that option means that, "Hamas is the real national leadership." If this conclusion is correct, its implications are potentially far reaching. If the Palestinians who Israel is willing to negotiate with (in principle, even if not in practice) do not constitute a credible national leadership, then there is no prospect for a negotiated resolution of the conflict in the foreseeable future. – Joel Beinin

Ha-Aretz, Oct. 7, 2009

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.

Jewish Peace News editors:
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Judith Norman
Lincoln Z. Shlensky
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Alistair Welchman
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Marshalldoc said...

I’m no fan of Abu Mazen’s and feel the P.A. should have replaced him after it became clear that his talks with Olmert were just that, talks.

I was also outraged at the seeming ‘give-away’ of a golden (Goldstone?) opportunity to place Israel’s criminal behavior in Gaza (among so many others) on display in a legal setting.

Recent information, however, makes me suspect that, perhaps this time Abbas may have “taken one for the team”.

On Sept. 27th, Haaritz reported that:

“…Israel has warned the Palestinian Authority that it would condition permission for a second cellular telephone provider to operate in the West Bank - an economic issue of critical importance to the PA leadership - on the Palestinians withdrawing their request at the International Court.” (

My initial reaction was that the P.A. would shrug off this evident blackmail attempt and stand up for its rights.

I learned that the cell phone provider, Wataniya, contracted to provide service in the OPT was

"…a joint venture between Qatari and Kuwaiti investors and the Palestinian Investment Fund with which one of Abbas' sons is closely involved.” (

So, when it was announced that the Palestinian delegation had agreed to shelve the Goldstone report it appeared that the P.A., and Abbas, had cravenly knuckled under to Israeli blackmail in order to protect his personal investment at the expense of justice for the Palestinian people… and that may still be a consideration.

Then I read:

“Wataniya’s planned launch earlier this year had to be pushed back and the company has threatened to pull out of the deal if the new October 15 deadline is missed. If it does, the Palestinian Authority will have to repay $140m in licensing fees and could be liable for hundreds of millions more that Wataniya has invested in building 350 communication masts across the West Bank.” (

I don’t think anyone believes that the P.A. could afford to stiff investors in Qatar & Kuwait to the tune of “hundreds of millions” and still have a credit rating that would allow them any financial flexibility.

This issue of Abbas being blackmailed with the financial ruin of the P.A. by Israel (whose own telecom industry has oodles to gain from excluding competition in the West Bank) has been sufficiently discussed in the stampede to castigate Abu Mazen.

I suspect it’s clear that Abbas’ time has passed and newer, less compliant, negotiators are needed to pursue the “peace talks” (such as they aren’t) but if the construct I’ve laid out above is correct, Mahmud Abbas' departure from leadership may well be under different, more dignified, terms than are being called for now.

Marshalldoc said...

Please note:

The 2nd to last paragraph of my prior comment should read:

This issue of Abbas being blackmailed with the financial ruin of the P.A. by Israel (whose own telecom industry has oodles to gain from excluding competition in the West Bank) has been insufficiently discussed in the stampede to castigate Abu Mazen.