By Stuart Littlewood – London
One of the most grotesque Wikileaks revelations so far is the disclosure that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was told in advance about the murderous assault on his countrymen in Gaza two years ago.
Some claim that the Wikileaks eye-openers are a ‘dirty tricks’ operation by people with a large axe to grind. It is certainly odd that ‘evidence’ is selected to portray Arab states as eager to see Iran zapped for an unproven nuclear threat when, actually, the Middle East is far more anxious about the very real and present nuclear threat from Israel.
That same mentality would no doubt wish to drive an ever bigger wedge between Fatah and political rival Hamas
So what are we to make of the documents claiming that in a June 2009 meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and a U.S. congressional delegation, Barak said that the Israeli government "had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas"?
Fatah deny that it happened. Top aid to Palestinian president Abbas, Saeb Erekat, said: "We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war."
Several months before it started, at a meeting that he, Erekat, attended, Abbas asked Israel’s then-prime minister, Ehud Olmert, not to go to war, saying "he would not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank."
So they admit they were talking about it…
I put the question to the Palestinian ambassador in London, Professor Manual Hassassian:
"I am surprised to read the Wikileaks revelation that Mr Abbas, along with Mr Mubarak, was informed of Operation Cast lead in advance. I don’t recall his issuing a public warning to the unfortunate people of Gaza or appealing to the UN and western powers to intervene. Why would a Palestinian president keep quiet about an evil and horrendous war-crime he knew was about to be committed against his own people? Can you please throw any light on the matter?"
The ambassador replied: "I am surprised as you are, and cannot confirm the Wikileaks revelation whether they are authentic or not."
No flat-out denial then, nor did he say he would refer the question upwards for clarification. You’d think the embassy would wish to show a clean pair of hands.
Abbas, as we all know, is living his elevated lifestyle on borrowed time. Since January 2009, when his term as president officially expired, western-backed Abbas has clung like superglue to power and overstayed his welcome. A year ago, having already taken a one-year extension regarded by many, including Hamas, as unlawful, he announced he had no wish to seek re-election at a presidential poll he promised for last January. But January came and went, and there was still no presidential election. Abbas is now nearing the end of his second year of illegitimate tenure.
I have two vivid images of Palestinians. The first, in Gaza, was the sight of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the crusty old Catholic priest, Fr Manuel Mussallam, who had guarded his flock through utmost deprivation and the darkest of days (with many more to come), standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the microphones and cameras, both proclaiming that they were Palestinians first and Muslim/Christian second.
That’s unity of a welcome sort.
The other is of Fatah playing Israel’s armed poodle, reminiscent of the Vichy French government’s militia set up to fight the French Resistance and do much of the Nazis’ dirty work. Is Fatah prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Gaza Palestinians against the common enemy – the occupier – and proclaim themselves "Palestinians first" and Fatah/Hamas second?
Judging by their track record, no. Arrest and torture of their own people is more their game, we hear.
That’s disunity of the worst kind.
And you have to wonder why, if the story’s true, the Israelis felt comfortable discussing with the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority what would happen after their tanks and aircraft had pulverized the Gaza part of Palestine and shredded and vaporized its women and children.
A genuine leader knowing about plans for such a mega-crime would surely have sounded the alert and raised merry hell at the UN for preventive action.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit: www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.