By Ramzy Baroud
The legacy of Palestinian National Authority (PNA) President Mahmoud Abbas is draped in contradictions and utter defeat. His reign can only be regarded as an astounding failure, during which not a single Palestinian national objective was attained, nor a liberation vision put forward. Alas, the 80-year-old leader remains at the helm of Palestinian leadership, day after day regurgitating archaic statements, and doing everything in his power to ensure the submissiveness of his people under the yoke of Israel’s military occupation.
This state of protracted political malaise that has afflicted the Palestinian liberation struggle dates back to the early 1990s, to the Madrid talks (where Palestinians negotiated without conditions), followed by the Oslo ‘peace process’ fiasco. The latter brought neither hope nor even a distant politically viable horizon. Instead, it merely negotiated perks and positions for the Palestinian elite, who later ruled alongside the Israeli occupation over millions of oppressed Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
While historians and political analysts often concern themselves with the logistical failure of Oslo, they often neglect the fact that, from the viewpoint of those Palestinians who benefited from Oslo, their concern was never truly obtaining Palestinian rights, achieving independence, or wrangling with ‘solutions’ to the conflict. That class, of which Abbas is a founder and a current ruler, is primarily and solely concerned with self-preservation.
Over the course of 20 years and counting, Abbas has perfected the art of political branding. In fact, the PNA offers many brands of the same product, to the extent that this multiple branding has become the modus operandi of the PNA’s political strategy, which was on full display after the murder of the 18-month-old baby, Ali Dawabsha, and later his father, Sa’ad. The two were killed, and two members of their family were seriously wounded when Jewish colonists set their house ablaze in the village of Duma, near Nablus in the West Bank, on July 31.
A spokesman for Rabbis for Human Rights told Al Jazeera Arabic that this was the tenth attack on Nablus by colonists in July. A statement issued by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) provided an even more alarming statistic, putting the number of Jewish colonist attacks, some of them lethal, at an estimated 11, 000 since 2004.
It seems that burning Palestinians alive is a favourite new tactic of Jewish terrorists these days, although the story of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, who was tortured and burnt alive by a group of Jewish extremists in July 2014, now serves as a hideous benchmark for Israeli colonist violence. This is often conducted under the watchful eye of, or as part of a larger violent campaign, led by none other than the Israeli army.
It must also be noted that little Ali is no different from the 508 Palestinians killed in Israel’s war on Gaza last summer, which killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians. The Dawabsha family home, which was completely burnt, was no different to the 20,000 Gaza homes which, according to the UN, were destroyed during the Israeli carnage in the Strip.
But how did the PNA react to Ali’s murder? Hours after the evil deed was done, and Ali’s charred body removed from the burnt house, Abbas used the ultimate empty threat of preparing an appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC). As if that dramatic statement was not enough to mitigate the silencing of angry Palestinians, his foreign minister rejected the Israeli condemnation of the killing of the infant as ‘insufficient’.
Yet still, if that was not enough to highlight the supposedly anti-Israeli-occupation brand of the PNA, Ma’an News Agency reported that the PNA and Jordan had agreed to “submit a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for international protection for Palestinian civilians.” Now that all the fiery, albeit empty statements have been made, business continues as usual between the PNA and Israel including the infamous ‘security co-ordination’. What is most disconcerting about such ‘co-ordination’ is that it is designed to apprehend Palestinians who dare to pose a threat — real or imagined — to the Israeli occupation army and illegal colonies. Furthermore, as reported by Quds Press, “Palestinian National Authority security forces yesterday returned three Israeli colonists to Israel after they infiltrated the West Bank city of Jericho.”
The irony is glaring — ‘security co-ordination’ is aimed at ensuring the safety of the very colonists (like the ones who killed Ali and his dad) if they were caught attempting a violent act against Palestinians.
“This proves that the PNA is just a security agent working for the safety and protection of the Israeli occupation forces and their illegal colonists,” a Palestinian resistance faction reported to the Middle East Monitor.
But was such proof ever necessary? Hardly. True, Ali’s grisly murder does highlight the brutality of the Jewish colonists, who operate in tandem with the Israeli military. The killing of a few Palestinians and wounding of many more as they protested against Ali’s murder, further underscores the violence upon which the Israeli military occupation is predicated. But there is more to the story.
Israel’s impunity is also encouraged by the Palestinian leadership itself, which exists in a massive political and economic bubble in Ramallah, in the West Bank.
The PNA cannot exist without Israeli support, just as Israel’s military occupation and illegal colony expansion cannot be sustained without the security arm of the PNA.
Naturally, facing little or no resistance, the colonists are growing. The latest planned expansion was recently announced by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who intends constructing hundreds of new illegal colonist homes on confiscated Palestinian land, in the Jewish colonies of Pisget Ze’ev, Ramot, Gilo and Harhoma, in occupied Jerusalem.
In a statement, PNA ‘chief negotiator’ Saeb Erekat did not forget to link the murder of Ali to the planned expansion: “We cannot separate the barbaric attack that took place in Duma last night from the recent colony approval by the Israeli regime.”
But he, along with his boss, Abbas, intends to do nothing about it. On the contrary, despite his and other PNA officials’ fiery statements, in reality, the constant message the PNA sends to Israel is that Palestinians are accepting of the status quo, burned babies or not.
Consider this: the PNA Central Council voted in March to halt negotiations and security co-ordination with Israel. The decision, meant particularly for public consumption, hardly mattered, as top PNA officials, including Erekat himself, held recent ‘secret’ talks with the Israeli regime officials in Amman, Jordan.
Tayseer Khalid of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, speaking to Ma’an, said, “Sadly, the PLO Executive Committee and Palestinian leaders know about such meetings only from the Israeli media.”
‘Sadly’ indeed, especially since the Amman meeting was designated as a ‘trust-building’ strategy (a clue that America had a hand in it), and which included Erekat and Israeli Interior Minister, Silvan Shalom.
Erekat is, perhaps, often the scapegoat, being the most visible face of the PNA apparatus. However, numerous others are also implicated in selling mirages to the Palestinian people. This, while partaking in preserving the very violent occupation that is destroying Palestinian society and robbing it of land, water, and dignity.
Thus, Abbas’s rule continues, although preparations must be afoot to arrange the reign of his predecessor, who will be welcomed by Israel and the US as long as he remains committed to the charade, promoting revolutions that do not exist, and reigning supreme over an oppressed and occupied nation.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).