Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem Chair of West Midland PSC
Just 2 items this evening, not because there isn’t anything more, but rather because most of my reading today has been trying to keep up on what is happening in Egypt and other surrounding areas. For updates about what is happening in the OPT and Israel check out the Today in Palestine compilation. http://www.theheadlines.org/11/25-01-11.shtml
Item 1 is by Laila El-Haddad, whom some of you might know from her blog ‘Raising Yousef,’ which after the birth of her daughter became ‘Raising Yousef and Nur,’ and now is Gaza Mom http://www.gazamom.com/ but is no longer from Gaza. Laila now lives in the United States. Still, her commentary is always worth reading. Below she remarks on the Palestine papers from a Palestinian point of view.
Item 2 is Robert Fisk’s take on recent events in our area of the world, particularly Egypt. In this piece, Fisk’s view of the outcome of present events is no clearer than was mine yesterday (same today). But, as he says, history will tell.
All the best,
The Guardian ,
26 January 2011
The view on the ground of the Palestine papers
How Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have responded to this week’s revelations
The Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters The Palestine papers may have sent shockwaves around the world, but they came as no surprise to most Palestinians, particularly those living out the horrific reality on the ground that has been “non-negotiated” over in the occupied territories, like my own family – or in refugee camps outside the occupied territories, like my husband’s family in the sidelined camps of Lebanon.
More than anything, the details in the Palestine papers show just how out of touch with this reality the negotiators were, and how they chose to ignore this reality. It is this revelation – or reminder – that has most angered and distressed many Palestinians.
In Gaza, which has been blockaded with western backing and regional complicity since democratic elections five years ago, friends and family tell me the response is a mixture of anger, suspicion and uncertainty about the future. Fellow blogger Mohammed Suliman told me via Facebook that he found the revelations, chief among them that Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority offered to concede almost all of East Jerusalem, “shocking but not unpredictable”, referring to them as a “tragicomedy”. “I just can’t understand who on earth nominated this man to speak for the Palestinians? When he says, ‘WE’ who the hell are we? Working 20 years in the field never gives him the right to give up on one metre of the land, to divide, bargain and sell.”
The willingness to give up more than 10% of the West Bank and large portions of East Jerusalem, from where his family originally hails, is the most painfully startling part, he added.
The papers also confirm the intransigence of Israel in the face of the most compromising of Palestinians positions. Lina al-Sharif, a friend and author of the blog “360 Km2 of Chaos”, told me she was irritated by the western media focus on Palestinian desperation and incompetency, rather than Israeli and American intransigence. “This shouldn’t just be an expose of the PA, but also of Israel. And the US was witnessing all this and calling itself ‘an honest broker’! This is just yet another hit to the already dead peace process.”
Evidence has never been more compelling that the Israelis have always had their “partner for peace” – they have simply chosen to neglect them, and propose an alternative fiction in which there was none, irrespective of which Palestinian party was in power.
Because of this, some believe that the papers may actually be bolstering support for Mahmoud Abbas and his posse, whom they see as victims. True, the papers lay out the extent of the Palestinian Authority’s complicity and capitulation. But journalist Fares Ghoul says they also serve to undermine what little credibility Mahmoud Abbas’s Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority has, and questions the motives and timing behind their release. “We should focus on the day: what is going on today? The PA is doing well by resisting pressure to resume negotiations while settlement construction goes on.”
In a bitter irony, and a stark reminder of the conditions many Palestinians in Gaza continue to live under, some cousins and friends there were not yet even aware of the revelations when I spoke with them, because they had no electricity.
“This might make you laugh or cry – or maybe both – but some people didn’t hear about these documents yet because of the continuous power cuts in the Gaza Strip,” my cousin told me.
Gaza continues to suffer from extended power outages since Israel bombed the only power plant there in the summer of 2006.
And although Palestine papers was a trending topic on Twitter, 25-year-old computer engineer Ola Anan says not everybody in Gaza cared to tune in. “Last night during al-Jazeera’s broadcast, my father and I were the only ones interested in watching the whole program, my mother was rambling that it’s not breaking news that the PA heads are traitors, and my brother asked me to put the volume down so that he could study for his exam!”
We are unlikely to ever learn who leaked the documents. An insider, an outsider … a combination? Some members of Fateh were quick to point fingers at one-time Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, who is rumoured to be out of favour with Mahmoud Abbas. But there are enough disgruntled Palestinian negotiators with motives. One former negotiator with the PLO’s British-Scandinavian backed Negotiations Support Unit (NSU), from where the leak is rumoured to have originated, told me “we always ‘knew’ but didn’t really know the intimate details and the inside jokes. It is a level of unparalleled desperation.” Another confided that several years ago they were fed up with the cronyism, incompetence and lack of leadership within the Palestinian Authority, saying: “I can’t handle losing when my side doesn’t even try.”
Leaked Palestinian files have put a region in revolutionary mood
The Palestine Papers are as damning as the Balfour Declaration. The Palestinian “Authority” – one has to put this word in quotation marks – was prepared, and is prepared to give up the “right of return” of perhaps seven million refugees to what is now Israel for a “state” that may be only 10 per cent (at most) of British mandate Palestine.
And as these dreadful papers are revealed, the Egyptian people are calling for the downfall of President Mubarak, and the Lebanese are appointing a prime minister who will supply the Hezbollah. Rarely has the Arab world seen anything like this.
To start with the Palestine Papers, it is clear that the representatives of the Palestinian people were ready to destroy any hope of the refugees going home.
It will be – and is – an outrage for the Palestinians to learn how their representatives have turned their backs on them. There is no way in which, in the light of the Palestine Papers, these people can believe in their own rights.
They have seen on film and on paper that they will not go back. But across the Arab world – and this does not mean the Muslim world – there is now an understanding of truth that there has not been before.
It is not possible any more, for the people of the Arab world to lie to each other. The lies are finished. The words of their leaders – which are, unfortunately, our own words – have finished. It is we who have led them into this demise. It is we who have told them these lies. And we cannot recreate them any more.
In Egypt, we British loved democracy. We encouraged democracy in Egypt – until the Egyptians decided that they wanted an end to the monarchy. Then we put them in prison. Then we wanted more democracy. It was the same old story. Just as we wanted Palestinians to enjoy democracy, providing they voted for the right people, we wanted the Egyptians to love our democratic life. Now, in Lebanon, it appears that Lebanese “democracy” must take its place. And we don’t like it.
We want the Lebanese, of course, to support the people who we love, the Sunni Muslim supporters of Rafiq Hariri, whose assassination – we rightly believe – was orchestrated by the Syrians. And now we have, on the streets of Beirut, the burning of cars and the violence against government.
And so where are we going? Could it be, perhaps, that the Arab world is going to choose its own leaders? Could it be that we are going to see a new Arab world which is not controlled by the West? When Tunisia announced that it was free, Mrs Hillary Clinton was silent. It was the crackpot President of Iran who said that he was happy to see a free country. Why was this?
In Egypt, the future of Hosni Mubarak looks ever more distressing. His son, may well be his chosen successor. But there is only one Caliphate in the Muslim world, and that is Syria. Hosni’s son is not the man who Egyptians want. He is a lightweight businessman who may – or may not – be able to rescue Egypt from its own corruption.
Hosni Mubarak’s security commander, a certain Mr Suleiman who is very ill, may not be the man. And all the while, across the Middle East, we are waiting to see the downfall of America’s friends. In Egypt, Mr Mubarak must be wondering where he flies to. In Lebanon, America’s friends are collapsing. This is the end of the Democrats’ world in the Arab Middle East. We do not know what comes next. Perhaps only history can answer this question.