Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How the Palestinian Media Reacted to the Attack on Iraq

On a few occasions, as reported by the Palestinian media, high-ranking figures have called for violence and support of Iraq:

The Palestinian Minister of Public Works and Ambassador to Iraq, Azzam Al-Ahmad, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Times, “We believe the American aggression is unjustified and is strongly condemned by the Palestinian people…Our position is a principled one, it should not be based on interests…We should reject the fragmentation of Arab positions…I believe this aggression will undermine the rapprochement between the PNA and US. We cannot stand idle…I believe the Palestinians will start burning the Palestinian flags they raised yesterday.”[1]

In an interview broadcast today on PA TV, Sheikh Mahmoud Salameh, Head of the Shar’i [Muslim religious] court of appeals, (belonging to the Ministry of Justice in the PA) called for jihad to help Iraq.[2] “…The jihad for the cause of Allah is one of the fundamentals of Islam…it is the duty of the Muslims to come to the aid of any Islamic land that is under attack…every Muslim wherever he may be…Islam obliges us to wage jihad. The Arab nation is a Muslim nation and Iraq is a Muslim nation that is under attack with missiles and other destructive weapons…even if Saddam Hussein committed some violations once, twice, three times-these are only violations-not crimes.”

Othman Abu Gharbiyya, Head of the Political and National Guidance Directorate, spoke on behalf of Yasser Arafat in memory of veteran ‘martyrs’ in a ceremony held yesterday in Ramallah[3]: “…The advocates of peace will not deceive us because peace is one piece and the blood of Iraq and Palestine are one…We have carried our rifles on our shoulders and we shall carry them in our arms in determination filled with the honor of the revolution and of the martyrs…”

General Khaled Musmar, Deputy Head of the Political and National Guidance Directorate, concurred stating that, “…the path of martyrs continues…there will be no peace without a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and our path is a path of martyrs…”[4]

The independent Jerusalem daily, Al-Quds, reported today that the Hamas movement and the Islamic Jihad might soon unite. The same source asserted that the intentions of both movements to kidnap Israeli soldiers, in order to trade them for Palestinian prisoners, are “probable” and depend now on time and place.[5]


[1] The Jerusalem Times, Dec. 18, 1998

[2] PA Television, Dec. 18, 1998

[3] Al-Hayyat Al-Jadida, Dec. 18, 1998

[4] ibid.

[5] Al-Quds, Dec. 18, 1998

Scenario Two: When No Parent Knows How to Light the Chanukah Candles

When Yitzhak Rabin was murdered, his son attempted to read the Kaddish at his funeral. He was unable to say the words of the prayer, not out of grief but because he had never seen or read them before. The words of the kaddish are in Aramaic and somewhat difficult to read if you have never stepped foot inside of a synagogue service. From his performance at the funeral, it was obvious to all that Rabin’s son had never stepped foot in a synagogue service, had never said or heard the kaddish – whether the mourner’s version or any other. That the words meant nothing to him. It was obvious to the entire world that Rabin’s own son did not have the smallest acquaintance with Jewish tradition.

This past week Bibi Netanyahu was filmed lighting a Hanukah menorah on the 4th night of Hanukah. In what was almost as big a disgrace, it was obvious to anyone watching that Netanyahu does not know how to light a menorah, arranging the candles incorrectly and lighting them in the wrong order. Netanyahu is also well-known for eating cheeseburgers at non-kosher restaurants, perhaps part of his attempt to imitate Clinton. (He is a bit more discrete than Clinton in his skirt chasing.)

My children go to a secular Israeli school. Two years ago when the teacher of my son planned a Hanukah party, she asked if I would agree to do the candle lighting. When I asked how she had chosen me, she explained that I was the only father apparently of the kids in the class who knew the blessings on the candles, and I might also be the only father who owned a kipa….

Scenario One: Commando Units in Tel Aviv

As the school year finally began this year in Israel, following the teacher’s strike, Meretz MK Yossi Sarid made an appeal on the “Voice of Israel” radio newsreel.

Sarid advised principals, teachers and parents to be on the lookout for Rabbis or Yeshiva students who may lurk anywhere near schoolyards, kindergarten teachers or nursery school promoters who may want to seduce children to enter their preschool programs, and/or “anyone with a religious look” who may be “encroaching in your neighborhood”.

Sarid then followed with an “assurance”.

This year, Sarid said reassuredly, “we have set up commando units, yes, commando units, in every secular neighborhood. We have set up hotlines throughout the country. The job of the commando units and the hotline is to warn of encroaching religious people before they grab our children”.

And in one of the leaflets distributed at secular schools and neighborhoods, pictures of little children with yarmulkes being herded into a nursery school were captioned “Let’s stamp this out while they’re young”.

Sarid’s “hotlines” worked.

Staffers now operate such hotlines, with ample budget provided by one of Israel’s “pluralism” lobbies, with ample funds provided by contributors from North American non-Orthodox religious Jews who think that they have contributed to promote dialogue and pluralistic religious thought amongst Israeli Jews.

The results are real.

Many Israeli Secular schools and neighborhoods have now effectively eliminated any religious or Jewish content to their lives, reinforcing the continuing Israeli phenomenon of Jewish communities that develop almost an anti-Semitic modus operandi. Instead of welcoming, say, Reform or other forms of Jewish observance into secular schools and neighborhoods, the plethora of antireligious organizations have initiated a system that mitigates against any religious or Jewish influence whatsoever, while the various religious groups have simply abandoned their interest in making the effort to influence these communities that are now devoid of Judaism.

Al-Ahram Weekly: The Egyptian View of the PNC Vote

Success Penalised
by Mohamed Sid-Ahmed

Heading:
The decision of the US Congress to go forward with the impeachment proceedure threatens to overshadow Bil Clinton’s spectacular Middle East trip to rescue the Wye Accord

Quote from Text:
“Clinton’s decision to visit the Palestinian Authority and to touch down in the new Gaza International Airport was interpreted by Netanyahu as signalling Washington’s readiness to recognise an independent Palestinian state — an interpretation reinforced by Hillary Clinton’s televised statement some months ago that she favored the creation of a Palestinian state… nobody believed it was a simple slip of the tongue.”

Excerpts:
Once again President Clinton has focused all his attention on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute at a time the campaign in Congress for his impeachment is reaching a climax. Once again, Clinton feels driven to achieve an outstanding success on the international front to disprove his critics’ argument that the Monicagate scandal has ruined his credibility as a statesman for ever.

….

Failure to implement the Wye Accord has exacerbated the deep feelings of mistrust and suspicion between the parties to the peace process. For example, Clinton’s decision to visit the Palestinian Authority and to touch down in the new Gaza International Airport was interpreted by Netanyahu as signalling Washington’s readiness to recognise an independent Palestinian state — an interpretation reinforced by Hillary Clinton’s televised statement some months ago that she favoured the creation of a Palestinian state. Although Hillary’s statement was later dismissed as not representing the official US stand, nobody believed it was a simple slip of the tongue. The highlight of Clinton’s Middle East trip was, of course, his witnessing of the Palestinian National Council’s near-unanimous vote to rescind the provisions of the Palestinian National Charter that Israelis interpret as denying Israel’s right to exist. [IMRA: Can there be any other interpretation?”]

Although forced to admit that the PNC vote represented a fundamental step forward, Netanyahu did not give the Palestinians any credit for the change, attributing it rather to his own government’s firmness and uncompromising stand — an attitude that faces us with the need to further probe what criterion should be used in ‘measuring’ progress.

….

Peace, as perceived by Netanyhau, should be reached without ceding one inch of the territory he attributes to biblical Israel. He considers the concessions made in this connection by the previous Labour government to be tantamount to capitulation, an irresponsible policy which compromised the very essence of the Israeli state. How credible can such a stand be at a time Netanyahu not only finds himself obliged to sign the Wye Accord, which stipulates that Israel must pull out of Palestinian territories, albeit from a limited part of those territories, but is also faced with the PNC’s near-unanimous vote recognising Israel’s right to exist?

….

Arab supporters of the Wye Accord have argued that a bad agreement is better than no agreement at all and that, despite its shortcomings, the deal struck in Maryland serves the interests of the Palestinians better than it does those of Netanyahu. According to this line of reasoning, the fact that it has at least opened the door to a resumption of the long-stalled peace process is preferable to having to admit yet another failed attempt in that direction. However, to make the criterion of success here the avoidance of a worst-case scenario rather than the realisation of the best possible scenario can adversely affect a fundamental condition in any peace process, which is assumed to operate to the benefit of all the protagonists.

Clinton’s Middle East trip was an opportunity for the Palestinians to demonstrate that they are capable of treating the Israelis as subjects, not objects, of history. The tripartite meeting that brought together the protagonists just before Clinton left for home demonstrated that the Palestinian approach has not been reciprocated by Binyamin Netanyahu. Nor is it likely to be reciprocated as long as Clinton’s political future hangs in the balance.

Translations by
Dr. Joseph Lerner,
Co-Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645
imra@netvision.net.il

Why the PLO Covenant Annulment Means Little

The high point of President Bill Clinton’s middle east mission – his participation in the Palestine National Council meeting where he witnessed the PNC annulling the PLO Covenant by a voice vote – may turn out to be somewhat anticlimactic.

Arafat’s commitment to annul the 1964 PLO Covenant on 9th September, 1993, remained the condition that the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin required for Israel to enter into any agreement with Arafat and the PLO.

Yet what has transpired in the five years that it took Arafat to cancel the Palestinian covenant is that the PLO Covenant has become engrained in the foundations of the Palestinian state in the making.

Tragically, no decision by the PNC, however well intended, can put the toothpaste back in the tube.

At the outset of the 1998-99 Palestinian school year, the first academic study of the hundred and fifty new school books used by the Palestine Authority showed that the PLO Covenant remains the central theme of the Palestine Authority school curriculum. Israel is referred to in PA school books as the “Zionist enemy”, while Zionism is equated with Nazism, “JIHAD”/holy war is taught as the duty of Palestinian school children, and the need to liberate “all of Palestine” remains a pervasive theme in all PA textbooks, while the official PBC “Voice of the Palestine Authority” radio and TV networks quote the PLO Covenant in almost every aspect of its daily media output. That official PLO media incitement has not let up since the WYE accord was reached in October.

The PLO Covenant remains the living “raison d’etre” of the Palestinian Arab refugee camps operated by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, for almost fifty years, which provides for more than three million Palestinian Arab refugees to refugee camps, under the PLO Covenant‘s premise and promise of the “inalienable right of return” for Palestinian refugees to return to the homes within Israel proper that they left in 1948, a dream endorsed by the annual ratfication of UN resolution #194.

One of the first acts of the Palestine Authority was to reject any rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugee camps, because the PLO Covenant forbids any change in the “refugee status quo”. The spokesman of the Palestine Legislative Council informed me today that the principles of the PLO Covenant that forbid rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugee camps will continue to be enforced.

Indeed, during the American First Lady Hillary Clinton’s visit to an UNRWA school in an UNRWA Refugee Camp, the children excitedly sang songs of their imminent return to the homes that their grandparents left in what are now in Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, and Haifa.

Moreover, since yet another principle of the PLO Covenant is that Jews should not be able to purchase new lands in Palestine since 1917, the Palestine Legislative Council enacted a statute in November that made it a capital crime for Jews to purchase land anywhere which the PLO consider to be “Palestine”. The PLC was not only referring to the west bank and to Gaza. Meanwhile, the popular FATAH movement, under the steady leadership of Yassir Arafat since 1964, issued a new constitution this week in which the FATAH absorbed all of the principles of the PLO Covenant that advocate Israel’s destruction.

Not everyone in the president’s entourage expressed unreserved enthusiasm with the PNC decison to annul the PLO Covenant.

US Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the senior congressional witness to the PNC session in Gaza, held a press conference before returning to Washington to warn that any PLO decision that contravened the annulment of the PLO charter would run into congressional opposition to the aid promised to the Palestine Authority by President Clinton.

The Palestinian Security Services: Between Police and Army

Source: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy – Special report on “Palestinian security services: between police and army” – November, 1998.

  • As a result of Oslo, the PSS (Palestinian Security Services) was established. The PSS includes many of those from the PLA (Palestinian Liberation Army). Originally, the PSS had 12 branches, but after OSLO II, the branches were decreased to 6.
  • OSLO II only allows the PSS to have 30,000 officers. There could be over 40,000-if this is true, the PA is the most heavily policed territory in the world, 1 officer for every 50 residents, the US ration is 1:400.
  • the PA is accumulating anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons for confrontation with the IDF.
  • the PA is considering making mandatory military service after the OSLO Process is completed in May, 1999. The Palestinian GSS (General Security Service) is responsible for coordinating and maintaining most of the Palestinian security branches and services. (including police and intelligence). According to OSLO, the GSS should be the security service under which all other services operate.

    GSS Security Branches:

    1. National Security Force- 14,000 officers. NSF is responsible for missions along area A and inside. Israeli-Palestinian joint guards. Recruited most of their officers from the PLA and the local areas.
    2. Civil Police-“blue police” They are the main tool of the PA. They handle ordinary police functions. They employee more than 10,000 police officers in the W.Bank and Gaza. Also they have 700 officers in a special rapid-deployment police unit who are trained to handle severe riots and counterterrorism operations. Officers in this unit have received training form the former Soviet Union and therefore these officers train other officers of other units.
    3. Preventative Security Force-5,000 agents, the largest PA intelligence force. They are involved in ‘information gathering in Israel.’ They have received a reputation for violating civil rights, including deaths of tortured detainees.
    4. General Intelligence-the official PA intelligence agency which has 3,000 officers. They are involved in developing relations with other foreign intelligence bodies.
    5. Military Police-they are part of the General Intelligence unit, but they are not officially recognized in the OSLO accords.
    6. Coast Guard-is situated in Gaza and has 1,000 officers. This unit is equipped with 5 motorboats which are supplied with machine guns. Recruits come from the Palestinian Diaspora who previously belonged to the overseas naval unit of Fatah. They receive special commando training.
    7. Aerial Police- is based on Force 14, Fatah’s aviation unit. Responsible for maintaining the PA’s 5 helicopters. This unit is not mentioned in any of the agreements.
    8. Civil Defence-is described in OSLO as ‘Emergency Services and Rescue.’ This unit consists of a fire department and rescue services. They administer programs of first aid and rescue training for civilians.
    9. County Guard-supply security services to county governors and their offices. They summon people for questioning and resolve local quarrels. They are not recognized by any agreements.
    10. GSS

      Arafat created 2 additional services outside of the 1994 Cairo’s Agreement’s definition of GSS-these 2 units are accountable only to Arafat:

      1. Special Security Force (SSF)-was established in Jan 1995, probably the smallest unit. They work under Arafat’s direct supervision. Their main objectives are to gather information about opposition groups in foreign countries (Arab). However, their hidden functions are to collect information on the PA’s other security services and to collect information about corruption and illegal actions by the PA officials.
      2. Presidential Security (al-Amn al-Ri’asah)- has 3,000 officers, many of whom were once members of Force 17, Arafat’s personal security guard while he led the PLO in the Diaspora. According to OSLO II, this unit was supposed to be part of the GSS. Their main objective is to handle counterterrorism, arresting opposition activists, and suspects of collaboration with Israel. Within this unit, there are 2 other units:
        1. An Intelligence Unit-they gather information about the activities of opposition movements and domestic threats.
        2. Personal Guard-these Arafat’s most loyal and trusted inner circle.
  • There are 8 bodies dealing with anti-opposition related activities, causing responsibilities to overlap and therefore clashes and inefficient work occurs- battles over jurisdiction.
  • Arafat has appointed Brig. Gen. Amin al-Hindi as head of his General Intelligence. This man disappeared for a while after his involvement in the 1972 massacre of Israeli Athletes in the Munich Olympics.
  • Arafat has so many security forces because:
    • the PA constantly has to monitor and be aware of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and to get rid of the political threat they pose.
    • the PA can inflate the number of security personnel without violating the interim agreement quota because most of his intelligence officers are plainclothes agents who look and dress like civilians.
  • Training: Britain, Austria, Netherlands, Egypt, and Scandinavian nations have all helped to train some of the men. The NSF who works alongside with the IDF is adopting many of the Israeli drills and techniques, disciplinary measures, battle drills, ways to operate radio equipment, and regulations for handling weapons. In 1994 the PSS new officers who were recruited form abroad were not given proper instructions, facilities, etc. Soon enough they became fed up. They were under paid and soon enough corruption set in. These officers began raiding businesses, collecting protection money and using excessive force.

Army or Police Force?

Police?

  • The Cairo Agreements first allowed the PA to establish a security that included police and internal security forces. The police is supposed to create public order and internal security. Only 9,000 were allowed to be employed by the security services. The agreed upon number rose to 30,000 by OSLO II. The PA is estimated to have 35,000-50,000 more police officers in different branches in the W.Bank and Gaza.
  • In 1998, the PA gave Israeli Intelligence a list of only 18,600 PSS officers because:
    1. The PA does not want Israel to know the ‘real’ number of officers employed.
    2. The PA does not want Israel to know the officers real identities because some are former terrorists who are wanted by the Israeli government. (Israel is allowed to veto any Palestinian employees who might be a security threat).
  • According to the 1994 Cairo Agreement, the PA is only allowed to have 15,00 weapons. An estimate of the PSS and the Palestinian population as a whole own an approximately 40,000 additional weapons than is allowed by OSLO II.
  • Activities related to preservation of public order in Palestinian cities and in 25 police stationed villages (Area B+) only involve 25% of actual PSS personnel (why is the ratio 1:50).
  • OSLO II does not specify the nature and the quality of the training required for the practice of law enforcement. As a result, the main branches of the PSS have never been properly trained in police work. 75% of the total force is not assigned to any law enforcement duties. 3/4 of the PSS are technically not police officers.

Military?

  • the PA emphasizes aggressive patriotism (jihad) and therefore a ‘uniform culture’ has been forged in the territories.
  • During the Summer of 1998, Fatah set up military camps in Gaza that trained young Palestinians in martial arts, handling light weapons, and military drills. The instructors of these camps came from the military intelligence branch of the PSS. The youth who were accepted into the military camps were chosen according to their intelligence, leadership, and their potential to become future commanders.
  • the PSS’s recruitment methods deal more with a persons political affiliation and loyalty to the regime rather than intellectual and leadership abilities. Current monthly salary for an officer is $200.
  • efforts are being made to settle disputes between the PA and Fatah’s faction in Lebanon, so if the peace process breaks down, the PLO fighters in Lebanon will be ready to join in. (Lebanon is the only place where Palestinian soldiers can develop skills in special weapons). Arafat has pledged to help these groups financially. Millions of dollars have been diverted from humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza-to-Lebanon.

During any future conflict:

  • Assumption that Palestinians are stockpiling light anti-armor weapons, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, SAM-7 anti-craft missiles, all which are forbidden under OSLO. PSS has been able to smuggle weapons into the PA across the Dead Sea into the West Bank or across the Mediterranean into Gaza. Or through a secret tunnel that connects from Egypt with Rafah, Gaza.
  • in 1997, the PSS’s need for anti-aircraft shoulder fired missiles became public when a former IDF scout was arrested for stealing a military patrol vehicle loaded with weapons and ammunition. During investigation he admitted that the weapons were ordered by the PSS.
  • Palestinians have been digging anti-tank tunnels and trap-holes under central roads in the West Bank and Gaza. These holes can be filled with explosives to block armored vehicles.
  • For next time, the PA will not restrict their fight only to a military level, but also civilians are to be included.
  • the PA holds self defense lessons for civilians which include: shooting, hand to hand combat, and ceremonial drill.

The Office of the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories: UNSCO

1996-97: UNSCO coordinated bilateral and multilateral training programs for the Palestinian police. A team produced a comprehensive project document for the establishment of a police academy for 400 trainees in Jericho.

1998-99: UNSCO will continue to coordinate training programs for the Palestinian police force.

International Maritime Organization: IMO

1996-97: Since 1996, IMO has been doing regional projects, financed by the European Commission’s LIFE Program for the development of port state control capability in the Mediterranean. The PA is one of the project’s 11 participants. It involves technical assistance and training from other states in the Mediterranean.

1998-99 Proposals formulated:

  • establishment of an independent maritime administration within the Ministry of Transport in order to meet the needs of the proposed sea port and resulting shipping services.
  • establishment of a maritime training program to respond to the future need for maritime officers and engineers.

My Almost-Trip to Israel

Considering that the President is aware that I strongly disagree with his position toward Israel, it was a huge surprise when the President invited me to accompany him on his coming trip to Israel and the Gaza Strip. He knows that I have spoken out most critically of his favoritism of the Palestinians in the current and ongoing negotiations before, during, and after the Wye Agreement.

If I accepted and accompanied him, how would it look? How would my presence be perceived? Would it look to others who believe as I do that the President has consistently taken the Palestinian side that I had sold out? Or, maybe, just maybe, was there a productive roll for me to play? After all, it certainly would give me a forum to discuss with the public my differences with the President’s position.

For example, on the issue of the administration’s proposal to provide an additional $400 million in aid to the Palestinians, I could point out that contrary to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s statement that “every dollar of U.S. aid (to the Palestinians) is accounted for and is completely transparent,” the PA itself estimates that 40% of the PA’s annual budget had been stolen, wasted, or misused. I could have noted the Task Force’s study of the ‘PECDAR Papers’ that proved gross embezzlement and misuse of foreign aid on Arafat’s own order. And further that our General Accounting office said it was “unable to independently verify the PA’s financial condition since that organization was unwilling to provide us with requested accounting reports and supporting documentation.”

And, on the issue of the removal of the lethal phrases concerning Israel from the Palestinian National Covenant, I could point out to the President’s press corps that the PA has an unblemished track record of organizing events with the declared intention to address the covenant issue and always with the end result of leaving the covenant unchanged. Moreover, I could have raised other pertinent questions such as the illegal size of the so-called “police” forces Arafat had built; the types of weapons they have; their cooperation with terrorist organizations; their dismal failure to suppress Islamist terrorists even though the PA-controlled areas have one of the world’s largest ratios of police/security personnel per citizen.

I could have asked the President to rationalize his belief in the “peace process” in view of the ongoing anti-Israeli legislation by the PA such as the death penalty for holding/owning land the intensifying, virulent, anti-Semitic incitement in the PA-controlled media that makes genuine reconciliation with Israelis virtually impossible. I would have sought explanations of how can anybody trust an agreement compared to the Treaty of Hudaibiya enacted by the Prophet Muhammad, in which a treaty lasts as long as political expediency dictates, or trust Yassir Arafat after he repeatedly reiterated the enduring validity of the “Phased Plan” of July 1974 the PLO’s long- term plan to destroy Israel in the context of accepting a Palestinian state in the territories.

And I could have asked the President when will the killers of the two US diplomats Ambassador Cleo Noel Jr. and Curt Moore including Yassir Arafat who personally gave the order be finally brought to justice. Oh, and of course, I could point out that for many reasons it is clear for everyone that the real motivation for the administration’s interest in the Middle East has little to do with peace in the region and a lot to do with the President’s problems here at home.

And still the invitation had been extended and now, at 4:30 pm on Friday, December 4, I had accepted. What an interesting few days I will have next weekend. What a great opportunity to tell what I really believe to the American people, I thought.

Oh, but for short lived opportunities. By the next morning, Saturday at 930 am, the President withdrew the invitation. I should have known that you have to get up extremely early in the morning to beat the spin of this President.

Congressman Jim Saxton (R-NJ) is Chairman, The Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare U.S. House of Representatives

Implementation of the Wye Agreement: Release of Palestinian Prisoners

Israel’s release of ordinary criminal prisoners instead of security prisoners in the wake of the Wye Agreement has provoked anger among Palestinians. Those members of the Palestinian negotiating team charged with overseeing the prisoner release issue have blamed it on the Israeli government.

Criticism of the Palestinian Leadership

After it became clear that the majority of prisoners released by Israel were common criminals, recently released security prisoners aligned themselves with the families of their still incarcerated comrades in accusing the Palestinian delegation of selling them out during the negotiations. They alleged that the negotiators favored issues of Palestinian sovereignty, over unequivocal demands to release the remaining prisoners. The Palestinian police had to forcibly disperse a demonstration at the residence of Arafat’s deputy Abu Mazen, where participants chanted: “shame on the PA, they sold the prisoners out in return for the airport.”1 Head of the Israeli Desk in the PA, Sufyan Abu Zayda, stated: “the prisoners are the major issue, [they come] before the airport, the harbor, or the withdrawal.” 2

The criticism of the Palestinian leadership was not unfounded. The prisoners’ cause was not at the top of the agenda of their negotiating team in Wye. Muhammad Dahlan, one of the Palestinian negotiators, made it clear: “our priorities were clear: the land comes first, and the prisoners come second.”3

A coalition composed of relatives of Israeli-held security prisoners, former security prisoners and active public lobbies quickly formed. They all pointed to the PA as the culprit. “We are struggling now,” said recently-released Wajih Al-Rajub “so that the prisoners’ cause can be brought to the top of the agenda and to the fore of the Palestinian negotiators’ minds – those who have forgotten us at the Taba Agreement, at Washington, Cairo and recently at Wye Plantation.”4 Similar sentiments were expressed in a letter smuggled out of an Israeli prison, where prisoners complained that they had been “neglected by the Palestinian delegation, which failed to pursue their cause vigorously at the negotiating table.” 5

Some PLC members also admonished the Palestinian negotiating team. Qadura Fares, a PLC member for Fatah, stated that if security prisoners were not released, the struggle would go on by every means possible.6 Another Fatah member of the PLC, Jamal Al-Shati, saw the Wye Agreement and the treatment of the prisoners’ predicament as “a moral disintegration of national Palestinian decision making.” Al-Shati described Wye as “the burial [ceremony] for the Oslo Accord that was executed by the Hebron Accord.”7

Official Palestinian Response to Criticism

In the face of mounting criticism, the Palestinian negotiators went on the defensive. They stressed the priority of the prisoners’ cause in their negotiation strategy. Since November, the PA termed security prisoners “P.O.Ws,”8 while erasing the difference between those who had been incarcerated prior to the Oslo Accords to those who were incarcerated after it.

Senior Palestinian officials have, a number of times, defined these prisoners as soldiers in the service of the Palestinian armed resistance, who were captured by Israel and whose release is the PA’s responsibility.

Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saib ‘Arekat addressed this issue, quoting what Arafat had told Netanyahu and Clinton in Wye: “I personally Yaser Arafat – have given verbal orders to these youths to carry out their [attacks]. [It is inconceivable] that I sit next to you and shake your hands, while letting these [youths] languish in jail…”9

The PA rejected the distinction Israel drew between prisoners with ‘blood on their hands’ and others. From its standpoint, all the Palestinian prisoners are freedom fighters. Palestinian Minister for Prisoners’ Affairs Hisham ‘Abd Al-Razeq was adamant: “During [our] struggle, we were not strolling around, we were at war. In this war there were many more Palestinian casualties than Israeli ones. Therefore, we do not accept this equation. It is inconceivable that we agree to our prisoners remaining in jails and being tortured, while we – the leadership of the Palestinian people and Brother ‘Abu ‘Ammar [Arafat] – sit next to the Israelis and negotiate with them. Any claim of Palestinians having murdered is racist and unacceptable… The problem of Palestinians who committed killings must be resolved. We are their leadership, so we are responsible for those acts…”10

The Fatah official communiqu‚, Our Position, also rejects the distinction between prisoners with ‘blood on their hands’ and other prisoners, as well as the distinction drawn between Fatah and Hamas prisoners. In its bi-weekly edition, Our Position, addresses the prisoners ‘of the various factions’ stating: “you are a lung without which oxygen will not circulate in the blood of the revolution, the PA, and the PLO. You are the chandelier which shines over thick darkness… we tell each and every one of those who scented their hands with devotion [to the national cause]… whose hands Zionists and racists attempt to accuse of being caked with blood – you are the pride of the revolution…”11

The PA’s Efforts to Divert Public Anger Toward Israel

The PA has launched a media campaign in an attempt to deflect Palestinian public anger toward Israel. In a PLC session, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saib Arekat has called upon the council neither to embrace a policy of ‘self-flagellation’ nor put the blame for Israel’s conduct on the Palestinian delegation.”12

The Fatah official communiqu‚, Our Position, defended the Palestinian negotiating team by invoking age-old Islamic terminology to accuse Israel of treachery that is ‘characteristic of all Jews’ by saying: “The Palestinian negotiating team has faced ill intentions on the part of the Israelis ever since the times of Rabin and Peres and Chief Israeli negotiators Uri Savir and Yoel Singer who demonstrate [exactly] what Allah ascribed [to Jews]: ‘whenever they make a pact, one of their factions will violate it….'” Later, Our Position, denounces the insults cast at members of the Palestinian delegation by relatives of the still incarcerated prisoners. It states that there is no alternative for Palestinians other than “channeling their anger towards the deceitful party [i.e.Israel]. An Intifada inside and outside of the jails should be launched against it.” It was further stated, on behalf of Fatah, the PA, and the PLO: “…we have reached the level of full preparedness to confront Netanyahu’s government and the gangs of Zionist extremists…”13

Following mounting public criticism, senior Palestinian officials – led by Minister Hisham ‘Abd Al-Razeq – have begun making covert threats at Israel, implying that if it did not meet their demands, Palestinians would resort to violence. ‘Abd Al-Razeq alluded to 1985 when “two [Israeli] soldiers were exchanged for 1,200 Arab and Palestinian prisoners, of whom more than 80% had killed Israelis… “14 The 1985 prisoners exchange resulted from the kidnapping of IDF soldiers in Lebanon. Minister ‘Abd Al-Razeq warned of a repeat of this scenario: “The [refusal] to release [our] prisoners is a serious Israeli message to our people. [It signals that] the peace process fails to liberate [our] sons who are in Israeli prisons, as opposed to the 1983 and 1985 [prisoners] exchange which proved successful in doing so.”15 ‘Abd Al-Razeq made a similar statement in an interview with the Hamas weekly: “Israel’s refusal to release security prisoners sends a message to the Palestinian people that prisoners can only be released through violence.”16 In another interview – this time with PA Television – ‘Abd Al-Razeq again made a reference to the 1983 and 1985 prisoners exchange, and added that last year fundamentalist leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, and another 60 Palestinians were released in exchange for two Mossad agents who were arrested in Jordan.17

‘Abd Al-Razeq’s stance was supported by Sufyan Abu Zayda, head of the Israel desk in the PA, who said: “When prisoners lose hope, and their families and friends lose hope that their sons may be released in the wake of the peace process – this means that they are being told explicitly that [they must] find other ways of releasing their brethren from prison.”18 On another occasion Abu Zayda said, “there are other ways of releasing the prisoners, as was the case in 1985.”19 Kamal Al-Shurafi, Chairman of the Human Rights Supervision Committee in the PLC, declared that Israel would pay dearly for its obstinacy regarding the issue of prisoners soon enough.20

‘Abd Al-Razeq and Abu Zaida’s threats were echoed by the Op-Ed pages of the Palestinian press. Political commentator Ashraf Al-‘Ajrami was the boldest of all. He wrote that the principle of reciprocity applied to every issue, and so the Palestinians must take Israeli hostages in order to release their comrades who are still incarcerated by Israel. Al-‘Ajrami added: “…[the Palestinians] will seek other solutions. They will once again instigate the prisoners’ exchange and release of detainees from Ansar [Israeli detention center] in 1983 and the ‘Galilee Operation’ of 1985. Back then, the Israeli government did not speak of ‘murderers’ or [people] with ‘blood-caked’ hands, but was forced to release everyone whose release had been called for… the PA will not be able to prevent Palestinian youths from… carrying out suicide bombings as long as the prevalent circumstances encourage [such acts]… a comprehensive review of the peace process, as well as the issue of prisoners, must be taken. Let us use every trump that is in our hands to force the Israelis into complying with the Agreement in all its clauses.”21

Conclusions

The issue of prisoners’ release has exposed a deep-seated moral debate among the Palestinians. While the leadership views the “liberation” of lands and other issues of sovereignty as the Palestinian’s first priority, the families of the prisoners, PLC members, grass-roots PA activists, as well as well as the general Palestinian public, consider the release of prisoners to be the most important issue. They view the PA leadership’s negotiating strategy and priorities as a “moral disintegration.” The tactics used by the Palestinian leadership to evade the public’s ire are worrisome. Blaming the opposite side’s intransigence is a common public relations “spin” on negotiations. But the PA’s statement that the only way to overcome this intransigence is through the use of force is a direct incitement to violence and is beyond “spin.” Their readiness to use violent means to achieve their ends demonstrates a non-committal approach to peaceful negotiations as pledged by Arafat in the Wye Memorandum ceremony and in the Oslo Accords.

Endnotes

1 Al-Risala, November 11, 1998.
2 Al-Quds, December 1, 1998.
3 PA Television, December 6, 1998.
4 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 25, 1998.
5 Al-Ayyam, November 24, 1998.
6 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 2, 1998.
7 Al-Ayyam, November 25, 1998.
8 This has been promulgated in a recent PLC communiqu‚- Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 26, 1998.
9 PA Television, October 30, 1998. See also Abu Mazen’s similar statement, “They fought under our orders and our oversight… are they [to be] hostages for the Israelis,” in Al-Quds, November 11, 1998.
10 PA Television, October 30, 1998.
11 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 2, 1998.
12 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 26, 1998.
13 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 2, 1998.
14 PA Television, October 30, 1998.
15 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 23, 1998.
16 Al-Risala, November 26, 1998.
17 PA Television, December 2, 1998.
18 PA Television, November 23, 1998.
19 Al-Istiqlal, November 27, 1998.
20 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 30, 1998.
21 Al-Ayyam, November 25, 1998; See also a statement by Dr. Kamal Al-Astal: “… leaving prisoners behind bars will openly induce the prisoners and their families to take this cause into their own hands. It is [an invitation for the families] to take actions for their release,” Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 25, 1998.

The Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization providing translations of the Arab media and original analysis and research on developments in the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available upon request.

Yotam Feldner is MEMRI’s Director of Media Analysis.
Aaron Mannes is MEMRI’s Director of Research.

Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI)
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The Habit of Hatred

Israel charges that the level of incitement in the Palestinian media and the education system is sowing the seeds of the next conflict

If you look for it, you’ll have no problem finding it — by the suitcase-full.

It lurks daily in the pages of the Palestinian newspapers, on the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation radio and TV, in the textbooks currently being studied in the Palestinian Authority schools.

Anti-Israeli incitement is what occupies Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Me-dia Watch, a privately funded Jerusalem-based monitoring organization. But he hesitates to use the “i” word. Rather, he says, the problem lies in the whole atmosphere — the totality of messages coming at the Palestinian public from all angles, creating an all-pervasive, war-like environment in which the idea of peaceful coexistence is entirely absent and in which Israel is either vilified, or not recognized at all.

The more outrageous cases periodically burst into the Israeli headlines. Like Yasser Arafat’s now-infamous Ramallah speech of November 15 in which he declared “our guns are raised. And we will aim them at anyone who prevents us from going to Jerusalem.” Or the scenes broadcast on PBC TV from last summer’s Palestinian Authority military-style children’s camps, in which the cute-looking boys and girls chanted, recited poems and sang in praise of armed revolution, jihad and martyrdom.

Then there was the November 7 opinion piece penned by guest columnist Nasser Ahmad and published in Al-Hayat al-Jadeedah, the semi-official PA daily, asserting: “Corruption is in the nature of the Jews all over the world, to the point that only rarely do you find corruption that the Jews are not behind… If we take a look at history, we discover to what extent the Jews were exposed to oppression and expulsion worldwide because of their ugly deeds and their wickedness.” Or the fact that every news broadcast on PBC TV starts off, and ends, with “the map”: the whole area of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with no borders and no names.

And no sensitivities were spared when PBC recently produced a short film commemorating the anniversary of a problematic Israeli retaliatory attack in October 1953 on the West Bank village of Qibiyah, in which the IDF destroyed scores of houses, killing over 40 civilians in the process. The five or six minute-long film clip included black-and-white images of eyeless and limbless children, taken from the Intifada and possibly elsewhere, as well as staged scenes of “Israeli soldiers” lining up and shooting groups of men and women against a wall, all set to an emotional narrative and plaintive background flute. Says Marcus: “Its purpose was only one — a definite desire to create hatred. You can’t watch that kind of stuff and not hate the people behind it.”

From first grade up, the textbooks used in PA schools in the West Bank are suffused with similar messages. The West Bank schools still use the Jordanian curriculum, as they have done for the past 30 years — and despite the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, the material has remained violently hostile. Gaza uses the Egyptian curriculum, which is far milder in its treatment of Israel. The Jordanian books are published in Amman, but are then embossed with the Palestinian Authority stamp of approval. During the occupation, the Israeli authorities used to edit out offending parts, redesigning pages and reprinting whole books to avoid large white gaps, but the PA has chosen not to.

An exhaustive search of these school texts by Marcus’s staff — he himself knows no Arabic — resulted in a report that has left many an Israeli gasping. Second-graders, for example, are taught a “Poem of Palestine,” including the lines: “For me, the promise of martyrdom and Palestine is my song/From Jerusalem I shall build my ladder towards eternity.” On page 29 of the “Our Arabic Language” primer for sixth-graders, pupils are asked to “form logical sentences making use of the following expressions: Wise opinion the Zionist danger he called for a Jihad disaster remaining cool-headed.” In a language primer of the same series, seventh-graders are given the following as a subject for composition: “How are we going to liberate our stolen land? Make use of the following ideas: Arab unity, genuine faith in Allah, most modern weapons and ammunition, the use of oil and other precious natural resources as weapons in the battle for liberation.” And so on.

The boundaries of what constitutes “our stolen land” are kept vague, at best. The new PA-approved atlas, in this case privately published in the West Bank city of Nablus, shows Israel, the West Bank and Gaza as all one area with no labels. Where the territories are marked separately, for example in the 10th-grade textbook “Modern Arab History and Contemporary Problems, Part Two,” the color key refers to “Arab lands occupied before 1967” and “Arab lands occupied in 1967.”

“The Palestinians haven’t yet internalized the recognition of Israel,” says Marcus, who moved to Israel from the United States in 1974. He worked in the Religious Affairs Ministry under the previous Labor-led government before turning to full-time monitoring after the 1996 elections. “It would be completely valid if they were to put a map on TV of the whole West Bank and Gaza without a single settlement. But Israel of 1948 is not in dispute now. They’re constantly talking about Lod, Jaffa, Acre and Haifa in future terms, which creates dangerous expectations. It’s a general world view — a view that was supposed to have changed with Oslo. Instead of promoting peace, it’s sowing the seeds of the next conflict.”

Israel’s delegation went off to the Wye Plantation talks in October armed with Marcus’s reports. It came back with a commitment from the Palestinians to issue a decree prohibiting all forms of incitement to violence or terror, comparable to existing Israeli legislation, and to join Israeli and U.S. representatives on a trilateral committee to find ways of preventing incitement.

The decree was issued in mid-November. And on the 24th of the month, the committee held its first meeting.

Marcus was the “professional” on the four-man Israeli team, headed by former Knesset member Yoash Tsidon of the right-wing Tsomet party. The Palestinian side was headed by former Arafat spokesman Marwan Kanafani. U.S. Ambassador Ed Walker stood in for former Congressman Mel Levine, who was unable to attend the opening session.

The sides came out agreeing to work on a definition of what constitutes incitement, and to meet again in early December. Now, The Jerusalem Report has learned, the Pal-estinians are concentrating their efforts on building up their own files citing examples of Israeli incitement against the Palestinians. Whether or not they’ve fully come to terms with Israel’s existence, one thing the Palestinians have clearly internalized is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy of reciprocity.

“We have our own claims of Israeli incitement, every day,” Hafez Barguti, chief editor of Al-Hayat al-Jadeedah, told The Report the morning after the first meeting, having already coordinated positions with Kanafani. “When [Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel] Sharon tells settlers to grab any empty land they can, what do you call that if not a call to violence? It must be mutual, from our side and the Israeli side. On the Palestinian side, you might find an individual here or there. But on the Israeli side, it’s government ministers who make these declarations.”

Asked about the recent “corruption” article that appeared in his paper, Barguti said he’d spent several weeks abroad around that time, and that it was “difficult to control every word in this situation. Yesterday,” he went on, “I gave my editors instructions not to use this word — ‘corrupt’ — about a whole people. We’re going to make peace with these people.”

Barguti added that another recent anti-Semitic item using Shylock imagery had slipped by while he was preoccupied with his father, who was in a coma. As for references in Al-Hayat al-Jadeedah to Israel as the “Zionist entity,” he said he wouldn’t use such terminology himself, then asked rhetorically, and somewhat disingenuously, “since when being a Zionist was an insult? I think the Zionists should be happy to use this, no?”

At PBC headquarters in Ramallah, the PA’s temporary “capital” in the West Bank, radio and television head Radwan Abu Ayyash sits under a portrait of Arafat and the national flag. So far, he says, he’s invested three years of very hard work in getting PBC on its feet. And he insists that while the salaries of the TV and “Voice of Palestine” radio staff come from the Palestinian Authority, and the PBC is accountable to Arafat’s own office (the general coordinator, Hisham Mikki, is based in Gaza), there’s no real interference from on high.

Abu Ayyash even points to moments of daring. Like the time when the popular radio program “Good Morning Palestine,” which deals with local issues, was trying in vain to get PA Information Minister Yasser Abd Rabbo on the phone. With each call, Abd Rabbo’s secretary became ruder, until she was positively cursing. Abu Ayyash instructed staffers to tape the last call, and broadcast it live. Only Arafat himself is immune to criticism on PBC stations. “He’s a symbol. I cannot gamble with this,” says Abu Ayyash.

When it comes to the subject of incitement, however, the PBC is definitely up for a fight. Abu Ayyash pulls out copies of Marcus’s reports, on which he’s scribbled his own notes, and dismisses Palestinian Media Watch as “a Beit Agron production,” referring to the Jerusalem press center which houses, among other things, the Israeli Government Press Office and the military censor. He accuses the Israelis of “picking and choosing” from the programs and taking things out of context. “If some sheikh says live on TV that all the Israelis should be thrown into the sea, what can I do? Cut off his tongue?” he goes on. “I can’t change the hearts, the brains, the language of my people. I can’t make them fall in love by force. We are journalists, mirrors, reflectors. I’m not here to lie, or make propaganda.”

Abu Ayyash says that he’s put aside all the songs and poems calling for Israel’s destruction that were daily fare on PLO radio that used to air out of Algeria. “I try to be fair,” he says, “but at the same time, I cannot surrender my nationality to fit somebody’s mood. We have to build up our national feeling, to chart our origins, like any other people.” Abu Ayyash complains that Israel is ignoring the fact that “90 percent” of PBC’s news broadcasts deal with the peace process — even if they attack Netanyahu’s political position. Like Barguti, he argues that calling people “Zionists” is “not a curse.”

As for the map, Abu Ayyash claims at first that the idea is merely to show the Middle East, and focus on this area. “Give me a final-status map and I’ll use it,” he declares. Prodded further, Abu Ayyash says that he would put up a map of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, “but to be honest, I still have something to do with Jaffa and Haifa. I have a Palestinian refugee problem — I have people watching from Jaffa whose problem hasn’t been solved. That doesn’t mean I want to get into a tank and drive there.”

Israel has particularly objected to a number of items that have repeatedly cropped up on PBC TV. These include short clips showing Intifada violence interspersed daily between regular programming; a six-minute recording of the song “Baladi Ana,” or “My Country,” in which children depict the trauma of 1948, concluding “It’s still my land, my beautiful land, Palestine”; and a blood- and gorefilled series called “Al-Khalidun,” or “The Eternal Ones,” which has run weekly for the past two years. “Al-Khalidun” features Palestinian “martyrs” killed by Israel, describing their lives and times, and keeping their memories alive through interviews with proud family members.

Abu Ayyash rejects charges that “Al-Khalidun” glorifies martyrdom, stressing the centrality of the concept in Islam. “The people don’t need me to tell them this,” he scoffs. “They get it from the kindergarten to the grave. It’s part of their structure, their life. I can’t just delete it from TV.”

Furthermore, he argues, it’s important to remind people of how much pain it’s taken to get to this point. “Why didn’t Israel forget the Nazis?” he asks. “Because of Yad Vashem, you had to reach peace. Because of the Intifada, we have to reach peace. I’m not aiming to destroy Israel, but we have a right to show its atrocities.”

In the wake of Wye, where the subject of incitement was first raised, Israel observed slight “improvements” at PBC TV: The daily barrage of Intifada clips stopped; “Al-Khalidun” abruptly went off the air (Abu Ayyash says the series “came to its end”); and “Baladi Ana” suddenly disappeared. That, Abu Ayyash conceded to The Report, was taken off so as not to give Netanyahu “cards” to play with.

Days after the first incitement committee meeting, however, “Baladi Ana” reappeared. And all efforts at PBC TV are focused, again, on reciprocity. Kanafani has charged Abu Ayyash with building a file of Israeli transgressions. “If they want to play Tom and Jerry, that’s fine,” says the PBC head. “We’re monitoring them now.”

The PA Ministry of Education, meanwhile, refuses to respond to the charges of incitement in schoolbooks on grounds that the PA is working on its own curriculum, to be introduced in the year 2002.

Israel doesn’t want to wait that long. A proposal informally thrown up at the incitement committee would have the Americans fund an immediate reprint of edited versions of the books now in use. The Palestinians replied that they are not prepared to deal with their schoolbooks unless Israeli textbooks are dealt with at the same time.

Surrounded by the mounds of evidence collected by Itamar Marcus and his staff, many plain-thinking people might conclude that the Palestinians don’t aspire to peace at all. Indeed, Marcus’s material has been enthusiastically adopted by a myriad of right-wing Israeli and Jewish interest groups who would rather see the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations stop in their tracks.

Surprisingly, Marcus himself avoids coming to gloom-and-doom conclusions, instead putting a constructive spin on his work. “I see this whole media question as the key to peace,” he says. “We’re talking about the socialization of a people to either accept the Jewish people here or not. For the long-term good and the development of peace, we have to create an atmosphere that promotes peace in the media and in the schools.”

And Marcus goes even further. If the Palestinians themselves were promoting peace, he suggests, there would be a “revolution” in Israeli attitudes toward making concessions. But for that to happen, says Marcus, the Palestinians would need to deal not only with the symptoms — the blatant bursts of incitement — but with the deeper illness itself.

The cure, it seems, is not available yet. Several weeks ago, PBC radio interviewed Marcus about his work. The recording was never aired. Marcus believes that is because he didn’t come across as the easy-to-dismiss right-wing provocateur PBC obviously assumed he was. “They don’t want to present us as reasonable,” he concludes. “They still fear presenting us as anything but the enemy.”

Death Sentence on Israelis

Not only has a Palestinian land law come into being, but a Palestinian law on weapons is also now in effect, according to which it is permissible for the Palestinian Authority to manufacture weapons and accord its citizens the right to bear arms. Both of these laws are part of a new stage in the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Brigadier-General Uri Shoham, the Chief Military Prosecutor: “This is a serious violation of the agreements with the Palestinians.” Attorney Tewfiq Abu-Ghazzaleh, Chairman of the Palestinian Legal Sub-committee: “There is no declaration of war here, although I would understand someone thinking that there was. If it were up to me, perhaps I would not submit this law.” Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu-Medein declined to comment.

A few days after the signing ceremony at Wye River, Justice Minister Tzahi Hanegbi wrote to the Prime Minister, and called his attention to a new Palestinian law, which was, at that time, in the final stages of enactment. It is called the “Law on Foreign Ownership of Real Estate in Palestine,” which was recently brought into law in secret in Gaza, and a copy of which was received by chance by the Justice Ministry. This law amounts — according to jurists — to a declaration of war on the State of Israel.

Justice Minister Hanegbi made it clear to the Prime Minister that the new law severely infringes on Israeli citizens’ and authorities’ land acquisition rights of Israeli citizens and organisations, from both sides of the Green Line, and complete contravenes the instructions of the agreements with the Palestinians, including the Wye Agreement.

According to the new law, revealed here for the first time, any Israeli citizen or institution, certainly any settler or the IDF, holding land in “Palestine”, is harming Palestinian “national security”. Together with this, any Palestinian who aids, in any way, the acquisition or possession of land by an Israeli — is guilty of treason. The land will pass automatically to the treasury of the Palestinian state, and the judgment on the Israeli holding the land or the Palestinian selling it — death.

A few months before the enactment of the land law, senior Justice Ministry and IDF officials brought an additional Palestinian law to the Prime Minister’s attention. This was the “Firearms and Ammunition Law”, which was also passed in secret and signed by “Rais” Arafat last May. According to Chief Military Prosecutor Brigadier-General Uri Shoham, and Central Command Legal Adviser Colonel Shlomo Politis, this law too constitutes a serious infringement of the agreements with the Palestinians. It gives legitimacy to the Palestinian Authority itself, to manufacture weapons and permit citizens to bear arms. All this is seen by the State of Israel as constituting a serious security threat, violates the agreement between the sides, and demonstrates aggressive intentions.

The two laws, on land and on weapons, constitute a single unit of land and fire, and constitute a new and additional stage in the Palestinian struggle against Israel. Despite numerous attempts by political and professional elements to bring this to the attention of the Prime Minister, both before and after the Wye Agreement, Netanyahu has done nothing. It seems, however, from the Justice Minister’s sharp words, that he will soon lead the issue of hostile Palestinian legislation to a serious crisis with the Palestinians.

IDF, the Anger and the Frustration

But these two new laws do not represent the whole picture. For a long time, senior figures in the Justice Ministry and the IDF have been climbing the walls with anger and frustration at Palestinian behavior in the legal sphere. According to unambiguous articles in the Oslo Accords, which were ratified in the Wye Agreement, the Palestinians are required to submit all legislative initiatives to Israel via a special legal committee, in order to enable Israel to examine whether the proposed legislation is in keeping with the agreements. The laws are supposed to be submitted to the legal committee prior to their enactment, so that it would be possible to change or cancel them, before they become law.

Precisely because of this, the Palestinians have not, until today, submitted even one law to Israel. In fact, they are carrying out, by means of legislation, a war against Israel. Countless requests by senior Justice Ministry officials to their Palestinian counterparts, asking them to comply with the agreements and submit the laws which have been enacted or are in the process of being enacted, have simply been ignored. Copies of laws which have reached the Israeli side were obtained by intelligence, or as a result of the monitoring of internet sites and newspapers.

This “legal war”, which has been completely ignored by the media, is causing much anger and frustration on the part of the legal officials, who are required to coordinate with the Palestinian Authority. They constantly send letters and memoranda to politicians, but with no real result.

From the Land Registry to the Gallows

The “Foreign Ownership of Real Estate in Palestine” law, revealed here for the first time, marks a new high in this legal war. In its English version, the law is only two pages long, but this was enough to set off all the warning lights among top Justice Ministry officials.

The law, which, as far is known, has already passed through all the legislative processes, defines as “occupiers” the “Israeli occupying authority and its civil and military institutions, settlements and whomever is under their authority.”

It states that “any actions conducted by or being conducted by the occupying authority (Israel) on Palestinian real estate are considered absolutely null and void.” The law contains no definition of what Palestinian land is, so that according to the accepted Palestinian view, the law also applies to land in Tel Aviv, Acre and Haifa, and certainly that in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria.”

The law also prohibits “all persons who are not Arab Palestinians, whether they are persons real or artificial, to possess any real estate in Palestine or to obtain any material right, by any reason of ownership…” However, while regarding citizens of countries “with which there is reciprocity” the Palestinian “Council of Ministers” may permit the holding of real estate, a special article in the law states that regarding “occupiers,” that is the government and citizens of Israel, the Council of Ministers has no authority to permit the holding of real estate. Such land would be confiscated immediately by the Palestinian authorities.

Of course, the law prohibits brokerage efforts, sales or approval of transactions to foreigners and “occupiers” from being carried out, and states that “Any Palestinian who violates the terms of this law has committed the crime of high treason,” and will be punished accordingly. A foreigner who violates the law “has committed harm to national security” and will be punished accordingly. The punishment for treason and harming national security is death. Thus, Israelis and Palestinians are to march together from the land registry to the gallows.

“A Severely Racist Law”

So far as is known, the bill has secretly passed through all of the required legislative procedures and was even approved by Yasser Arafat. As stated above, not a word of this was reported to Israel. By chance, the draft legislation reached senior officials at the Justice Ministry last September, including attorney Jean-Claude Nidam, who is responsible for contact with the Palestinian Authority at the ministry. They were shocked and appealed to the highest echelon of the judicial system, with a demand for action.

They clarified that “the orders of the aforementioned law severely damage the real estate rights of the country’s citizens and institutions.” They also asserted that “the Interim Agreement clearly states that there will be no harm to these rights, and a number of articles explicitly determine that the (Palestinian) Council is obligated to honor the existing rights.” Therefore, they stated that, “there is a clear contradiction between the law and the agreement.”

They demanded that the Palestinians be informed that the law lacks any validity and is void, and that the lessons from the very fact of its legislation be learned.

Senior jurists both in and outside the civil service point to the even more severe implications than those about which the official documents speak. “This is a racist law, which, if it were legislated by a friendly country such as Britain, we would interpret as a declaration of war against us, and which would cause an immediate severing of relations with it,” says a senior jurist in the civil service. “We must understand the meaning of the legislation. This law states that any Israeli who owns land in a place that the Palestinians determine is Palestine, certainly in the settlements and in Jerusalem, will be sentenced to death. The same holds true for the Israeli government. This is an intolerable law that harms the very ability to continue coming into contact with whoever legislated the law.”

Attorney Dudu Rotem, legal adviser to the Yesha Council, towards whose members the law is especially directed, asserts that the implications are even more serious: “According to this law, if I travel tomorrow to Jericho they can arrest me, since every settler, due to his very ownership of his home, harms Palestinian national security. In fact, this is no law, but a joke. It is a dictator’s order that grants legitimacy to murder and racism, and harms every principle of law and justice. However, the interesting thing is not what Arafat does, but what the Israeli government will do regarding this law.”

A Clear Threat to Israel

On 6 July, the legal adviser to the IDF Central Command and the Civil Administration, Col. Shlomo Politis, wrote a letter to OC Central Command. He warned against another new Palestinian law which had just been legislated. This is the “Palestinian Firearms and Ammunition Law,” which was approved in an order by Yasser Arafat this past May, and which received nearly no exposure.

The law permits the Palestinian Authority to manufacture weapons and to issue licenses to carry all sorts of weapons. The position of the Israeli jurists regarding it is unanimous. Col. Politis’ opinion later received further backing from Chief Military Prosecutor Brig. Gen. Uri Shoham. Both view the law as a direct violation of the Oslo Accords.

According to Col. Politis, “The first part of the law, which deals mainly with licensing and carrying weapons by Palestinians, contravenes the orders of the Interim Agreement, since the law authorizes the ‘minister of interior’ to give a weapons permit for pistols and rifles.” This “contravenes what is stated in the agreement’s security appendix, according to which the Palestinian Police would be permitted to issue licenses only for pistols.”

However, it seems that an even more severe aspect of the law is expressed in its second section, which deals with the manufacture and import of weapons. This section, states legal adviser Politis, constitutes “a violation of the Interim Agreement orders which prohibit the possibility of the manufacture and import of weapons and ammunition.”

“In the agreement’s security appendix,” he states, “it even says that the Palestinian Police have an obligation to prevent the manufacture of weapons in the PA areas.”

The illegal legislation of this law was brought to the Prime Minister’s attention early last August. The issue was even raised a number of times with Netanyahu and in the cabinet by the Justice Minister, but without any result.

As was said, there is no disagreement between the jurists regarding the meaning of the law, but the truth is that one does not need to be a legal expert to understand the full severity of the matter: the PA is giving itself the imprimatur to manufacture, import and issue licenses for weapons and ammunition, despite the fact that this imprimatur contravenes both the spirit and the letter of its agreements with the State of Israel, and despite the fact that it is clear to it that manufacturing and licensing weapons constitute a clear and flagrant threat to Israel.

How to Bury a Committee

“There is nothing in our legislation which violates the agreements,” claims Attorney Tewfiq Abu-Ghazzaleh, the Palestinian Chairman of the Legal Sub-Committee, the committee was supposed to deal with legal issues arising between the two sides. “I am not claiming that the Israelis are lying in the serious accusations which they are making against us, but there is a misunderstanding here. Regarding the law on weapons, we are trying to create order from the scorched earth situation which existed here when we arrived. Regarding the land law, I would need to check if it has indeed already been published in the official gazette and come into force. If it were up to me, perhaps I would not submit this law, but it has been done to show that we are in control on the ground. There is no declaration of war here, although I would understand someone thinking that there was. I hope that things will be different in the future.”

“In general,” says Attorney Abu-Ghazzaleh, “I can understand the frustration of the Israeli side. I agree with them, there is a problem, but I hope that it will soon be solved. If it depended on me, it would have been solved already, but we need to create a structure and get organized, especially in the West Bank. We need means and people, I hope that it will happen, I am still waiting to hear from our Justice Minister.”

The Justice Ministry and the security establishment have become used to answers of this kind over the last few years. There they claim that Abu-Ghazzaleh’s bosses are deliberately sending him to dole out promises, but in practice are making sure that these promises have no cover, or indeed that in the field, the precise opposite will happen.

By the way, Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu- Medein declined to be interviewed for this article, despite repeated calls to his office and his home, and promises that he would, “call back.”

Abu-Ghazzaleh’s basic embarrassment derives from the committee that he heads. The Oslo Accords established a joint legal committee, headed by the two sides’ justice ministers — Tzahi Hanegbi and Freih Abu-Medein. It set up a sub-committee headed by Justice Ministry Director- General Nili Arad, and Attorney Tewfiq Abu-Ghazzaleh.

Palestinian legislation, like all other legal issues, was supposed to be submitted to this committee. But for years now, the Palestinians have prevented the convening of the committee. This is hardly a great surprise, and in the Justice Ministry, they say that “This is the only committee in which they are supposed to give and not receive, and therefore, they are making sure that it does not convene or function.”

Long months pass until dates are set for the meetings of the committee, and when these dates arrive, the Palestinians cancel the meetings at the last moment. In the few meetings which have taken place, in small forums, the Palestinians have been asked to submit all proposed items of legislation to the committee for its consideration. This has not been done.

Gaza Station Is Not Responding

One of the severest aspects of the legal war which the Palestinians have declared is the non-functioning of the legal assistance mechanism which was established by the Oslo Accords. According to the Accords, a body was set up which was supposed to carry out a series of legal coordination activities, in the criminal and civil spheres, as is customary between two countries which are not at war.

The mechanism is supposed to see to it that court decisions of the other side are enforced, that bailiff’s office decisions regarding the collection of debts are implemented, etc., etc. A senior Justice Ministry official, attorney Jean-Claude Nidam, heads the mechanism. His counterpart is an Arab-Israeli attorney, Jamal Abu- Toemeh. Dozens and even hundreds of appeals from the Israeli side reach the mechanism daily. These range from decisions against convicted rapists, to detention orders against criminals who fled, requests to summon witnesses, and requests to carry out decisions against Palestinians who owe vast sums to Israelis. All requests are checked and passed on to the Palestinian side, but merit no response. Even attorney Abu-Toemeh, the man in charge on the Palestinian side, does not succeed in obtaining any cooperation on his side. Gaza station is not responding.

The result is severe. Debts of tens of millions of shekels are not collected, and thousands of files involving residents of the territories are closed. The paradox is that the Israeli taxpayer is massively financing the defense of Palestinian Authority residents who are up for trial inside the Green Line, via the public defender’s office. Indeed, a considerable portion of our crime is perpetrated by Palestinian Authority residents. But the Authority is avoiding any assistance and cooperation, and at the same time, with characteristic audacity, is insisting that VAT funds — which Israel collects from Palestinian residents — be fully refunded.

In the justice establishment, it is claimed that it is precisely the judicial sphere that could serve as the first, and precedent-setting, area for cooperation between the two entities, Israeli and Palestinian. This is not cooperation between peoples carrying difficult psychological baggage, but two bureaucracies, that take orders from the politicians, and are supposed to obey. But in practice, the Palestinian bureaucrats receive contradictory orders from their politicians, orders to make things difficult and obstruct. And thus, the judicial field has become a battlefield which broadcasts hostility and alienation, just like between two hostile entities.