Friday, June 22, 2018

Official Palestinian Authority Voice of Radio Broadcasts; Dec. 27

Summary and Analysis

VOP reported that the Palestinian Leadership-the Executive Committee of the PLO-would discuss the American plan some more this evening, with a view to giving a response soon.

Throughout the day there were hints and nuances which indicated that the PA is facing growing disquiet from the refugee community and the Islamic establishment as well as Arab states.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erikat said in a VOP interview that Yasser Arafat would respond with a letter to President Bill Clinton, setting forth Palestinian principles. Erikat said the Palestinians would not be rushed into any agreements by the United States, which, he said, leaned heavily in Israel’s favor. He refused to give a clear indication, in his morning interview, whether Arafat would head to Egypt for a three-way meeting with Egyptian president Husni Mubarak and Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.

In its morning and noon news shows, VOP did not report or respond to Israeli reports that Clinton planned to get the U.S. plan approved through the UN, as a replacement for resolutions 242 and 338.

Although the news shows carried the sermon of Mufti Ikrema al-Sabry (including veiled criticism of the PA position on Jerusalem), it did not summarize his remarks in the news shows or headlines, beyond saying that the Sheikh called for visits to the martyrs (graves) and their families, as well as the wounded.

Similarly, there was no comment – as of 6p.m.– on news agency reports that the PA was rejecting the American proposal (Reuters) or delaying its decision (AFP).

Morning Headlines (7:30-9:00 a.m.)

  • “Palestine participates with the Arab and Islamic world in the celebration of the Feast in the shade of continuing Israeli aggression;
  • Occupation forces attack parts of Ramallah and Jenin;
  • The (Palestinian) Leadership meets for consultations and deep discussion of the American initiative;
  • The mayor of occupied Jerusalem decides to move his office to the area of the Wall of Burak (i.e. the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s winged steed, who, according to Islamic legend, was tethered to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount).”
  • Feisal Husseini, member of the PLO Executive and holder of the Jerusalem portfolio, warned the Israelis about the danger of this step, saying we would defend the holy Jerusalem shrine (Haram al-Sharif).with a violent popular reaction.”

Quotes from Interview with Saeb Erikat, PA Negotiator

“We believe we will achieve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state over all the desired land with holy Jerusalem as its capital. Well, with regard to the continuing meetings (of the Leadership), as we said, we will not allow time to be used as a sword held over our heads. Our responsibility is great. First Jerusalem, the question of borders, the settlements, the refugees, it revolves around the question of water and other matters. I want to see these are very serious, deep and intensive discussions. Not just inside the (Palestinian) Authority but also between President Arafat and our brother Arabs (states)..What is demanded is a solution that must be based on international legitimacy (i.e. UN resolutions) 242, 338 and 194.

Any final agreement is going to have to be detailed, specific-which does not leave anything out..These are final status talks, not temporary, not with changes. We’re talking about comprehensive peace..We will not allow interim talks. We won’t allow delays.”

Q: “Does this mean refusal of the American ideas”

A: “Refusal or acceptance must be decided by the highest authorities. Based on international legitimacy. We all know the American predilection towards Israel. All these things have to be gone into in great detail. And the whole world has to know the Palestinian position”

Noon Headlines (additional or updated headlines, only)

  • “The Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, headed by His Excellency President Yasser Arafat, meets this evening for further discussions of the American plan for a final solution in preparation for responding to it;
  • Occupation forces attack two Palestinian Guard positions in Jenin
  • Occupation authorities prevent prayer services for the Feast at the Megiddo Jail.”

Afternoon/Evening Headlines

(2 p.m., 4 p.m. & 6 p.m. largely repeating earlier headlines with some additions, as below)

  • “Extremist Jews try to invade Haram al-Sharif;
  • Israeli jets bomb in Lebanon;

Quotes of the Day

“The American ideas have not reached the level of Palestinian demands, but.they must reach the level of international legitimacy.” (Interview with Saeb Erikat, Chief PA negotiator)

“We wish all our listeners, on the occasion of the Feast, the fulfillment of all their hopes from the Return to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.” (Holiday greetings during news shows on December 27)

Rhetorical Elements (from Mosque Sermon)

by Mufti Sheikh Ikrema al-Sabry,
from the Al-Aqsa Mosque,
Wednesday morning
December 27, 2000, 7:30 a.m.)

“o, ye Muslims, this feast comes to us at a time when the case of Jerusalem and the holy places has been stirred to a boil, and our people are witness to the conspiracy hatched against Jerusalem and the holy places. There is no escaping the expression of our firm strategic stance: that the city of Jerusalem in its entirety be an Arab, Islamic city, and that it return to the sphere and sovereignty of the Arabs and the Muslims.

We announce say in your name ‘no’ to the judaization of the city and our refusal also to its internationalization.

(Note: in the background there was some noise as if one or more worshipers called out, perhaps objecting, to the sermon’s content at this point, screaming:

The American initiative to divide al-Aqsa into an upper sovereignty and a lower sovereignty are a conspiracy against al-Aqsa.”

(The Sermon went on to refuse any exchange of sovereignty in Jerusalem in return for the “nullification of the problem of the refugees,”. The sermon did not mention “Palestinian” sovereignty, calling instead for “Islamic sovereignty”)

“We will refuse to recognize any connection of kind of the Jews to the blessed al Aqsa Mosque. They have no trace of a connection to this Islamic mosque. We are its keepers, guardians and servants, and we will pierce any American initiatives and any Israeli statements.”

Official PA radio news – the PBC Voice of Palestine, Dec. 28th

Summary and Analysis

The confusion and lack of clear direction at the top of the pyramid of power in the Palestinian Authority emerges clearly in the last two or three days of broadcasts of the Voice Of Palestine.

There has been no clear message from Yasser Arafat or his spokesman Nabil Abu Irdeineh (especially not in their own voices), and none from Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the PLO Executive secretary and the man most closely associated with the “Oslo Accords.”

Rather, VOP listeners have been trying to glean indications from sometimes conflicting analyses coming from leading PA officials: Yasser Abd Rabbo, Saeb Erikat, Ahmad Qreia, Taib Abdel-Rahim.

It appears that internal opposition from the refugee constituency and the Islamic clerics-as well as objections from several Arab countries– have stiffened Arafat’s resistance to American ideas, even though there was significant initial willingness to give a “yes, but” response to them (in an effort to gain further concessions and not to appear intransigient). Even now, the PA does not want to appear to be saying a clear ‘NO’ to American ideas.

Instead, the PA reports that it is still studying them, even as VOP reports (accurately and fairly) that the Israeli government has given “a conditional yes response” to the Clinton formula, after a 10-2 cabinet vote with two abstentions.

Morning Headlines (8 a.m.)

  • “Dr. Erikat asserts that the Leadership is awaiting clarifications of the Clinton ideas before responding to them in a final way;
  • The Exectuive Committee (of the PLO), after deep study of the American ideas, asserts the core Palestinian principles;
  • President Arafat states in a letter to Clinton expresses the Palestinian viewpoint on all the issues cast out (on the table);
  • His Excellency (Arafat) will meet with the Egyptian President following the cancellation of the three-way summit;
  • The American president carries out many contacts to some regional in connection with the peace process.”

Quotes of the Day

“The President’s (Arafat’s) advisor, Nabil Abu-Irdeineh stated that the president has sent a letter to President Clinton thanking him, on the part of the Palestinian Leadership, for the great efforts expended by Clinton.” (Morning News broadcast, VOP 8:00 a.m.)

“As of now, the American ideas do NOT meet the needs of international legitimacy.” (Saeb Erikat, 8:10 am, morning interview)

Interview with Saeb Erikat, chief PA negotiator

Q: “We asked Dr. Erikat if this was the final response to the American ideas?”

A: “As you know,the Palestinian Leadership is continuing the study of the American ideas in depth and conducting consultations with fraternal Arab states and friends around the world. We have demanded explanations and clarifications from the Americans side on all things. After all, what makes an agreement in the end is the details. That means the geographical elements, the deails of what happens to control over the land, that means various kinds of relations, that means territorial contiguity, what happens to water, that means security, Jerusalem…. We cannot just give a response to general ideas. We desire a comprehensive agreement on Jerusalem, the borders, settlements, the refugees and water. And that cannot be done without the details….Without clarity there can be no response. “

Q: “Then, the Palestinian response is not final.”

A: “The letter sent by President Arafat to President Clinton clarifies completely that for us the foundations of the peace process must be based on the foundations of the peace process which means that the American ideas at the present time do not meet the decisions of international legitimacy (i.e. UN resolutions 242, 338 and 181 and 194).

We have demanded clarifications based on the same clarifications built on details in the maps….President Arafat says in his letter that finding a basis for the peace process must be the execution of resolutions 242, 338 and 194.”

(Note: If Erikat’s remarks seem a bit confusing and repetitive in syntax and content, that is because they were. Many of his remarks-not offered here–were sentence fragments built on sentence fragments.)

Noon Headlines

  • His Excellency President Yasser Arafat in Egypt for meeting with the Egyptian President about the American initiative Mubarrak;
  • Dr. Saeb Erikat asserts we are awaiting American clarifications;
  • Barak’s advisor says he (Barak) rejects Palestinian sovereignty over the Holy Shrine (Haram al-Sharif/ Temple Mount);
  • Israel announces its conditional yes response to the American initiative.”

When Arafat Says No…

When Arafat says ‘No,’ what does he mean? The Rais’s ‘No’ is not an absolute rejection. It is a strategy of brinksmanship, designed to achieve a bit more, to squeeze one more accomplishment.

Arafat’s ‘No’ is designed to show his people that he doesn’t give in easily. This is a ‘No’ that is valid only now, and can change in hours or days. It isn’t a ‘No’ of principles. It is a ‘No’ on the way to a ‘Yes’.

Yesterday Arafat essentially said ‘Yes,’ but with conditions and reservations. Arafat understands that he has not yet reached the limit of Israeli concessions. He has time left before January 10th, the final date set by Clinton. Until then he can squeeze more out of Israel. Yesterday evening he heard that Barak requested from the cabinet approval to transfer 97% to the Palestinians. From his perspective, what is that, if not proof that he shouldn’t be in a hurry to say ‘Yes’?

At Camp David everyone told Arafat: “You will not receive a better offer than this one.” And still he insisted, and backed up his refusal with violence. A few weeks ago, when he felt that the hour had arrived, he returned to the negotiating table, and received a better offer.

Why does he insist so much? Arafat has serious internal problems. The offers are definitely more generous than in the past, but they are still far from the Palestinian strategy. He understands that if he says ‘No’ or a weak ‘Yes,’ he will get a bit more.

At the same time, he understands that he will not be able to dream of a better agreement than this in the future. Thus he prefers at the moment not to give a clear answer. It is more advantageous to him to demand more improvements, concessions, and guarantees. He has not broken all the rules of the game or caused an explosion. He just wants more.

This article appeared in the daily Israeli newspaper on Dec. 28, 2000

Official Palestinian Radio Broadcasts on the Voice of Palestine: December 23-24

Summary and Analysis

VOP led its broadcasts Saturday and Sunday with detailed denials by PA President Yasser Arafat that the PA was contemplating acceptance of a “trade of rights” regarding the questions of Jerusalem and the “right of return”.

Arafat escalated his rhetoric Saturday night and Sunday morning, calling Israeli statements “a deliberate effort to confuse the posture of the delegation in Washington.”

To cynics, this may recall a Shakespearean passage-“Methinks the lady doth protest too much”-but, then again, Arafat’s behavior is somewhat unladylike, and, moreover, his pronouncements on the peace process have tended to be more accurate than those coming from the Barak Government.

Arafat and his spokesman Nabil Abu-Irdeina were quoted at length over the broadcasts Friday-Sunday to the effect that Israel had not advanced any new proposals differing significantly from what the Palestinians rejected at Camp David. The reports stressed the view that the Palestinian view contradicted the view of U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Yet Arafat and his spokesman said “the window of opportunity” was still open. (Similarly, Sunday morning included a studio-read report of an interview with Dr. Saeb Erikat [head of the PA team in Washington after Yasser Abd-Rabbo was forced to step aside because of a death in the family] contending that there had been no progress in the talks.)

At the same time that the talks in Washington were winding down, there was a suicide bombing in the Jordan Valley. VOP did not voice any condemnation of the bombing. ((see note on coverage at end of report, which is updated and amended version of Friday afternoon bulletin))

In addition, VOP again featured Marwan Barghouti, the militant Fatah Tanzim leader, in its Saturday night broadcasts. He was quoted as saying that the intifada had established a new basis for the Palestinian struggle. The prominent and favorable way VOP depicted Barghouti-as a leader of the Intifada and the Palstinian struggle-strongly contradicts the view of some pundits that Barghouti is acting against the wishes of Arafat (see textbelow).

In its Friday night and Saturday coverage, VOP went into great detail concerning Israeli security measures in the Old City of Jerusalem and the number and kinds of injuries suffered by Muslim worshipers participating in post-Friday-prayer parades.

Once again Saturday night and Sunday morning, VOP gave prominence to news that Iraqi anti-aircraft gunners had opened fire on British and American overflights of southern Iraq.

Morning Headlines Sunday December 24, 2000 / Saturday Night December 23

  • “Masses of our people will accompany today the exalted martyr Abdullah ‘Issa Kanan who died yesterday of wounds suffered one week ago;
  • Occupation forces continue to retain the bodies of two martyrs from Hebron and Jericho;
  • His excellency President Yasser Arafat denies the existence of any agreement conditioned on sovereingty of Jerusalem in exchange for concessions on the return of the refugees;
  • The President’s advisor, Nabil Abu-Rudeina, says that the talk of (further) bilateral or trilateral negotiations is premature;
  • West Bank Fatah Secretary Mr. Marwan Barghouti says the intrepid Intifada has established a new basis for Palestinian struggle, and Mr. Barghouti in a meeting with news media said our intifada would continue side by side with negotiations until the achievement of our national goals;
  • The (Palestinian) Leadership reviews today the bilateral and trilateral talks that ended in Washington yesterday without noticeable results.
  • Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries opened fire on British and American fighters yesterday, forcing them to retreat.”

Saturday Morning Headlines, December 23

  • “Four martyrs on the final Friday of Ramadan and five wounded Israelis, including a woman soldier in a martyr operation in the nothern part of the (West) Bank;
  • Closure on Jerusalem and artillery shelling on al-Bireh, and tens wounded in confrontations;
  • There is nothing new in Tel Aviv’s position (i.e. position of Israeli government) and our firm principles continue, according to the Leadership, while Israel puts its faith in a military solution;
  • Serious difficulties in the Washington talks as Israel insists on concessions in the matter of the refugees;
  • The European Union sends 100-Euro to the Palestinian Authority to help the deprivations of the Israeli military and economic siege;
  • Prisoners’ Organization says Israeli Death Squads trying to destroy Intifada by liquidating them (prisoners) after their detention.”

Special Addendum From Friday December 22, 4 p.m.

  • “The death of a settler and the wounding of two others in a suicide operation near the settlement of Mehola in the Ghur Valley;
  • Three martyrs to the bullets of the Occupation and the settlers in Gaza and Hebron;
  • Many wounded in incidents throughout the homeland;
  • His excellency President Yasser Arafat asserts that the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators did no reach any final results in talks;
  • Chief of the Occupation forces Shaul Mofaz says he expects the confrontations to continue many years.”

Friday Evening Headlines, December 22 9p.m./10 p.m.

  • “Four martyrs and tens of wounded on the final Friday of Holy Ramadan;
  • Occupation authorities continue their military aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, preventing worshipers’ access;
  • Palestinian affirmation that the Washington talks have notreached any final results;
  • The Leadership is now meeting in Gaza to discuss political developments and internal affairs.
  • Occupation forces close down access to Ibrahimi Mosque (Cave of Patriarchs) in Hebron before Leil al-Qader (“Night of Power”) prayers.”

Details Behind Headlines (Israeli Elections)

VOP has been covering the Israeli election campaign in a careful and restrained manner. In the last few days it has even desisted f rom its usual practice of referring to Ariel Sharon as “the extremist Ariel Sharon” and begun instead to refer to him “the rightist leader” or “the leader of the Israeli Right.” VOP has broadcast several analyses, often out of the mouths of Israeli Arab MK’s.

The bottom line is that Barak is far behind but that he has 50 days left to turn things around, and that he has already successfully blocked the path of his two most potentially powerful opponents: Binyamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres.

Coverage Analysis

The suicide bombing Friday was covered in a positive light, making no mention that the target was a civilian bus at a roadside restaurant.

In its Friday (December 22) 3 p.m. radio summary in Hebrew, VOP covered the suicide bombing in Mehola in the Jordan valley thus:

“In a suicide operation, one man was martyred and two settlers were killed along with three wounded, apparently seriously.”

In its Arabic summary, VOP made no mention of the event at first, but tagged the item at the end of the broadcast: “The killing of two settlers and three seriously wounded in the explosion of a bomb at the restaurant in front of the settlement of Mehola which was built on land (taken from) of citizens from the northern Ghol (Valley) on the road from Jenin to Beit San (Beit Shan).”

There was no condemnation of the attack whatsoever. In fact, the Hebrew reference to “martyrdom” and the Arabic reference to the attack’s having taken place on “land belonging to citizens” is a clear hint that VOP and the PA look favorably on the incident.

Official Palestinian Authority Radio: The Voice of Palestine – Dec. 21/22

Summary and Analysis

There is a subtle but definite change in VOP coverage of the American- Palestinian-Israeli talks in Bolling Base in Washington. Although the reporting is very low-key, and although the PA repudiates reports of American initiatives (as did Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa in a VOP report Thursday), it is acknowledging that talks have begun to deal with “the heart of the issues.” In addition, Yasser Arafat’s spokesman, Nabil Abu-Rudeina said all issues were being discussed including “finding a just settlement for the refugees.”

The inclusion of the phrase “finding a just settlement for the refugees” since Wednesday night Dec. 20 and through the broadcasts this Friday Dec. 22 (rather than one of the standard phrases like “the right of return” or “the return of the refugees to their homes” may indicate one or more of several possibilities:

  • that the Palestinian and Israeli sides really are getting to a refugee formula;
  • that the Palestinian side is pleased with progress on the refugee issue, but is not yet ready sign, unless it gets domestic and inter-Arab backing;
  • or that the Palestinian Authority is tentatively sending up some kind of pale trial balloon or perhaps preparing its constituency for something less than a total and immediate return of refugees. VOP featured Yasser Arafat in a stake-out interview Thursday returning from Cairo (Wednesday), in which he said Israel was deliberately escalating violence in order to sabotage the peace process and to torpedo the efforts of Bill Clinton.

VOP also featured at length the comments of Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Musa who said “the flare-up of the intifada was the result of an accumulation of probems on the path to peace.that had not been overtaken, especially two important causes: the failed summit in Geneva between President Bill Clinton and the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad and the second the Camp David Summit.” (Note: This is an important commentary on the internal Arab dialectical thinking which goes contrary to the cutting edge of conventional wisdom, i.e. that Ariel Sharon provoked the Intifada with Sharon’s visit on September 28.)

VOP has been featuring news items and features discussing “acts of solidarity” by both Iraq and Iran with the Palestinian people, but it has pulled back from publishing stark Iraqi (and other) commentaries that have referred to American Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell as a war criminal along with the Gulf War as an act of aggression against Iraq.

VOP carried a long interview with hard-line PLO “Foreign Minister” Farouk Qaddoumi discussing an Iraqi fund of about one billion dollars to aid Palestinians.

The news programs opened Thursday and Friday again with the martyrs, their funerals and the circumstances of their deaths and other injuries, giving only modest mention to the death of a “Jewish settler” killed on the main northern route from Jerusalem via Modiin to Tel Aviv.

Thursday Morning Headlines Dec 21:

  • “Three martyrs in a wicked massacre in Gaza, with tens wounded, four seriously;
  • His excellency President Yasser Arafat says on his return from Cairo that Tel Aviv wants to destroy the peace process.;
  • Clinton holds a joint session for Erikat and Ben-Ami in the White House.:
  • Meretz votes down the candidacy of Shimon Peres for Prime Minister;
  • The United Nations recognizes the Palestinian right to sovereignty;
  • Moshe Katsav says Barak does not have madate for peace agreement;
  • The Legislature meets today to pass laws to aid workers hurt by Israeli siege;
  • Dr. Azmi Bashara will be with us to discuss the various options in the Israeli election.”

Quote of the Day

“Israel by its actions is trying to sabotage the peace process.” (Yasser Arafat, returning from Cairo Wednesday Dec. 20, quoted Wednesday evening and Thursday throughout the day)

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, PA Cabinet Secretary

“We will not accept any partial solutions–not on land, and not on international legitimacy, and not in the matter of the refugees and notin the matter of the Holy Jerusalem Shrine..There are many sides and many aspects to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, but the conflict on the ground is bloody because there is daily Israeli crime designed to shatter our steadfast desire, the desire of the Palestinian people. But we are steadfast. Our people is steadfast now for three months despite all the sacrifices it has made. And the other front is the negotiations. But in the Arab and international context there is a context to achieve an agreement to prevent a complete explosion which could involve other regions and other interests.”

Q: “There is talk that President Clinton will present a paper to the negotiators.”

A: “We have heard a lot about American ideas but we haven’t received an official American paper-not one from the American side.”

Interview with Dr. Amin Hadad, deputy director PA Central Bank, on the occasion of the closing of only Israeli bank operating in the Palestinian Authority under the terms of the Paris Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (Thursday, Dec. 21, 7:50 am)

Q: “What did practices this bank carry out that you want to close it down completely?”

A: “Really, the most important violation is the refusal to accept Palestinian policy, with the Palestinian National Authority, working with the Palestinian National Authority and the liberated Palestinian lands, and (on the other hand) with identifying completely with the Zionist Entity (al-Kiyan al-Sihyouni).” (Note: the term the “Zionist entity” (al-kawn al-sihyouni or al kiyan al-sihyouni has rarely been used by PA officials in public since the Oslo Accords, especially not in broadcasts)

Song of the Day: “He is the Leader”

Here he is-he is the leader
Both Inside (in Palestine) and Out (the Diaspora)
His face is like the sun and the moon
And his name is Abu Amar
God grant him long life
God grant him long life

(Note: This song used to be a staple of PA radio and especially tv before the most recent Intifada/war, but has not been heard much recently on radio. A listener called in on a caller phone-in show, asking for it to be played. Friday, Dec 22, 10:30 AM)

Friday Morning Headlines-Dec 22: (8am, 9am, 10am)

  • “Three exalted martyrs to be brought to burial today: the citizen Ahmad Jamial Awad, 41 years old, from Khirbat Jebara, south of Tulkarm, martyred during anartilery shelling of a populated neighborhood, the youth Ahd Imri, 18 years old, from Shujaiyya Camp in Gaza, martyred when occupation bullets struck his head, and the third martyr is Rashid Barghoum, 25 years old from Rafah;
  • Heavy Israeli artillery attacks on Bitunia, Khan Yunis, Ramllah, Al-Bireh and Jenin.;
  • Since last night heavy Israeli patrols around Jerusalem’s entry points and inside Jerusalem in order to prevent worshipers from reaching Al Aqsa for last Friday prayers of Ramadan;
  • Heavy Israeli searches around vilage of Bir N idam near Ramallah where settlers’ car were fired on;
  • An Israeli settler was killed near the settlement of Givat Ze’ev, and Israeli radio says he died when his car was hit by gunfire;
  • His excellency President Yasser Arafat will meet today in his Gaza headquarters with the German Defense Minister Robert Sharbing and will discuss the continuing Israeli aggression against our people despite continuing international and Arab efforts to continue the peace process;
  • President Arafat’s spokesman Nabil Abu-Irdeina said there were precise American initiatives in the talks at Bolling Base between the Palestinian side and the American side and between the Israeli side and American side..”

Quote of the Day-Friday-Dec 22

“When the Zionist, this dog
Entered Al-Aqsa with his shoes
Protected by a squad of troops of war.
Muhammad will bring you low
Oh soldiers and oh dogs.
Oh you Zionist you are the West.

We will ask Allah to remove you dogs of the Whisperer (i.e. Satan)

(From “Mishwar al-Sabah”, popular call-in show, part of poem-Ode to the Intifada– read by listener Muhammad Fawah Hijawi of Qalqilya to the delight of radio announcer, 10:50 am, shortly before Friday’s Mosque prayers)

A Bigger Battle may be Brewing,Israel Fears: The Palestinians are Amassing an Arsenal

NABLUS, West Bank – The Palestinian fighter ran a finger approvingly over the cold metal of the assault rifle, embossed with the seal of the Israeli army. He squinted at the lettering in Hebrew, a language he learned in prison, and read, “Made in Israel.”

“I bought it yesterday,” said the fighter, Majid el Masri, part of a militia affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat’s Fatah political party. “I paid $6,000. I used to have an M-16, American made. That was better for targeting, but this is not bad.”

In fact, the gun, made by Israel Military Industries, manufacturer of the Uzi, is the standard weapon distributed to the rank-and-file soldiers of the Israeli army. Exactly how it found its way to Nablus, where Masri intends to use it against Jewish settlers and Israeli soldiers, is the source of increasing concern to Israelis as the Palestinian uprising veers into guerrilla warfare.

Thousands of weapons, illegal under the terms of the 1993 peace accords – rifles, machine guns, land mines, grenades, mortar shells, antiaircraft and antitank guns and possibly artillery – have been smuggled into the West Bank and Gaza and are providing dangerous fuel for the current wave of violence.

The Palestinians are not bashful about their guns, parading them proudly at demonstrations, funerals and even weddings. Even Arafat appeared last week in public carrying a submachine gun, an odd accessory for a political leader always surrounded by bodyguards.

All these guns have made the current intifadah much deadlier than the six-year uprising that ended in 1993, in which the weapon of choice was the rock. And Israeli intelligence officials say the new arsenal could be a stockpile for a bigger battle in the future.

The Israeli fear is that the Palestinians will amass enough of an arsenal to develop a homegrown version of Hezbollah, the anti-Israeli guerrilla movement based in Lebanon and nurtured by Iran and Syria.

For example, Israeli intelligence believes the Palestinians have acquired artillery, possibly even the Russian-made Katyusha rockets favored by Hezbollah.

“We are talking about small numbers [of rockets], but they pose a very serious problem if they send one into an [army] post or a settlement from four kilometers away,” said a senior Israeli military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In Nablus, Palestinian fighters boast that in early October they forced the Israeli army to abandon Joseph’s tomb, a Jewish shrine and yeshiva that had been an irritant to Palestinian self-rule in the city.

“With a couple of M-16s, we pushed them right out. We know we won’t be as strong as Hezbollah. We don’t have Iran and Syria to help us, but we have enough military equipment for what we need to do, if we choose the time and use guerrilla tactics,” Masri said.

In any Palestinian city, it takes only one or two queries to find directions to somebody who is selling guns. A merchant in Ramallah, working near the fruit and vegetable market, quoted prices starting at $900 for a used Egyptian-made rifle and rising into the thousands for an M-16 or a Kalashnikov.

“There are hundreds of different ways to get guns if you have enough money. And people here will do anything to get one,” Masri said. “He’ll take his entire life savings or sell his wife’s gold.”

Under the 1993 Oslo peace agreements, which set up limited Palestinian self-rule, the Palestinians were given 15,000 guns and pistols, 240 machine guns, armored personnel carriers, and other equipment to build their police force. Israel itself provided some of the weapons. Contrary to the claims of some Israeli right-wingers, Israeli military intelligence does not believe the police weapons are being used extensively to attack Israelis, according to an Israeli intelligence source.

The bigger concern is illegal weapons, most of them in the hands of Fatah militias known as the Tanzim, Arabic for apparatus, and a smaller number with groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

These weapons come from a variety of sources. Some were in the hands of Palestine Liberation Organization fighters long before the peace process, some dating back to the British Mandate before the 1930s. Other guns were stolen from Israeli army bases or from the homes of reserve soldiers. Bedouins, nomadic Arabs – some of whom serve in the Israeli army – have been implicated in some of the thefts. Israeli soldiers, too, have been caught selling their own weapons.

A far larger number of weapons are smuggled in from outside Israel. Hussam Khader, an outspoken Nablus politician who frequently complains of Palestinian corruption, says Palestinian officials have used their diplomatic protection to bring in guns.

“Before the uprising, the VIPs had a real opportunity to trade in guns. They would buy them for $200 from Iraq, bring them across the Allenby bridge [from Jordan], and sell them for a very nice profit in Nablus,” Khader said.

Some members of the Israeli parliament have charged that Arafat himself is smuggling weapons and ammunition when he flies into Gaza. The airplane assigned to Arafat’s official use is the only Palestinian aircraft that is not inspected by Israeli authorities. But the Israeli intelligence official said the evidence of Arafat’s involvement was inconclusive.

“We have seen a rush of airfield workers converging in a suspicious manner on his plane when it lands,” the official said.

Smuggling weapons into Gaza is an adventurous business because, unlike the West Bank, Gaza is cordoned off by an electrical fence and walls. Usually weapons come in from Egypt, either in fishing boats or in tunnels dug around Rafah, the southern border crossing into Gaza.

“The sand is soft, so they can dig a tunnel in a couple of days. There are a lot of houses on the border, so they start from somebody’s living room and go to the other side,” said Gal Luft, a former Israeli army officer who was stationed in Rafah and now writes extensively on weapons.

The smugglers often use oil barrels with the ends removed to line their tunnels – making pipelines for guns, drugs or other contraband.

“Anything they bring in has to be relatively small. It is difficult for them to smuggle in big military items,” Luft said.

Other weapons are discovered closer to home.

The Israeli army believes the Palestinians have thousands of antitank mines, which were dug up from Sinai around the former confrontation lines between Israel and Egypt, according to the army intelligence official. Other explosives are manufactured in garages or small factories, usually by Hamas guerrillas.

The Palestinians certainly have mortar shells: A 120mm mortar shell was used to make a roadside bomb in the Nov. 20 attack against an Israeli school bus in Gaza. What is unclear is whether the Palestinians also have mortars to launch the shells.

Much of the Israeli information about the Palestinian arsenal comes from footage on Palestinian television of parades and funerals. The Israeli army was alarmed to spot what looked like an antitank missile in a recent demonstration. Military sources say the Palestinians also have small numbers of grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, wire-guided antitank missiles, and Russian-made antiaircraft guns.

Kamal al Sheikh, Ramallah’s police chief, ridicules the Israelis for complaining so profusely about illegal weapons held by Palestinians.

“The Israelis have the most powerful army in the Middle East. They are capable of taking on the whole region, and they tell us they are afraid of a few hundred guns,” al Sheikh said.

But it is almost certain, Israeli sources say, that the Palestinians have a far deadlier arsenal than they have actually used. So far, the weapons deployed in clashes are limited to guns, Molotov cocktails, and the weapon always in plentiful supply, the rock. Israeli helicopters over Gaza fly in zigzagging formations, on the assumption that they could be targets for antiaircraft guns, but so far none have been turned against them.

Israeli intelligence says Arafat is stockpiling weapons with the belief that he will need them if Israel tries to reoccupy the parts of the West Bank and Gaza turned over through the peace agreements.

“They haven’t used a lot of the capabilities that they have. Arafat doesn’t want to play this game one-on-one with the Israeli army right now,” Luft said. “They want to keep the appearance of a popular uprising.”

The Palestinians also could be running short of ammunition as a result of the closures tightened by the Israelis around the borders of the West Bank and Gaza.

“At the beginning of this, people were going out into the street and firing like crazy at weddings, at funerals. But you don’t see that anymore, and that tells you they have a problem with ammunition,” Luft said.

The subject of illegal Palestinian weapons has become highly political, with many conservative Israelis saying the proliferation of guns should be reason to cancel the peace agreements.

For their part, Palestinian officials say Israel has failed to appreciate the efforts they have made to keep the weapons they were given under Oslo out of the wrong hands and to restrict illegal weapons.

“This is for the benefit of the Palestinian Authority itself, not just to Israel, not to allow anybody to carry a weapon,” said al Sheikh, the Ramallah police chief.

This article ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer on December 18, 2000

Barbara Demick’s e-mail address is foreign@phillynews.com.

Official Palestinian Authority Radio Broadcast on Voice of Palestine: Dec. 20

Summary and Analysis

VOP returned Wednesday to its traditional news openings, focusing on local reporting and lists of martyrs, funerals and wounded-especially civilian youths and security personnel. At the same time, it gave generally low-key coverage to diplomatic contacts in Washington. In addition, VOP basically neglected to report yesterday a diplomatic defeat: the UN Security Council’s failure to pass a Palestinian request for an international protection force (it revisited the issue today in a low-key interview with the PLO UN representative saying chances for passage would improve in the future).

At the same time, VOP gave especially prominent coverage to Saddam Hussein’s offers of help to the Palestinians: economic and military. Radio announcers read portions of Saddam’s letter to his “brother” Yasser Arafat, calling on the “fraternal” Palestinian Authority “immediately to dispatch a special delegation to Baghdad to discuss the basic needs” of the Palestinians which would be met by putting aside a portion of Iraq’s petroleum revenues according to a decision by President Saddam Hussein to contribute to the Intifada one billion Euro (approx. 900-million dollars).

VOP gave brief mention to a decision by U.S. President Bill Clinton not to transfer the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “An Israeli source says that the American president Clinton has informed the Tel Aviv government of his retreat from a decision to transfer the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

Once again, VOP gave a prominent morning interview to PA Speaker Ahmad Qreia (see below) devoted to the “sacred” quality of the “right of return.” The bottom line of his message was, to borrow a phrase from an American advertisement: “We will accept no substitutes or exchanges.”

Morning/Noon Headlines

  • “In a state funeral attended by President Yasser Arafat, the martyr General Abdul-Maqdi al-Sabawi was laid to rest in Gaza….;
  • In Ramallah and al-Bireh masses accompanied two exalted martyrs Haroun Abu-Hassan and Hamid Shalash;
  • Lack of agreement in Security Council to send international observers;
  • Death of Theodorus I, the Greek Patriarch in Jerusalem;
  • American negotiator Dennis Ross holds two separate meetings in Bolling Base with, respectively, the Palestinian and Israeli delegations;
  • Head of Palestinian delegation Minister Yasser Abd Rabbo makes clear to Americans that no agreement with Israelis is possible unless they change the positions offered at Camp David…;
  • Israeli foreign minister Ben-Ami offers religious sovereignty over Jerusalem shrine…and Minister Yuli Tamir says over of sovereignty can only be possible if met by Palestinian withdrawal from right of return, according to her estimation;
  • His Excellency President Yasser Arafat holds talks in Cairo today…;
  • Ahmad Qreia says that talk about exchanging jerusalem for right of return is ’empty talk’ and that the right of return is a sacred right which cannot be abandoned….;
  • President Bill Clinton signs order refusing to move American embassy to Jerusalem…”

Quote of the Day

“Jerusalem is Jerusalem, and the right of return is the right of return.” (Ahmad Qreia, 8:00 a.m. interview, asserting the PA would make peace only if it achieved both Jerusalem and the right of return for all Palestinians)

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Qreia

Question: “Regarding the negotiations, time is short, isn’t it?”

Answer: “Without a doubt, there is time pressure, but our cases-the case of Jerusalem-our case is a strong case….Our rights are strong. The Isreli stance and their attempt (to change the Palestinian position) are clear. So we in this time are making every effort to reach an agreement, but it is impossible-even under the constraints of the time circumstances-the fact that there is time pressure, time constraint, the American president is ending his term, and the Israelis are facing elections in two months—-it is impossible to change things on us or for us to change our stance.”

Question: “Are there any changes in the Israeli position?”

Answer: “I don’t see any changes there, except for the changes here and there in phrasing, language….I don’t see any change to a brave stance which would give a real grounding to the talks. In all things, the stances are very far apart especially the question of the refugees where there is a great, great gulf….and also in the matter of Jerusalem, there is a great gap. Ben-Ami is talking about the subject of ‘religious sovereignty’-whatever that is. They are still attempting to start and to contrive all kinds of ideas which leave to absolutely nothing.

Even in Camp David they spoke about sovereignty on the ground, under the ground, God’s sovereignty, well, there’s God’s sovereignty (anyway) on every entity….Well our words are clear. Our response is clear. There is one Jerusalem, united, known, the occupied Jerusalem from the war of ’67, with its shrine. Well we’re talking about Jerusalem with the shrine in it, we’re talking about all of Jerusalem, all of the occupied land, not a piece here and a strip there.”

Question: “Do you think the Palestinian delegation is…willing to defer discussion on Jerusalem or the refugees?”

Answer: Ha. The delegation is exactly as described by the head of delegation, Yasser Abd-Rabbo, who ‘we’ll discover (reveal) the Israeli positions, and we’ll explore them, and we’ll see if there’s a chance for a real dialogue or not….And the response from the President (i.e. Yasser Arafat) has been clear: the land is the return to the borders of ’67, and Jerusalem is occupied Jerusalem which has to become the capital of the state of Palestine, the right of the refugees to return. That’s it. And we’re ready, saying ‘ahlan wa-sahlan’ (“welcome”) for an agreement even yesterday and not even tomorrow. But outside of this, it is not possible to reach an agreement.”

Question: “Are there any secret papers or secret understandings?”

Answer: “I don’t believe so. I haven’t seen any agreements, nor any secret papers. We have a clear, known and delineated Palestinian position….Without (accepting) these positions, there is possibility of any agreement.

On the other hand, we continue with our Intifada. And our people continue with their struggle and their quest until we achieve our national rights.”

Question: “Is there no contradiction between negotiations and the Intifada?”

Answer: “These are no really negotiations but actually the exploration of positions.”

Question: “What do you comment about Lebanon’s statement that it would absolutely refuse to settle Palestinians on its territory, and they said they were reiterating this position because of talk that the right of return would be exchanged for Jerusalem?”

Answer: “We don’t only refuse that, but we refuse and combat the principle of resettlement for these holders (bearers) of the right to return from their places of visit to their places of departure. And this right of return is a holy right, completely sacred which cannot be abandoned or neglected.”

Official Palestinian Authority Radio: “Voice of Palestine” Dec.19 – Nabil Sha’ath claims Haifa and Acco

Analysis of Nabil Sha’ath’s remarks

Nabil Sha’ath’s remarks (below) are a strikingly bold and candid exposition of the Palestinian negotiating position, but even more so, they are a window on the mood of the Palestinian leadership.

Sha’ath’s remarks dovetail with remarks made over the last few weeks by Arafat himself and other senior Palestinian officials:

  • Ahmad Qreia (Abu Ala), speaker of PA legislature;
  • Nabil ‘Amr, Parliamentary Affairs Minister;
  • Saeb Erikat, senior negotiator and Minister for Local Rule
  • Yasser Abd-Rabbo, Minister of Information, leader of delegation to Washington; and, to a lesser extent, perhaps, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) secretary of PLO Executive.

The essence of the position is that the PA demands and expects the right of return for Palestinian refugees along with

  1. Palestinian sovereignty over the entire Old City of Jerusalem,
  2. total Israeli withdrawal and removal of all settlements from West Bank and Gaza, and
  3. immediate establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

It expects these demands to be met because it (the PA) is in control of events, and these events have both regional and global ramifications. Sha’ath, ‘Amr, Abd-Rabbo and Qreia-as well as Arafat himself-have basically been saying that they have embarrassed and defeated the Israeli army, that they have controlled the political success or failure of both Barak and Netanyahu.

They have also acknowledged that the explosion of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, now often called the Istiqlal Intifada [i.e. “independence intifada”] had little to do with Ariel Sharon’s visit to sacred territory, but rather a carefully articulated strategy to achieve Israeli withdrawal and Palestinian independence.

Summary and Analysis

  • The news and feature broadcasts of VOP Tuesday morning had four focal points:
  • the refugees and their future status, especially vis a vis current talks with Israel and yesterday’s statement by Lebanese prime minister refusing to re-settle refugees there;
  • continuing “war crimes” of Israel, including an especially long feature/profile of Israeli General Meir Dagan (the counter-terror expert) as the prototypical war criminal;
  • praising and recording the names, ages and addresses of martyrs and wounded, particularly security force commanders;
  • and the continuing economic stress in territory controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PA).

VOP returned to stress the right of return in a morning interview with Dr, Nabil Sha’ath, the PA Minister of Economic Development, who made it clear that even Haifa and Acre were on the Palestinian list of demands (see below).

VOP also gave a thumb-nail review of the Palestinian delegation’s trip to Washington for talks with the Clinton Administration (the parallel visit of the Israeli delegations was given short shrift).

In addition, Israeli Arab MK Azmi Beshara (a political scientist) analyzed what he said were the improved chances of Ehud Barak versus Ariel Sharon as opposed to versus Binyamin Netanyahu.

Morning Headlines

  • “Martyr’s death for General al-Sabawi, deputy head of local defense, and funeral for Haroun Abu-Hassan, leading Fatah commander.;
  • Israeli special forces attack Kufr Dik at dawn near Salfit;
  • Occupation forces escalate their aggression, shelling populated neighborhoods in Dir al-Balah, Al-Bireh and Burqa in the Nablus prefecture;
  • Shelling and siege as Palestinian delegation heads to Washington to further the popular Intifada on the diplomatic front, armed with the blood of the martyrs and clinging to the principles of Palestinian nationalism-the right of return, the right of self-determination, building a Palestinian state with holy Jerusalem its capital.;
  • Dr. Saeb Erikat, Local Rule Minister, denies Palestinian side has accepted ideas from the United States or the Israeli side;
  • Former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu withdraws his candidacy for prime minister.”

Morning Commentary Eulogy, senior commentator, Youssef al-Kazzaz (with bag-pipe music)

“General Abdul-Maqi al-Sabawwi, in the protection of God, a Palestinian martyr, fell as he was struck, a fatality of the criminal Israeli occupation in Gaza..Abdul-Maqi was a crescent in the Fatah sky, a member of FATAH since January 2, 1965. Abdul-Maq was the (first) head of the Fatah Shabiba (Fatah youth organization),one of the founders of the Palestinian revolution, well loved for his expertise in the military academy, in the People’s Republic of China, in Russia, in Hungary and in Yugoslavia.”

Quotes from Interview with Nabil Sha’ath, PA Economic Development Minister

Question: “Dr. Nabil (no last name used), first of all, what are the bases (plural of basis, used in Arabic) of the Palestinian position in Washington?”

Answer: “The Palestinian delegation has clear instructions. Our goals are clear: the intifada goes on. We have changed the rules of the game, created a new situation, by our heroism and our sacrifices for the sake of the homeland. And everyone understands that.

Our goals are clear: to return our lands taken in ’67, first of all Holy Jerusalem, Palestinian sovereignty in all its quarters and sites, and the right of return for the refugees in an independent Palestinian state. These are the rights which are clearly worthy (of being reclaimed) [word unclear], the new chain of circumstances (produced by) the Intifada. One has to see, in practice, whether this has altered Israeli perceptions and readiness to proceed on these bases (Note: in Arabic Sha’ath employed word that means the plural of basis).”

Question: “Are the Israelis demanding, as they did at the beginning, first of all that the Intifada be ended? Because after a month, Barak changed the demand to ‘lessening’ the Intifada to enable negotiations. Now, what is the Israeli line in Washington? “

Answer: “There have not been any conditions. Our Intifada continues, and our political work continues. The assumption is that we’re heading to independence-whether by readiness (to accept) the rights-that is–by fact or by negotiations. (i.e. colloquial translation: “by hook or by crook”).”

Question: “Dr. Nabil Sha’ath, Palestinian principles include the right of return for the refugees, but Israeli sources say that these principles will be exchanged for Jerusalem. How do you react to that?”

Answer: “Can one set of rights be exchanged for another set of rights?”

Question: “Yes?”

Answer: ” That is to say, for example: Could one, if he wanted, exchange parts of the (West) Bank for Haifa and Acre (Acco) when, in spite of the fact that, in the end and in the beginning they were (all) truly Palestinian land.”

Question: “Yes?”

Answer: “That is to say a person cannot exchange his rights for his rights. For example, the right of return of the refugees for Jerusalem. And how would it be possible, for example, to exchange the lands of Tulkarm and Qalqilya for Jerusalem. These are truly the kinds of ideas which drove us crazy with the Israeli occupation. That’s like the idea they had at first of bypassing the Palestine Liberation Organization and offering local rule being through the heads of villages and towns. At another time, they (the Israelis) said ‘if you want an independent state, you have to give up half of the (West) Bank.’ And at another time-in Camp David-they said ‘if you want something in Jerusalem, then you have to give up sovereignty in the Holy Shrine ((Arabic: Haram al-Sharif, i.e. Temple Mount).’ That’s all over!!!!

We-truly-the Israelis have to understand the worthiness of a real peace is contingent on what Israel did in Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon-even without negotiations (i.e. total withdrawal), and in addition to the matter of the borders is the matter of the refugees, which cannot be exchanged for anything.”

Question: “Do you think the Israelis have changed their position with the new elections and the pressure of the Intifada?”

Answer: “That’s exactly what we’re trying to discover.”

Quote of the Day from Nabil ‘Amr, Parliamentary Affairs Minister

“This army (the Israeli army), which was one of the world’s best armies, has become the laughingstock of world opinion. It has used all the means of destruction provided by the United States of America to kill Palestinian children.”

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Qreia (Abu Ala), Speaker Palestinian Legislature: ((8 am morning news round-up-Dec 11))

“First I would say that what is happening in Israel is a sign of the realization of the desires of the Palestinian people, the goal of the Palestinian people to exercise its legitimate rights: the (right of) return, self determination and the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital. These are the reasons Netanyahu was defeated, because he did not realize this, and these are also the causes for the speeding up of the fall of Barak..

They were not willing to concretize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and the desire of the Palestinian people to cling to these rights. That is why we see in Israel an unusual political entanglement: a prime minister who cannot stay in power longer than a year and a half, resigns, and for more than half a year is operating without a majority in parliament. And on the other hand, the opposition is divided and broken. Its internal formations change constantly.based on ideologies and histories that have no foundation.

Anyone who does not realize.(the need) to recognize the just demands of the Palestinian people, based on international legitimacy-which is the same international legitimacy that established Israel ((i.e. the U.N.))-then this situation will only lengthen the entanglement inside Israel..

I do not see any alternative-coming from inside Israel– but for a strong call to the Palestinian people to exercise (its rights), its heroism, its sacrifices, its mighty intifada which will show Israel and the whole world its strong desires which will not be denied..

We’re not afraid of blows. A day does not go by when we don’t absorb some blow-even a light blow-from the occupation of 1967 and of course from 1948. But our way is the way of banners (i.e. flags), sacrifices and redemption. (Note: here Qreia used the term “fidaya” which is the root of “Fedayeen” or “men of sacrifice and redemption”-a term used by Palestinian fighters especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s.))

We are in the final hours of the realization of our victory and our independence, God Willing. We will be steadfast. We will be steadfast.. We will continue in our way, focusing on our goals. We will continue with our intifada. Our refusal of any occupation is clear. On the contrary, it only gets stronger. We will continue on our path..”

Question: “Some. say that the only chance for Barak is in the hands of the Palestinian people..What do you say?”

Answer: “..His chances for success are in his hands, not in those of the Palestinian leadership. Because if he wants an agreement.. He has to face the Israeli people on all the subjects, with complete courage and with complete candor and say that here are the rights of the Palestinian people which must be granted if we are to live in security and peace. These rights are represented by the Return, for the Palestinian refugees, self-determination, and an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem its capital, and the complete withdrawal from every square centimeter of Palestinian land.”

(note: he said “al-awda”, only “The Return”, not “the right of return”-and this suggests strongly that Qreia and the Palestinian leadership are not talking about even a symbolic recognition or token)

Quotes from Interview with Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), PLO Executive Committee Secretary

“About the cause of the Palestinian Intifada, Abu Mazen said: ‘In spite of the pollution by Sharon of the holy Jerusalem shrine (i.e. Dome of the Rock) being the direct cause of the Intifada, the indirect cause was the condition of frustration in which the Palestinian people have been living during a failing peace process for two years. The purpose of the intifada was to make Israeli recognize its sins in the execution of its military aggression against our people.” ((Interview from Al-Bayan of United Arab Emirates, quoted directly in unusual full-length feature on VOP morning news round-up, 7:45 am, Dec. 6))

Quotes from Interview with Ahmad Qureia (Abu Ala), Speaker of PA Legislature:

“The position of the Palestinian Authority is that Israel has no choice but to implement the laws of the peace process as set forth in international legitimacy, meaning land for peace..There is no escaping bring an international protection force for the Palestinian people to prevent Israel from continuing to kill our people.And it is important to witness that the settlers are the fundamental source of the aggression, an aggressive, right-wing, extremist militia carrying out operations for killing and violence against the Palestinian people..We will cling to resistance to the Occupation-which is a legitimate right for us. This resistance has many forms but we feel the appropriate form at this stage is the present continuing intifada but there are many forms of resistance. We will not stop..The Palestinian cause is the cause of the Arabs, and if Israel does not realize these facts then it will face disaster and so will the region.”

Cover Story

Where Will They Go? Palestinian refugees say international law guarantees them a right of return to their homelands. But the law has no teeth, and the refugees fear they have no champion.

Near a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank, we prepare to be stopped, questioned, turned back or arrested.

Relative peace prevails on a bright fall afternoon a few days before the outbreak of new violence. Despite the calm on this day, a trip into Israel could lead to a fine and a few days in jail.

The rental car I am driving, carrying three members of a Palestinian refugee family, has license plates bearing a small Israeli flag. Israeli plates spirit a car through that nation’s checkpoints. Cars with Palestinian National Authority plates,a symbol of a nascent nation,are restricted to the West Bank and Gaza.

Naji Aodah, 39, his son Mourad, 12, and nephew Atallah Salem, 27, live in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem in the West Bank, and they do not have permits to enter Israel. Without permits, which are hard to get, they are restricted to the West Bank and Gaza, though many Palestinians enter Israel illegally as cheap labor.

The dusty, crowded and trash-strewn alleys of refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza are where children like Mourad learn to throw stones and risk being killed in outbreaks of violence like the recent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops.

When refugees recite their histories, their point of departure is their ancestral village, which may no longer appear as it once did on maps. Mourad points out that while he lives in Dheisheh, his family comes from Deir Aban, once a Palestinian village about 12 miles southwest of Jerusalem but now just rubble in the shadow of towns in Israel.

Mourad is among the refugees who carry on their parents’ and grandparents’ sense of dispossession. Refugees, who are into their fourth generation, want to return to their ancestral villages and properties.

Up to 3.7 million refugees are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which provides education, training and relief for 1.2 million people in 59 camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. These refugees comprise the world’s single-largest refugee community.

As we near the checkpoint, Aodah tells me to drive straight ahead unless told to stop-routine checkpoint procedure. Many refugees who venture into Israel say that in times of relative calm, soldiers let them pass, knowing the refugees are going to visit old villages. If they are turned back, the soldiers admonish them, saying, “Just don’t let me see you,” to suggest the refugees take the circuitous backroads into Israel.

The car glides toward the checkpoint, and the lone soldier looks straight ahead but not at us. We pass and are slightly amazed at our luck. Aodah lets out a cheer. But even he can’t quite recall the road to his family’s former village. After a wrong turn into a stunning valley of pine and olive trees that resembles parts of central California, the car groans up hills as we backtrack.

We finally find our way to the ruins of Deir Aban.

The Heart of the Issue

The refugees are campaigning for the right of return to villages now in Israel, the Jewish national homeland since 1948. The issue of the Palestinian right of return has been a growing source of moral, political and legal protest and negotiation from Washington, D.C., to the Palestinian-controlled territories.

Diplomatically, the right of return is an issue to be determined in final status talks, along with the borders of a Palestinian nation and the status of East Jerusalem. As part of the interim peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel has withdrawn its military from the majority of Gaza, and from seven towns and cities in the West Bank.

This fall, after Israeli right-wing leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to a site holy to Jews and Muslims, several Palestinian protesters died when Israeli troops fired on them. Funerals led to more clashes with Israeli soldiers, who fired to the head and chest, and more deaths. The cycles of unrest have unfolded in the West Bank and Gaza, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

As part of the current peace process, the Palestinian National Authority controls some areas of the West Bank and most of Gaza. Palestinians view those areas as the beginning of an independent state, and they have been seeking accelerated Israeli withdrawal.

The failures of peace efforts to resolve the daily humiliation of

refugees and ordinary Palestinians still living under occupation helped foment the frustration at the lack of progress toward an independent state. Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, contrary to international law, persist.

The vast majority of the people killed and wounded were Palestinians, but Israelis and Israeli Arabs also died. With no end to deadly clashes, the violence expanded to include sniper fire on Jewish settlements, Israeli rocket attacks on Palestinian National Authority sites and Islamic extremist car bombers.

The violence only intensifies the need for lasting resolution. Refugees see the end of their struggle in U.N. Resolution 194 (III) of 1948 as the authority for the right of return. But will the resolution be strictly interpreted or ignored altogether?

At the heart of the issue is the insistence of refugees that they have the right to return to properties in Israel. But Israel says that if they return, it must be to a Palestinian nation in the West Bank and Gaza.

To be sure, some refugees may not want to return, and large numbers have resettled all over the world. Still, the international community has repeatedly reaffirmed Resolution 194. Israel agreed to the resolution as part of its membership in the United Nations.

Without a resolution that refugees will accept, their camps will continue to be flash points for militancy in the Middle East fueled by a sense of injustice.

Even if peace negotiations resume in earnest, the character of a resolution will be a sticking point for Israel and the Palestinians for some time.

“For people with a legal interest, this is a matter that should be looked at in its universalism,” says Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in the Palestinian-controlled town of Ramallah. “It’s a matter of principle and basic human rights.”

Other international efforts on behalf of refugee rights appear to support the claims of the Palestinian refugees. Palestinians point to the U.S.-led international coalition to repatriate Kosovar refugees, and the right of return and restitution for Bosnian refugees under the U.S.-sponsored Dayton Accords.

The billions of dollars in legal settlements that Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium have agreed to pay to Holocaust survivors serve as precedent, Palestinians say, for their own claims for lost properties and profits from Israel’s use of refugee lands for 52 years. Refugee lands are largely Israeli state property.

“Palestinians are demanding what Jews are doing,” says Gershon Baskin, co-director of the Israel/ Palestine Center for Research and Information, a Bethlehem-based independent think tank that develops public policy options. “What the Israelis will try to do as part of a negotiated agreement is to have Palestinians sign a statement that there will be no further claims.”

Baskin believes that if Israel accepted responsibility for the suffering of refugees and recognized a right of return, it would be saying that it is an illegitimate state. “I don’t think Israel will recognize the right of return to Israel.”

Any resolution must unfold according to international law, says Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the legislative body of the Palestinian government. She is also secretary general of Miftah, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy.

“I think any undermining of the Palestinian right of return will be a dangerous precedent globally,” says Ashrawi, whose offices overlook an Israeli checkpoint. “Palestinians should be like other people-protected by the rule of law.”

Paragraph 11 of Resolution 194 states that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible.”

Palestinians rejected the 1947 U.N. partition of Palestine as against the will of the indigenous population. They say 750,000 refugees were created by the panic-driven or forced depopulation and occupation of village lands in the months preceding and the war surrounding Israel’s establishment.

The U.N. Conciliation Commission for Palestine was created in 1948 to effect the return of refugees, as well as to facilitate restitution of refugee properties and compensation for losses and damages, reports Badil, a Bethlehem grassroots advocacy group for refugee rights. But international efforts to resolve this refugee issue have focused on resettlement outside Israel, an option Palestinian refugees reject.

Jonathan Kuttab, a Palestinian human rights lawyer who once worked on Wall Street, says, “Many Palestinians insist on the right of return for the moral and legal aspects of it rather than out of any desire to return. Who’s going to deny me that right to go home? It’s my decision. It’s my right.”

Israel rejects responsibility for the plight of Palestinian refugees, saying they fled at the commands of Arab armies that attacked the newly declared nation in May 1948. Israel blames refugee suffering on Arab host nations that have, aside from Jordan, largely refused to fully integrate Palestinians.

Further, Israel argues that 600,000 Jews lost property when Arab nations expelled Jewish citizens upon Israel’s establishment. An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman calls the refugee issue one of a regional population transfer, in that Palestinian claims are offset by Jewish property losses in Arab nations.

It’s a theory Palestinian negotiators in the peace talks reject, saying Israel’s counterclaims must be taken up separately with those Arab nations. Further, the Palestinians say, Jews from Arab nations went to the Jewish national homeland to become citizens, not refugees.

Neither Israel nor the Palestinians want to commit to accepting a set number of refugees who may return. Israel has considered allowing a limited number of refugees to return, 100,000 for instance, in a symbolic gesture or as part of family reunification over several years.

But the Palestinian leadership is unwilling to accede to such a number or commit itself to accepting a share of refugees because doing so would compromise its position that they should return to Israel under Resolution 194, Shikaki says.

The refugees fear that their rights will be cut short in a political compromise between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which is conducting the peace talks with Israel.

Both Israel and the Palestinians have recognized the other’s right to exist. At issue is the nature of that existence: Where do all sides go from here?

Two Different Worlds

To refugees, crossing into Israel from the arid West Bank is like leaving a prison. Suddenly, the picture turns from black and white into color. The air is fragrant, and the hills undulate. The Green Line, the border separating Israel and the West Bank, is a few miles from the Dheisheh refugee camp but is, in every sense of the term, a world apart.

Atallah Salem has spent his life in Dheisheh, and he cites Resolution 194 for legal footing despite its failure to include a mechanism to guarantee its implementation. He says he has an individual right to return to his lands apart from what is negotiated collectively for refugees.

The specter of a sellout underlies the campaign in support of the right of return, which is aimed at the PLO as much as Israel and the international community.

Grassroots efforts in the West Bank and Gaza are in response to a sense that refugees’ rights have been marginalized in the peace process, says Ingrid Jaradat Gassner, executive director of Badil. “Nobody really knows what goes on in the negotiations,” she says.

The 1993 Oslo Declaration of Principles does not refer directly to Resolution 194, even though the fate of the 1948 refugees is to be discussed in final status talks launched in 1996. The future of refugees from the 1967 Arab-Israeli war is to be resolved separately among a four-nation committee.

Refugees wonder whether they will be victims again as they find themselves caught in the middle between Israeli and PLO negotiators.

Though PLO officials say publicly such a right cannot be negotiated away, the refugees fear it. That reality bleeds through remarks by refugee activists, who say compromises on sovereignty over Jerusalem and the borders of a Palestinian nation should be accepted before any compromise on the right of return.

Salem scoffs at the visits to Dheisheh camp by Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, who tells camp residents to keep multiplying. “He just ignores us,” Salem says. “He has lots of slogans, but that’s all. Whenever the moment comes that he will compromise on refugee rights, he will become nothing.”

Salem recognizes his plight is not about to change overnight. So he raises awareness as a volunteer for Badil. “We were the victims in 1948. We were the victims in 1967,” he says. “We’re not going to be the victims again.”

In Balata refugee camp, Ruqaya Jibrin sits on a stoop where she has a view of a cement wall. Many like her and her husband were made refugees before the Arabs attacked the new Jewish state. Jibrin and her husband hail from Beit Dajan-now Beyt Dagan in Hebrew-established six months after Jewish forces conquered the Palestinian village in April 1948, according to Walid Khalidi, a former senior fellow at Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He edited a 636-page tome, titled All That Remains, about the Israeli occupation and depopulation of more than 400 Arab villages. The book is published by the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington, D.C.

Jibrin has visited her former home, now inhabited by Israelis, five times in 52 years. “Every time we go, we sit and we cry,” says the woman with cloudy blue eyes. “We should go to our land. We don’t want compensation.” But, she adds, “Our land, our groves-they’re gone.”

She has spent 50 years in Balata. She is asked whether she would accept a home outside the camp in Nablus in a Palestinian nation. “I won’t accept it,” she retorts.

Another refugee, Jamela Qasim, holds the skeleton key to the home in a village near the Mediterranean Sea that her family fled when she was 12. She and other refugees have returned to the ruins of their former village’s mosque on Fridays for prayers. She says the situation is too complicated for negotiations. “Only God can fix this.”

Familiar Confines

Refugees nearly re-create their communal ties in the camps by living in clusters that correspond to their villages of origin. While the camps are depressing and drab, they are familiar. Many refugees face discrimination from the wealthier, town-dwelling Palestinians. Fathers reluctantly let daughters marry men from the camps, where the couples will make their homes.

On the walls of a small refugee camp home shared by 20 people from five families are photos of Khalil Abu Laban’s daughter, whose age he struggles to recall.

The family reminds him that the girl, Rufaida, was “martyred” at 13. She was shot in the head by Israeli troops when she went outside during a curfew in the 1989 uprising. A photo from her funeral hangs on the wall. So does a poster from Pope John Paul II’s visit to Dheisheh earlier in the year, when he recognized the refugees’ suffering.

Born in 1948, Abu Laban lived in several camps before settling in Dheisheh, where he owns a billiard hall. He says no peace agreement will be durable without recognizing that refugees have a right to return to their villages of origin. Most important in his mind is to have that right; less vital is what he does with the choice. He adds that compensation cannot supplant it.

Last summer, his son, Jalal, 26, visited the site of Zakariyya, where he met several Israeli youths who told him he was welcome to return. But even if Israel accepts some refugees, it flatly rejects their claims to their villages, which it says may involve displacing Israelis. Palestinians say many village sites lie empty.

Both Zakariyya and Deir Aban were conquered early in 1948 by the Haganah, the underground Jewish militia, well before the Arab attack on the newly established Israel, according to Khalidi’s book.

The remaining residents of Zakariyya were evicted in 1950, and most were transferred to Al Ramle, another depopulated and occupied Arab city that is now Israeli, according to Khalidi, who cites Israeli historian Benny Morris.

Abu Laban has two brothers who are Israeli citizens in Al Ramle. Years ago, he tried in vain to be reunited with them. Today, he would seem to reject the idea of living anywhere but Dheisheh or the ruins of Zakariyya.

Jalal, who has no work permit, earns $10 a day when he can sneak into Israel or work on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He is among those who live in the crowded home with his wife and baby girl, who is named Dunya, meaning “world.” Playing with his daughter, Jalal says, “Maybe her world will change.”

Israel says the right of return for Palestinian refugees could forever destroy the character of the Jewish national homeland.

“Israel is not going to change the makeup of the population of Israel by accepting large numbers of refugees,” says Washington, D.C., lawyer Joel Singer, who gave his views as a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and an Israeli peace negotiator under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Singer says if refugees are accepted, “It will be on an individual basis and not a massive basis. It will be over a long period of time, not one fell swoop. It will be largely symbolic.”

Singer believes Arafat will have to sell a compromise to his people as something more meaningful than it really will be. “The refugees are still arguing for the resolution of the refugee problem in its totality,” he says.

Singer envisions an Israeli proposal of funds to rehabilitate refugees in locations where they already live, resettlement of some refugees to a Palestinian nation in the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli acknowledgment of-but not responsibility for-refugee suffering, and an Israeli agreement to absorb some refugees through family reunification.

Israeli Peace Now spokesman Didi Remez says, “In terms of historical justice, it would be right that all the refugees return.”

But like most Israelis, Remez says it’s not practical because of the threats to internal security and to the character of the Jewish state. The solution must be pragmatic, he says. “To do that, you have to put historical injustice aside. There’s no way that any Israeli government is going to accept the right of return.”

Peace Now supports a return of refugees to an independent Palestinian nation in the West Bank and Gaza with a shared capital in Jerusalem.

Remez sits in Peace Now’s Jerusalem office, in the basement of a stone villa in the German Colony neighborhood. It’s near similar clusters of artful homes that once belonged to the Palestinian Muslim and Christian elite. The idea of Palestinian owners returning to claim their properties in Israel is unthinkable, he says.

“People are physically living in these houses,” Remez says of the lush neighborhoods where homes have courtyards and red-tile roofs. “For anybody living here, it’s just not workable.

“We have Palestinians who say, ‘Just give us that right,’ ” Remez says. Even if the Palestinians say they won’t use the right, he points out, “The floodgates are open forever and ever. This is not how you build a permanent peace solution.”

Remez says he doesn’t think compensation for lost properties will equal anywhere near the Palestinian emotional or national loss. “It can’t be framed as ‘We’re giving you money now for your losses and lands in Israel.’ In practical terms, it’s never going to make up anything. It’s going to be a big compromise.”

Palestinian compensation for lost properties in Israel could reach up to half a trillion dollars, according to Gassner of Badil. Figures of $40 billion-$100 billion have also been used.

Privately, Israeli peace activists envision the emergence of a binational union of Israel and Palestine, but only after several decades of Palestinian independence and development. Supporters of this idea believe both Israel and Palestinians can benefit from several decades of separation so that Israel can resolve internal issues of, for instance, religion vs. secularism while a new Palestinian state can develop apart from military occupation on all fronts.

But practical considerations do not sway Palestinians, who say the issue cuts deeper. Spokeswoman Ashrawi says Israel is acting above the law on the issue of Palestinian refugee rights.

“The one reason the Palestinians are not going back to their homes and lands which they own and which they lived in for centuries is the fact that they are not Jewish,” she says. “And I think that is totally disregarded. It’s not the job of the Palestinian refugees to pay that price.

“If the peace process is to produce a just and lasting peace, it cannot be based on injustice,” she says. Palestinian leaders who attempt to pressure refugees to accept a flawed agreement under the guise of pragmatism “are sadly mistaken. They will lose their constituency, and they will mobilize the majority of Palestinians.”

Shikaki says, “There has to be a way to satisfy both sides.” He envisions a four-pronged approach to be forged in negotiations. “I think a limited number will seek to return to Israel. But if they have the choice to make, then you facilitate closing the file. Only by giving them the choice can you get closure on the refugee issue.”

In reaching a resolution, the difficulty lies in determining the number of refugees who would want to return to Israel. The remaining three options include returning to a Palestinian nation, emigrating to the West, or settling in host countries like Lebanon or Jordan.

“The negotiations will focus on who will return to Israel,” Shikaki says. “The other three options aren’t sticking points.”

Even before violence erupted in September, Israeli and Palestine Liberation Organization negotiators remained seriously divided on almost every issue, says Omar Dajani, a 1996 Yale law graduate and legal adviser to the PLO Negotiations Affairs Unit.

“The Palestinian side has pressed for international law to be the primary reference point in the resolution of each issue,” Dajani says. But he adds that Israel has resisted and has called for more “practical” solutions based on the current balance of power and the situation on the ground.

“If Israel is genuinely interested in securing its long-term security, it is imperative that it accept the Palestinians’ right of return and take concrete steps to facilitate its implementation,” Dajani maintains.

“I’m convinced, however, that it is possible to maintain Israel’s role as a sanctuary for Jews throughout the world while accommodating religious and ethnic diversity within its borders.”

If the tensions between Israel and its 1 million citizens of Palestinian origin are any indication, the future of peaceful co-existence and equality looks grim. Israeli Arabs live in communities that are vastly underdeveloped, and residents suffer from high unemployment. Some rioted this fall against their second-class status.

Hashem Mahameed, an Israeli Arab member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is calling for a democracy that includes Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

The nature of Israel’s diversity is much-debated today. Israeli news reports say some Russian ?migr?s to Israel are Christians.

Arab Israelis wage their own campaign for the right of return under Resolution 194 for the 250,000 “internally displaced,” citizens who are unable to return to their villages.

“They’re refugees in their homeland and in their country,” Mahameed says, adding he is certain they can return to villages and lands that are not occupied by Israelis. “We don’t want to uproot any Jews.”

Uncovering the Path to Peace

The path to peaceful co-existence is elusive in this unforgiving land of competing nationalisms, religions and their manifestations. Can the past, the present and the future be reconciled?

The refugees’ future will continue to hang in the balance. Is their future to be forged from a compromise based on pragmatism or international law? Probably both. Israel says only a small number of refugees, if any, may return. And they will not return to their villages because of the changed realities and threats.

The Palestinians argue that international law is on their side. They ask: If the rule of law is compromised here, where will it be followed? And if the rule of law is compromised, does it not play into the hands of militants all over the world who will struggle to restore their losses with the same disregard?

The refugees’ hardship would seem to never end. But the character of a resolution could determine the future for this community and region, for better or for worse. Without better lives, the refugees aren’t about to forget about the right of return, especially when faced with poverty and camp life.

On a bluff in Deir Aban, or Monastery of Aban, named after a cleric, the traces of a village can be made out. Several Israeli settlements have arisen nearby on village lands.

Last summer, Naji Aodah brought his 75-year-old mother and other elders to the destroyed village. Many elders trickle into Israel to sit amid such ruins, though they can hardly distinguish the sites themselves. He points out tombs. He uncovers water wells and drops a stone to hear its splash deep below the surface.

“I don’t want to go back to Dheisheh,” Atallah Salem says as he surveys the ruins for the first time, even though he grew up not far away.

These fleeting visits are a tonic for the refugees. The detritus stands as proof that they once had normal lives. Their ancestors lived in stone homes with lands of almond, pomegranate and olive trees.

An ocher sunset is visible from this hillside, unlike the shards of light that barely make their way into the cement and cinder block camps.

Aodah says that he would return to Deir Aban, even in its destroyed state with no plumbing or electricity.

He and Mourad hike through brush and debris. The father shows his son the foundation to the former family home. He points out a cave where a relative was born.

To make the former village live inside of his son, he feeds him cactus fruit, wild thyme and carob from its soil. He removes the dust from a brown carob pod that he gives his son to taste and remember.

“Bitter or sweet?” the father asks his son.

Mourad answers, “It’s sweet.”

Jeffrey Ghannam, a lawyer, is a legal affairs writer for the ABA Journal. His e-mail address is ghannamj@staff.abanet.org.

Official Palestine Authority Radio News on the PBC’s Voice of Palestine – Dec. 17

Summary and Analysis

Beginning Saturday Night, December 16, the Voice of Palestine has reported in detail on the appointment of Colin Powell as U.S. Secretary of State-Designate with a certain amount of concern.

VOP has underscored remarks by General Powell and by President-Elect George Bush that the security of Israel was the lynch-pin of a Middle East peace. VOP has also emphasized that Powell commanded U.S. forces during the Gulf War against Iraq.

Indeed, Iraq, and news about Iraq, is once more being stressed in VOP news broadcasts (see headlines below).

VOP continues to focus on the deaths of senior commanders in the Fatah, which it says are the results of an Israeli liquidation campaign.

But VOP opened a new campaign of its own, claiming that Israel was once again-according to VOP-actively digging under the Al-Aqsa Mosque. “Israeli violations continue against Jerusalem and its holy places, as Israel has not stopped digging under the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” declared the morning news anchorman, Nizar Abud, Sunday.

Saturday Night Headlines-Dec 16, 9pm

  • “Masses of residents in Jenin, Salfit and Gaza accompany the funerals of the three martyrs who fell before Israeli bullets yesterday;
  • Dr. Saeb Erikat characterizes current contacts with Israel as an preliminary exploratory efforts aimed at a summit in Washington, but Washington has sent no such invitations yet to such a summit, but administration signals readiness to continue with peace process;
  • President-elect George Bush in his first statement says the new administration will promote the peace process but said the security of Israel was the key to such a peace;
  • Bush, speaking at the appointment of Colin Powell to be Secretary of State, said the new administration would defend America’s interests in the Arab Gulf (note: Bush said Persian Gulf, but Arab news organizations customarily use the term “Arab Gulf”);
  • Powell, the first Black named Secretary of State, said America would remain a friend of all the parties in the region, and it is recalled that he was army commander during the Gulf War;
  • The former Roman Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem Hilarion Capucci, on a visit to Lebanon,…said he supported Palestinian children taking part in the Independence Intifada in the battle for the independence of Palestine. (Capucci was expelled from Palestine in 1977 after serving three years in Israeli jails for ateempting to smuggle an arms caches into Israel for the Fatah);
  • A senior source in the Russian Foreign Ministry said today that Moscow is working seriously to remove sanctions against Iraq at the earliest possible moment…and is ready to develop friendly bilateral relations as quickly as possible;
  • Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Tariq Aziz visited Moscow last month and said again that Baghdad refused new United Nations inspections;
  • A Spanish plane landed today at Saddam International Airport in Baghdad in the first direct trip to Baghdad since 1990.”

Sunday Morning Headlines (7:30-9:00 a.m.)

  • “A new martyr today joins the martyrs of the Intifada, 28-year-old Samih Malahba, of Kalandia Camp near Jerusalem;
  • Occupation forces shell with heavy weapons populated neighborhoods in Dir al-Balah, and the wicked shelling does damage to residents’ houses;
  • Occupation soliders fire on Beit Shaur, damaging seven houses;
  • Occupation soliders searching houses in Nabi Salah near Ramallah;
  • His excellency President Arafat receives message from President Clinton on the peace process;
  • (Other headlines-Erikat, Capucci, Bush, Powell, Iraq-repeats from Saturday night)
  • Iraq says it does not expect any change in American policy against Iraq.”

Quote of the Day

“Things have been going on for four years (digging around Temple Mount), but we see new things now, especially on the southern front of Al-Aqsa….It is impossible for Israel to control the city of Jerusalem and the holy places” (Adnan Husseini, Engineer, Jerusalem Waqf-Islamic Council)

Rhetorical Elements

“Israel is talking about peace in English, but it speaks to its soldiers in Hebrew-to carry out more crimes.” (Dr. Saeb Erikat, PA Home Rule Minister, Saturday Night interview)

Morning Commentary (Youssef al-Kazaz, Senior Commentator)

“The official view of the Palestinian Authority was given yesterday on the Voice of Palestine: talks will continue, and the Intifada will continue – the Intifada of al Aqsa and Independence.”