Monday, May 21, 2018

Stone Throwing is Peaceful

IMRA interviewed Marwan Barghouti, Secretary General of Fatah in the West Bank, in English:

IMRA: The English translation we have of the Fatah decisions from the March 23rd meeting includes a “call on the masses of the people to go out against the settlements via all legal means…” Is that an accurate translation – “legal”.

Barghouti: Yes. By “legal” we mean “peaceful.”

IMRA: What kind of “peaceful” activities do you have in mind. Can you give some examples?

Barghouti: Peaceful activities. Demonstrations, marching.

IMRA: Rock throwing?

Barghouti: You mean stone throwing.

IMRA: Stone throwing?

Barghouti: Yes. Including stones. I don’t think that stones are violence. It is peaceful to throw stones.

IMRA: You also call on the people to “close the bypass roads before settler traffic.” How do you see closing the roads?

Barghouti: With stones.

IMRA: Throw stones at the cars?

Barghouti: Close the roads by putting stones in the road.

IMRA: This is legal?

Barghouti: Of course it is legal

The following are the decisions passed at the end of a meeting of the Supreme Council of Fatah on 23 March in the evening at Beit Sahour:

To place the responsibility for the serious breakdown in the peace process and all developments which result from it on the Israeli government. To consider the decision of the government of Israel regarding the establishment of new settlements, as an act of terror and aggression against the Palestinian people, the Arab nation, and international legitimacy.

To emphasize the support of Fatah in the Palestinian Authority and president Abu Amar in the struggle with this policy. To emphasize the strengthening of unity among all political, national, Islamic forces and the masses of the Palestinian people. To call on the PLO and the Palestinian Authority to stop the negotiations with the Israeli side and stop all measures of coordination with Israel, principle among them security coordination.

To call on the masses of the people to go out against the settlements via all legal means and close the bypass roads before settler traffic.

To declare a condition of general alert among the ranks of the Fatah movement throughout the homeland. To call on the peace camp in Israel to fill its role and increase its activities within Israel in order to put pressure on the government of Israel, which is drawing the region again into violent turmoil.

To punish the land agents.

To consider Land Day a Palestinian day for popular processions in all the cities, villages and camps in the homeland and camps in the diaspora under the slogan “Jerusalem eternal capital of Palestine” and “No peace with settlements”.

To call on the Arab public throughout the Arab homeland to hold demonstrations as a sign of solidarity with Palestine and in the defense of the Arabness of Jerusalem.

To denounce the position of the U.S. which leans completely in favor of the Tel Aviv government.

To praise the decision of the Palestinian Authority to free many prisoners from Palestinian Authority prisons, and call on it to free everyone.

To call for the branch committees to hold conferences of the movement in every district with the participation of all activists, public structures and movement offices, in preparation for popular conferences with the participation of all Palestinian forces. To praise the popular action in the Hebron district, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and the rest of the homeland and in particular the general strike held by the people in the camps in Lebanon on 23 March.

To call on the masses to boycott Israeli products which have a substitute in Palestinian markets.

(Al-Hayat al-Jadida – 24 March, 1997)

Editor’s note: Marwan Bargouti has been suggested as the liason between the Israeli settler population and the Palestine Authority

Dr. Aaron Lerner,
Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
P.O.BOX 982 Kfar Sava
Tel: (+972-9) 760-4719
Fax: (+972-9) 741-1645

PLO Covenant Remains Unchanged

Like a cat with nine lives, the PLO Covenant refuses to die, leaving doubts about the seriousness of the fledgling Palestinian entity’s acceptance of Israel’s right to exist.

That is the message of a panel discussion consisting of journalists and academics, in which a video of the famous PNC vote was shown, sponsored by the Middle East Forum at the Beit Agron Press Center last night.

Speaking before a packed audience, Professor Yehoshua Porat of Hebrew University, an expert on Palestinian nationalism, said the Palestinian National Council has failed to make the changes required by the Oslo Agreement, which calls for the PNC to remove all articles in the Covenant calling for Israel’s destruction.

This accusation comes just over one year after the historic PNC voting session in Gaza, after which Shimon Peres proclaimed that Arafat had fufilled his promise to amend the thirty two year old charter.

Porat countered Peres’s claim, pointing out that the resolution adopted by the PNC that day only declared the PNC’s willingness to change the Covenant, legally leaving it unaltered. Porat also noted that the resolution, which calls for abrogating those articles which stand in contradiction to Oslo, did not specify which articles were to be changed, leaving the Covenant in a state of ambiguity.

Porat revealed that Peres’s belief that the PNC had cancelled the Covenant resulted from a misunderstanding between him and his legal advisor, and Nabil Sh’ath. The day before the vote, Sh’ath told the legal advisor that he would submit to the PNC the next day a resolution calling for the cancellation of the Covenant. However, Sh’ath presented a different resolution, which would then send the matter to the Central Council. He did not relay this change to his Israeli counterpart. When Peres heard the next day that a resolution had been adopted, he assumed that the PNC had fulfilled its mission.

While not disagreeing with Porat’s claim that the Covenant was not legally altered, Joel Greenberg, Jerusalem correspondent for the New York Times, questioned whether this was a cause for concern. Recounting an incident between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at the Madrid peace talks, Greenberg described how no one on the Palestinian team had a copy of the Covenant when the Israelis brought up the issue. The Israeli negotiators had to provide the Palestinians with one. By this time, Greenberg argued, the Covenant had become a dinosaur. A Palestinian researcher participating on the panel concurred, noting that Arafat had accepted UN Resolution 242, which recognizes Israel’s right to exist, back in 1988. While not officially changing the charter, this change of direction on the part of the PLO made the Covenant obsolete. The legal process of abrogating the charter was completed in the fall of 1996, he said, but did not provide any evidence to verify it.

The showing of the video cast doubts on the claim that the Covenant had ceased to have any importance for the PLO. Speaking before the members of the PNC, Saleem al-Za’anoon, PNC chairman, stated:

“…if we amend those articles, whose amendment is demanded it will mean that we have paid a very high price. And if we prepare a new proposal, it will be less damaging than the 1st solution.”

Porat asked why the PNC failed to change the Covenant in compliance with Oslo if by this time it no longer had any importance. He noted that Arafat has defended his apparent acceptance of Israel to Arab critics by basing it on the PLO resolution of 1974, which calls for the PLO to set up a state on any part of Palestine, and then use it as a launching pad from which to liberate the rest of Palestine. Porat said he does not know that Arafat is acting according to the “phased plan”, but said that he is in doubt since Arafat has not changed the Covenant.

Porat further pointed out that besides not specifying which articles were to be annulled, the resolution did not say all articles that contradict Oslo would be changed. This is a crucial distinction, and it is unlikely that such a semantic error escaped the PNC’s attention. After all, Resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from lands occupied during wars, instead of from the lands or all lands. Israeli officials have argued on occasion that on this basis they have fulfilled their obligations under 242, and therefore do not have to cede more territory. Presumably Palestinians are familiar with this argument.

Flourishing Deals Overseas

Who, today, controls the economic empire which the PLO created overseas? “Arafat and his friends are not transferring the PLO’s overseas assets to the ownership of the [Palestinian] Authority,” says Palestinian council member Khosam Hadad. “This is one of our economy’s biggest disasters.”

Where is the money? This question disturbed many people last week, following the publication regarding Yasser Arafat’s secret account. “Where is the money?” asked the residents of the Palestinian Authority as they sought to clarify what exactly is being done with the taxes collected by the monopoly owners and those who control the crossings and loading zones. “Where is the money?” the Knesset Finance Committee sought to clarify, in March 1997, in a special discussion, which was convened following the findings>of the Ha’aretz “Weekend Supplement” (4.4.97), to which senior Israeli>Finance Ministry officials were summoned. “Where is the money” asks>Palestinian Legislative Council member Khosam Hadad, this time meaning the>PLO’s overseas assets.

The size and worth of these assets — which the Palestine Liberation Organization has accumulated in the 33 years of its existence — are still mystery. “Nobody knows the truth about the PLO’s assets abroad,” says former Israel Police minister Moshe Shahal. “In the peace talks, we did not dare to raise the issue.” Who controls these assets today?

The PLO remains a very powerful economic organization, having received billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states since 1967. A large part of the assets come from taxes levied by the Arab countries: approximately 5% of the salary of every Palestinian who worked in their areas was deducted at the source and transferred to the organization’s accounts in Switzerland and Spain. This collection alone brought in approximately $50 million annually.

“In total, the PLO made profits of something like $50 million a day,” said Eli Halachmi, who was head of the economic branch in the research arm of IDF Military Intelligence at the end of the 1970s. “The organization had astounding properties. They had many straw companies which aided their penetration of the European market. The Kuwaitis helped them buy shares of companies such as Mercedes. They exercised great economic influence in France, Switzerland, Italy, Holland and Scandinavia.”

In order to rule over its economic operations, in 1970 the PLO established the organization “Samed”, or by its full name “The Organization of the Sons of Palestinian Martyrs”, which has been headed since then by Ahmed Kari’a (Abu-Allah). Samed conducted many investments in the name of the PLO and its management was highly secretive and directly reported to Yasser Arafat, who also personally signed its cheques. Part of Samed’s activities the PLO was interested in revealing, from a public relations standpoint. The organization published a magazine, “Samed al-Iktzadi” (The Economic Samed), with many pictures of Palestinian women working at sewing and weaving and Palestinian men sowing fields in agricultural farms in Africa and Lebanon. According to the statistics given in Guy Bechor’s “PLO Lexicon”, Samed employed several thousand workers in Lebanon until Israel expelled them in 1982. They were considered Fatah activists in every way, including in the compensation tables, for example.

Under the umbrella of Samed a number of associations operate including the manufacturer’s Association, the Trade and Marketing Association, the Agriculture and Agricultural Produce Association, the Research and Publications Department, and the Department for Disseminating Films and Propaganda. The latter initiated and distributed a number of propaganda films and films pertaining to the Palestinian struggle. At the end of the 1980s, it initiated the production of a full length film and invested millions of dollars, including the drafting of foreign actors and cameramen. The raw material was sent for editing in a laboratory in Rome. One night in July 1989, the laboratory was broken into and not a trace of the Palestinian’s film was left.

The Samed magazine identifies its’ branches economic activities and in general, reports on the organization’s participation in a large number of economic exhibitions and its joint activities with the countries of the Eastern Bloc (until it fell apart) and with black Africa. Samed opened 20 Chambers of Commerce in various countries, such as Japan, Thailand and China in Asia, Guinea and Mali in Africa, Hungary and Poland in Eastern Europe, and France and Italy in the West. In its record years, Samed had 26 set exhibitions. The reports of Samed acknowledge its participation in weapons factories. The organization noted that it has a weapons factory in South Yemen and in Princedom of Brunei. Guy Bechor shows that at the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, Arafat presented a gift of an RPG launcher manufactured by Samed to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. It is a little difficult because of this to take at face value the words of Dr Maher al-Kurd, the Palestinian Authority’s Deputy Minister of Economics and Commerce. Dr al-Kurd absolutely and categorically denies everything. According to him, Samed’s assets consisted of farms, for the most part farms in Lebanon which were destroyed by the IDF invasion in 1982. “After the war”, adds al-Kurd, “they were left with a few projects in Africa, mainly in Somalia and Sudan. The civil wars and drought in those countries destroyed the farms. Samed had no property other than farms. No shares, no Swiss bank accounts. If only all the rumors were true.”

It is difficult to estimate how much the PLO’s assets are really worth. In an article published by Eric Lurun in “Le Figaro” he claims that hundreds of millions of dollars of PLO money was transferred from Lebanon to Switzerland at the beginning of the IDF siege of Beirut in 1982. Already in the 1970s, with the help of the Soviet Union, and in particular the “Moscow Narodny” Bank, Arafat and a number of his aides arranged investments on Wall Street, in the City of London, and in a number of Arab banks. The PLO also invested in large industrial concerns that were floated on the Frankfurt, Tokyo and Paris stock exchanges, as well as in real estate in the Mayfair area of London. Until the Gulf War in 1991, writes “Le Figaro”, the cash reserves of the PLO came to $7 million. Arafat divided this mighty sum between a number of accounts in Zurich and Geneva, in such banks as Union of Suisse Bank, and Chemical Bank of New York. In Israel, the figures cited in “Le Figaro” are considered exaggerated, but the assertion that the PLO was in the 1970s and 1980s a very strong economic force is accepted. Its bank accounts were spread across the globe, including in eastern Jerusalem, and were registered in the names of various private individuals, [never in the name of the PLO] including that of Ahmed Kari’a (Abu Alla). If one considers the sums received by the PLO in the form of taxes and contributions, and subtracts from this its various outlays — on strengthening its structure, on propaganda and on operations, the differential is hugely on the side of the earnings.

When Yasser Arafat ever sits down to write his economic memoirs, he will also be able to solve the question of the disappearance of Samir Najem A-Din. This mysterious man, a Palestinian resident in Saudi Arabia, is today in the seventh decade of his life, if he is still alive. A-Din has been portrayed in the Western press as one of the leading PLO money men, as the head of a secret arm concerned with the transfer of funds for confidential purposes. He led the “SAS” whose name came from the first initials of the names of its three managers: Samir Najem A-Din, Adnan Al-Kilani and Sakir Farhan. This triumvirate managed business interests straddling the world, via BCCI, the same institution at the center of scandal five years ago. It was founded by a group of Sheikhs from the United Arab Emirates, and was closed in 1992 in a joint operation of Interpol and the World Bank. The western media reported then that the bank was a giant launderer of illegal funds, including the funds of many underground and terror organizations. Its management sat in Pakistan, but the orders came out of Abu Dhabi.

Legal officers managed to confiscate 20 billion dollars, 75% of the assets of the Bank in 69 states. The closure of the bank also led to the discovery of account number 80820577, in the name of Samir Najem A-Din, from which money was taken for a variety of purposes. On 13th of March, 1984, for example, the owner of the account instructed the bank to transfer $17,000 to the Dafex arms factory in Portugal. Two weeks later he ordered the transfer of $100,000 to the account of Munzer Al-Kazar in Banco De Bilbao in Spain. Al-Kazar is a Syrian citizen close to the regime in Damascus, whose name has been linked in recent years to a number of illegal actions taken on behalf of Palestinian terror organizations, among them the bombing of the Pan-Am plane over Lockerbie.

In an interview with the BBC after the liquidation of the bank, Rasan Ahmed Kassem, manager of the branch in Sloane Street in London, related that A- Din opened the account with a deposit of $50 million, and that most of that money was used for arms purchases in Britain. The true role of Najem a-Din is made yet more elusive by the claim that he was the money man for the Abu Nidal organization, which split off from the PLO already at the beginning of the 1970s, in which case he could not be connected to the secret accounts of Arafat. A directive given by Najem A-din to the bank, in which he orders the monthly transfer of 10,000 pounds to the account of Amin al- Banna, apparently the cousin of Abu Nidal, is used as a basis for this claim. Al-Banna is suspected of involvement in the murder of Issam Sartawi, Arafat’s political adviser.

According to various sources of information, the PLO participated in the establishment of the airline of the Maldive Islands, and afterwards was one of the owners of the airline of Guinea-Bissau. An Israeli official says that Fayez Zaidan — head of the Palestinian Aviation Authority today — managed this company in the past. Samed also acquired a duty-free shop at Tanzania’s international airport in Dar e-Salaam. In 1986, the PLO representative in Zimbabwe, Ali Khalima, said that, “this is merely an investment,” and that in the same period, Samed also dealt in purchasing additional shops in Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Last week, a western diplomatic official — who requested that his name not be mentioned — said that various Palestinian Authority officials have confirmed the existence of airlines and duty-free shops in Africa which belong to the PLO. Even so, the same Palestinians have claimed that many of these assets — over the years — suffered heavy losses for the PLO, with some of them in a state of bankruptcy.

The opposition to Arafat inside the PLO, and the various factions which quit the organization, such as that led by Abu Zaim (Attalah Attalah) in 1986, have uncovered a long series of financial transfers benefitting senior PLO officials and secret bank accounts under the Rais’ direct supervision. In his book, Inside the PLO, journalist David Halevy describes a complex network of such secret accounts, which were designed for financing exceptional actions and special operations. According to Halevy, the PLO treasury disburses approximately $150 million annually to the chairman’s network of private accounts. He points out that Arafat had so much money that he was able to lend money to countries such as [the former] North Yemen and Congo, [the former] Lebanese President Amin Gemayel and others.

Many Palestinians are sure that Arafat is not tainted by personal corruption, but nobody is sure that the many funds under his control are being utilized for goals known to, and accepted by, a majority of the Palestinian people. The policy of the PLO and its leader have also directly influenced both his economic and his political situation. His support for Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait brought about a cessation in the Gulf states’ support for the PLO and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers. The organization almost went bankrupt. It is known that part of Samed’s assets were sold during that period in order to finance the PLO’s regular activity; it is not clear what part. Approximately one year ago, the American Congress’ oversight committee held a secret investigation into the subject and even collected testimony from private and official Israeli experts. The investigation’s report was not published. Even so, it is known that the examiners did not succeed in unequivocally determining the worth of the PLO’s overseas assets.

Khosam Hadad, a Palestinian Legislative Council member from Nablus, says: “One of the greatest disasters of our economy is that Arafat and his friends are not transferring the PLO’s overseas assets to the ownership of the [Palestinian] Authority, a step which could greatly aid economic development here.” After his expulsion from the territories in 1988, for Fatah activity, Hadad filled various posts at PLO headquarters in Tunis. “The PLO still has a great many assets in various countries,” testifies Hadad. “We have companies, we have real estate, and we have investments in a range of areas. Over the years, the problem has been that the lack of a framework to supervise these assets. Private elements have exploited this for their [own] needs. The [Palestinian] Authority — instead of becoming a proper body — is continuing Arafat’s own way and lacks supervision over everything related to money.”

Abu-Allah, the head of Samed and Chairman of the Palestinian Parliament was not happy to cooperate. “I know nothing about the income of the PLO abroad,” he said.

Q: Can we talk about Samed?

A: “I know nothing about Samed.”

Q: But you are the organization’s chairman?

A: “I know nothing about Samed. If you want to talk about the peace process which is going mad right in front of your eyes, please. Do you want to talk about the Palestinian legislative branch — no problem. But about the PLO abroad or Samed, I know nothing, really nothing. Thank you and goodbye.”

One year after the Palestine National Council met to cancel the PLO Covenant

The Middle East Forum, recently pioneered by New York immigrant to Israel, Dan Diker, held its first round table discussion on April 29, 1997 one year after the Palestine National Council met in a special session to cancel the Palestinian National Covenant. The agenda for the evening, at the Beit Agron International Press Center, was to discuss the current status of the Covenant. Has it been annulled, amended or frozen? Opinions varied.

The idea came to Diker, a graduate of Harvard Business School and advertising director for Virtual Jerusalem, from Ted Koppel’s Palestinian Round Table discussion. During a recent trip to New York, Diker began working on the venture, garnering assistance from prominent American Jews like former deputy mayor of New York Peter Solomon. The idea was to create a venue here, where the news is being made, that keeps focused on the issues, like Nightline, where experts from all sides can get together to discuss and debate issues in as politically uncharged an environment as possible. For both sides the issues, he said are so filled with emotion and drama. “I wanted to create an environment like the American journalistic model, like Ted Koppel, with lots of research presented in the context of political objectivity. Political and journalistic analysis in this country is such that people walk in, the makers and the reporters, with preconceived notions. This calls into question the reliabilty and objectivity of the event”.

The forum began with a video of TV news coverage of the Palestinian National Council voting session of April 24, 1996, during which members were to decide the future of the Covenant. That news coverage had been provided by the Tel Aviv and Gaza based INSTITUTE FOR PEACE EDUCATION LTD, which sent in the only TV crew to cover the session. What the video shows is the voting session of the PNC, where the PNC participants decide to postpone, NOT to cancel the covenant. Following the video, Hebrew University professor Yehoshua Porat, author of The Emergence of Palestinian Arab Nationalism, provided an analysis, followed by prominent members of the Israeli, Palestinian, and Foreign media. The event was judiciously moderated by Greer Faye Cashman of The Jerusalem Post. Professor Porat simply stated that the Palestinians have not annulled or amended the Covenant, and this is of integral importance to the peace process and for future negotiations. Porat, who ran number 13 on the list for knesset of the Meretz/Peace Now political party in the 1992 election, remains disillussioned by the lack of Palestinian adherence to their side of the accords. Some reports say that articles of the Charter were annulled which contradict the agreements between Arafat and Rabin in letters exchanged between the two of September 9 and 10, 1993. No one knows if these articles still exist, said Porat. No specific articles were stated as being cancelled, though some believe that article 19, which calls the establishment of the State of Israel entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time…, was annulled. According to Porat who is fluent in Arabic and closely monitors the Arab press, there is no proof of the annullment or amendment of any of the articles on record.

One of those articles compares Zionism to a Nazi movement.

Porat went on to ask “Does article 22 still stand, which describes the Zionist movement as racist,fanatic and Nazi in its nature,besides aggressive, expansionist, imperialist and fascist in its methods? he asks. Or Article 6 which states that only Jews who had resided in Palestine at the time of the Balfour Declaration will be allowed to remain”?

Porat notes that when Arafat met with Muammar Gaddafi, who was very critical of the PLO upon news that theyd cancelled the charter, he explained the situation to Gaddafi, afterwhich a report appeared in the Libyan press stating that nothing was cancelled. Then the Israel media saw it, wrote about it, and it was denied by the Palestinians.

No redrafting of the charter has been undertaken. There has been no new text prepared and nothing brought to the Central Council.

Many people, even Israelis, say that it is not important. Porat disagrees. “Words and ideology are historical factors to be reckoned with. The PLO made a commitment and learned that they could circumvent it. I hear a lot about trust building, and confidence building measures, which Israel is asked to to change the atmosphere. This is not a one way street. Israel’s confidence also should be won, so that once there was peace, the Palestinians wouldn’t continue to demand their original plans (the complete destruction of Israel. Annulling the Covenant, or amending it, is the most important confidence building measure they can do and by their actions theyre showing us, concluded Porat.

Cashman commented If the shoe were on the other foot, and Israelis were found to have clause that required the expulsion and destuction of the Arabs,’we can just imagine how loud the condemnation would be.

Next to speak was Waled Awad, speaking as a researcher and media consultant to the Palestinian Authority. In his professional capacity with the PA, Awad runs their information dept.

Awad said he disagrees with the whole approach presented by Prof Porat. He sounds pessimistic, he said, referring to Porat. “I am optimistic”, he said, because there are two important issues here, he says.

Circumstances have changed completely since the Covenant was written in 1964, and he believes all this is semantics, a technicality. This was before the war in 1967 and the war in 1971. In 1974, in the PNC meeting they decided to opt for a different approach – for a peaceful solution to the Palestinian situation. That year Arafat went to the UN and spoke, and became the sole representative of the Palestinian people. In 1988, Awad said, when the PNC met in Algiers they announced the idea of a two state solution. What’s happened over the years automatically annulled whats written in the Covenant. It is Quaduq (null and void). He claimed that in 1982, at a conference in Rabat, the PLO recognized UN resolution 242. He said that all the articles were annulled on April 24, last year in a special meeting.

Porat later argued that the word “all” is mentioned nowhere in any release of the PNC or the PLO.

Legally, said Awad, “there is no covenant at the moment”. He said that it was not announced officially in order to keep it from people who would object. It has to do with how PNC chairman Saleem Al-Zaanoon, wants to justify it, and how to talk to the Palestinian people. Awad said that on the internet they have published suggested charters for a new Palestinian constitution. He continued to say If the Israeli government is not satisfied with this, and continues not to live up to the Oslo Accords, then we could say that it is not annulled, but for now, it is annulled, concluded Awad.

Porat responded to this attitude as obfuscation on the part of the Palestinians. Other speakers at the forum included Joel Greenberg of the New York Times and Jay Bushinsky of Westinghouse Broadcasting, and Yossi Torpstein, of Hamakom Harishon. Bushinsky believes that the Covenant was not amended or annulled. A problem in his opinion is that No one in the government in Israel denied that the Charter had been amended. The opposition was never quoted, and their speeches were never mentioned in the press, so they never reached people overseas. The world believes that it was amended. I think its all wishfull thinking on the part of the Israelis. There are situations in which things arent decided just because someone wants it. Bushinsky has been covering the Middle East for 30 years and says he has learned to listen to the Arab point of view. The Israelis do not have a partner in negotiatiations who wants peace, in his opinion, based on what he sees happening around him. Joel Greenberg, on the other hand, sees the question as settled. He accepts the statements of Arafat in his letter to Rabin of September 9 as being enough. In it he stated that the PLO recognizes the right of Israel to exist in peace and security. Arafat said they agreed to cancel all issues in the Covenant. Both governments accepted it as a cancellation at the time, said Greenberg. Still another perspective was offered by native Israeli journalist Yossi Torpstein. According to the September 9 letter, he said, Arafat also renounced use of any violence and recognised the need for peaceful co-existence. “I attended that session of the PNC and talked to many members. They were concerned about Israels lack of implementation of its agreements. They were saying, why should they cancel or amend the Covenant when Israel is not doing what it agreed to, he said. They were referring to the agreement to release prisoners, to ensure safe passage to Palestinians, and at the time, to a withdrawal from Hevron”.

There was some intrigue in the session. Porat revealed, for the first time, why it was that Shimon Peres so loudly proclaimed that the PLO covenant was cancelled, only two hours after the vote at the PNC. It was Israeli Independence Day that day in 1996. Peres declared this vote to be a great birthday present for Israel, and, indeed, one of the greatest days in the history of Zionism. What Peres relied on was that the legal advisor of the Israel Foreign Ministry, Yoel Singer, had met with Arafat’s aide, Nabil Sha’at, to write up an agreed upon resolution for the PNC to cancel the covenant. However, Sha’at could not get the Singer-Sha’ath memo past the PNC – what did get past the PNC was NOT the resolution that Peres thought was adopted – hence, the confusion.

There was not one media organ in the entire world that did not echo the enthusiasm of Israel Prime Minister Shimon Peres who heralded the dawn of a new era.

And it was not until May 20, 1996 that Porat had brought the first showing of the PNC video and the actual protocols of the PNC session to Israel Television and the rest of the Israeli media – a factor which undermined the credibility of Shimon Peres, less than ten days before he was to lose his campaign for re-election as Prime Minister of Israel.

In 1996, not one media outlet outside of Israel reported that the PLO did not change its covenant that calls for continued war against the state of Israel.

Meanwhile, since American law specifically forbids the American government from maintaining any contact with the PLO unless and until it changes its covenant, the question remains one year later: Why is the American government maintaining contact with the PLO?

The Palestinian National Covenant

Articles of the Covenant

Article 1: Palestine is the homeland of the Arab Palestinian people; it is an indivisible part of the Arab homeland, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab nation.

Article 2: Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.

Article 3: The Palestinian people possess the legal right to their homeland and have the right to determine their destiny after achieving the liberation of their country in accordance with their wishes and entirely of their own accord and will.

Article 4: The Palestinian identity is a genuine, essential and inherent characteristic; it is transmitted from parents to children. The Zionist occupation and their dispersal of the Palestinian Arab people, through the disasters which befell them, do not make them lose their Palestinian identity and their membership of the Palestinian community, nor do they negate them.

Article 5: The Palestinians are those Arab national who, until 1947, normally resided in Palestine regardless of whether they were evicted from it or have stayed there. Anyone born, after that date, of a Palestinian father – whether inside Palestine or outside it – is also a Palestinian.

Article 6: The Jews who had normally resided in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians.

Article 7: That there is a Palestinian community and that it has material, spiritual and historical connections with Palestine are indisputable facts. It is a national duty to bring up individual Palestinians in an Arab revolutionary manner. All means of information and education must be adopted in order to acquaint the Palestinian with his country in the most profound manner, both spiritual and material, that is possible. He must be prepared for the armed struggle and ready to sacrifice his wealth and his life in order to win back his homeland and bring about its liberation.

Article 8: The phase in their history, through which the Palestinian people are now living, is that of national (watani) struggle for the liberation of Palestine. Thus the conflicts among the Palestinian national forces are secondary, and should be ended for the sake of the basic conflict that exists between the forces of Zionism and of imperialism on the one hand, and the Palestinian Arab people on the other. On this basis the Palestinian masses, regardless of whether they are residing in the national homeland or in diaspora (mahajir) constitute – both their organization and the individuals – one national front working for the retrieval of Palestine and its liberation through armed struggle.

Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it. They also assert their right to normal life in Palestine and to exercise their right to self-determination and sovereignty over it.

Article 10: Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness and mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution. It also requires the achieving of unity for the national (watani) struggle among the different groupings of the Palestinian people and the Arab masses so as to secure the continuation of the revolution, its escalation and victory.

Article 11: The Palestinians will have three mottoes: national (wataniyya) unity, national (qawmiyya) mobilization and liberation.

Article 12: The Palestinian people believe in Arab unity. In order to contribute their share towards the attainment of that objective, however, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity, and oppose any plan that may dissolve or impair it.

Article 13: Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine are two complementary objectives, the attainment of either of which facilitates the attainment of the other. Thus, Arab unity leads to the liberation of Palestine; the liberation of Palestine leads to Arab unity; and work towards the realization of one objective proceeds side by side with work towards the realization of the other.

Article 14: The destiny of the Arab nation, and indeed Arab existence itself, depends upon the destiny of the Palestinian cause. From this interdependence springs the Arab nation’s pursuit of, and striving for, the liberation of Palestine. The people of Palestine play the role of the vanguard in the realization of this sacred national (qawmi) goal.

Article 15: The liberation of Palestine, from an Arab viewpoint, is a national (qawmi) duty and it attempts to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression against the Arab homeland, and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine. Absolute responsibility for this falls upon the Arab nation – peoples and governments – with the Arab people of Palestine in the vanguard. Accordingly the Arab nation must mobilize all its military, human, and moral and spiritual capabilities to participate actively with the Palestinian people in the liberation of Palestine. It must, particularly in the phase of the armed Palestinian revolution, offer and furnish the Palestinian people with all possible help, and material and human support, and make available to them the means and opportunities that will enable them to continue to carry out their leading role in the armed revolution, until they liberate their homeland.

Article 16: The liberation of Palestine, from a spiritual point of view, will provide the Holy Land with an atmosphere of safety and tranquillity, which in turn will safeguard the country’s religious sanctuaries and guarantee freedom of worship and of visit to all, without discrimination of race, colour, language, or religion. Accordingly, the people of Palestine look to all spiritual forces in the world for support.

Article 17: The liberation of Palestine, from a human point of view, will restore to the Palestinian individual his dignity, pride and freedom. Accordingly the Palestinian Arab people look forward to the support of all those who believe in the dignity of man and his freedom in the world.

Article 18: The liberation of Palestine, from an international point of view, is a defensive action necessitated by the demands of self-defense. Accordingly, the Palestinian people, desirous as they are of the friendship of all people, look to freedom-loving, justice-loving and peace-loving states for support in order to restore their legitimate rights in Palestine, to re-establish peace and security in the country, and to enable its people to exercise national sovereignty and freedom.

Article 19: The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the State of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were contrary to the will of the Palestinian people and to their natural right in their homeland, and inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, particularly the right to self-determination.

Article 20: The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.

Article 21: The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine and reject all proposals aiming at the liquidation of the Palestinian problem, or its internationalization.

Article 22: Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and a geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity and progress. Israel is a constant source of threat vis-à-vis peace in the Middle East and the whole world. Since the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, the Palestinian people look for the support of all the progressive and peaceful forces and urge them all, irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs, to offer the Palestinian people all aid and support in their just struggle for the liberation of their homeland.

Article 23: The demands of security and peace, as well as the demands of right and justice, require all states to consider Zionism an illegitimate movement, to outlaw its existence, and to ban its operations, in order that friendly relations among peoples may be preserved, and the loyalty of citizens to their respective homelands safeguarded.

Article 24: The Palestinian people believe in the principles of justice, freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, human dignity, and in the right of all peoples to exercise them.

Article 25: For the realization of the goals of this Charter and its principles, the Palestinian Liberation Organization will perform its role in the liberation of Palestine in accordance with the Constitution of this Organization.

Article 26: the Palestine Liberation Organization, representative of the Palestinian revolutionary forces, is responsible for the Palestinian Arab people’s movement in its struggle – to retrieve its homeland, liberate and return to it and exercise the right to self-determination in it – in all military, political and financial fields and also for whatever may be required by the Palestinian case on the inter-Arab and international levels.

Article 27: The Palestinian Liberation Organization shall cooperate with all Arab states, each according to its potentialities; and will adopt a neutral policy among them in the light of the requirements of the war of liberation; and on their basis it shall not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab State.

Article 28: The Palestinian Arab people assert the genuineness and independence of their nations (wataniyya) revolution and reject all forms of intervention, trusteeship and subordination.

Article 29: The Palestinian people possess the fundamental and genuine legal right to liberate and retrieve their homeland. The Palestinian people determine their attitude towards all states and forces on the basis of the stands they adopt vis-à-vis the Palestinian case and the extent of the support they offer to the Palestinian revolution to fulfill the aims of the Palestinian people.

Article 30: Fighters and carriers of arms in the war of liberation are the nucleus of the popular arm which will be the protective force for the gains of the Palestinian Arab people.

Article 31: The Organization shall have a flag, an oath of allegiance and an anthem. All this shall be decided upon in accordance with a special regulation.

Article 32: Regulations, which shall be known as the Constitution of the Palestine Liberation Organization, shall be annexed to the Charter. It shall lay down the manner in which the Organization, and its organs and institutions, shall be constituted; the respective competence of each; and the requirements of its obligations under the Charter.

Article 33: This Charter shall not be amended save by (vote of) a majority of two-thirds of the total membership of the National Congress of the Palestine Liberation Organization (taken) at a special session convened for that purpose.

“The Text of the Palestinian National Covenant Remains As it Was and No Changes Were Made to it. This Has Caused it to be Frozen but Not Annulled”

Peace Watch revealed today an internal publication issued by the “Research and Thought” division of Chairman Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction of the PLO, entitled “The Palestinian National Covenant Between Renewal and Being Frozen.” It was published in Ramallah at the end of April 1996, and was intended for the party’s internal cadres. The document declares that the PLO Covenant was frozen, but not annulled, and that no changes were made to the document at the recent session of the Palestinian National Council (PNC).

The publication surveys the three different stances in the PNC about changing the Covenant. The first approach accepted the importance of amending the Covenant, but conditioned changes on Israeli compliance with its obligations, and therefore opposed amending the Covenant at this time. Proponents of the second approach felt it was necessary to fulfill the Palestinian commitment to amend the Covenant without conditioning it on Israeli fulfillment of its obligations, and therefore favored immediate amendment. The third approach, which according to the document’s authors is the one that prevailed, is described as follows:

“Supporters of this approach felt that effort should be invested in the framework of the negotiations to reach a text of a decision that would grapple with the evil and corrupt acts which are expected from the Israeli side. If a death warrant is issued for the Palestinian Covenant in the manner in which the Israelis want – namely, annulment of the articles and amending before the beginning of the final status talks – then instead of addressing the necessary changes to the Covenant in the framework of a special session, the inclination was to obtain the approval of the PNC in a regular session, to undertake to amend the Covenant and to authorize the Legal Committee to redraft the National Covenant and to present it before the Central Committee at its first meeting.”

“The text of the Palestinian National Covenant remains as it was and no changes whatsoever were made to it. This has caused it to be frozen but not annulled. The drafting of the new National Covenant will take into account the extent of Israeli fulfillment of its previous and coming obligations, and the extent of Israeli fulfillment of its previous and coming obligations, and the extent of the commitment of the Israeli Prime Minister that will be elected at the end of May. The expectation of Peres’ return, and the possibility that Netanyahu will win, mean that in any event the text of the Covenant will reflect the adherence of the Government of Israel to its obligations and to the peace process. And this matter is riddled with doubt.”

The document also states that the PNC decided to authorize the Legal Committee to draft a new Covenant which shall include a number of future “security valves” based on international law as sell as on the Palestinian Declaration of Independence and political declaration that were issued on 15 November 1988 in Algiers, which asserted that Jewish settlements are illegal, occupied Jerusalem is Palestinian land and part of the independent Palestinian state, and that refugees have the fight to return. In addition, the document says, “the fact that the PNC did not hold a special session to make changes and amendments in the text of the National Covenant at this stage, as well as the failure to prepare a new Covenant in the shadow of psychological pressures, the closure and the other Zionist actions, was done to defend the new Covenant from being influenced by the current Israeli dictatorship.” According to the authors, the Israeli demand to amend the Covenant was in effect a demand to issue “a self-inflicted death certificate for the PNC and suicide for the PLO.”

The Voting Session of the Palestinian National Council on the Palestinian Charter Gaza April 24, 1996

Saleem At-Za’anoon, PNC chairman, explaining the proposal before the members:

I want to tell you before the voting begins that the judicial committee, when I attended it, was totally convinced, with a majority of 43 out of 44 members, that we must fulfill the commitment demanded of us, at the lowest possible price. Therefore, it was said, if we amend those articles, whose amendment is demanded it will mean that we have paid a very high price. And if we prepare a new proposal, it will be less damaging than the 1st solution, in that, a new charter, not doubt…Brothers, you must listen, I will not allow you, its my right to speak. Putting forth a new proposal for the national covenant is less damaging than the first thing (amending it). To enter into details (on why it’s less damaging) would be of free service (to the Israelis.) But the version which was drafted is the least damaging that we could submit. It gives us an extension of 6 months until the Central Council convenes. And then the Central Council will discuss it. And it’s within its rights to say “I leave it for the National Council: Brothers, with all my heart, I tell you, that the version which is in your hands is the best one to be presented to the Palestinian people regarding the commitment which we have no way out but to pay. Therefore, brothers, I ask of those who didn’t have patience to listen to me, two words, and thanks also to those who had the patience. Now all that Article 33 consists of is that a special majority of two-thirds is needed. If more than two-thirds will raise their hands for this proposal, we will consider it approved. And if they don’t, if less than two-thirds will raise their hands, I tell you in all honesty that the proposal will fall, and then…

(Arafat): God-willing.

God willing, but I say, my bother, Abu Amar, I hope, (that the voting) will succeed with more than two-thirds.

(Arafat): Everyone here, believe me, is more (responsible) than you and me, and more than Abu ‘Alla. Everyone is more responsible than us.

Brothers, who agrees to this proposal raise his hand, and leave it up until the counting ends.

Marwan Kanafani, Arafat’s former spokesman, member of the PNC and Palestinian Authority Council explaining to journalists the results of the vote:

It is not an amendment. It is not an amendment.

Copies of voting session news video itself, in PAL or NTSC version, with English or Hebrew subtitles, may be acquired by sending $18 in any currency, to the THE INSTITUTE FOR PEACE EDUCATION LTD, POB 18213, Tel Aviv, Israel.

PNC Vote Does Not Fulfill PLO Obligation to Amend Covenant: PNC Has Until May 7 to Complete Amendment Process

The decision made by the Palestinian National Council (PNC) last night regarding the PLO Covenant does not satisfy the obligation laid down in the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo II). The PNC did not actually amend the Covenant, but instead approved in principle that changes would be made, without specifying which clauses would be changed, in what manner, or by what date.

The PNC vote does mark an important step towards compliance with the obligation to amend the Covenant. However, to fulfill the obligation set out in Article XXXI (9) of Oslo II, the PNC must complete the amendment process by May 7.

The PNC vote was taken in a closed session and the PNC and PLO have yet to release an official version of the resolution. Conflicting versions of the resolution’s text appear today in the Arabic newspapers Al-Quds and Al-Ayyam, and in a release put out by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center. The operative clauses in the JMCC version, which in the view of Peace Watch is the most accurate, states as follows: “First: The Palestinian National Council delegates the legal committee to prepare a National Program; Second: The Program shall be presented to the Palestinian Council in a special session in accordance with the provisions of Article 33 of the Covenant for its adoption; Third: The Charter shall be amended by repealing all that contravenes the mutual letters of recognition between the PLO and the state of Israel.”

This decision fails to meet the obligations laid out in Article XXXI(9) of the Oslo II accords in two respects. First, the actual amendment of the Covenant has been left for a future date. As of now, the old Covenant, in its original form, remains the governing document of the PLO, and will continue in this status until the amendments are actually approved. In legal terms, there is a sharp difference between calling for something to change and actually implementing the changes.

Second, the decision does not specify which clauses will be amended. In a legal opinion released on April 8, 1996, Peace Watch stated that if the PNC chooses to annul specific articles in the Covenant, it would have to adopt “a detailed list of amendments to particular articles in the Covenant.” Israel’s position when the Oslo accords were signed, which was reiterated subsequently, is that the PNC must amend all the clauses which deny Israel’s right to exist or support the armed struggle against the Jewish state. According to various assessments, this understanding would require the removal of anywhere between 10 and 28 of the Covenant’s 33 clauses. Palestinian officials, on the other hand, have spoken of changing far fewer clauses, and the PNC decision leaves open the question of which articles will be amended.

Deputy PNC Chairman Denies Draft of Charter

Deputy PNC Chairman Salim Za’noun denied a report attributed to him which was distributed by the Palestine Ministry of Information that there is a proposed draft for a new Palestinian National Charter. The report appears on the Palestinian Authority’s official Internet Website.

The report is provided as an attachment to an article with the notation “For Further Information, please contact: Walid M. Awad, Palestine Ministry of Information 3.3.97” and introduces the proposed draft by writing that “Palestinian press sources were informed that Deputy PNC Chairman Salim Za’noun instructed a special committee of specialists to draft a new proposal for a Palestinian National Charter.”

Zuhair Sanduka, the Director of International Parliamentary Affairs Department of the Palestine National Council told IMRA from Amman this morning that he was able to bring this information to the attention of Deputy PNC Chairman Salim Za’noun before he left for Gaza and that “Nothing of this report is true. Nothing has been said and his Excellency Za’noun denies that there is any draft of a Charter. He denied such reports in the past and nothing has happened in the last seven months on this matter.”

The text of the item, as it appears on the Palestinian Authority’s official INTERNET WEBSITE, appears below in full.

Palestinian press sources were informed that Deputy PNC Chairman Salim Za’noun instructed a special committee of specialists to draft a new proposal for a Palestinian National Charter.

The following is a draft proposal for a suggested Charter:

  1. Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian people, it is an integral part of the Arab world, and the Palestinian people are an integral part of the Arab Nation.
  2. The form of government in Palestine is a parliamentary democracy. The commitment to the charter’s text and spirit is absolute, this will strengthen the unity of the nation, people, and government.
  3. Islam is the religion of the state, and Arabic is its official language.
  4. The Palestinians are the Arabs who were ordinarily resident in Palestine up to 1947, those who were forced to leave and those who remained. All those born to a Palestinian Arab father after that date inside Palestine or outside it are Palestinians.
  5. Palestinians, males and females are equal by law, they have the same rights and duties, any discrimination due to gender, race, religion or language is prohibited by law, as they are equal in their constitutional rights.
    They are committed to the supreme national interest, to the national conduct, in a manner capable of releasing and directing the collective material and spiritual power of the Palestinian people to enable it realize the goals of unity, progress and building of its future.
  6. Coexistence between the Palestinian people and the Israeli people is inevitable, dictating the need for each to be committed to the security of the other, to respect the other’s traditions, way of life, and circumstances.
  7. The Palestinian state will respect the State of Israel, the Palestinian people committed to live in peace and security with Israeli people.
  8. The Palestinian state is a state of law and order in its contempory definition, it is a state for all of its people regardless of the diversification and pluralism that might exist in it. It deduces its power from the practical implementation of the principles of justice and equal opportunity, from the Palestinian people’s participation in making their decisions in a manner capable of bringing about an environment of stability, trust in its future, the eagerness to protect state establishments and institutions, and to be proud of belonging to it.
  9. The need to realize Palestinian national security requires paying special attention to the Palestinian armed forces, to enhance its capability and base, to develop it and to mobilize the resources in its support, to enable it carry out its duties to protect the homeland, and to contribute to its construction and development for the purpose of achieving maximum unity between the Palestinian people in all its segments, the commitment to preserve the security of the people and to protect its achievements.
  10. Complete commitment to the rule of law under the supervision of a Palestinian Independent Judicial Authority.
  11. The principles of free speech will be duly respected. Freedom of opinion and thoughts away from any pressure or intellectual repression is guaranteed.
  12. The Palestinian economy will be based on the concepts of free market economy, it will encourage individual initiatives, protect individual private property. It asserts that the state is the owner of all natural resources and strategic projects, it has the right to administer these resources in accordance with the Palestinian national interest. The state will direct and regulate the economy and will allocate resources according to national priorities.
  13. The state will work towards creating work opportunities for all its citizens, formulate policies, and implement plans to encourage economic growth to enable the creation of real work opportunities, provide an educational system and link it to the contemporary needs of the Palestinian society, and to inject ‘value’ concepts in the workplace.
  14. Unity projects between the states of Jordan and Palestine are very much viable. Achieving a lasting unity requires respecting the will and choice of both Palestinian and Jordanians to bring about a formulae for unity to be modeled upon to encompass the whole Arab nation.
  15. To work towards the establishment of one form of Arab unity, taking into account objective, Pan Arab, and regional considerations, with due regard to the individual country’s characteristics.
  16. Commitment to Arab causes and to Pan Arab priorities, to call for clear individual Arab state’s positions, as clarity of position is indicative of each country’s stand vis a vis its Pan Arab intentions.
  17. This charter can only be altered, adjusted, or modified by a special session of the council called for this purpose and by a two-thirds majority.

For Further Information, please contact:
Walid M. Awad,
Palestine Ministry of Information.

Dr. Aaron Lerner is Director of IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)

Letter to the Editor

Dear David:

Is it possible that you missed Ma’ariv’s 7,000 word feature article on the first face to face meeting between Jonathan and an Israeli journalist in 12 years?

If not, what possible reason can there be for you to continue to defame Jonathan by continuing to run the Ronen Bergman article on your March 3 listings for your website? Enough is enough.

We’ve told you over and over again that the article is nothing but slander and lies that was orchestrated solely for the purpose of silencing Jonathan. As long as that piece continues to run, and you totally ignore Jonathan’s own testimony (Ma’ariv, March 28th, 1997) then one must wonder what your true motivation is, and what credibility the rest of your site has.

This will be our last communication on the matter. It is now between you and your conscience whether you continue to run that defamatory piece.

On behalf of Jonathan and myself,

Esther Pollard

Israel Resource Review awaits a point by point reponse to the allegations made by Bergman in HaAretz, and promises to publish it. To simply ask a media outlet to delete an article by a respected journalist, does not seem to be appropriate to news coverage in a free society.

David Bedein
Editor in Chief
Israel Resource Review