- While the Camp David talks were still in progress it was evident from the PA media that the talks were headed for failure. Had Arafat intended to move toward Barak and from his traditional positions, he would have had to prepare his public opinion via the media under his control.
Instead he permitted the Palestinian leadership to make pronouncements that cornered him into the same inflexible positions, which were published in Palestinian Authority’s (P.A.) official newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. Arafat even allowed his newspaper to print that it would be considered “treason” were he to compromise in general, and on Jerusalem and the refugee issue in particular, and that the Palestinians would not view themselves bound by any such agreements. Pointing to these “pressures” at home Arafat went to Clinton and said he couldn’t compromise. Barak would have to give in on everything or there would be no agreement.
The following are some examples of the way the media created this “pressure”:
A headline on a newspaper article that appeared during the height of the negotiations read:
“Abu Al-Naja [Deputy Speaker of the of the Palestinian Legislative Council]: ‘Any agreement that detracts from our legitimate rights is void and not binding. The article went on: “… leaders and activists of the people’s party, of [national] institutions, and representatives of the summer camps’ political cadre demonstrated opposite the Legislative Council in Ramallah [regarding].. the right of return… and the rest of the other rights that to forgo them or even some of them is treason against the [Palestinian] people, that will bring confrontation…” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida 20 July 2000].
And in the same newspaper:
“Marwan Al-Barghouti, a member of the [Palestinian] Legislative council, said that the Palestinian ‘street’ will consider any Palestinian-Israeli agreement that does not include an adherence to the principles of the 1967 borders, Jerusalem, and the refugees as an illegitimate agreement and not binding…” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida 20 July 2000].
And if this is not enough, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority was warned that an Arafat retreat from the maximalist positions would bring about a new military and political structure:
“Legislative Council member Husam Hadar said that the refugees [both] inside and outside of the Palestinian territories would be forced to set up a new political-military organization, that will cut across the existing organizations, in the event that the leadership will offer concessions at this stage regarding the right to return. Hadar warned the Palestinian leadership against signing any peace agreement with the Israeli side that does not include a general [solution] to the problem of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes…” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida 20 July 2000].
Again, all this appeared in Arafat’s official newspaper.
Along with the calls not to compromise, threats of violence continued at an unprecedented pace, creating an eve of war atmosphere. A conspicuous example is the Fatah announcement of a general draft for boys under the age of 16:
“The Fatah movement announced a general call-up in its ranks as a preparation for the next stage. The movement announced the opening of registration for boys until the age of 16, for weapons training… The individual responsible for the movement made it clear that the movement will offer military weapons training to all boys under the age of 16, and noted that there is a strong response on the part of the boys…” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida 20 July 2000].
“Other calls to violence threatened the use of “all available means – from the kitchen knife to the Kalachnikov rifle” [Head of Regional Defense] and the ultimate purification of the land from the defilement of the settlers”. [Governor of Khan Yunis, Sakhr Basiso, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida 20 July 2000].
Palestinian TV contributed to the eve of war atmosphere, by its repeated broadcast of military parades, video clips of violence against Israeli soldiers. One example: the TV program entitled “Fathers and Sons”, broadcast a video clip containing an assortment of old file film of Israeli tanks, Israeli soldiers firing on rioters, violent confrontations and arrests, and images of wounded and killed Palestinians. In the voice-over heard during the video clip broadcast, the announcer read the following in a dramatic voice:
“Oh Satan’s agents (directed at Israeli soldiers on-screen), Oh enemies of mankind. I am Man the son of Man, I have been robbed, I have been pursued, I am frightened, every day I die… and in my death, is life; I am the flame of life…” [21 July 2000].
As part of their ongoing attempt to formulate a distinct cultural identity the PA tries to create a link between themselves and Jesus. This week a TV program “Good Morning Jerusalem” broadcast an interview with a Palestinian artist displaying his new paintings, among them is a painting of Jesus standing between two Israeli soldiers, with the following explanation:
“… Our struggle today against the Other [Israel-ed.] is an eternal struggle; one can say that it began 2000 years ago and it continues until today. I portray this with the figure of Jesus who came to the world with the gospel of justice, and the other side did what they did to him, and the Palestinian demands the same justice, and they [Israel] deal with us the same way. In this painting I exemplify this idea: The Israeli soldier, as we see him, is wearing an army uniform, while Jesus has nothing other than the Truth. When they searched Jesus upon his entry into Jerusalem, they found a stone, a slice of bread, fish, and he was chained. This is the Palestinian from the beginning of the struggle until it’s end…” [July 23 2000].
In general, the official position of the P.A. is to portray Jesus himself as a “Palestinian” and their “historians” go to great lengths to create this myth. Note how Jesus is treated in this recent article about the Israeli city Nazareth. [It is also worth noting that the PA portrays all Israeli cities as Palestinian cities under occupation.]
Under the headline: “Nazareth: The City where the Jews Murdered the First Palestinian of Her Sons”, the article continued: “[Nazareth] became famous as the place where the Lord Messiah grew up… The Jews tried to attack the city many times in order to disperse the people of Nazareth and uproot them, just as they obliterated many Arab villages, and established settlements in their place. However Nazareth’s Palestinians still preserve their Palestinian customs and traditions… The deeply rooted Palestinian language still flows off of the tongues of the Nazarenes, to the extent that one senses when one speaks to them, that time and the forces of the Zionist occupation did not succeed in altering the face of Palestinian Nazareth, and that she did not forget and will not forget her first son [Jesus] that the Jews betrayed and handed him over to the Roman emperor, and persisted until he was taken out to be killed… and their is no escaping that one day the Redeemer will come to Nazareth in order to bring back joy [to the city].” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida 24 January 2000].
Blood libels like that Suha Arafat who said that Israel gassed Palestinians, are heard regularly from P.A. officials. One of the repeated claims is that Israel is spreading drugs in the Palestinian territories, and that Israel’s goal is to undermine and destroy the Palestinian youth via drug addiction.
Palestinian TV expressed it as follows in the local news broadcast this week:
“[Social Affairs] Minister Intisar Al-Wazir stated that her office provides all possible assistance to those fighting drugs, but the Israeli authorities are diligent about sending them into Palestinian society.”
A final word on Jerusalem. While the Camp David summit failed, partially because of PA opposition to Israeli rule in Jerusalem, a person only following the Palestinian media would conclude that the Palestinian Authority already rules over Jerusalem. Political and national-social events occur daily. An example from this week: “The Jerusalem club will host the P.A. table tennis championship this morning in the Palestinian capital.” [Palestinian TV 21 July 2000]. They relate to Jerusalem as if it were the capital city of “Palestine”, already under Palestinian rule.