July 10, 2012
Daily Summary 07/04/2012
SWISS LAB IN JAZEERA INVESTIGATION: ARAFAT MAY HAVE BEEN POISONED WITH RADIOACTIVE SUBSTANCE
The Qatari-based Al Jazeera broadcast a documentary program last night posing the possibility that late President Yasser Arafat could have died from poisoning by a radioactive material, according to lab results from tests carried out in a Swiss lab. According to Francois Bouchout from the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, the tests were done on Arafat’s personal belongings including his clothes and toothbrush. Bouchot said the Jazeera investigation, which took nine months, found significant levels of polonium in the samples. The tests on these samples also showed that his body also had a high level of polonium at the time of his death. His widow, Suha Arafat, has asked that her husband’s body be exhumed for further examination of polonium poisoning. (Al Ayyam) (See Al Jazeera story below). On its part, Fatah’s central committee said the Palestinian leadership was fully prepared to cooperate in efforts to uncover the details of Arafat’s death. Hamas also demanded that a higher national committee should be formed to continue the investigation into the late president’s death. Hamas leader Ismail Radwan called for all the requirements for the investigation to be made available in order to uncover those involved, saying he held the Israeli occupation responsibility for Arafat’s death. (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=501169)
THE FINANCIAL CRISIS DELAYING SALARIES; QASSEES: DECREASING EXPENDITURES TO THE MINIUMUM
Finance minister Nabil Qassees described the PA’s financial crisis as the worst ever, announcing yesterday that salaries would be late this month. In a press conferences three days after salaries should have been paid, Qassees admitted that this may be the worst financial crisis the PA has ever experienced, adding that the situation today does not allow for salaries to be paid in full. He said they would be postponed until the largest number of salaries could be paid with the hope that the rest could be paid soon after, adding that this could take a week or longer. Qassees explained that this was not an administrative issue but a funding one, saying the PA was making calls to get some of the promised funds from donor countries. The minister said the PA began the year with a budget already with a huge deficit of around $970 million, saying the expectations are that this number will exceed the $1 billion mark, saying there had been a plan in place to cover this deficit at the start of the year but that it could not be implemented because of the donors’ failure to fulfill their financial promises to the PA. He said since the start of the year, the PA has received around $480 million in aid so far. Qassees also explained that the crisis means not only that salaries cannot be paid but also dues to suppliers, services and contractors are also on hold, adding that the ministry has a plan to bring down expenditures to the minimum level. He also stressed that the PA was no longer able to take out loans from banks in Palestine because they reached the maximum loan ceiling of $1.2 billion. (Al Ayyam)
THE PRESIDENT REAFFIRMS IMPORTANCE OF RULE OF LAW WHILE PERSERVING RIGHTS AND DIGNITY OF CITIZENS
During a meeting with the heads of the security forces, President Abbas stressed on the importance to implement the rule of law while continuing to safeguard the rights and dignity of the people and provide them with safety and security. The president also met with the Canadian support team for the Palestinian security services operations room, saying he appreciated the coordination and joint work between the security services and the Canadian team. (Al Quds)
DEMONSTRATION IN RAMALLAH AGAINST ‘OSLO’ REACHES MUQATA’A AND ENDS QUIETLY
Yesterday evening, the largest ever youth demonstration against the Oslo Accords took place in Ramallah. The youths demanded a halt to dealing with the accords which Israel mostly does not implement. The protesters, who were from all political parties and groups made their way to the presidential headquarters chanting: the people want Oslo [accords] to fall”. The security forces made no attempt to intercept the protesters at the muqataa unlike the two days of clashes last weekend. In related news, dozens of journalists held a sit-in in front of the interior ministry headquarters in Al Bireh protesting what they said was a gag policy against them; they handed the ministry a memo demanding that freedoms be honored and all those involved in the attack on their colleagues during the Mofaz protests be held accountable. Interior ministry Saeed Abu Ali promised he would put the recommendations into action including holding those responsible for the chaos accountable. He said an investigation committee had been set up to look into the events over the weekend, calling on everyone not to “jump to conclusions” until the committee had finished its job. The memo handed in by head of the journalists’ syndicate Abdel Nasser Al Najjar included among other points: the protection of journalists, a demand that they not be attacked and their right to obtain and access information in addition to holding parties who committed violations against journalists to be held accountable. (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
FATAH LEADERSHIP IN GAZA ANNOUNCES CONTINUATION OF WORK TOWARDS VOTER REGISTRATION; NATIONAL AND ISLAMIC FORCES REJECT HAMAS POSITION TO HALT CEC WORK IN GAZA
The Fatah higher leadership committee met in Gaza yesterday headed by Fatah leader Rabah Mhanna to mostly discuss the efforts to continue with voter registration in light of the sudden decision by Hamas to suspend the work of the CEC. The committee expressed its hope that the CEC would be allowed to continue its work soon, adding that it was looking for the best ways of ensuring that the largest possible number of voters be registered in voter records. (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=501128). Furthermore, national and Islamic forces met in Ramallah to discuss the latest developments, issuing a statement in which they said Hamas’ decision to suspend the CEC’s work in Gaza was a “major obstacle” to completing the reconciliation and ending the split. They said Hamas’ actions did not help to maintain a ‘healthy atmosphere’ needed to move forward with the reconciliation agreement and achieve unity (Al Quds)
ROMNEY TO VISIT ISRAEL SOON AND MEET WITH NETANYAHU AND FAYYAD
In a bid to win over the Jewish vote, US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced yesterday that he plans to visit Israel most likely at the end of the month. One of the candidate’s aids said Romney would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and would also probably meet with Israeli president Shimon Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Since the start of his campaign, Romney has criticized President Obama’s ‘unwise and weak’ policy towards the Middle East, saying he would take an opposite approach if he were elected as president. Romney also said that if he becomes president, Israel could be the first country he visits, stressing on the official visit to be to ‘Jerusalem’. (http://alhayat.com/Details/415773)
ISRAEL SOON TO BEGIN SYSTEMATIC REGISTRATION OF OWNERSHIP FOR SETTLERS OF CONFISCATED PALESTINIAN LAND ON WHICH WEST BANK SETTLEMENTS ARE BUILT
According to Israeli media sources, for the first time since the start of its occupation in 1967, Israel is to begin an organized registration of what it calls ‘ownership rights’ of settlers of confiscated Palestinian land in the West Bank, thus sidestepping the Taboo registrations and closing off any opportunity for Palestinian landowners to appeal the validity of the registration and transfer the land automatically to the settlers. This not only kills any chance for a two state solution, it confirms Israel’s intentions to annex this land and the settlements at the expense of the Palestinians. The proposal is to get approval by defense minister Ehud Barak within this month, with its proponents saying it is needed for Israel to continue having control over these areas. In related news, Harts exposed dangerous developments in the Micron settlement outpost case yesterday in which one Israeli official said the Palestinian owner of the land had sold his piece of land to settlers. However, it comes out that the landowner had died a year before the date of the sales claim. The settlers’ lawyer first said that the land was bought on March 20, 2012 from Youssef Al Nab out, who actually died in 2011. The settlers also said they bought land registered to the Sum rein family who had been living in the United States even though the landowner had died in 1961. After Israeli police looked into the case it turned out that the papers were forged. (Al Quds)
LOCAL ELECTIONS IN SEPTEMBER OR OCTOBER; GOVERNMENT TO SET DATE NEXT WEEK
Informed sources have told Al Ayyam that there is a political decision to hold local council elections most likely setting a date next September or October. A Cabinet statement issued yesterday said the government had been preparing for these elections from the first day it took office, stressing on the need to reactivate all circles of government circles, in particular local government commissions. (Al Ayyam)
HAMAS CONSIDERS LOCAL ELECTIONS IN WEST BANK ‘ILLEGITIMATE’
Hamas said it considered the PA’s move to hold local council elections in the West bank as a way of evading and disregarding the signed reconciliation agreement between them. In a statement to Quds Net, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zahra said this approach was a violation of all the signed agreements for implementing the reconciliation, stressing on the “PA’s lack of seriousness” in carrying this agreement out. He said any elections in the West Bank would be considered illegitimate because the government in Ramallah was illegitimate. (http://qudsnet.com/arabic/news.php?maa=View&id=222844)
EXPECTED MEETING BETWEEN PRESIDENT ABBAS AND CLINTON IN PARIS WITHIN DAYS
A reliable Palestinian source said yesterday that contact were underway to arrange a meeting between President Abbas and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Europe within the coming few days. The source told an Italian news agency that the meeting would most probably take place in Paris on July 7 during Clinton’s visit to France. The source added that the president would inform Clinton of Netanyahu’s refusal to release the 132 Palestinian prisoners arrested before Oslo, which shuts the door to future negotiations between the two parties, saying Abbas would also listen to what the US administration has to say about pushing the peace process forward (Al Ayyam)
After Egyptian pressure. Palestine to participate in UN arms conference
The UN conference on organizing arms trade in the world resumed its activities last night in New York after reaching a settlement over Palestinian participation. Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour confirmed that the Palestinians consider it to be their right to participate in the conference but that countries such as the United States and Israel reject any move that gives the Palestinians a more prominent status than their current observer status. In the end, there was an agreement that the Palestinians and the Vatican be allowed to participate in the conference as observers and not as participatory states even though one participating said the Vatican did object during the session nonetheless.
Egypt, on behalf of the Arab country group, obstructed the start of the conference on Monday with its demand to exclude the EU from the talks if the Palestinians were not allowed to participate. The argument was based on the fact that the Palestinians have the same observer status as the EU at the UN but do not enjoy the same rights. (http://www.pnn.ps/index.php/policy/18589-بعد-ضغوط-مصرية-فلسطين-تشارك-بمؤتمر-الأمم-المتحدة-للأسلحة)
Israeli occupation forces raid several areas and arrest nine citizens; settlers uproot olive trees in Tel
Around 80 Israeli soldiers raided the Liman area south of Bethlehem yesterday, imposing a siege on the area declaring it a closed military zone. The raid lasted over three hours according to local sources. Israeli forces also raided a home in Nazlet Zeid southwest of Jenin and set up military checkpoints at the entrances to Yabad also in the Jenin area. In related news, Jewish settlers from the Gilad settlement cut down 41 olive trees belonging to residents from the village of Tel west of Nablus while another group of settlers opened fire at a herd of camels in Taqou east of Bethlehem, killing one and injuring others. (Al Quds)
Israeli investigators obtain confession from minor through torture
Prisoner Affairs Ministry attorney Tareq Barghouth said during his deposition in the Ofer military court that 17-yer old Mohammed Bahar from Beit Ummar was tortured and forced to confess under duress. Barghouth said the boy, who was arrested on October 13, 2010 was charged with attacking a soldier and throwing rocks but that the court released him because of what they said was a hitch in the investigation process. Barghouth said an investigator named “Daoud” at the Etzion detention camp tortured the minor by beating, cursing and threatening him in an effort to force him to confess. After Bahar finally conceded, he was taken by a policeman to record his confession on tape. His lawyer said on the taping it became apparent that the boy had been tortured and threatened after which the tape was stopped and ‘Daoud’ was brought back in to hit Bahar. The fact that the policeman forgot to erase the evidence of torture on the tape became proof before the court. According to Barghouth, ‘Daoud’ is known among the prisoners at Etzion to use torture methods and insults against the prisoners and that 15 complaints had been filed against him by the detainees. All of the complaints had been disregarded. (http://maannews.net/arb/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=501201)
*Al Malik: Israel cannot register tourist sites in the West Bank (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Hamas: no elections before ‘sound conditions’ are provided (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Labor party to submit draft law to dissolve Knesset; Barak seeks to solve coalition crisis (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Fibril: General Command, Iran and Hezbollah will fight alongside the Syrian regime against any foreign assault (Al Hayat Al Jadida)
*Palestinians refute Israeli reports on progress in the two seas channel project (Al Ayyam)
*Dispute over Palestine’s participation hinders UN progress on arms sales (Al Ayyam)
*Assad’s helicopters shell neighborhoods in Homs and Adlib; differences dominate opposition conference in Cairo (Al Ayyam)
*Jenin: Occupation forces demolish home in Nasal Zed and close entrances to Abad (Al Ayyam)
*Netanyahu: I had nothing to do with cancelling meeting between Abbas and Mofaz (Al Quds)
*Dead Sea level drops by 11 centimeters (Al Quds)
*Manic Al Mari: continuation of split will lead to a second Nambe (Al Quds)
*Israeli forces raid a number of areas and arrest nine citizens; settlers uproot olive trees in Tal lands (Al Quds)
*France condemns Israeli project to build a military college in East Jerusalem (Al Quds)
*Israeli experts discuss annexation of Gaza to Egypt or reoccupying the Sinai (Al Quds)
*Carter: Egypt: democracy is inevitable.
|Front Page Photos |
Al-Quds: 1) Yasser Arafat; 2) Jimmy Carter; 3) Manic Al Mari
Al-Ayyam: Scene from the demonstration in Ramallah
Al-Hayat Al-Jadida: 1) Yasser Arafat; 2) citizens participate in demonstration in Ramallah; 3) two Hamas members on a motorcycle in front of the CEC headquarters in Gaza
|Voice of Palestine News |
Jerusalem: “al-Bustan” Neighborhood Committee will hold a press conference before this noon in Silwan on the most recent developments pertaining to the demolition orders that were handed to residents in the past days.
Yesterday, several Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem, including “al-Maqased” hospital and the Electricity Company of Jerusalem district, announced they are suffering from extremely strangulating financial crisis that could lead to their closure.
West Bank: “Fatah” Central Committee announced that the Palestinian leadership is ready to cooperate for the sake of exposing the circumstances of the death of late President Yasser Arafat.
|Voice of Palestine Interviews|
**PLO`s Erekat calls on the formation of an international inquiry commission into the circumstances of Arafat`s death**
Saeb Erekat: Member of the PLO Executive Committee.
Q: The Palestinian leadership expressed readiness to cooperate in exposing the circumstances revolving the death of late President Arafat. Will you be ready to cooperate with “al-Jazeera” TV on this regard?
I hoped this mission was carried out by the Palestinian investigation committees that were in charge with the issue as we are talking about our eternal leader and mentor. Several committees were formed and institutions were established carrying the name of “Yasser Arafat” and I hoped that eventually we will be those who probed (the case) mainly when knowing that all these things were available and accessible. Besides the respect we convey to “al-Jazeera” for the professional work it did, the shortcoming of our committees must be highlighted. I believe that the current top concern of each one of us, including president Abbas, is seeking to expose the circumstances of this issue.
I also maintain there are additional aspects to this case which necessitate taking into account details of the entire period during which Yasser Arafat was under siege. We do not suffer from amnesia, we do not suffer from amnesia… a serious research is necessary on all details of the period during which Yasser Arafat was under siege, including the anti-corruption committees, the reform committees and statements about him not being a partner anymore….there are many details that should be studied carefully by serious and highly credible investigation committee.
Were this issue to be treated seriously, I think we will eventually reach the point of forming an international inquiry committee compared to the one that was formed on the assassination of martyr Rafeeq al-Hariri in Lebanon. Yasser Arafat deserves that an international inquiry committee investigates all circumstances (of his death). I do not have any evidence on anything but deep down in my heart I know that President Arafat was unjustly killed.
Q: Does you intuition tell you that president Abbas was killed by poison?
I said in many occasions along the past eight years that no one has the right to reach a conclusion without having a relevant evidence. I do not have this evidence but deep down in my heart I knew that Yasser Arafat was unjustly killed; he was killed unjustly under siege. All information about this period was available. It was an absolutely political matter, getting rid of Yasser Arafat was an absolutely political matter.
Q: president Arafat`s widow Suha calls on exhuming his body to conduct additional tests. Is this possible?
I wished that forensic tests were conducted immediately (after his death). I believe that president Abbas and the Palestinian leadership will first take into consideration all religious aspects of this measure and afterwards will summon this Swiss team to take what it wants so that we could know the truth that will benefit each and every Palestinian and noble person.
Q: Will Palestinian commissions that were in charge of probing Arafat’s death be held accountable?
I do not want to focus now on secondary matters but I wish only to say: if this technology was already available…I am ignorant about scientific matters like DNA tests and polonium…if all these advanced scientific tools were available, why the (Palestinian) inquiry commissions did not use them? Why we did not go by ourselves to Switzerland? Regardless of all that, we should be thankful now to “al-Jazeera” and seriously follow up the matter towards the formation of an international inquiry commission.
Q: According to press reports, president Abbas will meet soon with Hilary Clinton in Paris. Can you confirm these reports?
Yes, president Mahmoud Abbas will meet with US Secretary of State Clinton upon her request on July 7 in Paris. The president will also hold a series of meetings with other leaders including the French president Hollande, the German foreign minister, the UK foreign minister, the Norwegian foreign minister, Mrs. Ashton and others. President Abbas is now working relentlessly on one key cause which is the Palestinian prisoners. We seek the release of Palestinian prisoners who have been in Israeli custody since before 1994. This is not a Palestinian precondition but an Israeli obligation. One more thousand prisoners should also be released according a previous agreement between president Abbas and former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert.
**PA minister of labor: we are expecting $25 million from Iraq but this will not cover the salaries $75 million bill**
Ahmad Majdalani: PA minister of Labor.
Q: The PA has been suffering from financial crisis since several months. What are the specific urgent developments that forced the government to delay the payment of salaries this month?
Minister of finance Dr. Nabil Qassis spoke yesterday very frankly about the unprecedented financial crisis the PA is experiencing. Your question could be right if one would inquire about how the government dealt with the financial crisis in previous months but has failed to meet its obligations this month. The reason is very simple; it was the possibility of taking loans from banks in previous months, in addition to receiving certain money transfers from donors. This month, bank loans are impossible after reaching the maximum level of debts, coupled with unavailable money transfers that were expected to reach the PA treasury and the shortage in internal revenues. Therefore, the total available money right now from internal revenues and the tax clearance from the Israeli side cannot cover even half of the salaries, let alone other financial obligations related to recurring expenditures of various ministries and intuitions, mainly private sector institutions.
Q: The cabinet discussed yesterday expected money transfers to the PA treasury. Would you give us more details about them?
The only money transfer we are expecting now is from one Arab state, namely Iraq. We are expecting $25 million that will be transferred to “al-Quds” Fund via the Arab League. Still, the problem will not be solved even after the arrival of this sum of money as we need over $75 million to pay the majority part of the salaries.
I wish to clearly say that the siege we are facing is not economic; it is absolutely political. It is not an issue of one donor or another waking up one morning and deciding not to fulfill its obligations towards the Palestinian people. Obviously, the same scenario we had to encounter during the 1990s to push us to participate in Madrid Conference is being now repeated to compel us engage in negotiations without any precondition.
**PA minister of local governance: next week, the PA cabinet will set date to the local elections**
Khaled al-Qawasmeh: Minister of local governance.
Q: Is there a political decision to set a date for the elections by next week?
Based on the mandate it was given on May 16, the government was requested by president Abbas to pursue the necessary measures to hold local elections as soon as possible. This was followed with the signing of (reconciliation) agreement in Cairo, and thus the government preferred giving the Central Election Committee a chance to conduct the updating of the voter registration in the Gaza strip to ensure holding the elections in the West Bank and the Gaza strip concurrently. Now that “Hamas” has suspended the voter registration process, the government decided to swiftly resume the necessary measures to hold the local elections. It also condemned the decision of “Hamas” to ban the completion of the work of the CEC. The government views elections as a political obligation that is urgent to strengthening the bond between local residents and local councils.
For this purpose, the cabinet requested the minister of local governance to suggest in its next meeting a date for the local elections.
Q: According to press reports, the set date of the local elections will be next October or November. Can you confirm that?
I do not want to preempt things. Let us give the government a chance to set the most appropriate date for the elections which I believe will be determined in the next meeting.
Q: would this decision give pretexts to certain parties to farther deepen the division?
The government has given all possible chances to hold elections in the West Bank and the Gaza strip concurrently. Regretfully, “Hamas” movement has always sabotaged the preparations for the local elections. This is an unacceptable situation. Were “Hamas truly interested in reconciliation, it should allow the CEC to work in the Gaza strip so that elections could be held concurrently in the Gaza strip and the West Bank.
Moreover, the local election should not necessary depends on reconciliation. It was delayed for several times to give the reconciliation a chance but we cannot wait any longer.
Q: Will the set elections date by the government be applicable to the West Bank and Jerusalem?
It will be applicable to the entire Palestinian territories…
Q: Including the Gaza strip?
**Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem warn of closure due to strangulating financial crisis; press conference today in Silwan on Israel`s plan to demolish al-Bustan neighborhood next September**
Ahmad Rweidi: An Advisor in the Palestinian presidency office on Jerusalem affairs.
Q: What issues are you going to highlight during the press conference due today in Silwan?
Residents of Silwan received last week new demolition orders. Their attorney Ziad Qe`war tried to check the nature of these orders considering the decision which was already taken to demolish the homes. He found out there is an Israeli plan and intention to demolish the entire (al-Bustan) neighborhood by next September, more specifically after the Ramadan month. Therefore, “al-Bustan” Committee will seek today to inform the locals and the international community about the recent developments at the legal front and the grave consequences of the demolition of the this neighborhood.
Q: Our reporter in Jerusalem said that several Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem are facing the threat of closure due very strangulating financial crisis. Is there any support to these institutions?
This issue should not be viewed as one general case as there are some institutions which have been suffering from few administrative and financial problems while other institutions are experiencing real crisis for several years like in the case of “al-Maqased” hospital. The Palestinian presidential office held ten days ago a meeting in the presence of the presidential office chief Hussein al-Araj, the minister of health Hani A`bdein and minister of Jerusalem affairs Abbas Husseini. We discussed with the board of “al-Maqased” the financial crisis and the necessary PA involvement mechanism, specifically those pertinent to the due payments of the ministry of finance to cover the costs of referrals. The participants agreed on one formula according to which a certain sum of money will be transferred in the beginning of each month to the hospital to ensure its persistent presence in Jerusalem. I should indicate that this money is not a kind of grant from the ministry of finance to the hospital but it will actually cover the costs of referrals of patients from the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
As this assistant to the Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem continue to be limited and insufficient to maintain the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites, we renew our appeal to the Arabs and Muslims to bear their responsibility towards the city.
The Daily Star Editorial
Since the so-called Arab Spring began a year and a half ago, there has been one cause conspicuous by its absence: that of Palestine.
This is a subject that was described as the central issue of Arab nationalism and was the inspiration given for revolutions and military movements that have taken place since the great catastrophe of 1948.
Leaders in the Arab world have fed their population on rhetoric about Palestine and the restoration of the Palestinian rights, to such an extent that those countries’ failures economically and socially were blamed on their preparation for the great battle of liberation.
These archaic dictatorships stayed in power long beyond their welcome, armed with emergency powers and economic policies that, rather than delivering the wealth they promised, instead produced only poverty.
Yet the Arab people persevered in the belief that all that was done was done in the name of Palestine.
Year after year, incident after incident this has proven a misguided belief.
Now we have come to the Arab Spring, which has heralded true change on a scale nobody could have predicted. Yet, amid all this change, the question of Palestine has not been heard.
The good news is that the Palestinians now have the opportunity to learn a lesson and enact their own change. This may be an opportunity for the Palestinians to begin to depend on themselves, and cease being pawns for others who have for too long used them for their own ulterior motives and interests. The change that has swept the nation could yet reach Palestine, provided Palestinians are able to direct the movement in the right direction.
For too long the leadership in Palestine has been fragmented in its confrontations with Israel, still divided between Gaza and its ambitions and the West Bank and its internecine politics. Meanwhile Israel takes advantage of this uncertainty, making strategic gains as the Palestinians look the other way, distracted by their leadership vacuum.
Israel is a master of seizing opportunities. The tragedy is that it is too often the Palestinians who hand them these opportunities as they turn their focus on the trivialities of their internal politics. The challenges faced by Palestinians now, as ever, require as much harmony and unity as possible, so that they may face Israel with their combined strength. Nothing should take precedence over this.
Palestine is at a crossroads. The revolutions taking place around the world are an opportunity for Palestinians also to realize they do not have to suffer at the hands of leaders who are unable or unwilling to work for their best interests.
Palestinians must now become an organized force for change, so that they may mount a real challenge to Israel and achieve the ends that so many believe in. Otherwise it will be no surprise if the Arab world wakes up with no cause to fight for or any territory left to die for.
Hamas and Jordan: Winds of change
There is a struggle ahead in Egypt and the battle over political turfs is far from settled
By Ramzy Baroud* (http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/hamas-and-jordan-winds-of-change-1.1044148)
The official Jordanian media has described a recent meeting between King Abdullah of Jordan and exiled Hamas leader, Khalid Mesha’al, as if it were a routine exchange of ideas. But neither Petra, Jordan’s news agency, nor Hamas officials could hide the fact that the meeting had everything to do with the regional struggle in Syria.
The meeting in Jordan was the second since January. The January meeting happened nearly 13 years after Mesha’al and other Hamas leaders were expelled from the country for alleged “illicit and harmful” activities. The coded language had then signalled that the king was reaching the height of his dominance. Hamas — being a cause of friction with the US and Israel and also the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah — did not matter much to him then. But things have noticeably changed since then.
The transformation is so significant that it is no longer open for debate. The Associated Press, on June 28, reported on the meeting: “Jordan’s King has met with top Hamas leaders as part of an about-face effort to engage with Islamists, who have been gaining ground all over the Mideast.”
The Jordanian people also seem fed up with the rigid political system and long-standing corruption in their country. The sensitivities that often governed popular politics in Jordan — due to the fact that a large portion of Jordanians are of Palestinian descent — were hardly relevant. Cries for change this time arose from the heart of Jordanian society and Islamic parties were the most visible players in this social mobilisation.
Of course, Jordan’s opposition parties — Islamic, liberal and others — have been empowered by dramatic recent shifts of fortune for Egypt’s opposition. For Egypt, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, cemented with the inauguration of President Mohammad Mursi, is a significant outcome of the January 2011 revolution. Palestinians, on the other hand, had watched the struggle in trepidation. Some hoped that the Brotherhood would manage to snatch power from the army generals, while others hoped that the old regime of Hosni Mubarak would find an opening back to the throne.
Hamas mostly feared Field Marshal Mohammad Hussain Tantawi and his supreme military council. They saw him as a guardian of Mubarak’s policy aimed at isolating Gaza, thus limiting Hamas’ political outreach. But when Mursi urged for a free, independent and strong Egypt, hopes in Gaza were rekindled. The strongest and most unconditional statements of support for Egypt’s new president came from Gaza and Hamas’ Gaza Prime Minister, Esmail Haniyeh, was himself a leader of rallies supporting Mursi throughout his election bid and final struggle against Ahmad Shafiq.
“Hamas and the Palestinian people express their utmost happiness over the [election] results,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “We see the result as a victory for the Egyptian revolution and an expression of the Egyptian people’s will.”
The Islamic Jihad too welcomed Mursi’s presidency, although less animatedly. While some Ramallah-based Palestinian officials hailed Egypt’s democracy, the official response was less welcoming. “In Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority and Fatah also congratulated Mursi on his election, saying they respect the choice of the Egyptian people,” reported Israel’s Jerusalem Post.
Considering the historical ties between Hamas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas is hoping that Mursi’s advent to power will pose a major challenge to Israel’s economic blockade and political siege, which the movement has struggled with since its election victory in 2006.
Yet, the rise of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood does not simply signal an immediate ushering in of Hamas’ rise too. “Mursi has won elections, but he still has major internal challenges to deal with as he will be using the old tools,” a Palestinian analyst told the Ma’an news agency.
There is a struggle ahead in Egypt and the battle over political turfs is far from settled. The delay in Egypt is proving costly for the Hamas movement in Syria, as Hamas made the difficult choice of parting with the regime of Bashar Al Assad, following the bloodletting there. The decision came at a price. However, breaking up with a major benefactor like Syria did press Hamas to find an urgent alternative. But where to go when the West Bank is under occupation and politically dominated by Fatah, when Gaza is under siege and when Egypt is still in turmoil?
The sweetest of options, as an old Arab verse goes, is the most bitter.
Quickly, compromises had to be made and unity agreements with Fatah were accepted. Hamas’ rivals were not more fortunate. With the ousting of Mubarak, Fatah lost a major patron in the region. King Abdullah, another ally, was also growing wary of major political manoeuvres that did not take his country’s and the region’s changing political landscape into account.
The plot thickened with the killing of Kamal Ghanaja, a Hamas mid-level leader in Syria last month. It was difficult to identify the murderers. Was Israel taking advantage of the Syrian chaos? Were affiliates of the Syrian regime punishing Hamas? Or were anti-Syrian forces trying to pull Palestinians into another regional conflict?
Whatever the answer, it has become clear that Hamas has no future in Syria now.
“The King held a lunch banquet in honour of Hamas politburo chief and the accompanying delegation, that was attended by His Royal Highness Prince Ali Bin Al Hussain, Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh,” reported Petra of Mesha’al visit. It was an entirely different atmosphere to that of 1999, when Mesha’al and other Hamas leaders were abruptly forced out of the Kingdom and forced to seek foothold in some other Arab capital. It was only Damascus that agreed to give them a political platform — and the rest is history.
*Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.
The Assassination of Arafat with poison
“al-Quds al-Arabi” Editorial
Eight years after the martyrdom of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in mysterious circumstances following a strangulating Israeli siege, there are many theories and speculations on how he died and the involved party in this matter.
Qatar-based TV channel “al-Jazeera” broadcasted yesterday a documentary film that asserted that president Arafat died after he was poisoned with a radioactive substance based on the results of tests a Swiss laboratory conducted after nine months of investigations that focused on biological samples taken from his personal belongings that the military hospital “Percy” in France handed over to his widow Mrs. Suha Arafat.
Although this discovery is important by itself, the findings are still missing a clear and frank identification of the party that perpetrated the poisoning and how the crime was implemented and which Palestinian parties were involved. The PA did not conduct any serious investigation to know the details of this terror crime and it refrained accusing Israel officially of perpetrating it. The PA was content with avoiding this case, perhaps out of fear of angering the Israeli authorities and their security apparatuses that have been in charge of security coordination with their PA counterparts.
The only statement from the PA was articulated by Dr. Nabil Shaath, member of “Fatah” Central Committee, eight years ago saying that the French authorities tested over 300 kinds of familiar poisons but none was proved to be used in the assassination of late president Arafat.
Dr. Mouhsen Arafat, the brother of the late leader, unveiled to this newspaper in a phone conversation from his workplace in Abu Dhabi that he does not rule out the execution of the assassination with a radioactive material, saying it was possibly carried out through handshake or by remote radioactive device.
President Arafat used to daily host in his office, where he stayed under siege, many Arab and foreign delegations that sought to express solidarity with him, and hence the hands of one of those hosts was likely stained with the poison. Still, Arafat should have had received swift medical treatment with antitoxin injection like in an earlier case in which “Hamas” politburo chief Khaled Meshaal was injected with poison by an Israeli “Mossad” cell and his live was at stake until late Jordanian king Hussein interfered by threatening to cancel “Wadi Araba” peace treaty unless the Israelis provide the antitoxin and that exactly what happened.
President Arafat died as a martyr because he refused to concede the occupied Jerusalem and the right to return and because he was behind the outbreak of the second Intifada that shook Israel and terrified its settlers. Were he a coward man who escapes confrontations, he would probably be still alive enjoying warm welcome in western capitals.
Revealing all details concerning the assassination of President Arafat remains a national Palestinian duty and integral to the Palestinian struggle. The truth will pay tribute to the history of this man who sacrificed his life for his cause, people and nation. The PA, and the companions of martyrs Arafat in specific, are holding the lion`s share of responsibility on this concern if they wish to maintain loyalty to this man by virtue of who they currently assume their posts. Truth must appear in loyalty to this martyr, to his sacrifices and honorable struggle.
A Post ‘Arab Spring’ Palestine
By: Ramzy Baroud* (http://www.amin.org/articles.php?t=ENews&id=3913)
Will the Arab Spring serve the cause of Palestine?” is a question that has been repeatedly asked, in various ways, over the last year and a half. Many media discussions have been formulated around this very inquiry, although the answer is far from a simple “yes” or “no.”
Why should the question be asked in the first place? Hasn’t the Arab link to the Palestinian struggle been consistently strong, regardless of the prevalent form of government in any single Arab country? Rhetorically, at least, the Arab bond to Palestine remained incessantly strong at every significant historical turn.
True, disparity between rhetoric and reality are as old as the Arab-Israeli conflict. But the relatively small divide between words and actions widened enormously following the Arab defeat in the 1967 war, which cemented US-Israeli ties like never before.
The war brought an end to the dilemma of independent Palestinian action. It shifted the focus to the West Bank and Gaza, and allowed the still dominant Fatah party to fortify its position in light of Arab defeat and subsequent division.
The division was highlighted most starkly in the August 1967 Khartoum summit in Sudan, where Arab leaders clashed over priorities and definitions. Should Israel’s territorial gains redefine the status quo? Should Arabs focus on returning to a pre-1948 or pre-1967 situation?
The PLO insisted that the 1967 defeat should not compromise the integrity of the struggle. It also stressed that Palestine – all of Palestine – was still the pressing issue. Then-Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser’s messages seemed, for once, befuddled, although he continued to advocate conventional military confrontation with Israel. Syria, on the other hand, didn’t attend the summit.
International response to the war was not promising either. The United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 242 on Nov. 22, 1967, reflecting the US’ wish to capitalize on the new status quo (Israeli withdrawal “from occupied territories” in exchange for normalization with Israel). The new language of the immediate post-1967 period alarmed Palestinians, who realized that any future political settlement was likely to ignore the situation that had existed prior to the war, and would only attempt to remedy current grievances. Then, the boundaries of the conflict permanently changed. For some, Palestine and its conflict became more of a burden than a shared responsibility. Official Arab solidarity with Palestinians become a form of everyday politics – essential to claim relevance to greater Arab causes, but extraneous in terms of substance and application.
Present-day Palestinian leaderships – since there are several bodies that claim to represent Palestinians “everywhere” – also learned how to stage-manage official Arab manipulation of Palestine. They often did so out of desperation, as they urgently needed a physical base and sources of financial support.
Over time, it became clear that official Arab solidarity with Palestine was mostly – although not entirely – a farce. The solidarity they speak of is either entirely nonexistent, or grossly misrepresented. Palestinian communities in various Arab countries are treated with suspicion at best. Those who never tired of publicly calling for freedom for Jerusalem failed to treat Palestinian refugees with respect. They refused entry to stateless Palestinians and denied Palestinians work and permanent residence. Many Palestinians surely concluded that one must learn to differentiate between Arab peoples and Arab governments. Since the latter mostly dominate the former without legitimate mandate, it was foolish to expect official Arab institutions to lead any substantive action to end the subjugation of Palestinians.
That is, until several Arab nations revolted. The more genuine and inclusive the revolt, the more representative the outcome has been. A sudden surge in popular solidarity with Palestine in Tunisia replaced bashful but real attempts by the former Tunisian regime to normalize relations with Israel.
Per Israeli calculations, Arab peoples are dismissible. They are a non-entity. But now Israel is forced to revisit that old calculation. Its fears that Egypt’s new president, Muhammad Mursi will shun, or at least revisit the Camp David peace treaty – signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979, with the ultimate aim of sidelining Egypt from a conflict that remains essentially “Arab” – are well-founded. But Mursi is not the one that is truly feared, and nor is his Muslim Brotherhood. The trepidation stems from the fact that a truly democratic Egypt is unlikely to work in tandem with US-Israel to further pressure and isolate Palestinians – or sideline Egypt from its Arab context. Israel and its allies fear genuine Egyptian democracy.
With the notable shifts that may redefine Palestine’s position within Arab priorities, one cannot ignore the fact that several Arab countries continue to normalize with Israel, oblivious to any seasonable political changes in the region. They do so as if there are hidden hands that wish to balance the possible losses in Tunisia and Egypt, with gains elsewhere. Palestinians in Gaza, as elsewhere, still speak of Arab solidarity with passion, but also with obvious bitterness. They still pray for their brethren to come to the rescue. The older generation speaks of the bravery and sacrifices of many Arabs who fought alongside Palestinians. But the generational expectations have also been altered. Palestinians simply want real solidarity. They want to see Palestinian communities treated with respect and a complete end to Arab normalization with Israel.
* Ramzy Baroud is an author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London). - firstname.lastname@example.org
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