Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Israel and the Palestinians

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Israel and the Palestinians : 

International Herald Tribune

Friday, December 27, 2002

Mauric Ostroff


Re "Settlements are preventing a two-state solution" (Views, Dec. 21) by Saeb Erakat:


Saeb Erekat's claim that "settlements are preventing a two-state solution" does not correctly represent the facts. It is the continuing sponsorship by the Palestinian Authority of incitement in the media, mosques and schools to commit acts of terror that prevents any solution at all.


And speaking of a two-state solution, the question must be asked whether Erekat is merely paying lip service to this solution. After all it was none other than the late Faisal Husseini, a "moderate," who declared unequivocally in Al Arabi (Egypt) on June 24, 2001, that "the Palestinian strategic goal is a state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea."


In the light of Husseini's statement, it would appear that Yasser Arafat refused the two-state solution offered by President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak because he believed that, by resorting to violence, he could achieve a one-state solution. How else to explain the dramatic rise in terror attacks during 1993 and 1994 while peace talks were in progress?


Maurice Ostroff, Herzliya, Israel

Regarding "Settlements are preventing a two-state solution" (Views, Dec. 21) by Saeb Erakat:


Special Dispatch Series - No. 1177
May 31, 2006 No.1177
Saudi Researcher: Hamas Doesn't Truly Believe in Democracy; Nazis in Germany and Fascists in Italy Also Won at the Ballot Box

In an article in the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, 'Adel Bin Zayd Al-Tarifi, a Saudi researcher at the European Research Institute, University of Birmingham, U.K. presents a scathing critique of the Hamas leadership and its willingness to forgo international aid and live off "wild thyme and olives."

In his article, Al-Tarifi attacks Hamas leaders who accuse other Palestinians of collaboration with Israel while at the same time they themselves were collaborating with the security services of neighboring countries. He also claims that Hamas doesn't truly believe in democracy, since one of the components of democracy is obtaining legitimization from the international community. The fair elections in the Palestinian Authority were, Al-Tarifi states, just one component of democracy - because "the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy also won at the ballot box."

The following are excerpts from the article: [1]

Hamas Has No Right to Suppress the People's Hopes for Reform and Forgo Aid for the Sake of National Pride

"Isma'il Haniya, the prime minister from the Hamas movement, said in a Friday sermon in response to the cutting of international aid: 'We will eat wild thyme, salt, olive oil, and olives, but we will never bow our heads.' Of course the Islamists and the [pan-Arab] nationalists applaud this sort of statement, despite the fact that they have heard it from every Arab ruler since the advent of independence.

"Haniya and his movement - who were elected not on the basis of their platform, but rather for lack of alternative in the occupied territories - decided to forget his government's basic platform and changed the government's policy in a Friday sermon. Is there any prime minister in the democratic countries who permits himself to be so reckless with his voters' dreams?

"The amount of American and European aid to the Palestinian Authority is approximately $900 million per year, and over 140,000 government employees - a third of them from the security forces - live off of monthly salaries that are estimated at 160 million dollars. The question that one should ask Hamas is: Who gave [you] the right to give up these funds, which are needed for subsistence and day-to-day life, in order to have the people eat wild thyme and olives?

"The PA's 2005 budget deficit reached $800 million. The donor [states] funded $340 million of this sum as direct aid to the budget. Where has Hamas been since its establishment, and why hasn't it spent [funds] on the Palestinian people from its own pockets? Who said that America and the E.U. have the responsibility of spending on the Palestinians?...

"Governments whose legitimacy is based on stealing the country's future in order to satisfy some imaginary national or religious pride can always base themselves on strangling [the people's] desire for modernization and reform and their hopes for the establishment of a state and the advent of a permanent peace.

"If Hamas doubts America and the international community, and everyone in the region, then why should it expect them to pay even a single one of its employees' salaries?... If the Hamas leaders consider this collaboration, then why did they try to contact the Americans and to use Arab states as third parties for establishing channels of communication with America and the E.U.?"

Khaled Mash'al Describes the U.S. and Europe as Enemies of Palestine While Signing Over the People's Future to Syria and Iran

" Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash'al's statements last week in Syria reflect the extent of the movement's precipitous decline. Mash'al tied the movement to both Syria and Iran, and these are not innocent connections. Mash'al, who accuses others of collaboration with the Israelis, ties the Palestinian interest to other countries' intelligence communities. The affair of the discovery of the weapons in Jordan is the best example of this. Some of Hamas' sympathizers in the region doubted the veracity of the 'weapons' story, but why shouldn't we accept the opinion of the Jordanian [Muslim] Brotherhood, who share Hamas's affiliation with the umbrella group of the Egyptian [Muslim] Brotherhood?

"The Jordanian [Muslim] Brotherhood sent a secret letter of protest to the Supreme Leader in Egypt, and this is not the [first] time that the Jordanian Brotherhood has complained about Hamas' underground activities... Instead of studying alternatives for the reform of his revolutionary movement, Mash'al attacks America and the E.U. and describes them as the enemies of Palestine, while signing over the Palestinian government and its people's future to the hands of the intelligence agencies of neighboring states."

Khaled Mash'al Incites Against Democracy and Palestinian Institutions

"Mash'al's speech, which brought about confrontations between Fatah and Hamas militias, is an important speech for any student of the role of Islamic movements in contemporary politics. Khaled Mash'al, whom some tried for so long to describe as a moderate and as someone who believes in peaceful coexistence and the democratic model, revealed, in his statements, that he wears the turban of a revolutionary [cleric].

"Beyond the fact that this was a stock speech crammed with worn phrases like 'henchmen,' 'collaborators,' and 'thieves,' it was a speech of incitement against democracy and against the [Palestinian] institutions. What is the meaning of Khaled Mash'al's claim that there is a military revolt against [the government]...? Is it not political irresponsibility and childishness for a leader of the ruling political party to send negative messages that undermine the country's stability as though he were in the opposition?

"In truth, it is Hamas that is leading a revolt against the institutions of the Palestinian Authority, which were established by the Oslo Accords."

Hamas' Pragmatism is Warped

"The Hamas government suffers today from a situation that it itself created when it was in the opposition... Isma'il Haniya's call to take the weapons off the streets and his call to gather all the armed militias under one single security force is a good thing - but why did Hamas oppose a similar call by Abu Mazen's government in 2004? Didn't Hamas oppose that call and see it as a Zionist plot to disarm the resistance? This is a revolution in Hamas' position, and it should suffice for us to recall Khaled Mash'al's famous pronouncement when he rejected those propositions and described them as handing weapons over to the enemy...

"Hamas gave up on sharing government with others, claiming that it was forced to establish a government by itself since Fatah refused to take part. But who said that in the Palestinian arena there is only room for these two organizations, when it is actually chock full of organizations, as well as independents...

"It's no secret that Hamas conducted indirect negotiations with the Americans and direct negotiations with the Europeans. Why didn't Hamas bring results, and why did it start reviling the U.S. and Europe after that? If you are sure of your positions, then why act according to a warped pragmatism?... The Americans and Europeans have divulged that even before the elections they sent a message to Hamas [demanding] that it change its positions and policy, just like what occurred with the PLO..."

Hamas' Victory is Not a Victory for Democracy

"Is Hamas a model of democracy? One of the Arabs' capital political mistakes of the last few months is [the way in which] they interpreted Hamas' victory, which they described as the victory of democracy or the triumph of democracy in the occupied territories. In the past, Hamas did not believe in democracy, and today it doesn't believe in it either. It was only in the past two years that they agreed to participate in elections. Before that, they opposed the apparatus of the PA and the Oslo Accords that brought it about, even to the point of not running in elections.

"They opposed joining the PLO, which was responsible for these agreements, and just in the past year they cut a deal with Abu Mazen in order to take part in the elections...

"No definition of democracy of which I am aware includes [room for] an armed party that touts violence as a [legitimate] political means and disregards the country's constitution, which is then allowed to enter into the elections. This contradicts the most basic principles of democracy. This could only happen in the Arab world.

"The Hamas movement has never, in all its history, held internal elections, and its constitution does not include goals dealing with the establishment of a democratic state in the occupied territories. There are none of even the most basic articles of democracy; there is just chaos. There is no rule of law, or security. Hamas is responsible for this, and its members enjoy immunity from all harm.

"As for the law and its institutions, they [Hamas] don't believe in them... Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud Al-Zahhar attacked the Palestinian judicial system during the last municipal elections, and saw it as lacking in integrity. Here in Hamas country, there is no rule of law and no state with institutions - just a jungle of armed factions that conduct their activities through kidnappings, murder, and taking over government offices..."

It is Hamas Policy That Has Emptied Palestine's Coffers

"The Hamas government thinks it can rule a country when the coffers are empty. Mash'al pronounced: 'Shame on those who stole from the state treasury and left it empty.' We should ask Mash'al: What about your policy, that stopped the flow of money to this treasury and left it empty?...

"As for the story of the fair elections, this is the only positive thing for which the Americans can be thanked - because they threatened PA leaders not to cheat in the elections, and pressured Abu Mazen not to resign, and the Europeans acted as monitors to make sure there would be no cheating...

"Recently, Hamas revealed a somber and frightening side, when its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri interpreted Osama bin Laden's last statement that dealt with the U.S. and Europe's position on Hamas, as follows: '...The Hamas stand is different than the direction taken by bin Laden.' But he added - and this is the main thing - that the Hamas movement 'combines jihad activity with political activity. The special conditions of the Palestinian arena obligate it to take part in the government.'

"In other words, Hamas sees itself as a jihad movement, and its participation in the elections and in government and the other formal expressions of democracy are nothing but a one-off [occurrence], necessitated by the conditions in the Palestinian arena. So where, then, is the change for the better that [is purported] to have occurred with Hamas?"

Democracy isn't Just Victory at the Ballot Box; It Requires International Legitimacy

"There is one piece of advice that should be addressed to Isma'il Haniya... If you don't know what to do, read a book...

"The thinker Francis Fukuyama wrote in his book that the legitimacy of any government in the international system today rests not only on the ballot box, which is just one of the indicators of legitimacy, but today rests, in large measure, on receiving an international stamp of approval and legitimacy. In other words, you must truly believe in the international system's institutions, respect treaties and charters, and build your internal message so that it is true and transparent, and will match your external message. This is because it is easy for others to belie any contradictions. The Israelis have already done this with Haniya's statements.

"Democracy is a weighty word and a lengthy task for the countries of the region. It is not just triumph at the ballot box - because the Nazi party in Germany and the Fascist party in Italy both triumphed at the ballot box in fair elections.

"Leading a clean government and steering clear of the crises and challenges Fukuyama describes in his book demands many compromises as well as the reconstruction of governmental and judicial institutions. But before all this, it demands the courage to deal with the issue of peace, not to mention not sending adolescents and women to blow up restaurants and buses while the party leaders give exquisite speeches in other capitals.

"So before the prime minister considers feeding his nation on wild thyme and olives, he should ask himself: Don't the sons of this nation deserve better?"

[1] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), April 26, 2006.

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