After assuming the role of prosecutor and judge, Al- Jazeera, the Arab world’s most influential TV network, has ruled that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have betrayed their people and must therefore step down from the stage.

The “defendants” have been found guilty of ceding control over most of east Jerusalem to Israel, relinquishing the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees and conducting security coordination with Israeli security authorities.

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In other words, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his men have been convicted of high treason – which, in the Arab and Islamic world, is a crime punishable by death.

Al-Jazeera is now waiting for the executioner (the Palestinians, in this case) to carry out the death sentence.

Al-Jazeera’s dramatic show trial, which began on Sunday night, has undoubtedly caused massive damage to the PA leadership in the West Bank. The blow is so severe that it’s hard to see how the PA leadership can ever recover.

The beleaguered Abbas and his top aides have since been scrambling to control damage caused by the revelations, but with limited success.

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Their major line of defense claims that the revelations are part of a “conspiracy” designed to discredit the PA leadership because of its refusal to return to the negotiating table unless Israel halts construction in the settlements.

Some PA officials have claimed that Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera, has set out to “politically liquidate” Abbas and his team to help Hamas extend its control to the West Bank. Others have claimed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman were behind the scandal, which is being dubbed the “Palestinian Watergate.”

But many ordinary Palestinians did not seem to buy these claims. Some went as far as saying that the allegations against the PA leaders did not surprise them.

Most Palestinians who were interviewed in east Jerusalem and Ramallah said they had never had much confidence anyway in Abbas and negotiators Saeb Erekat, Ahmed Qurei and Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Al-Jazeera’s show trial has only come to reconfirm many Palestinians’ suspicions about their leaders in the West Bank.

In the past, Palestinians used to hear these allegations from Hamas and other enemies of the PA. Now, however, Palestinians are hearing the charges against their representatives from what most consider a widely respected and reliable media outlet.

On the first day of the show trial, Palestinians were told that Abbas, Erekat and Qurei had given up Arab and Muslim rights to Jerusalem and the Haram a-Sharif, or Temple Mount.

On the second day, Al- Jazeera’s jury found Abbas and his team guilty of selling out on the issue of Palestinian refugees.

On day three, Tuesday, Al- Jazeera has promised to display evidence of the PA’s collusion with Israel in the elimination of Palestinian gunmen.

The TV station has already decided that the defendants are guilty of the three charges against them. The station’s unequivocal message to Palestinians is that Abbas and his men are traitors who need to be removed from the scene, and the sooner the better.

It’s hard to see how, in light of this damning verdict, the PA will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility. Al- Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests.

The damage to the PA’s image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.

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