PA mulls legal action on Al-Jazeera for leaks

Abbas tells rally: We’re committed to Palestinian "constants" in the peace process, will expose Qatari TV network’s "forgery."

January 26, 2011 01:28
3 minute read.
Mahmoud Abbas, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Saeb Erekat

311_ Abed Rabbo, Abbas and Erekat. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday stepped up its criticism of the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news channel, which has accused PA leaders of making farreaching concessions to Israel on Jerusalem and the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.

The PA said it was also studying the possibility of suing Al-Jazeera for libel and slander.

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But while some PA officials claimed that the documents exposed by Al-Jazeera were forged, others admitted that they were genuine.

Some Palestinians called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to recall the PLO envoy to Doha in protest of the revelations.

Hundreds of Fatah supporters staged a demonstration in Ramallah’s Mukata presidential compound, where they burned portraits of the emir of Qatar and Israeli flags carrying Al-Jazeera’s symbol.

The demonstrators were at the Mukata to voice their support for Abbas, who told the crowd that he remained committed to the main Palestinian “constants” in the peace process.

Abbas, who was in Cairo when Al-Jazeera announced that it had obtained hundreds of secret documents related to the Israeli- Palestinian peace talks, reaffirmed that the PA had nothing to hide and said Arab leaders had been briefed about the details of the talks with Israel. He said the documents published by the Qatari network were forged.

“We will expose the forgery in your station,” Abbas said, addressing Al-Jazeera. “We know how to confront your programs.”

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He said that all the documents leaked to Al-Jazeera had been presented to the Arab League Abbas added that the station’s allegations “coincided with the Israeli campaign against the Palestinian Authority and its diplomatic efforts to expose Israeli intransigence.”

The PA president said that nobody would be able to force the Palestinians to give up their “national constants, first and foremost Jerusalem, the capital of the Palestinian state, and the return of the refugees in accordance with UN Resolution 194.”

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, launched a scathing attack on Al-Jazeera and accused it of bringing “unprecedented shame” to Arabs. He also accused the news channel of “collusion” with Israel and the US.

Al-Jazeera had been selective in publishing the leaked documents, he said.

“We have noticed that they only published two pages regarding the issues of Jerusalem and refugees,” he said. “Why aren’t they publishing the 1,600 documents which they say were stolen from my office?” Erekat said he was now studying the possibility of taking Al- Jazeera to court for libel and slander.

“Al-Jazeera is engaged in a horrible, dangerous and criminal campaign against Palestinians in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia,” he declared.

Erekat pointed out that the PA leadership had remained “steadfast” for 18 years, rejecting what Israel had offered.

“We are now being punished because we refused to accept these offers and because of our refusal to resume the peace talks unless Israel stopped the construction in the settlements, and because we decided to seek a UN Security Council resolution condemning the settlements,” he said.

Erekat claimed that Al-Jazeera was trying to topple the PA leadership because of its refusal to negotiate with Israel while the construction in the settlements was continuing.

“This station is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to defame us,” he charged. “The documents are not official, and we have set up a special committee to investigate how they were stolen from my office.”

The Palestinian news agency Maan, which has come out strongly against Al-Jazeera, claimed that two former employees of the PLO Negotiations Department are believed to have leaked the documents to Al- Jazeera.

The agency said that one of the suspects was a US citizen, while the other was a French national.

The French man was identified as Ziad Kalout, who worked at the department until seven months ago. Kalout, according to the PA officials, has since found work in the palace of the emir of Qatar.

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