Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses UN General Assembly.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not able to attend last week’s Arab League summit in Mauritania, because he was in mourning for his brother, Omar, who died in Qatar a few days before the event. He therefore traveled to Doha for the funeral and sent PA Foreign Minister Riyad Maliki to Nouakchott in his stead.
Though Abbas has made it clear in word and deed that he will never make peace with the Jewish state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned him to extend condolences over the loss of his sibling. This gesture was not merely a display of good manners. Like many relatives of Palestinian bigwigs bent on Israel’s annihilation, Omar Abbas had been undergoing regular cancer treatments at Tel Aviv’s Assuta Medical Center.
In Mauritania, Maliki conveyed his bereaved boss’ message to the Muslim-Arab honchos who had gathered to discuss Middle East “issues.” The PA, he said, was planning to file a lawsuit against Britain for the Balfour Declaration, the 100th anniversary of which is coming up in 2017. Abbas, Maliki explained, wanted to enlist the support and assistance of his brethren in this endeavor.
It is not clear whether any of them guffawed into their robes at the absurdity of the proposed move – or were impressed at the way in which Abbas manages to outdo himself in audacity. But one thing we do know is that this year, the attendees devoted a bit less time and lip service to the plight of the Palestinians. It has always been the case that the only use they have for Abbas is tactical; as long as they echo his yammering about Israel’s being the root cause of instability in the region, they can go about plotting against and killing one another without Western focus. But things are really on a downswing for them right now, so their heart and rhetoric are not really in it for Abbas and what they know to be his – and their – phony cause.
Back on the ranch in Ramallah, Abbas has kept busy engaging in laughable behavior, without batting an eyelash or working up a blush.
This week, he became the first leader in the Arab world to sign on to a joint initiative of the International Federation of Journalists and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate – a declaration of a commitment to freedom of the press in the Middle East. The principles listed in the declaration include: freedom of expression; freedom of information; journalists’ safety; media law reform; self-regulation; equality; a stance against hate speech and intolerance; and independence of public service broadcasters.
To toot his own horn for being a “trailblazer,” Abbas declared August 1 an annual “Freedom of Opinion and Speech Day in Palestine.”
Meanwhile, as Palestinian Media Watch founder and president Itamar Marcus told The Algemeiner on Wednesday, “The PA media is owned and controlled by the PA, and its directors are appointed by Abbas himself. Palestinians have been arrested for posting messages critical of Abbas and the PA on Facebook.”
Abbas does give free rein to those who support him, of course, using newspaper writers and TV broadcasters as his court jesters and mouthpieces. This goes for social media, as well.
The day after putting his John Hancock on the declaration of press freedom, his Fatah faction’s official Facebook page was graced with a self-congratulatory list of historical “achievements.” As PMW’s Marcus pointed out, not a single mention was made of peace-promoting or other positive efforts on behalf of Palestinian society. On the contrary, the purpose of the post was to demonstrate how many Israelis have been murdered by Palestinians.
“To those who argue [with Fatah], to the boors, and to those who do not know history,” it reads, “Fatah has killed 11,000 Israelis; Fatah has sacrificed 170,000 martyrs; Fatah was the first to carry out [terrorist attacks] during the first intifada; [Fatah] was the first... to reach [Israel’s] nuclear reactor in Dimona [a reference to the 1988 murder of three working mothers on way to the plant]; Fatah was the first to fight in the second intifada; Fatah was the first to defeat the Zionist enemy, in the Battle of Karameh [a reference to a 1968 fight between the IDF and Fatah terrorists in Jordan, which PLO chief Yasser Arafat called ‘a great victory that erased the disgrace’ of the 1967 Six Day War defeat]; [and] Fatah led the Palestinian attack on Israel in the UN.”
Marcus noted that though Fatah has been killing Israelis since 1965, the number it boasts – 11,000 – “is a gross exaggeration.”
What is not a gross exaggeration is that Abbas is running scared. His rival faction Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, has decided to run in the PA’s West Bank municipal elections slated for October. Though he keeps talking about forging national unity between his “Boston Strangler” party and Hamas’ “Jack the Ripper” gang, he is merely desperate to hang on to any vestige of power. To this end, Mr. Freedom of Expression has been arresting Hamas members in droves, to prevent them and their cohorts from reaching the ballot box or snuffing him out by other, more bloody means.
There are two things on which he can rely, however. One is that if he is injured or falls ill, top-notch Israeli doctors will be on the ready to heal him in the Jewish state he opposes. The other is that no matter how precarious his position remains in Ramallah, his “observer” seat at the UN in New York is ever-warm.The writer is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.