Into The Fray: Assessing Abbas’s address

At the UN General Assembly last week, histrionic spin trumped historical substance, while sinister subterfuge went unchallenged.

Abbas at the UN 390 (photo credit: Screenshot Al Jazeera)
Abbas at the UN 390
(photo credit: Screenshot Al Jazeera)
They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom.
– Pilar Rahola, Spanish journalist
The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.
– Hussein bin Talal, late king of Jordan
The existence of a separate Palestinian identity exists only for tactical reasons. The establishment of a Palestinian state is a new tool to continue the fight against Israel.
– Zuheir Muhsin, late member of the PLO Executive Council
Something bizarre happened at the UN last Thursday – so bizarre, in fact, it would be difficult to make stuff like this up.Dysfunctional polity, collapsing economy
The plenary session of the General Assembly was addressed by a man who despite the fact that his term of office expired almost half a decade ago, still purports to be the leader of a people who openly concede they have no real, separate identity, and that the only rationale for their claiming nationhood is to deny that of another UN member state; a man who was forcibly ejected from, and is now barred – on pain of death – from reentering a good portion of the area populated by the people he claims to represent; a people that, despite two decades of unprecedented economic aid and political support, has been unable to create anything remotely resembling a stable, productive civil society.
From the podium, this man, who parades as president of an entity with a dysfunctional polity and a collapsing economy – with a minuscule private sector and a bloated public one, wracked by corruption, and crippled by cronyism, manifestly unsustainable without (and probably even with) massive infusions of foreign funds – launched into a distortive and deceptive diatribe against Israel.
Of course, the fact that without Israeli largesse this man’s regime would implode in very short order, in no way deterred him from his malevolent, mendacious and misleading monologue – which only made the entire event more macabre.
This man, Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen), whose regime was permitted to run up a debt amounting to close to a quarter billion dollars for unpaid electricity provided by Israel – which itself makes Israel one of his largest benefactors – accused the very entity propping him up in power of virtually every heinous misdeed known to man.Delegitimizing principal benefactor?
True, about halfway through his toxic tirade, he did pause momentarily to pay lip service to diplomatic niceties, claiming “We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel,” but in fact he did everything to achieve just that.
Thus, referring to the recent Israeli Operation Pillar of Defense, he fulminated, fraudulently: “The Israeli aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip has confirmed once again the urgent and pressing need to end the Israeli occupation.”
From this shrill cry “to end the Israeli occupation” one would never guess that there is no occupation in Gaza.
Indeed, Israel has not only withdrawn completely – without any quid pro quo – from the entire Gaza Strip in 2005, but razed every vestige of Jewish presence there, even uprooting Jewish graveyards, leaving behind only a number of synagogues, which were demolished in a frenzy of Judeophobic rage by local mobs immediately after the Israeli evacuation.
Oh yes, some of them also took time out to trash thousands (!) of hi-tech greenhouses, purchased for the Palestinian Authority by American Jewish donors – at the initiative of then-World Bank president James Wolfensohn, who reportedly also put up $500,000 of his own cash. (Somewhat euphemistically, NBC News described this senseless vandalism as a “blow to efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip.”)
Of course, Abbas’s reference to “our people in Gaza” might cause a raised eyebrow or two – seeing it was the folk in Gaza who voted in the rival Hamas in 2006, who then forcibly ejected his Fatah faction from the Strip in a flare of fratricidal fury in 2007, pitching his men off high-rises and blowing away their kneecaps in the process. Perhaps something got lost in the translation from the Arabic.Histrionics trumps history
Flagrantly distorting the historical record, Abbas declared defiantly, “We will accept no less than the independence of the State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967.”
Palestinian territory occupied in 1967?
There was no territory that was claimed by the Palestinians that was occupied in 1967. Indeed, as I have mentioned repeatedly in previous columns, in the original (1964) version of their National Charter, the Palestinians explicitly eschewed any sovereign claims to either the Gaza Strip or the “West Bank” – even acknowledging specifically that the latter lay in the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” (Article 24). In fact, until 1967, this territory (including east Jerusalem) was annexed by Jordan and up to 1988, Jordan continued to demand it be returned to its rule.
Palestinian eschewal of sovereignty over territories “occupied” in 1967 is something that the UN delegates could easily verify – as the 1964 Charter appears in its entirety on the official UN website of the Permanent Palestine Observer Mission to the United Nations – soon to be upgraded to The Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations. (While this column was being composed, the UN website posted that it was “undergoing urgent maintenance” and was “currently unavailable.”)
The territories that they did then claim as “Palestinian” were those inside the 1967 Green Line. Thus, several days prior to the 1967 Six Day War, before Israel held a square inch of territory now designated by Abbas as “occupied” – indeed, before the term “occupation” had any notional significance or practical relevance – Ahmed Shukairy (Abbas’s – and Arafat’s – predecessor as chairman of the PLO) gloated: “D-Day is approaching. The Arabs have waited 19 years [i.e. from 1948 to 1967] for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation.”
A little later, in a somewhat premature flush of triumph, he crowed: “This is a fight for the homeland [i.e. pre-1967 Israel!]. It is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road. The Jews of Palestine [i.e. within pre-1967 lines] will have to leave. We shall destroy [pre- 1967] Israel and its inhabitants and as for the survivors – if there are any – the boats are ready to deport them.”
But at the UN last week, histrionic spin trumped historical substance and Abbas’s sinister subterfuge went unnoticed – and certainly unchallenged.Disingenuous and deceptive
Disingenuously, Abbas attempted to suggest the Israeli military action last month was an unprovoked assault on a pacific Palestinian population, charging that “this aggression also confirms the Israeli government’s adherence to the policy of occupation, brute force and war.”
Really? Aggression?
The fact that it was precipitated by continuous barrages of missiles and rockets on Israeli towns and villages from the (unoccupied) Gaza Strip was of course never conveyed to his audience.
But arguably the most deceitful insinuation by Abbas is that there was any connection between Operation Pillar of Defense and the Palestinians’ UN bid, and that Israel had tried to dissuade them from it by means of a military threat.
Shamefully – or is that shamelessly? – he proclaimed: “You too have heard specifically over the past months the incessant flood of Israeli threats in response to our peaceful, political and diplomatic endeavor for Palestine to acquire non-member observer state in the United Nations. And, you have surely witnessed how some of these threats have been carried out in a barbaric and horrific manner just days ago in the Gaza Strip.”
This, of course, is a grotesque distortion of truth. For clearly had there been no rocket attacks on Israel civilians, there would have been no need for any action to stop them.Palestinians in glass houses...
Abbas railed on: “This Israeli occupation is becoming synonymous with an apartheid system of colonial occupation, which institutionalizes the plague of racism and entrenches hatred and incitement.”
Well, some might find such vilification more than a little galling, especially coming from someone whose official regime-sanctioned media regularly portrays the Jews as pigs and monkeys – or at least the descendants thereof – whose wholesale slaughter is the key to redemption.
Funny, isn’t it, how Israel – purportedly tainted with “the plague of racism” – is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has increased over recent decades (as has its Muslim population). By contrast, in territories under Palestinian administration, with its allegedly “principled and moral support for freedom and the rights of peoples and international law and peace,” it has been denuded dramatically.
Thus, in Bethlehem, under the Arafat- Abbas regime, the Christian population has been eroded from an over 75 percent majority to a minority, now reportedly under 20 percent – vividly underscoring how the ominous premonitions expressed as early as 1993 by Dr. George Carey, then archbishop of Canterbury, have in fact materialized.
Following a visit to the Holy Land he stated: “My fear is that in 15 years, Bethlehem – once [a] center of a strong Christian presence – might become a kind of Walt Disney Christian theme park.”
By December 1997, The Times reported that due to “unceasing persecution under the Palestinian Authority... his vision of the birthplace of the Christian religion... is becoming more a reality with each celebration of Christ’s birth.”
Now there’s institutionalized incitement and entrenched hatred for you!
Falsehood, fabrications, fibs
As for Abbas’s charges of “racism and apartheid” – true, there are differential administrative systems in place beyond the 1967 Green Line pertaining to Israelis (both Jews and Arabs) and non-Israelis. But to suggest that this reflects any ideology vaguely akin to apartheid is to maliciously misrepresent the facts.
Indeed, it is a deliberate attempt to ignore or obscure the fact that Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians is driven not by a discriminatory doctrine of racial superiority but by proven security concerns and accumulated experience of Judeocidal attacks. It is a claim which implies that it is unacceptable for Israel to distinguish between friend and foe, and should treat both with the same undifferentiated even-handedness. Indeed, there is little daylight between such a position, and the denial of the Jews’ right to self-defense, which is itself the epitome of Judeophobic racism.
We could go on enumerating falsehood after fabrication after fib, but opinion pieces have their constraints. So in conclusion, perhaps the most staggering display of hypocrisy by Abbas was his invoking the UN declaration endorsing the establishment of Israel in support of his claim for recognition of Palestinian statehood.
Abbas: “Sixty-five years ago on this day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 181 (II), which partitioned the land of historic Palestine into two states and became the birth certificate for Israel.”
This is barefaced duplicity, because Palestinians have always rejected the validity of that resolution. Indeed, Article 19 of the their national charter proclaims unequivocally: “The partition of Palestine in 1947, and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time, because they were... inconsistent with the principles embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.”
Incredibly, this permanent repudiationcum- defamation of UN Resolution 181 is still posted on the previously mentioned official UN website of the Palestine Observer Mission to the United Nations.Beyond bizarre?
So get this. The Palestinians are basing their claim for statehood on a UN resolution which, to this day, they consider irretrievably invalid – regardless of the passage of time. As I said, bizarre, huh?
But perhaps even more bizarre was the spectacle of the General Assembly rising to a standing ovation as Abbas’s vicious vilification of a UN member state drew to a close – which of course significantly reinforces the sentiment expressed in the opening citation: “They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom.”Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.