My Word: Abbas’s speeches and narratives

To paraphrase the famous quote from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, my advice to Abbas is: When you have to talk, talk; don’t shoot your mouth off.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 14, 2018.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the meeting of the Palestinian Central Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah January 14, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Talk about shooting one’s mouth off: Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas just could not stop talking on Sunday. And, incredibly, he did not seem to regret what he said, following it with a similar speech in Cairo three days later.
I admit I didn’t listen to the full speech Abbas gave to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council in Ramallah at the beginning of the week. Not only is my Arabic too basic, I didn’t have the time. It took him more than two hours to get his message across. This was more of a rant than a speech.
My Arabic is colloquial. Abbas’s was even more so. Not much was lost in translation as far as most Israelis are concerned. The Arabic for “May his house be destroyed,” “Yikhrab beito,” is similar enough to the Hebrew for the curse to come across loud and clear.
Those who did listen to the whole speech noted that the phrase came up several times, along with “Damn his money.” It is obvious that Abbas does not like US President Donald Trump, and he is not afraid to say it. Again and again.
Some commentators described the speech as “defiant.” Defying logic is more like it.
You can cover a lot of history in two hours. Especially if you don’t have to worry about getting the facts right. Or about facts at all.
Invoking Oliver Cromwell as possibly the original source of the idea of the Jewish return to Zion, before blaming the Dutch and moving on to Napoleon, Abbas negated Jewish ties to Israel and to Jerusalem in particular. Quoting Egyptian intellectual Abdel-Wahab el-Messiri, Abbas said, “[Israel] constitutes a colonialist enterprise that has nothing to do with Judaism.” (MEMRI TV provided a translation of parts of the speech.) He repeated the same theme in oh-so-many words during his speech in Cairo.
Indeed, it wasn’t new. He had said as much at the emergency meeting of the heads of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Turkey last month, following Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In both Ramallah and his speech at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, considered the seat of Sunni learning, Abbas repeated his now common refrain that the Palestinians are descended from the Canaanites and as such were in Jerusalem before the Jews.
“This is our country. This has been our land since the days of the Canaanites... [our forefathers] have not left this land. They were here before our patriarch Abraham.”
He got his logic and history so twisted that sometimes it seemed the words weren’t pouring out of his mouth but out of the other end.
If for argument’s sake, it were possible to place Abbas’s forefathers in Jerusalem at the time King David conquered it from the Jebusites – somehow being Canaanite-Jebusite Muslim Arabs, centuries before the birth of Islam – it would make the Palestinian case more pathetic: That would mean for thousands of years the Palestinians didn’t create a state with Jerusalem as their capital.
When Jews were praying in the First and Second Temples, what were these mythical Canaanite Palestinians meant to have been doing? The Palestinian leader repeated his demand that Britain apologize for the Balfour Declaration, a century ago. And Abbas, whose doctorate includes Holocaust revisionism, also charged that the Jews preferred to stay in Europe during the Shoah. No mention, of course, of the fact that the British Mandate authorities, at the request of the Arabs, refused to allow Jews, even those seeking refuge from the murderous Nazi “Final Solution,” to immigrate to Palestine.
David Ben-Gurion was “forced,” according to Abbas, to bring Jews from Middle Eastern countries to the nascent Jewish state, against their will and his preference.
It’s not that Abbas has lost the plot. He consistently creates new plots and conspiracy theories.
In the past, he has told the European Parliament that Israeli rabbis were calling for the poisoning of Palestinian wells. (He obviously knows enough Jewish history to repeat the blood libels.) This week Abbas said, repeatedly, that the Palestinians could no longer negotiate with the US as the mediator: “We say to Trump, we will not accept his deal. The deal of the century has become the slap in the face of the century.”
If Abbas was considered until now by some as a partner for peace and the face of pragmatism, it was the ugly face spouting hatred and lies that came across this week.
It might be 82-year-old Abbas’s swan song. He is drowning in misery of his own making, and could take the Palestinians he professes to lead down with him.
Abbas cursed Trump’s house, but he is throwing stones from inside a fragile glass house.
Abbas has done little to end the corruption from which he profits at home; he is now in the 13th year of what was meant to be a four-year term, too scared of a Hamas takeover to hold elections; he still prefers to try to bring Israel down than to build up a state in which the Palestinians can live and thrive.
The PA head belittled reported Saudi and US plans to push for Abu Dis, just outside Jerusalem, to become the capital of an eventual Palestinian state. Ramallah, a bustling town where the current parliament is situated, already serves as a quasi capital.
In his speech in Cairo, in a barely disguised threat, Abbas said Jerusalem “is the gate of peace and war, and Trump must choose.”
Nonetheless, he proclaimed: “We will not go for terrorism and violence and we will continue to peacefully make demands until we obtain our rights.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering, according to Abbas, “The Arab Spring is neither Arab nor a spring... It came from America.”
“There is no Oslo anymore. Israel has brought the Oslo Accords to an end,” Abbas declared this week, without spelling out what should replace it.
My own preference is for the Palestinians to create some kind of confederacy or arrangement with Jordan. If there is no more Oslo, let’s reconsider the Madrid process when the Palestinians were under Jordanian auspices. Repeating the “twostate or one-state” mantra has got us nowhere.
To paraphrase the famous quote from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, my advice to Abbas is: When you have to talk, talk; don’t shoot your mouth off. Abbas can’t boast of being against violence, while encouraging it through his very words.
Poisonous speech can also have lethal consequences.
[email protected]