Stealing from the Palestinians

We in the West should not merely claim to devote ourselves to seeking the freedom of the Palestinian Arabs.

Hamas deputy political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh (R) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas deputy political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh (R) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“It is not permissible to add to one’s possessions if these things can only be done at the cost of other men. Such development has only one true name, and that is exploitation.”
– Alan Paton, “Cry, The Beloved Country,” Ch. 20
The extent to which world leaders and esteemed statesmen deal in duplicity is often as astounding as it is absurd.
On September 7, Al Jazeera reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of “running a shadow government” and of committing war crimes like “undertaking executions without trial.” Moreover, Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, writing for The Gatestone Institute, reported that Fatah members had issued a strong letter against Hamas for “shooting dozens of their activists in the Gaza Strip in the legs and other parts of the body.”
To the untrained eye, these would seem like legitimate calls for justice from respected political figures working to ensure their people gain the civil liberties they so richly deserve. In reality, this is a farce, a twisted game of political prestidigitation played to preserve power – and which perpetuates the misery of the Palestinian Arab people.
Fatah routinely pays sanctimonious lip service to a cause it in actuality cares nothing about. Its own record of egregious human rights abuses against its people bears this out. According to The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), a Palestinian organization that monitors human rights abuses committed by the Palestinian Authority, the PA has tortured Palestinian Arabs by using electric shocks, electric cables, forced bleach-drinking, and dislocating of prisoners’ shoulders – to name a few. Abbas and his ilk have also reportedly stolen billions of dollars from their own people, according to The Gatestone Institute.
This mismanagement of funds by the PA has been the norm for some time now. In 2003, CBS reported that Yasser Arafat – who was considered by many Arabs to be a hero and real champion of the people – had “a secret portfolio worth close to $1 billion” which was taken mostly from the Palestinian Arab civilian population. Most of this money never went to the people, but instead ended up in personal Swiss bank accounts and was siphoned off to many of Arafat’s cronies and his widow.
Many more human rights abuses have been inflicted upon Palestinian Arabs living in the West Bank (alternatively known as Judea and Samaria) by their ow n government.
According to the Associated Press, honor killings in the region doubled in 2013, and, according to Al-Hayat, one of the most read Arab papers in the Arab world, there has been an increase in the forced sterilization of Palestinian women; this has occurred under the auspices of the PA .
Khaled Abu Toameh also reports that PA police break up peaceful protests by Palestinian Arab youth – ending these demonstrations often by using clubs and stun grenades to inflict physical harm on protesters.
Thus the PA ’s protest against Hamas is cavalier and hypocritical; it is a strategic move meant to legitimize Fatah’s desire to effectively rule Gaza in any future unity deal with Hamas. By suggesting that Hamas is unfit to rule because of the way it treats its people, Fatah seeks to gain clout in the eyes of the populace; yet Fatah commits these same crimes, and does so with impunity.
That the Palestinian Arabs have to put up with a corrupt regime that denies its own people basic civil rights and liberties is horrendous.
But what is worse is the collective ignoring of the people’s plight in this regard by the world at large.
Instead of condemning Abbas and the PA in the highest terms for their ill treatment of their people, we in the West have coddled them, made excuses for them, and have refrained from holding them accountable for their criminal activities. Moreover, we have proclaimed that in the name of peace, the Palestinian Arabs should be consigned to a life of perpetual misery and oppression by being made to live under the regime of the PA . We advocate for the sanctioning of the PA ’s war crimes vis-a-vis the creation of a Palestinian state while claiming that we care about the dignity and worth of Palestinian Arabs; this makes us accountable and guilty of giving the same lip service that Abbas gives to his people.
Indeed, many in the West routinely praise Fatah as the more “moderate” party. Thus, reporters attempt to make it their business to be au courant with the Arab-Israeli conflict but often miss the nuances and idiosyncrasies that fuel and prolong they very hostilities they claim to hate.
For example, in July, journalist and MSNBC commentator Rula Jebreal described Abbas in The Daily Beast as a “moderate,” who is allegedly “humiliated and ignored” by Israel. Haaretz columnist Peter Beinart also touts this line. He describes Abbas in an article as attempting “to bring [his] people dignity and justice” in contrast to Hamas. This is risible, to say the least; Abbas himself humiliates and ignores the plight of his own people. He encroaches upon their rights and rules by fiat; he is a dictator and there is no “justice” in this.
Indeed, Abbas perpetuates and profits from his people’s misery – all while claiming it is Israel who is to blame. In this, Abbas is able to provide a smokescreen for his own misdeeds. Anytime poverty is rampant or some other ill befalls Arabs, Abbas can simply blame Israel — all while stealing money from his people.
This is the real cycle of violence that fuels the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is a con game masterfully and brilliant played by Abbas and his ilk. The losers are the Arabs who are constantly told by the West that Abbas is the moderate savior who will rescue them from the sins of Israel.
In 1948, author Alan Patton lamented the ill treatment by the white elite of the underprivileged black population in South Africa through a system we have come to know as Apartheid. In his novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, one of the themes was the contrast between white South Africans who claimed to be Christian but who refrained from treating their fellow man in a Christian manner. Like Abbas, they gave lip service to the idea of treating people with respect, but refused to act accordingly. And like the Arabs who are suffering as a result of Abbas’s despotism, the black population had to endure persecution as well.
We in the West should not merely claim to devote ourselves to seeking the freedom of the Palestinian Arabs. Yet as long as we find reasons to justify the atrocities of the PA and allow – even bankroll – its illegal activities in Judea and Samaria, we will be engaging in sanctimonious piety and contributing to the unjust treatment of the Palestinian Arab people.
The author is an international studies major at the University of New Orleans, a Fellow at the Lawfare Project and an assistant director for the Institute of Black Solidarity with Israel.