Palestinian Media Review, a new non-profit service in Israel, translates items from the press in the PLO Authority areas, providing valuable insights into the way important issues are viewed by the Palestinian Arabs. Some recent selections follow:
Corruption in Hamas (Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, Oct 21)
Hamas denies a report in the Italian paper Corriere Della Sera that $30 million of charity contributions disappeared abroad rather than reach the territories. The Hamas institutions involved in the disappearance of the money are the Hamas press agency Quds Press and the charity organisation InterPal, both based in London. In addition some funds disappeared from the Al Taqwa foundation which was established by the Muslim Brotherhood [the mother organisation of Hamas] in 1988 in Nassau, the Bahamas, and is responsible for $60 million of Hamas funds per year. According to this report Abd Al-Aziz Al Rantisi blamed high ranking officials in the London branch of Hamas for the money's disappearance.
The US' new ambassador to Israel (Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, Oct 30)
The PA daily's editor, Hafez Al-Barghuthi, attacks the newly appointed US Ambassador to Israel, Edward Walker, who "went through extensive hearings in the [US] Congress, or, that is, in the 'Council of the Elders of Zion' in order to win this post. He managed to get a certificate of good conduct with an 'A+' on the scale of nausea, rather than on the scale of honour, because he said he once volunteered to work on a kibbutz. He almost said he is going to volunteer to be a settler and revealed that he studied Hebrew, which proves that he is a worthy heir to his predecessor, Martin Indyk.
PA Outlaws Palestinian Party (Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, Nov 6)
The following announcement was published on the front page of the paper: The [Palestinian] Ministry of Interior announces the end of all activities of the Palestinian Labour Party... for a period of four months. The public must avoid any contact with the party during this period.
Yassin Explains truce proposal (Al-Bilad, Oct 30)
Palestinian Legislative Council member, Rawiyah Al-Shawa called for the establishent of a Palestinian national unity government which will include the PA and the opposition, the Hamas in particular. In response, Sheik Yassin said that the Hamas initiated the truce proposal in order to show that Israel does not want peace and in order to create a justification for the continuation of the struggle against the occupation. Yassin stressed that this logic [referring to these motives for the truce proposal] does not contradict the PA's interest, rather it may serve the PA as a means of pressure [on Israel].
Arafat's health (Al-Ayyam, Oct 30)
"I am in good health I don't feel a need to react to the Israeli propaganda and stupid rumours. The Israelis have already spread such rumours in the past"
"right of return" (Al-Bilad, Oct 30)
In a report titled "The Al-Nuseirat Refugees and the Just Solution", the weekly states that refugees have never forgotten their sacred Right of Return to the homes from which they were driven out; whose ownership documents and keys they keep and pass from one generation to the next. "We are confident that the just solution to the refugee problem can be achieved [only] by applying the resolutions of international legitimacy, and at their forefront, the Palestinian people's Right of Return."
calls for re-examination of ARAB peace "Strategy" (Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, Nov 13 & Al-Quds Nov 14)
The Secretary of the [Palestinian] government, Ahmad Abd Al-Rahman, called on the Arab states to hold a meeting to re-examine the strategy of peace which they adopted in the Cairo summit in 1996, and emphasised that Palestine will not depart from the Arab consensus... Al-Rahman said that Netanyahu's games and manoeuvres became apparent and that the time has come for a comprehensive Palestine and Arab re-examination of the peace process in order to support the Palestinian and Arab position that can stand up to this challenge.
Member of the PLO Executive Committee, Suleiman Ak-Najjab delivered a speech on behalf of President Arafat marking [the Palestinian] declaration [of independence] and said that the Islamic leadership decided to hold an extended meeting very soon in order to comprehensively re-examine the political process and the peace negotiations with the right-wing Israeli government.
Israeli Arab delegation meet with PA minister in Gaza (Al-Ayyam, Nov 13)
The Minister of Social Affairs, Intisar Al-Wazir... met with a delegation of sociologists and psychologists from Um Al-Fahm who visited Gaza's social institutions... The minister praised the resilience of the Palestinians within the Green Line facing the racist Israeli plots... The head of the delegation emphasised that the Palestinian Arab public in Israel supports its brothers in the PA areas in their just struggle... to establish a Palestinian state, which is everyone's primary national goal. He pointed to the fact that [the Israeli Arabs] are proud of their national identity and of the Palestinian people's struggle of which they are a part.
ISLAMIC LEADER SLAMS US (Al-Quds, Nov 14)
The leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheik Abdallah Nimr Darwish: "The American campaign against Iraq comes after signs of reconciliation and rapprochement between Iraq and many of the Arab states. The US fights against any step toward Arab rapprochement and against any spark of hope for cooperation between the Arab and Islamic states.... The fabricated American attack against Iraq wraps itself as usual in a cloak of what is called "international legitimacy"... all in order to leave the Arab world in a whirlpool of inner conflicts and self-destruction... When the US wakes up from its power-craziness and become a civilised state which examines [matters] according to the principles of justice and treats others with respect, we will be among the first to view it as a friend and even more than a friend; but the US still is hostile to our problems and lays obstacles in the way of our unity and our cooperation We recognize our strength and our size and recognize also the strength and size of the US, but we are absolutely convinced that the strong does not [forever] remain strong and the weak does not [forever] remain weak. Only Allah is unchangeable."
Jerusalem (Al-Quds, November 14)
Palestinian Minister of Religious Endowments [Awqaf], Hasan Tahbub: "The Al-Aqsa Mosque is Islamic by divine order and the Muslims are the only ones in charge of it. Additionally, all the holy Islamic places in Palestine are like red lines which cannot be crossed... We are approaching the yearly celebrations of the 'Nightly Journey and Muhammad's Ascent to Heaven'. We remind all Muslims of this day which made Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque a part of the Muslims' belief, which obliges them to act for its liberation, so that it returns to Muslim sovereignty, as it has always been."
Palestinian Military Delegation Meet with Egyptian Chief-of-Staff (Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, November 14)
The military delegation headed by Deputy General Commander of the Political and National Guidance Directorate, Othman Abu Gharbia, returned to the homeland... after visiting Egypt at the invitation of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The visit included many meetings, and, most importantly, a meeting with the Egyptian Chief of Staff, Majdi Hatata.
PLC members speak
In their own words ...
Westerners wanting to make sense out of the convolutions of the Arab-Israeli conflict are often flummoxed by contradictions between what they are told by their own governments and media, and what they hear from Israelis about the nature of Israel's enemies. Some valuable insights into the thinking of two top Palestinian officials was provided in interviews conducted by Israel Media Review and Analysis (IMRA) during November.
PNC Member Barghouti: Fatah honours bombers
On November 6, IMRA interviewed Marwan Barghouti, the head of Fatah West Bank, in English. Barghouti is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
The entire interview follows:
IMRA: What is the attitude of Fatah towards suicide bombers and Yihye Ayyash [a notorious Hamas bombmaker dubbed "the Engineer", killed in July 1996, reportedly by Israel]?
Barghouti: Politically we are against these military and terrorist attacks. But of course we consider these people as martyrs.
IMRA: Are they considered enemies of peace?
Barghouti: Politically we consider them enemies of peace. But we consider them as martyrs.
IMRA: What's the ramification of that from a practical standpoint?
Barghouti: You know that everybody who is sacrificed or killed during the resistance to the Israeli occupation the Palestinians, in general in their tradition, consider as martyrs. But politically, of course, our position is against such attacks.
IMRA: Fatah leaders like [PLO Executive Committee] Zakaria Al-Agha and [Secretary of the Fatah's Higher Committee] Ahmad Hills and others participate in memorial services for these people and call them martyrs and praise them. Why does Fatah participate in these services?
Barghouti: Of course. It is a tradition. You can ask the Palestinian people. If you remember how the Palestinian people dealt with the assassination of Yihye Ayyash--tens of thousands of people participated in the funeral in spite of the fact that we are against these kind of attacks politically and consider them as terrorist attacks. But at the same time we appreciate these people as persons and individuals and consider them as martyrs.
IMRA: Is there any concern from an educational standpoint that while the youth see such actions may be opposed politically, people who do this are appreciated, even by Fatah?
Barghouti: Yes. Even by Fatah.
IMRA: Doesn't this create an educational problem?
Barghouti: Because we are still under occupation. If the Israeli side implemented the agreements and everything is OK, I think the position will be different. But we are still being killed by the Israelis, the settlements, confiscation of land, we are under closure and Israeli soldiers shoot the people etc. So the response of the people is still like that.
IMRA: So Fatah, as an organisation, shouldn't be concerned that by praising them, they encourage others to follow their example?
Barghouti: No. No. It's not like that. We believe that this kind of attack is against the Palestinian national interest.
IMRA: Yet you still will participate in something honouring them.
Barghouti: Yes. Of course.
PNC Speaker Abu Ala: Refugees, THE key issue
On November 13, IMRA interviewed Ahmed Qureia (known as Abu Ala), speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Under discussion was the "Right of Return"--the PLO demand that all Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948 and 1967, together with their descendants, have the right to return to their homes. The entire interview follows:
IMRA: How important is the right of return of refugees?
Abu Ala: It is one of the issues of the permanent status. It is the main issue on the agenda of the permanent status talks.
IMRA: The Israeli Left sees peace coming with a separation between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Abu Ala: What does this mean?
IMRA: They think that they will have a Palestinian state next to an Israeli state with the Israelis having only a small Palestinian minority living within Israel's borders.
Abu Ala: The refugees are one of the main issue of the permanent status talks. It will be discussed. Our position is that this issue will be solved in accordance with UN resolutions.
IMRA: Which would give them the right of return to within the 1948 borders?
Abu Ala: Yes. Yes. With the right of return or compensation.
IMRA: If the Palestinian refugees come to within the 1948 borders of Israel then what the Israeli Left has always been talking about, of having a large Jewish majority--is not achievable.
Abu Ala: That issue will be discussed--the Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other places. How to solve this problem. This is the core of the problem. This is the root of the problem. It is not Jerusalem. It is not the settlements. The root of the problem is the refugees and how to solve it.
IMRA: Do you see a way to solve this problem which would allow Israel to retain a large Jewish majority within the 1948 borders?
Abu Ala: Don't ask me this question because this is what will be negotiated. If you ask me my position then I will tell you "right of return"--naturally. It will be discussed.
IMRA: People typically enter into negotiations with a sense as to if it is possible to reach something which is mutually agreeable.
Abu Ala: What do you think is easier? For those who have been deprived of their houses and homes to go out and negotiate for the right of return or for those who are still confiscating land and settling in these areas. Therefore, these are difficulties--permanent status issues. I don't see a more difficult issue than the refugee issue. Because if we succeed in solving the refugee issue we solve the problem at its roots. Otherwise we make a possible time for one month, for one year, for two years, for five years, for ten years--and then the conflict will come again. Therefore, solve the problem from its roots.
IMRA: You are familiar with the Palestinians--not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also the Palestinian communities living in Lebanon and elsewhere. Do you see them accepting some kind of solution which would not have them coming back?
Abu Ala: This is a negotiating question. I don't have answers for it.
IMRA: You don't have a sense of their attitudes?
Abu Ala: No. I don't have answers for issues of negotiations.