|Israel Resource Review
||7th January, 2005
The School Textbooks of the
Palestinian National Authority (PNA):
What Do They Teach the Student
about Israel and the Jews, and to What Extent Do They Foster a
Peaceful Solution to the Conflict?
Dr. Arnon Groiss
School textbooks constitute the backbone of education in any nation. As such, they provide a keen insight into the values and ideals the educational system endeavors to instill in the younger generations' mind. The school textbooks published by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) are no exception.
As a member of the professional team of the New York and Jerusalem-based Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), I have been engaged during the last four years in continuous research of the Palestinian textbooks, focusing on two main aspects therein: their attitude to the "other", that is, Israel and the Jews, and their attitude to a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have authored four reports so far, covering 130 books for grades 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9, with two additional books for grades 5 and 11, four teachers' guides and two editions of an atlas approved for use in the PNA schools.
It should be noted that the Palestinian National Authority has
taken upon itself the task of replacing the old textbooks that
were published in the 1950s and 1960s by Jordan (for the
then-Jordanian West Bank) and by Egypt (for the Gaza Strip that
was under its military rule). Those books contained harsh
anti-Israeli and even anti-Semitic expressions. As Israel took
control of the said areas in 1967, the books underwent a
reediting process through which all such expressions were
removed. But when the PNA established itself there, following
the Oslo Accords, it reintroduced the unedited books into its
schools. Answering complaints by Israel and other parties, the
Palestinians claimed that they could not be held responsible for
books published by others, and asserted their intention to
gradually replace those offensive textbooks with new ones to be
published independently by the PNA. Indeed, the first new books
for grades 1 and 6 were published in 2000, to be followed by
additional books for another two grades each year. The new books
for grades 5 and 10 have already started to appear, and the
process will probably reach its end in 2006, with grades 11 and
12 to be provided with their new textbooks.
In accordance with CMIP's method of research, each book is carefully scrutinized and any piece of information related to the two main themes mentioned above (namely, the attitude to the "other" and to peace) - be it a text, a map, a photograph or an illustration - is taken as is and included in the report. The material is organized in chapters according to specific topics, with minimum analysis, except for clarifying remarks that appear either within brackets inside the quotation or as footnotes. Each chapter begins with introductory remarks. In this way, the material is allowed to speak for itself. The overall analysis of the material is done in the Conclusion of the report and follows certain guidelines established by UNESCO and by CMIP itself. These are arranged in the form of questions that appear in the Introduction of each report, such as:
- Are other peoples, religions and communities recognized and accepted as equal, or are presented in a stereotyped and prejudiced way?
- Do the textbooks foster peace and support the peace process in the region?
- Are the data given, including maps and graphs, up-to-date and accurate?
- Are equal standards applied?
- Are the achievements of others recognized?
- Are political disputes presented objectively and honestly?
- Is wording likely to create prejudice, misapprehension and conflict avoided?
The various chapters of CMIP's reports on the Palestinian textbooks usually include the following subjects:
- The attitude to Judaism as a religion and to Jewish holy places in the country.
- The attitude to the Jews in history and in the context of the present conflict.
- The attitude to Israel as a sovereign state and its image in the Palestinian textbooks.
- The way the conflict is presented to the student, including the refugee problem and the question of Jerusalem.
- The attitude to a peaceful solution versus violent liberation, including specific topics such as Jihad, martyrdom and terror.
The full reports are posted, alongside reports on textbooks of other Arab nations and Israel, on the CMIP website http://www.edume.org
I shall now proceed to deal with the main findings, with some examples.
The Finding: A General Comment
The Palestinian textbooks have several characteristics that make them unique in comparison with school textbooks of other Arab nations I have examined (namely those of Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia). First, they represent a higher technical and pedagogical standard. Second, they put much emphasis on the values of civil society, such as social responsibility, democracy, tolerance and the like, to an extent I have not encountered in other Arab nations. Third, they are mostly - though not completely - devoid of crude abusive terms of the kind one can find in other Arab textbooks, including the older Jordanian and Egyptian books which are still in use within the PNA school system.
Unfortunately, however, the general approach of the PNA textbooks regarding the other party to the conflict, and regarding the ideal of reconciliation, does not differ much from that of the textbooks of other Arab nations in this respect, regardless of whether they have signed peace treaties with Israel (Egypt) or not (Syria, Saudi Arabia - and see the reports on the school textbooks of these countries in the CMIP website).
This unified Arab approach consists of three main elements:
- Non-recognition of the opponent as a legitimate party.
- Avoidance of any real acquaintance with the other party, with a heavy tendency towards stereotyping and prejudice.
- Real peace that would be based on reconciliation is not sought.
Let us now look into these elements in more detail.
The Attitude to the Jews
Nowhere in the PNA textbooks is any adequate information given to the student about the Jewish people: its history, culture, religion, etc. The historical ties of the Jews to the Holy Land - both national and religious - are ignored. In fact, we have noticed a certain regression in the attitude of the textbooks in this particular respect as an initial mentioning of the Jews' ancient statehood in the land is later omitted, leaving an unexplained gap between the years 1200-586 BCE . There are sporadic references to the Jews' presence in the land in ancient times - in Jesus' time, for instance.
In order to diminish the Jewish historical presence and role in the Holy Land, the PNA textbooks Arabize the ancient Canaanites whom they claim to be immigrants from the Arabian Peninsula . The Arab Canaanites are described as the sole, real inhabitants of the Holy Land in history, while all other ethnic elements are presented as "an anomalous exception to logic and reality" . In one case the Canaanites are portrayed as continuing their presence in the country up to the Muslim conquest in the 7th century CE "and thus the Arab circle in Palestine was completed" . It should be noted here that Arab intellectuals in general tend to accord Arab identity to all ancient nations of the Fertile Crescent, except the Jews. In this particular case, however, the posthumous Arabization of the Canaanites serves a Palestinian political goal, namely, invalidating the Jews' claims to any historical rights in the Holy Land. Such rights, the Palestinians say, belong to the Arabs alone from time immemorial.
In addition, the Jewish holy places in the country are never mentioned as such. Moreover, in cases where a certain place is holy to both Jews and Muslims, such as the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Machpelah sanctuary in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, a point is made that these are Muslim holy places that have been usurped by the Jews . This argument is relatively new: In an experimental textbook, published by the PNA in 1996, Rachel's Tomb is still called by this name . In a book published in 2001, however, one can find under the same photo of the Tomb a new inscription: "The mosque of Bilal Bin Rabbah (one of Prophet Muhammad's companions)" .
Jerusalem in particular is presented exclusively as an Arab city - since its foundation by the "Arab" Jebusites . Nothing is said about the Jews' historical ties to it. Its present status as capital of the State of Israel is ignored. Instead, it is presented as capital of Palestine . The Jewish absolute majority in Jerusalem (since the 1880s) is never mentioned and the Jews are never portrayed as inhabitants of the city.
Not only is the Jews' historical presence in the land ignored. Their very existence there today does not fare better. There are two cases in the PNA textbooks where Palestine's population today is estimated. In both cases the textbooks give the numbers of the Palestinians living in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Israel (dubbed as "The Interior" or "Inside the Green Line", and see below the section of non-recognition of Israel), and even the number of the Palestinians living in the Diaspora. However, the 5.5 million Jews who live in the country (and who outnumber the Palestinians living there) are not counted as legitimate inhabitants of the land . (Insert 2)
In another case a certain geographical region is said to contain only sparse Bedouin population, with tens of thousands of Jewish inhabitants there being ignored .
As the Jews' presence in the country is totally ignored, one can hardly find on the maps in the PNA textbooks (unlike the atlas) a single city established by the Jews in modern times, including Tel Aviv!
The Jews' language - Hebrew - is erased, literally, by the PNA textbooks. A textbook for grade 2 presents a photograph of a stamp issued by the British Mandate authorities with the inscription "Palestine" in both English and Arabic. There is an empty space on the bottom left of the stamp in the textbook - the place where a Hebrew inscription existed in the original stamp (because all three languages served as official ones under Mandatory government) . In another case the Hebrew language is relegated into a status of a mere dialect (lahjah in Arabic) .
(Insert 3A + 3B)
If undisputed historical and present facts about the Jews are ignored or denied by the Palestinian textbooks, there is no wonder that controversial issues would also be ignored or denied: the Jews have no right to Palestine - just "greedy ambitions" there , their immigration to the country in modern time is described as "infiltration" , and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 on the basis of the UN resolution of November 29, 1947 is dubbed "occupation" .
Stereotyping and prejudice
Nowhere in the PNA textbooks could one find a single reference to an ordinary Jewish individual showing his or her daily life, hopes and concerns. The Jews are always mentioned as a group, mostly in an unfavorable light. They are presented negatively in the context of their relations with Jesus (in Christian Education textbooks studied by Christian students within the Palestinian school system, as well as in an Islamic Education textbook) , and as enemies of Prophet Muhammad and early Islam in Arabia . Their description sometimes contains derogatory remarks and insinuations, such as having rough hearts , employing trickery and violating treaties .
The stereotypical and prejudiced description of the Jews in the PNA textbooks reaches its peak in the context of the present conflict. Zionism - the Jewish national movement - is portrayed as a colonialist movement that from its inception aimed at the expulsion of the Palestinians or their extermination . It is also portrayed as a powerful factor in American political life, with much influence on the American mass media .
The Jews are blamed in the PNA textbooks for the misfortunes of the Palestinians. The latter bears no responsibility at all. The Palestinians' defiance of the UN partition resolution of 1947 and their overall attack on the Jews immediately after its adoption are not mentioned. The ensuing victory of the Jews over the Arab side is thus presented as a premeditated attack on the Jews' part. The Jews are solely responsible, therefore, for the refugee problem. The same line continues in the presentation of later events. Israel suddenly occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, alongside of other Arab territories, in 1967. There is no mention of the fact that it was the Arab side that mobilized its forces on Israel's pre-1967 borders and threatened the Jewish state with total annihilation on the eve of that war.
Within the context of the present conflict the PNA textbooks attribute to the Jews several negative traits. They are presented as murderous people who kill civilians , including children . They are also dubbed as "slaughterers ", "human wild beasts ", "Tartar battalions " (and see below the parallel section about Israel).
The Attitude to Israel
Israel is not treated in the PNA textbooks as a legitimate sovereign state, except for one case - in reference to its signing, with the PLO, of the Oslo Accord . Israel's name does not appear on any map, even in the atlas!
All the maps of the country, with or without the contours of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, either define the whole of the country "Palestine" or leave it unnamed.
In one map, the whole country is put under the Palestinian flag .
The habit of calling the whole of the country "Palestine" is so deeply rooted in the textbooks that when in one case this particular name referred to the inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza strip alone, a special footnote clarifying that had to be inserted in the text .
Moreover, Palestine sometimes replaces Israel as the sovereign state in the region. To begin with, the Palestinian textbooks of recent years do not bear the PNA name on their cover, but rather the phrase "the State of Palestine" ("Dawlat Filastin" in Arabic).
One can find texts with references to that "state" in various contexts . There are even cases which go beyond that. One textbook enumerates the states of the present-day Levant, mentioning Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine. Israel simply does not exist . To make the picture complete, Palestine in its entirety is defined as Arab and Muslim in a National Education textbook for grade 2.
It is also typical of the PNA textbooks to mention and describe regions, cities and sites within Israel in its pre-1967 borders and present them as Palestinian. Thus, the cities of Acre and Jaffa , as well as the Negev , Mt. Jurmuq (Meiron in Hebrew, near Safed) , and many of the like, are presented as an integral part of Palestine. Nowhere in the text does even a slight remark say that they are today included within the boundaries of the State of Israel.
Furthermore, the very phrase "Israeli territory" does not exist in the Palestinian textbooks. Instead, three circumlocutions are used: "The Lands of 1948 (Aradhy 1948)" , "Inside the Green Line (Dakhel Al-Khatt al-Akhdhar) " and "The Interior (Al-Dakhel) ". The "Green Line" used to denote Israel's Armistice lines with the Jordanian-held West Bank and with the Egyptian-held Gaza Strip before 1967.
Stereotyping and prejudice
As with the Jews, no reference is made in the PNA textbooks to ordinary Israelis. No information is given on Israel either, about its society, culture, economy, etc. The description is wholly one-dimensional: Israel is a source of evil. It is never presented as a neighbor whose rights and interests should be accommodated to a certain degree, if not considered legitimate. By enumerating all Israel's doings as something coming out of its evil nature, and not as an outcome of specific circumstances, the Palestinian textbooks actually demonize Israel and thus they contribute a great deal to the incitement campaign against Israel in the Palestinian media and mosques.
Following is a listing of Israel's crimes as they appear in the textbooks:
- Aggression against the Palestinians and against Arabs in general
- Occupation of the land of Palestine (both in 1948 and 1967)
- Expulsion operations and massacres against the Palestinians
- Destruction ("killing") of Palestinian villages and towns
- Oppression of the Palestinian people
- Violation of Palestinian human rights
- Robbery of Palestinian lands and water
- House demolition and uprooting of trees
- Infliction of loss and pain upon the Palestinians
- Restrictions of various kinds against the Palestinian population
- Attempts at obliterating the Palestinian national identity and heritage
- Usurpation of Muslim and Christian holy places
- Crippling of the Palestinian economy
- Pollution of the Palestinian environment
- Contribution to Palestinian social ills and violence
- Neglect of Palestinian health, education and social services
Beyond that, there are cases of clearly demonizing texts like the following ones:
"Your enemies killed your children, split open your women's bellies, held your revered elderly men by the beard and led them to the death pits." (Reading and Texts, Grade 8, Part 2 (2002) p. 16)
"O Lord, do not forget our pains and tears
And do not forget the prisons, the slaughter and the humiliation
And the demolition and terror…" (Linguistic Sciences, Grade 8, Part 2 (2002) p. 88)
"O my homeland,
You have accustomed me to see the enemy horses every day
Wading in blood, my blood" (Linguistic Sciences, Grade 8, Part 1 (2002) p. 14)
"We are burying the child in no hurry…
The mother and the small child may die…
And the middle-aged man suffers in the cell of the great prison…" (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 1 (2001) pp. 130-131)
The Attitude to Peace
Tolerance and Friendship
Tolerance as an ideal is much praised in the Palestinian textbooks . They mostly refer to inter-religious relations and, to a lesser degree, to other types of social relations, in sports, for example. The focus in this respect is on the Palestinian society, namely, the relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians. No reference is made to the Jews in this context. No reference is made as well to the possibility of friendship between Jewish and Palestinian individuals, either adults or children.
Peace with Israel
Like tolerance, peace is also an exalted ideal in the PNA textbooks. Peace in general is encouraged and the textbooks quote the Palestinian commitment to peace from the Palestinian Declaration of Independence (Algiers, November 15, 1988) . As regards the peace process with Israel, it is related in matter-of-fact language, and put within the general Arab peace process with Israel . The Oslo agreement is briefly mentioned in this context . In no place does an open advocacy for peace between Palestinians and Israelis appear.
The struggle for liberation
On the other hand, there is an open advocacy for the liberation struggle against the occupation . From the text it appears that the said struggle is destined to be violent . Beside this point that raises some questions regarding the value of peace agreements between the two parties, there is a very alarming issue: The extent of the area to be liberated is never clearly specified. Nowhere in the text is it said that the area that should be liberated from occupation is the West Bank and the Gaza strip only. In fact, there are several expressions that imply a broader struggle aimed at the liberation the whole of Palestine, i.e., those parts that were occupied by Israel in 1948 . If one adds to that the consistency with which the PNA textbooks treat those "1948 lands" as an integral part of Palestine, the danger of this approach to peace in the region becomes clearly apparent.
Jihad and martyrdom
The violent character of the liberation process is enhanced by the emphasized inculcation of the traditional Islamic ideals of Jihad and martyrdom (in their military meaning) in the minds of the Palestinian students. In one case the student is openly encouraged to glorify the concept of martyrdom , and another text describes martyrdom as a wedding party . A poem taught to 7th grade students includes the following verses: "The flow of blood gladdens my soul, as well as a body thrown upon the ground, skirmished over by the desert predators".
One of the Palestinian textbooks quotes from the Palestinian Declaration of Independence a passage rejecting terror and later accuses Israel of falsely dubbing the Palestinian struggle as terror . It is true that the textbooks hardly praise terror against Israel . But they do treat positively Palestinian individuals who committed acts of terrorism against Israel and were consequently killed or imprisoned. The former ones are called "martyrs" (like the PLO leader Khalil al-Wazir, alias Abu Jihad, who was assassinated in Tunis in 1988 - probably by Israeli agents) and the latter - "prisoners-of-war" . There is also veneration of the title "Fida'i" which is used to denote members of the Palestinian armed organizations who are engaged in terrorist activity against Israel. One can have a clear idea, as Palestinian school students probably do, regarding the real attitude of the Palestinian educators towards such activities.
I would sum up this paper by answering the two questions that appear in its title:
1. The PNA textbooks teach that the Jews are foreigners in Palestine and have no right to be there. This is beside their general dubious and even murderous character. As for Israel, It is an illegitimate occupying power in Palestine - all of Palestine, as well as a source of tremendous harm to its surroundings, especially the Palestinians, who are always presented as victims.
2. The PNA textbooks do not foster a peaceful solution to the conflict with Israel. Rather, they encourage the ideal of violent struggle of liberation against it, strengthened by traditional Islamic concepts of Jihad and martyrdom. Terrorist activity against Israel is not opposed, but rather implicitly encouraged.
It is much regretted that an opportunity to contribute to a peaceful solution between the two peoples has not been utilized by the Palestinian educational authorities. The course that has been so far taken with regard to the creation of school textbooks may have contributed, instead, to the violence in the region, and by no means is bound to lead towards a real peace.
* Dr. Arnon Groiss is the Director of Research at the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) which studies the attitude to peace and to the "other" in textbooks around the Middle East, including Israel. Dr. Groiss is the author of several reports issued by CMIP on school textbooks in Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian National Authority. Dr. Groiss received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University and has an MPA degree from the J.F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He has worked since 1973 at the Arabic radio station of the Israel Broadcasting Authority where he served as director of the News Division and director of the Program Division.
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Reform Jewish Leader Challenges
New Palestinian Leadership to Confront Culture of Hatred Against
Jews and Israel
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
matter who is chosen as the new leader of the Palestinian
people, as long as children are taught to hate, the chance to
achieve a true and lasting peace between Israel and the
Palestinians will remain elusive.
WASHINGTON, January 7, 2005 In anticipation of
the upcoming Palestinian elections, Rabbi David Saperstein,
Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,
issued the following statement calling upon the newly elected
Palestinian leader to immediately address anti-Israel incitement
in Palestinian textbooks:
As the Palestinian people prepare for presidential elections and, we pray, a new era of democracy and peace, we reiterate our longstanding concern regarding anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian classrooms. Even the most optimistic short-term improvements toward peaceful coexistence cannot succeed if hatred and ill-will is inculcated in Palestinian children. For this reason, we cannot stay silent when children learn senseless hatred and incitement to murderous violence in Palestinian schools and call on whomever is elected President to address this issue immediately.
Recent studies of Palestinian textbooks conducted by responsible groups across the political spectrum in Israel, such as the Israel Resource News Agency and the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), show that negative characterizations of Israelis as imperialists and colonialists with no historical connection to the land of Israel continue to plague the Palestinian education system. A study released by IPCRI in November 2004, finds that it is not difficult to come to the understanding that the main political theme imparted to the students is that Israel should not exist and that is essential the Palestinian goal. Even more disturbing is the study s finding that one cannot but come to the conclusion that the Palestinian Authority is encouraging Jihad in the narrow sense of Holy War against Israel and against Jews. No matter who is chosen as the new leader of the Palestinian people, as long as children are taught to hate, the chance to achieve a true and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians will remain elusive. We cannot let the potential of this new era go unfulfilled.
Even at this promising moment, we remember that the breakdown of the Oslo process and the constant violence over the last four years have taught us that the pursuit of peace cannot lie exclusively with governments. It must emanate from all levels of society. Palestinian textbooks that plant seeds of hatred push the chances for peaceful coexistence and a two-state solution, the surest way to guarantee Israel s future as a Jewish and democratic state, further away.
We fervently hope and pray that the upcoming elections lead to the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership that acts forcefully and effectively in seeking to abolish terrorism and end expressions of hatred toward Jews and Israel in all aspects of Palestinian culture.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.
Contact: Alexis Rice or Dena Wigder 202.387.2800
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Critique of Abu Mazen from a
Pro-Palestinian Advocacy Organization
Mid-East Realities - www.MiddleEast.Org
fancy new villas, fanciest is that of Abu Mazen, key negotiator
of the ill-fated Oslo accord. It is not clear who paid for this
$2 million-plus affair, all balconies and balustrades in gothic
profusion, but the graffiti which some irreverent scoundrel
scrawled on its wall proclaimed that 'this is your reward for
MiddleEast.org - MER - Washington - 8 January: Tomorrow Mahmoud
Abbas, Abu Mazen, becomes the 'elected' President of the
Palestinian Authority -- a body it should be remembered created
by Israel and the U.S. and substantially funded and armed by
them and the Europeans. Officially it is the Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO) which continues to represent
Palestinians throughout the world, the PA considered a
subsidiary within the 'occupied territories' nearly totally
dependent on the Israelis, as it in fact is. One of the world's
leading authorities on the Middle East, and especially on the
Arab-Israeli conflict, is David Hirst, author of the classic
book from the past The Gun and the Olive Branch. This damning
article about the PA and about the Arafat regime -- 'A Regime of
Extortion' -- was published in 1997 at the height of the 'Peace
Process' when it was so wrongly being proclaimed far and wide as
'irreversible'. So much has happened since -- so much
destruction, bloodshed, corruption, and political/historical
chicanery. And so this is a good time to reflect not only on the
long sordid history of this conflict, but on the more immediate
past years in which Abu Mazen was one of the few key players,
including the man who signed the Oslo Agreement at the White
House in 1993 and benefited the most personally from it. Yasser
Arafat may be gone. The ramshackle 'Regime of Extortion',
nepotism, and corruption he and Abu Mazen, Abu Ala, and Nabil
Shaath created at such a great historical price remains.
MER FLASHBACK - Originally published 5/97
Arafat in Gaza: "A Regime of Extortion"
MER - If you only have time for one article about the so-called
"Peace Process" and what has been done to the Palestinian people
since the Gulf War -- READ THIS ONE! AND READ IT IN FULL! David
Hirst is one of the most seasoned veteran journalists in the
Middle East today. This article is from the GUARDIAN WEEKLY, 27 April.
(Opening Headline): Yasser Arafat and his 'Tunisians' have
turned the Palestinians' homeland into a ramshackle, nepotistic
regime of extortion . . . .
Shameless in Gaza
by David Hirst
GAZA is the most conservative of Palestinian communities; its Islamist militants once set fire to a sea-front hotel, a restaurant and other such dens of iniquity.
So imagine the pious horror at the opening of Gaza's first and only nightclub. On a Thursday evening of the Muslim weekend, I found the Zahra al-Mada'in, the Flower of the Cities, packed almost to capacity, not just with lonely young men come to admire Gaza's first belly dancers and songstresses -- locally recruited gypsies -- but with entire families, women, children and even a babe-in-arms.
In other smart or risque places, you can add illicit liquor to your Coca-Cola, but here -- in another Gazan first -- you can order your scotch or your Israeli Maccabee beer on the very premises. However the oddest thing is not so much the place, but the clientele: they are mainly "Tunisians", not Gazans at all.
Tunis was Yasser Arafat's last headquarters in exile, and "the Tunisians" is a nickname which Gazans gave to those, officially known as "returnees", who came with him when, following the Oslo accord he established himself here instead. There are about 10,000 of them, bureaucrats who run his Palestinian Authority, former guerillas who dominate his enormous security apparatus."
PHOTO: Suha Arafat laughing beneath a photo of Yasser. Caption:
"Suha Arafat: in charge of private slush fund."
The Tunisians" have " come home" to the soil of Palestine itself. But the terrible irony is that they are not merely strangers in their own land, they are for the most part disliked, despised, even hated. It is they who introduced such abominations as Zahra al-Mada'in.
But it is not just Hamas and Islamic Jihad, or bigots in general, who feel the shock. Liberals who welcome any challenge to the dour local mores feel it too. For almost everyone, "the Tunisians" are as alien, as unfit to rule, as those -- Turks, British, Egyptians, Israelis -- who came before them. And because they are actually Palestinians,! and came as "liberators", the shock is even worse.Arafat's Palestine Revolution never made itself very popular, among governments, elites or even ordinary people of the territories it passed through .
But at least in Jordan, in the sixties, its men truly fought and died. So -- though with less purpose or conviction -- did they in Lebanon in the seventies and eighties. Obviously, during the eightie s and nineties, they could not fight from Tunis, and other far-flung Arab countries in which they fetched up, but at least, as members of the world's richest liberation movement, they continued to pump money into local economies.
Here, in the homeland itself, far from fighting the former Zionist foe, they lead the collaboration with it. They may attract money -- in the form of international aid -- to this poorest of Palestin an communities, but they take at least as much away from it. They are oppressive -- and immeasurably corrupt. "
We live in amazing, shameful times," said one of Gaza's merchant princes, and a former Fatah fighter himself, "but you should know that every revolution has its fighters, thinkers and profiteers. Our fighters have been killed, our thinkers assassinated, and all we have left are the profiteers. These don't think even primarily of the cause, they don't think about it at all. They know that they re just transients here, as they were in Tunis, and, as with any regime whose end is near, they think only of profiting from it while they can."
This is a damning indictment, but if any system can be measured by the conduct of its bureaucrats it is a fair one. In fact, the justice of it hits even a casual visitor in the eye. Just go to the district of Rimal. Rimal means "sand", and on this former wasteland there is now arising, at incredible speed, the most up-market neighbourhood of "liberated" Gaza.
You might not think it at first sight; a sand-smothered, refuse-strewn mess of empty lots amid shacks that are disappearing and half-finished concrete monsters that are taking their place, it differs little in spirit from the rest of this desolate, infinitely decrepit and unsightly city.
But it is mainly here that "the Tunisians" have taken root, with their amazing array of "ministries", "authorities" and special "agencies", police stations and sen ry posts, choice rooftop apartments, villas and places of entertainment. Here is Arafat's own sea-front bureau -- al-Muntada, The Club -- with all the "presidential" trappings he so adores, and here in the very next building, is the Zahra al-Mada'in cabaret.
Here you will sooner or later run into Suha, his young wife, out for lunch at Le Mirage, an exclusive sea-front restaurant, with her infant daughter and a posse of Force-17 bodyguards. You will run into her, at least, when she is not in Paris, where she does her shopping and can find a decent hairdresser, unlike the first, disastrous Gazan one, who reportedy turned her blonde locks almost orange .
PHOTO: Palestinians throwing stones. Caption: While ordinary Palestinians continue to fight on the streets against Jewish settlements, their rulers are busy lining their own pockets.
And you are bound to come across Susie, her ample British nanny who affects leopard-skin tights and often has too much to drink, a condition in which she is apt to dispense indiscretions about the presidential household, threatening, some fear, another Middle Eastern nanny scandal of Netanyahu proportions.
Among the fancy new villas, fanciest is that of Abu Mazen, key negotiator of the ill-fated Oslo accord. It is not clear who paid for this $2 million-plus affair, all balconies and balustrades in gothic profusion, but the graffiti which some irreverent scoundrel scrawled on its wall proclaimed that "this is your reward for selling Palestine".
Lifestyles match. Nabil Shaath, the highly articulate minister of planning much seen on Western TV screens, recently took a wife young enough to be his daughter. He required four receptions to celebrate this event, in Cairo, Gaza -- and two in Jerusalem. Because his Israeli friends could not go to the one in East Jerusalem's Orient House, that "illegal" outpost of the Palestinian Authority, he had another in the Ambassador Hotel.
For salutary contrast with Rimal, just stroll up the coast where, just beyond Le Mirage, you will come upon the awful squalor and open sewers of the Shati' refugee camp, conditions resembling those n which most Gazans live.
There, in a windowless concrete block they call "the cafe", I asked some day labourers, idled by yet another Israeli border closure, whether they thought that Gaza's per capita income, far from rising, had actually fallen by as much as 39 per cent since the Oslo accord. For that is what a recent UN survey says. "More like 75 per cent," one replied. "some no longer think it a shame to send their children out to beg." That also seems to be borne out by the UN report, which records an "alarming" increase in "child labour".
More shocking, really, than the contrast itself is what lies behind it. When he first came here, Arafat said he would turn Gaza into a "new Singapore". Palestinian businessmen, who made their fortunes building the Arab oil states, would help ! him build his.
But, three years on, it is clear that none will seriously touch it. Not just the Israelis deter them, with their repeated frontier closures that bedevil businessmen as well as workers In truth, Arafat does not want them either. For they would undermine his control, achieved through a combination of police surveillance and money power. So instead of any kind of independent, creative, wealth-producing capitalism, he and his coterie of unofficial economic "advisers" have thrown up a ramshackle, nepotistic edifice of monopoly, racketeering and naked extortion that enriches them as it further impoverishes society at large.
Two years ago, the al-Bahr company barely existed. Al-Bahr means "sea". But Gazans now dub it "the ocean", because, they say, "it is swallowing Gaza whole". Legally speaking, not being officially registered, it should not be operating at all. Yet it is so brazen about its powerful connections that -- to the impotent indignation of the Palestinian "parliament" -- it even uses the Authority's letter heads. It belongs to Arafat, or, more precisely, to his wife Suha and the other "shareholders" who handle his private finances. Al-Bahr -- who else? -- runs the Zahra al-Mada'in nightclub. The premises were supposed to go by open tender to the most qualified bidder. But Arafat just signed a decree placing it in his protege's hands. It is never by fair, and often by quite foul, means that Arafat In corporated moves into real estate, entertainment, computers, advertising, medicine, insurance. Only the most powerful Gazan businessmen can resist its encroachments. It goes chiefly after small and medium fry. These are pressed into "partnership" with al-Bahr.
Al-Bahr is the new, strictly domestic instrument of Arafat's takeover of the Gazan economy. It complements already existing monopolies, for the import of such basic commodities as cement, petrol or flour, which he operates in complicity with the Israelis. For example, out of the $74 for which a ton of cement is sold in Gaza, $17 goes to the Authority, and $17 into his own account in a Tel Aviv bank.
It is no secret what Arafat uses this money for. "I shall give you all you want if you obey and protect me -- and give me all I want." That has always been his message to his nomenklatura, and it has been amazingly successful. For what resistance can be expected from an apparatus whose minister of civil affairs, Jamil Tarifi, a big contractor, goes on building Israeli settlements even as the Palestinian people threaten a new intifada over Har Homa? Or whose high officials use their VIP cars to sail through Israeli checkpoints on their way to the fleshpots of Tel Aviv even as Israel! i border closures rob day labourers of their menial wage?
Rarely can a revolution have degenerated like Arafat's -- and yet survived. It only survives because, in robbing his people to bribe his buraucrats, he has proved so great a commitment to the peace process that the parties on which he now completely depends -- Israelis, Americans, the international community at large -- are willing to ignore, even encourage, his manifest corruptions. The Israelis may be embarrassed by the latest, scandalous revelations of their leading newspaper, Ha'aretz, about the Arafat slush fund that the great peace-maker, Yitzhak Rabin, authorised. But so long as Arafat goes on bending to their conception of the peace, they will go on letting him draw on it.
European governments would be far more embarrassed if it were established that Arafat really does earn far more from al-Bahr and his illicit monopolies than from all their aid combined. But unless the scandal becomes too great, they will go on paying too. But they delude themselves if they think that they can go on propping him up for ever. And in this regard, it seems, Arafat and his "Tunisians" are more clear-headed than they are. They know that there is a point beyond which even he cannot go without risking his people's wrath.
Small wonder then that, according to Ha'aretz, a part of Arafat's secret fund is earmarked for "emergency situations", such as a coup or a civil war, in which he, his family and immediate entourage could be forced to flee into exile once more, and re-establish the leadership from there. They know, better than anyone, that the peace process, and all they get out of it, is built, like the Zahra a M ada'in, on nothing more solid than the fine white powdery sands of Rimal.
The Guardian Weekly, 4/27/97
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neglects say to that the PLO, which Abbas co-founded with Arafat 40
years ago, has yet to repeal the PLO Covenant which mandates
that the PLO maintain its state of war with Israel - DB]
Has no one learned anything?
On September 13, 1993, I was on the White House lawn watching the signing of the Oslo accords. I also watched the intellectual collapse of the entire Middle East intelligentsia -- journalists, politicians, "experts" -- as they swooned at the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and refused, that day and for years to come, to recognize what was obvious: that Arafat was embarking not on peace but on the next stage of his perpetual war against Israel, this one to be launched far more advantageously from a base of Palestinian territory that Israel had just suicidally granted him.
Why was this so obvious? Because Arafat said so -- that very night (in an Arabic broadcast to his own people on Jordanian television) and many times afterward. The Middle East experts refused to believe it. They did not want to hear it. Then came the intifada. Thousands of dead later, they now believe it. The more honest ones among them even admit they were wrong.
Now Arafat is dead, Mahmoud Abbas is poised to succeed him and the world is swooning again. Abbas, we are told, is the great hope, the moderate, the opponent of violence, the man who has said the intifada was counterproductive.
The peacemaker cometh. Once again, euphoria is in the air. Once again, no one wants to listen to what is being said.
Elections for the new Palestinian leader are on Sunday. Conveniently, this being a Palestinian election, we already know the winner. How has President-to-be Abbas been campaigning?
December 30: Abbas, appearing in Jenin, is hoisted on the shoulders of Zakaria Zbeida, a notorious and wanted al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist. Abbas declares that he will protect all terrorists from Israel.
December 31: Abbas reiterates his undying loyalty to Arafat's maximalist demands: complete Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and -- the red-flag deal-breaker -- the "right of return," which would send the millions of Palestinians abroad not to their own country of Palestine but to Israel in order to destroy it demographically.
January 1: Abbas declares that he will never crack down on Palestinian terrorism.
January 4: Abbas calls Israel "the Zionist enemy." That phrase is so odious that only Hezbollah and Iran and others openly dedicated to the extermination of Israel use it.
What of Abbas's vaunted opposition to violence? On January 2 he tells Hamas terrorists firing rockets that maim and kill Jewish villagers within Israel, "This is not the time for this kind of act." This is an interesting "renunciation" of terrorism: Not today, boys; perhaps later, when the time is right. Which was exactly Arafat's utilitarian approach to terrorism throughout the Oslo decade.
Some of the American and Israeli responses to Abbas are enough to make you weep. Spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Israel: "We don't think it is useful to focus on every statement by every official; what's important is the process." Official in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office: "Words don't count in the Middle East; what counts are actions."
Have we learned nothing? In the Middle East, words are actions. Never more so than in an election campaign in which your words define your platform and establish your mandate. Abbas is running practically unopposed, and yet, on the question of both ends and means, he chooses to run as Yasser Arafat.
During the decade of Oslo, Arafat's every statement of hatred, incitement and glorification of violence was similarly waved away. Then bombs began going off in cafes and buses, and the Middle East wise men realized he meant it all along. Now once again they are telling us to ignore the words. Abbas does not really mean it, they assure us. This is just electioneering. We know his true moderate heart. Believe us.
Why? On the basis of their track record? And even more important, you do not conduct foreign policy as a branch of psychiatry. Does Abbas mean the things he says about Israel now? I do not know, and no matter what you hear from the experts -- the same people who assured you that Arafat wanted peace -- neither do they.
But we do know this: In Abbas's first moment of real leadership, his long-anticipated emergence from the shadow of Arafat, he chooses to literally hoist the flag of the terrorist al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Can Abbas turn into a Sadat, who also emerged from the shadow of a charismatic leader, reversed policy and made peace with Israel? I'll believe it when I see it. And hear it.
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"Because of Settlers Like You!"
Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim
"If Gush Katif didn't exist we would have to invent it," said Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin when touring the Gush Katif region.
"You are the first line of defense of this country," stated Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a speech in Gush Katif, 2002.
Today the Gush Katif region as well as the Western Negev is under daily, almost hourly bombardment. Time bombs are placed on the roads, infiltrators try incursions into the area, roadside shootings are a daily occurrence. Therefore the IDF has had to increase its presence in the Gaza area.
The IDF's role in Gaza is (1) to find the primary perpetrators and eliminate them, (2) to locate and destroy the factories where the primitive but deadly mortars, rockets and bombs are being manufactured, (3) to blow up the dozens of tunnels in Rafah where vast quantities of sophisticated armaments are being smuggled into Gaza via Egypt, and (4) to locate and terminate the Hamas leadership that trains and sends out the perpetrators of these attacks into the Gush Katif region and into other parts of Israel. The area of Gaza is a festering sore of Arab insurgency whose credo is the total destruction of Israel. The potential for disaster to Israeli cities stems primarily from the Gaza region.
The only piece of land that has remained stable in this area and acts as a buffer zone are the Gush Katif communities. The 21 settlements - fifteen southern settlements, two central, four northern - divide the Gaza Strip into three sections. This division makes it impossible for the northern and southern sections of the Gaza Strip to join together to become a more cohesive Arab fighting unit.
Gush Katif was invented by the Rabin government in order to have a raison d'etre for an IDF army and naval presence in Gaza. Ostensibly the IDF guards the civilian Jewish population living in an area of over one million Arabs. In reality Gush Katif exists to provide the army and navy in the area a base from which to keep an eye on this volatile piece of land.
IDF held back
The IDF presence grew during the first Intifadeh, before and after the Oslo Accords. Today the most deadly conflicts in Israel come from Gaza. The Arab cities in Judea and Samaria are being systematically made terrorist free. The army has apparently been held back from a similar cleanup in the Gaza Strip, keeping it a hotbed of warfare.
Western Negev hit
The entire Western Negev is being hit by mortars and rockets on a daily basis. The amount of hits are simply not reported in the press as the kibbutzim are Labor and Mapam establishments. It is strange that the Labor party does not demand protection for "its own people" in the south. The intense bombardment of these kibbutzim is being swept under the carpet so that Gush Katif can be the scapegoat. If only the Gush Katif settlers did not exist the Arabs would cease shelling the Negev and everyone would live in peace.
Living in the Tel Aviv area or in the northern cities of Israel one forgets that there is a developed area in the south. The Ashkelon power station is a few-seconds missile launch away. Sederot is already a prime daily target. Even Mr. Sharon's Havat HaShikma ranch is in rocket range. Ashdod is next.
Rag-tag to sophisticated
According to the disengagement plan the Palestinian Authority will receive Israeli rifles, Egyptian combat training, and be put under the direct rule of a confessed murderer, Mohammad Dahlan. We will help turn a rag-tag army into a sophisticated fighting machine. The Western Negev is without a doubt a prime target for an intensive war after an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Protecting its citizens
The role of the IDF is to protect its citizens wherever they are being attacked by an enemy. We do not expel the Jews - we fight the enemy. Gush Katif people are tax-paying citizens of Israel. They and their children serve in the army. They are hardworking farmers bringing much needed tax dollars into the national coffers. They are teachers. They are moms and dads - like you.
To the Jewish mother who declared "My son is being sent to Gaza to be killed because of settlers like you!", the answer is simple. Your child, your husband, your father, is in the Israeli army. There is a war in Gaza and your loved one has the proud responsibility of fighting for his/her people. Today Gush Katif and the Western Negev are on the front line. Tomorrow it might be your town or city. I hope no one will declare "Because of you…. !"
Be proud that s/he is in Gaza in order to fight a vicious Arab enemy. And in the same vein - Refuse! Refuse! Refuse to allow your son or daughter to participate in the expulsion of Jews from their homes and land in Eretz Yisrael!
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A Palestinian Denied the Right
to Vote" by Palestinians, Israelis and Americans
Issam Abu Issa* is a Palestinian who wanted to have the right to vote in this week's Palestinian election yet was denied the right to do so.
At the urging of the Palestinian leadership, Issa was barred by Israel from receiving a visa to enter Israel.
In 1996, Issa had founded the Palestine International Bank (PIB), headquartered in Ramallah, with the aim of providing much needed capital to nurture Palestinian businesses â€" except that his bank was commandeered away from him by Yassir Arafat's personal economics advisor, Muhammad Rashid. In Issa's words, "Rather than use donor funds for their intended purposes, Arafat regularly diverted money to his own accounts".
And on November 28, 1999, Arafat issued a decree dissolving the Palestine International Bank's board of directors. Meanwhile, Rashid, and the late Yossi Ginosar, a former Israeli security officer opened Swiss bank accounts and deposit funds into them derived from both PA-financed companies and Israeli tax rebates to the Palestinian treasury.
The state-controlled Palestine Monetary Authority took over Issam's bank, and with Arafat's blessing and written approval.
Now, with Arafat's passing, and with the dawn of new elections, Issam Abu Issa hoped to come back, to vote in the Palestinian elections, and to lead a reform movement inside the Palestinian community
I met Mr. Issam Abu Issa in London , only three days before the Palestinian election. He was only too pleased to meet an Israeli journalist, and made only one request: To find out why he was being denied a visa. I called everyone possible in Israeli officialdom, yet no Israeli official was forthcoming with a reason.
Abu Issa had a theory as to why that was. He said that "perhaps Muhammad Rashid still holds power over both the Palestinian Authority and over Israel at the same time". And, in Abu Issa's words. "if Rashid still runs the show", it is a sign that the anti-reformers are still in charge, both among the Palestinians and among the Israelis".
Abu Issa wanted to come to the US to express his concerns, but he is blocked there also from getting a visa.
Last February, Abu Issa discovered the hard way that his message was also not welcome in the US. When he arrived at JFK International Airport in New York on his way to testify about PA corruption before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. he was arrested and, in his words, "cuffed at the wrists and ankles and repeatedly interrogated by agents who accused him of laundering $6 million from the PIB on behalf of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He was then deported from the US and, ever since, has been denied a visa.
Abu Issa, in London, wonders aloud s to whether his being barred from entry into the US and into Israel would indicate that both the U.S. and Israeli are now launching a "joint anti-reform" effort.
While it is true that the Palestinian Arab people have conducted democratic elections on Sunday, the checks and balances that characterize western democracies abroad seem to be lacking in Ramallah and the emerging Palestinian entity.
* Issam Abu Issa, former chairman of the Palestine International
Bank, currently resides in Qatar. He is founder of the
Palestinian National Coalition for Democracy and Independence, a
Palestinian democratic reform movement.
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