Israel Resource Review 11th January, 2007


Dr. Michael Widlanski

(video footage available from the Center for Near East Policy Research.

"Our rifles, all our rifles are aimed at The Occupation," [Arabic: "Al-Ihtilal"] declared Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas today (January 11) in a major speech that was warm to Hamas and harsh to Israel and the United States.

Abbas's comments were interpreted by Palestinians themselves as a clear reference to attacking Israel. The comments were repeated almost exactly in later television shows by other Palestinian officials, such as Ibrahim Abu-Naja and Dr. Kamal Sharafy who called Israel "the enemy" and "the Zionist enemy," respectively.

As if to remove any doubt about the militancy of Abbas's words, minutes after Abbas's own speech, Palestinian television's senior announcer, described Israel's establishment as the beginning of "occupation."

Dr. Abbas seemed to reject all possibilities of territorial compromise or anything less than full repatriation of Palestinian refugees, and he repudiated Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's idea that a further Israeli withdrawal would lead to a Palestinian state inside temporary borders.

"Today more than any other day, we must hold fast to our Palestinian principles, and we will not accept a state with temporary borders" said Abbas, adding, "We will not give up one grain of [land] in Jerusalem."

Referring to Palestinian refugees, Chairman Abbas said, "We send our greetings to our brothers in Jordan, in Syria, in Lebanon," adding, "our hearts and our hands are open to all Palestinians."

Once more Abbas signaled an invitation to Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join the Palestine Liberation Organization officially—something which almost occurred two years ago, failing when Hamas felt it was not given enough representation in the PLO.

Throughout his speech Abbas hinted strongly that spilling blood of Israelis was permitted, while explicitly saying that spilling Palestinian blood was a crime.

"He who spills Palestinian blood is a criminal," he said. "We must say 'Palestinian blood is forbidden,'" he continued, acknowledging the continuing bloody feuding between Hamas [which holds the PA legislature] and Fatah [which holds the PA executive branch].

"We all know that the Israeli occupation has staged many evil and criminal attacks, including the attack on Jenin, which President Yasser Arafat referred to as 'Jenin-grad,'" declared Abbas, referring to comments by his predecessor, Arafat, who likened the Fatah in Jenin to those Russians who fought the Nazis at Stalingrad.

Jenin had been a center of suicide bombers run by the Fatah organization until the Israeli attack in April 2002 disrupted operations by the Fatah "Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade." Arafat called the attack a "massacre," though investigations showed Israel had not used excessive violence against civilians.

Frequently throughout his speech, Abbas referred to Arafat as martyr, similarly describing those Fatah gunmen who died while carrying out attacks on Israel.

"No one [here] is a criminal. All our people are as one hand to free our land," declared Abbas, speaking about the struggle against Israel that unites all Palestinians.

But Abbas made it clear that internal Palestinian violence had to be curtailed because it was "crossing a red line," endangering Palestinians.

"I have heard the sound gunshots here, and that is forbidden," asserted Abbas, the Fatah and PLO chairman, remonstrating against the largely pro-Fatah crowd that gathered to listen to his words in the town of Ramallah, north of Jerusalem.

"Condemning and preventing internal fighting," said Abbas, was his regime's first priority, but his words did not seem to convince the crowd.

In what was in many ways one of the most militant speeches against Israel from a Palestinian official normally touted as a moderate, Dr. Abbas also stretched out his hand to the Hamas terror organization that has never even pretended it does not want to destroy Israel.

"Hamas is a bunch of Shiites," cried members of the crowd, using the term "Shiite" as a kind of curse, and Abbas again rebuked his own Fatah members, saying, "This too is forbidden," as he tried to strike nationalistic and Islamic themes of unity

"No one [Palestinian] is outside our society," yelled Abbas. waving his hands at the noisy crowd.

"No one is a traitor. No one is a collaborator [with Israel]. No one is an infidel," Abbas continued, strongly suggesting that anyone who has used arms against Israel, even if he vied with Fatah for leadership, was still not beyond the pale.

[Almost all Palestinians are Sunni Muslims and the term "Shi'a" in Arabic, which means faction or faction member, refers to those Muslims who broke away from the majority community after the death of Islam's leader, Muhammad, and supported Ali, Muhammad's nephew. –MW]

Abbas was speaking at the forty-second anniversary of the founding of the Fatah organization—a day commemorating the first Palestinian attack on Israel's national water carrier on January 1, 1965, and Abbas was trying to use the occasion unify the divided Palestinian community, perhaps by using Israel as a common enemy.

The Fatah Day speech was delayed by ten days of massive fighting between Fatah and Hamas, both of which are wrestling for leadership of the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004.

More than 20 Palestinians have been killed in the last week of fighting, according to reports from Gaza, where most of the fighting has taken place.

Despite the fighting, however, both Fatah and Hamas have continued to launch rocket attacks and to attempt suicide bomb attacks against Israel. Abbas has sometimes said such attacks "do not serve Palestinian interests," but again today he made it clear that such attacks are morally justified in his eyes.

*Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem

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