|Israel Resource Review
||15th December, 1998
the Israel Resource
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Why the PLO Covenant Annulment Means Little
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
The high point of President Bill Clinton's middle east mission - his
participation in the Palestine National Council meeting where he witnessed
the PNC annulling the PLO Covenant by a voice vote - may turn out to be
Arafat's commitment to annul the 1964 PLO Covenant on 9th September, 1993,
remained the condition that the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin required
for Israel to enter into any agreement with Arafat and the PLO.
Yet what has transpired in the five years that it took Arafat to cancel the
Palestinian covenant is that the PLO Covenant has become engrained in the
foundations of the Palestinian state in the making.
Tragically, no decision by the PNC, however well intended, can put the
toothpaste back in the tube.
At the outset of the 1998-99 Palestinian school year, the first academic
study of the hundred and fifty new school books used by the Palestine
Authority showed that the PLO Covenant remains the central theme of the
Palestine Authority school curriculum. Israel is referred to in PA school
books as the "Zionist enemy", while Zionism is equated with Nazism,
"JIHAD"/holy war is taught as the duty of Palestinian school children, and
the need to liberate "all of Palestine" remains a pervasive theme in all PA
textbooks, while the official PBC "Voice of the Palestine Authority" radio
and TV networks quote the PLO Covenant in almost every aspect of its daily
media output. That official PLO media incitement has not let up since the
WYE accord was reached in October.
The PLO Covenant remains the living "raison d'etre" of the Palestinian Arab
refugee camps operated by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency, for almost fifty years, which provides for more than three million
Palestinian Arab refugees to refugee camps, under the PLO Covenant's
premise and promise of the "inalienable right of return" for Palestinian
refugees to return to the homes within Israel proper that they left in
1948, a dream endorsed by the annual ratfication of UN resolution #194.
One of the first acts of the Palestine Authority was to reject any
rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugee camps, because the PLO Covenant
forbids any change in the "refugee status quo". The spokesman of the
Palestine Legislative Council informed me today that the principles of the
PLO Covenant that forbid rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugee camps
will continue to be enforced.
Indeed, during the American First Lady Hillary Clinton's visit to an UNRWA
school in an UNRWA Refugee Camp, the children excitedly sang songs of
their imminent return to the homes that their grandparents left in what are
now in Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, and Haifa.
Moreover, since yet another principle of the PLO Covenant is that Jews
should not be able to purchase new lands in Palestine since 1917, the
Palestine Legislative Council enacted a statute in November that made it a
capital crime for Jews to purchase land anywhere which the PLO consider to
be "Palestine". The PLC was not only referring to the west bank and to
Gaza. Meanwhile, the popular FATAH movement, under the steady leadership
of Yassir Arafat since 1964, issued a new constitution this week in which
the FATAH absorbed all of the principles of the PLO
Covenant that advocate Israel's destruction.
Not everyone in the president's entourage expressed unreserved enthusiasm
with the PNC decison to annul
the PLO Covenant.
US Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the senior congressional witness to the
PNC session in Gaza, held a press conference before returning to Washington
to warn that any PLO decision that contravened the annulment of the PLO
charter would run into congressional opposition to the aid promised to the
Palestine Authority by President Clinton.
Return to Contents
The Palestinian Security Services:
Between Police and Army
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst
Source: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy -
Special report on "Palestinian security services: between police
and army" - November, 1998.
- As a result of Oslo, the PSS (Palestinian Security Services) was
established. The PSS includes many of those from the PLA (Palestinian
Liberation Army). Originally, the PSS had 12 branches, but after OSLO II,
the branches were decreased to 6.
- OSLO II only allows the PSS to have 30,000 officers. There could be over
40,000-if this is true, the PA is the most heavily policed territory in
the world, 1 officer for every 50 residents, the US ration is 1:400.
- the PA is accumulating anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons for
confrontation with the IDF.
- the PA is considering making mandatory military service after the OSLO
Process is completed in May, 1999.
The Palestinian GSS (General Security Service) is responsible for
coordinating and maintaining most of the Palestinian security branches and
services. (including police and intelligence). According to
OSLO, the GSS should be the security service under which all
other services operate.
GSS Security Branches:
- National Security Force- 14,000 officers. NSF is responsible for
missions along area A and inside. Israeli-Palestinian joint guards.
Recruited most of their officers from the PLA and the local areas.
- Civil Police-"blue police" They are the main tool of the PA. They
handle ordinary police functions. They employee more than 10,000 police
officers in the W.Bank and Gaza. Also they have 700 officers in a special
rapid-deployment police unit who are trained to handle severe riots and
counterterrorism operations. Officers in this unit have received training
form the former Soviet Union and therefore these officers train other
officers of other units.
- Preventative Security Force-5,000 agents, the largest PA intelligence
force. They are involved in 'information gathering in Israel.' They have
received a reputation for violating civil rights, including deaths of
- General Intelligence-the official PA intelligence agency which has 3,000
officers. They are involved in developing relations with other foreign
- Military Police-they are part of the General Intelligence unit, but they
are not officially recognized in the OSLO accords.
- Coast Guard-is situated in Gaza and has 1,000 officers. This unit is
equipped with 5 motorboats which are supplied with machine guns. Recruits
come from the Palestinian Diaspora who previously belonged to the overseas
naval unit of Fatah. They receive special commando training.
- Aerial Police- is based on Force 14, Fatah's aviation unit. Responsible
for maintaining the PA's 5 helicopters. This unit is not mentioned in any
of the agreements.
- Civil Defence-is described in OSLO as 'Emergency Services and Rescue.'
This unit consists of a fire department and rescue services. They
administer programs of first aid and rescue training for civilians.
- County Guard-supply security services to county governors and their
offices. They summon people for questioning and resolve local quarrels.
They are not recognized by any agreements.
Arafat created 2 additional services outside of the 1994 Cairo's Agreement's
definition of GSS-these 2 units are accountable only to Arafat:
- Special Security Force (SSF)-was established in Jan 1995, probably the
smallest unit. They work under Arafat's direct supervision. Their main
objectives are to gather information about opposition groups in foreign
countries (Arab). However, their hidden functions are to collect
information on the PA's other security services and to collect information
about corruption and illegal actions by the PA officials.
- Presidential Security (al-Amn al-Ri'asah)- has 3,000 officers, many of
whom were once members of Force 17, Arafat's personal security guard while
he led the PLO in the Diaspora. According to OSLO II, this unit was
supposed to be part of the GSS. Their main objective is to handle
counterterrorism, arresting opposition activists, and suspects of
collaboration with Israel. Within this unit, there are 2 other units:
An Intelligence Unit-they gather information about the activities of
opposition movements and domestic threats.
- Personal Guard-these Arafat's most loyal and trusted inner circle.
- There are 8 bodies dealing with anti-opposition related activities, causing
responsibilities to overlap and therefore clashes and inefficient work
occurs- battles over jurisdiction.
- Arafat has appointed Brig. Gen. Amin al-Hindi as head of his General
Intelligence. This man disappeared for a while after his involvement in
the 1972 massacre of Israeli Athletes in the Munich Olympics.
- Arafat has so many security forces because:
- the PA constantly has to monitor and be aware of Hamas and Palestinian
Islamic Jihad and to get rid of the political threat they pose.
- the PA can inflate the number of security personnel without violating the
interim agreement quota because most of his intelligence officers are
plainclothes agents who look and dress like civilians.
- Training: Britain, Austria, Netherlands, Egypt, and Scandinavian nations
have all helped to train some of the men. The NSF who works alongside with
the IDF is adopting many of the Israeli drills and techniques, disciplinary
measures, battle drills, ways to operate radio equipment, and regulations
for handling weapons.
In 1994 the PSS new officers who were recruited form abroad were not given
proper instructions, facilities, etc. Soon enough they became fed up.
They were under paid and soon enough corruption set in. These officers
began raiding businesses, collecting protection money and using excessive
Army or Police Force?
- The Cairo Agreements first allowed the PA to establish a security that
included police and internal security forces. The police is supposed to
create public order and internal security. Only 9,000 were allowed to be
employed by the security services. The agreed upon number rose to 30,000
by OSLO II. The PA is estimated to have 35,000-50,000 more police officers
in different branches in the W.Bank and Gaza.
- In 1998, the PA gave Israeli Intelligence a list of only 18,600 PSS
- The PA does not want Israel to know the 'real' number of officers employed.
- The PA does not want Israel to know the officers real identities because
some are former terrorists who are wanted by the Israeli government.
(Israel is allowed to veto any Palestinian employees who might be a
- According to the 1994 Cairo Agreement, the PA is only allowed to have 15,00
weapons. An estimate of the PSS and the Palestinian population as a whole
own an approximately 40,000 additional weapons than is allowed by OSLO II.
- Activities related to preservation of public order in Palestinian cities
and in 25 police stationed villages (Area B+) only involve 25% of actual
PSS personnel (why is the ratio 1:50).
- OSLO II does not specify the nature and the quality of the training
required for the practice of law enforcement. As a result, the main
branches of the PSS have never been properly trained in police work. 75%
of the total force is not assigned to any law enforcement duties. 3/4 of
the PSS are technically not police officers.
- the PA emphasizes aggressive patriotism (jihad) and therefore a 'uniform
culture' has been forged in the territories.
- During the Summer of 1998, Fatah set up military camps in Gaza that
trained young Palestinians in martial arts, handling light weapons, and
The instructors of these camps came from the military intelligence branch
of the PSS. The youth who were accepted into the military camps were
chosen according to their intelligence, leadership, and their potential to
become future commanders.
- the PSS's recruitment methods deal more with a persons political
affiliation and loyalty to the regime rather than intellectual and
leadership abilities. Current monthly salary for an officer is $200.
- efforts are being made to settle disputes between the PA and Fatah's
faction in Lebanon, so if the peace process breaks down, the PLO fighters
in Lebanon will be ready to join in. (Lebanon is the only place where
Palestinian soldiers can develop skills in special weapons). Arafat has
pledged to help these groups financially. Millions of dollars have been
diverted from humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza-to-Lebanon.
During any future conflict:
- Assumption that Palestinians are stockpiling light anti-armor weapons,
rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, SAM-7 anti-craft missiles,
all which are forbidden under OSLO. PSS has been able to smuggle weapons
into the PA across the Dead Sea into the West Bank or across the
Mediterranean into Gaza. Or through a secret tunnel that connects from
Egypt with Rafah, Gaza.
- in 1997, the PSS's need for anti-aircraft shoulder fired missiles
became public when a former IDF scout was arrested for stealing a military
patrol vehicle loaded with weapons and ammunition. During investigation he
admitted that the weapons were ordered by the PSS.
- Palestinians have been digging anti-tank tunnels and trap-holes under
central roads in the West Bank and Gaza. These holes can be filled with
explosives to block armored vehicles.
- For next time, the PA will not restrict their fight only to a military
level, but also civilians are to be included.
- the PA holds self defense lessons for civilians which include: shooting,
hand to hand combat, and ceremonial drill.
The Office of the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories: UNSCO
1996-97: UNSCO coordinated bilateral and multilateral training programs
for the Palestinian police. A team produced a comprehensive project
document for the establishment of a police academy for 400 trainees in
1998-99: UNSCO will continue to coordinate training programs for the
Palestinian police force.
International Maritime Organization: IMO
1996-97: Since 1996, IMO has been doing regional projects, financed by the
European Commission's LIFE Program for the development of port state
control capability in the Mediterranean. The PA is one of the project's 11
participants. It involves technical assistance and training from other
states in the Mediterranean.
1998-99 Proposals formulated:
- establishment of an independent maritime administration within the
Ministry of Transport in order to meet the needs of the proposed sea port
and resulting shipping services.
- establishment of a maritime training program to respond to the
future need for maritime officers and engineers.
Return to Contents
My Almost-Trip to Israel
The Congressman Excluded from Clinton's Entourage
by Congressman Jim Saxton (R-NJ)
Chairman, The Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare
U.S. House of Representatives
Considering that the President is aware that I strongly disagree
with his position toward Israel, it was a huge surprise when the
President invited me to accompany him on his coming trip to Israel and
the Gaza Strip. He knows that I have spoken out most critically of his
favoritism of the Palestinians in the current and ongoing negotiations
before, during, and after the Wye Agreement.
If I accepted and accompanied him, how would it look? How would my
presence be perceived? Would it look to others who believe as I do that
the President has consistently taken the Palestinian side that I had
sold out? Or, maybe, just maybe, was there a productive roll for me to
play? After all, it certainly would give me a forum to discuss with the
public my differences with the President's position.
For example, on the issue of the administration's proposal to
provide an additional $400 million in aid to the Palestinians, I could
point out that contrary to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's
statement that "every dollar of U.S. aid (to the Palestinians) is
accounted for and is completely transparent," the PA itself estimates
that 40% of the PA's annual budget had been stolen, wasted, or misused.
I could have noted the Task Force's study of the 'PECDAR Papers' that
proved gross embezzlement and misuse of foreign aid on Arafat's own
order. And further that our General Accounting office said it was
"unable to independently verify the PA's financial condition since that
organization was unwilling to provide us with requested accounting
reports and supporting documentation."
And, on the issue of the removal of the lethal phrases concerning
Israel from the Palestinian National Covenant, I could point out to the
President's press corps that the PA has an unblemished track record of
organizing events with the declared intention to address the covenant
issue and always with the end result of leaving the covenant unchanged.
Moreover, I could have raised other pertinent questions such as the
illegal size of the so-called "police" forces Arafat had built; the
types of weapons they have; their cooperation with terrorist
organizations; their dismal failure to suppress Islamist terrorists even
though the PA-controlled areas have one of the world's largest ratios of
police/security personnel per citizen.
I could have asked the President to rationalize his belief in the
"peace process" in view of the ongoing anti-Israeli legislation by the
PA such as the death penalty for holding/owning land the
intensifying, virulent, anti-Semitic incitement in the PA-controlled
media that makes genuine reconciliation with Israelis virtually
impossible. I would have sought explanations of how can anybody trust an
agreement compared to the Treaty of Hudaibiya enacted by the Prophet
Muhammad, in which a treaty lasts as long as political expediency
dictates, or trust Yassir Arafat after he repeatedly reiterated the
enduring validity of the "Phased Plan" of July 1974 the PLO's long-
term plan to destroy Israel in the context of accepting a Palestinian
state in the territories.
And I could have asked the President when will the killers of the
two US diplomats Ambassador Cleo Noel Jr. and Curt Moore including
Yassir Arafat who personally gave the order be finally brought to
justice. Oh, and of course, I could point out that for many reasons it
is clear for everyone that the real motivation for the administration's
interest in the Middle East has little to do with peace in the region
and a lot to do with the President's problems here at home.
And still the invitation had been extended and now , at 4:30 pm on
Friday, December 4, I had accepted. What an interesting few days I will
have next weekend. What a great opportunity to tell what I really
believe to the American people, I thought.
Oh, but for short lived opportunities. By the next morning,
Saturday at 930 am, the President withdrew the invitation. I should have
known that you have to get up extremely early in the morning to beat the
spin of this President.
Return to Contents
Implementation of the Wye Agreement:
Release of Palestinian Prisoners
by Yotam Feldner and Aaron Mannes
MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis, No. 9
Israel's release of ordinary criminal prisoners instead of security prisoners
in the wake of the Wye Agreement has provoked anger among Palestinians. Those
members of the Palestinian negotiating team charged with overseeing the
prisoner release issue have blamed it on the Israeli government.
Criticism of the Palestinian Leadership
After it became clear that the majority of prisoners released by Israel were
common criminals, recently released security prisoners aligned themselves with
the families of their still incarcerated comrades in accusing the Palestinian
delegation of selling them out during the negotiations. They alleged that the
negotiators favored issues of Palestinian sovereignty, over unequivocal
to release the remaining prisoners. The Palestinian police had to forcibly
disperse a demonstration at the residence of Arafat's deputy Abu Mazen, where
participants chanted: "shame on the PA, they sold the prisoners out in return
for the airport."1 Head of the Israeli Desk in the PA, Sufyan Abu Zayda,
stated: "the prisoners are the major issue, [they come] before the airport,
the harbor, or the withdrawal." 2
The criticism of the Palestinian leadership was not unfounded. The prisoners'
cause was not at the top of the agenda of their negotiating team in Wye.
Muhammad Dahlan, one of the Palestinian negotiators, made it clear: "our
priorities were clear: the land comes first, and the prisoners come
A coalition composed of relatives of Israeli-held security prisoners, former
security prisoners and active public lobbies quickly formed. They all pointed
to the PA as the culprit. "We are struggling now," said recently-released
Al-Rajub "so that the prisoners' cause can be brought to the top of the agenda
and to the fore of the Palestinian negotiators' minds - those who have
forgotten us at the Taba Agreement, at Washington, Cairo and recently at Wye
Plantation."4 Similar sentiments were expressed in a letter smuggled out of
an Israeli prison, where prisoners complained that they had been "neglected by
the Palestinian delegation, which failed to pursue their cause vigorously at
the negotiating table." 5
Some PLC members also admonished the Palestinian negotiating team. Qadura
Fares, a PLC member for Fatah, stated that if security prisoners were not
released, the struggle would go on by every means
possible.6 Another Fatah
member of the PLC, Jamal Al-Shati, saw the Wye Agreement and the treatment of
the prisoners' predicament as "a moral disintegration of national Palestinian
decision making." Al-Shati described Wye as "the burial [ceremony] for the
Accord that was executed by the Hebron Accord."7
Official Palestinian Response to Criticism
In the face of mounting criticism, the Palestinian negotiators went on the
defensive. They stressed the priority of the prisoners' cause in their
negotiation strategy. Since November, the PA termed security prisoners
"P.O.Ws,"8 while erasing the difference between those who had been
incarcerated prior to the Oslo Accords to those who were incarcerated after
Senior Palestinian officials have, a number of times, defined these prisoners
as soldiers in the service of the Palestinian armed resistance, who were
captured by Israel and whose release is the PA's responsibility.
Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saib 'Arekat addressed this issue, quoting what
Arafat had told Netanyahu and Clinton in Wye: "I personally Yaser Arafat -
have given verbal orders to these youths to carry out their [attacks]. [It is
inconceivable] that I sit next to you and shake your hands, while letting
these [youths] languish in jail..."9
The PA rejected the distinction Israel drew between prisoners with 'blood on
their hands' and others. From its standpoint, all the Palestinian prisoners
freedom fighters. Palestinian Minister for Prisoners' Affairs Hisham 'Abd
Al-Razeq was adamant: "During [our] struggle, we were not strolling around, we
were at war. In this war there were many more Palestinian casualties than
Israeli ones. Therefore, we do not accept this equation. It is inconceivable
that we agree to our prisoners remaining in jails and being tortured, while we
- the leadership of the Palestinian people and Brother 'Abu 'Ammar [Arafat] -
sit next to the Israelis and negotiate with them. Any claim of Palestinians
having murdered is racist and unacceptable... The problem of Palestinians who
committed killings must be resolved. We are their leadership, so we are
responsible for those acts..."10
The Fatah official communiqu‚, Our Position, also rejects the distinction
between prisoners with 'blood on their hands' and other prisoners, as well as
the distinction drawn between Fatah and Hamas prisoners. In its bi-weekly
edition, Our Position, addresses the prisoners 'of the various factions'
stating: "you are a lung without which oxygen will not circulate in the blood
of the revolution, the PA, and the PLO. You are the chandelier which shines
over thick darkness... we tell each and every one of those who scented their
hands with devotion [to the national cause]... whose hands Zionists and
attempt to accuse of being caked with blood - you are the pride of the
The PA's Efforts to Divert Public Anger Toward Israel
The PA has launched a media campaign in an attempt to deflect Palestinian
public anger toward Israel. In a PLC session, Palestinian Chief Negotiator
Arekat has called upon the council neither to embrace a policy of
'self-flagellation' nor put the blame for Israel's conduct on the Palestinian
The Fatah official communiqu‚, Our Position, defended the Palestinian
negotiating team by invoking age-old Islamic terminology to accuse Israel of
treachery that is 'characteristic of all Jews' by saying: "The Palestinian
negotiating team has faced ill intentions on the part of the Israelis ever
since the times of Rabin and Peres and Chief Israeli negotiators Uri Savir and
Yoel Singer who demonstrate [exactly] what Allah ascribed [to Jews]: 'whenever
they make a pact, one of their factions will violate it . . . .'" Later, Our
Position, denounces the insults cast at members of the Palestinian delegation
by relatives of the still incarcerated prisoners. It states that there is no
alternative for Palestinians other than "channeling their anger towards the
deceitful party [i.e.Israel]. An Intifada inside and outside of the jails
should be launched against it." It was further stated, on behalf of Fatah, the
PA, and the PLO: "...we have reached the level of full preparedness to
Netanyahu's government and the gangs of Zionist extremists..."13
Following mounting public criticism, senior Palestinian officials - led by
Minister Hisham 'Abd Al-Razeq - have begun making covert threats at Israel,
implying that if it did not meet their demands, Palestinians would resort to
violence. 'Abd Al-Razeq alluded to 1985 when "two [Israeli] soldiers were
exchanged for 1,200 Arab and Palestinian prisoners, of whom more than 80% had
killed Israelis... "14 The 1985 prisoners exchange resulted from the
kidnapping of IDF soldiers in Lebanon. Minister 'Abd Al-Razeq warned of a
repeat of this scenario: "The [refusal] to release [our] prisoners is a
Israeli message to our people. [It signals that] the peace process fails to
liberate [our] sons who are in Israeli prisons, as opposed to the 1983 and
[prisoners] exchange which proved successful in doing so."15 'Abd Al-Razeq
made a similar statement in an interview with the Hamas weekly: "Israel's
refusal to release security prisoners sends a message to the Palestinian
that prisoners can only be released through violence."16 In another
interview - this time with PA Television - 'Abd Al-Razeq again made a
to the 1983 and 1985 prisoners exchange, and added that last year
fundamentalist leader, Sheikh Ahmad Yasin, and another 60 Palestinians were
released in exchange for two Mossad agents who were arrested in
'Abd Al-Razeq's stance was supported by Sufyan Abu Zayda, head of the Israel
desk in the PA, who said: "When prisoners lose hope, and their families and
friends lose hope that their sons may be released in the wake of the peace
process - this means that they are being told explicitly that [they must] find
other ways of releasing their brethren from prison."18 On another occasion
Abu Zayda said, "there are other ways of releasing the prisoners, as was the
case in 1985."19 Kamal Al-Shurafi, Chairman of the Human Rights Supervision
Committee in the PLC, declared that Israel would pay dearly for its obstinacy
regarding the issue of prisoners soon enough.20
'Abd Al-Razeq and Abu Zaida's threats were echoed by the Op-Ed pages of the
Palestinian press. Political commentator Ashraf Al-'Ajrami was the boldest of
all. He wrote that the principle of reciprocity applied to every issue, and so
the Palestinians must take Israeli hostages in order to release their comrades
who are still incarcerated by Israel. Al-'Ajrami added: "...[the Palestinians]
will seek other solutions. They will once again instigate the prisoners'
exchange and release of detainees from Ansar [Israeli detention center] in
and the 'Galilee Operation' of 1985. Back then, the Israeli government did not
speak of 'murderers' or [people] with 'blood-caked' hands, but was forced to
release everyone whose release had been called for... the PA will not be able
to prevent Palestinian youths from... carrying out suicide bombings as long as
the prevalent circumstances encourage [such acts]... a comprehensive review of
the peace process, as well as the issue of prisoners, must be taken. Let us
every trump that is in our hands to force the Israelis into complying with the
Agreement in all its clauses."21
The issue of prisoners' release has exposed a deep-seated moral debate among
the Palestinians. While the leadership views the "liberation" of lands and
other issues of sovereignty as the Palestinian's first priority, the families
of the prisoners, PLC members, grass-roots PA activists, as well as well as
general Palestinian public, consider the release of prisoners to be the most
important issue. They view the PA leadership's negotiating strategy and
priorities as a "moral disintegration."
The tactics used by the Palestinian leadership to evade the public's ire are
worrisome. Blaming the opposite side's intransigence is a common public
relations "spin" on negotiations. But the PA's statement that the only way to
overcome this intransigence is through the use of force is a direct incitement
to violence and is beyond "spin." Their readiness to use violent means to
achieve their ends demonstrates a non-committal approach to peaceful
negotiations as pledged by Arafat in the Wye Memorandum ceremony and in the
1 Al-Risala, November 11, 1998.
2 Al-Quds, December 1, 1998.
3 PA Television, December 6, 1998.
4 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 25, 1998.
5 Al-Ayyam, November 24, 1998.
6 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 2, 1998.
7 Al-Ayyam, November 25, 1998.
8 This has been promulgated in a recent PLC communiqu‚- Al-Hayat Al-Jadida,
November 26, 1998.
9 PA Television, October 30, 1998. See also Abu Mazen's similar statement,
"They fought under our orders and our oversight . . . are they [to be] hostages for
the Israelis," in Al-Quds, November 11, 1998.
10 PA Television, October 30, 1998.
11 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 2, 1998.
12 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 26, 1998.
13 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 2, 1998.
14 PA Television, October 30, 1998.
15 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 23, 1998.
16 Al-Risala, November 26, 1998.
17 PA Television, December 2, 1998.
18 PA Television, November 23, 1998.
19 Al-Istiqlal, November 27, 1998.
20 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 30, 1998.
21 Al-Ayyam, November 25, 1998; See also a statement by Dr. Kamal Al-Astal:
". . . leaving prisoners behind bars will openly induce the prisoners and their
families to take this cause into their own hands. It is [an invitation for the
families] to take actions for their release," Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 25,
The Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent,
non-profit organization providing translations of the Arab media and original
analysis and research on developments in the Middle East. Copies of articles
and documents cited, as well as background information, are available upon
Yotam Feldner is MEMRI's Director of Media Analysis.
Aaron Mannes is MEMRI's Director of Research.
Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI)
1815 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations.
Materials may only be cited with proper attribution.
Return to Contents
The Habit of Hatred
by Isabel Kershner
December 21, 1998
Israel charges that the level of incitement in the Palestinian media
and the education system is sowing the seeds of the next conflict
If you look for it, you'll have no problem finding it -- by the
It lurks daily in the pages of the Palestinian newspapers, on the
Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation radio and TV, in the textbooks
currently being studied in the Palestinian Authority schools.
Anti-Israeli incitement is what occupies Itamar Marcus, director of
Palestinian Me-dia Watch, a privately funded Jerusalem-based
monitoring organization. But he hesitates to use the "i" word. Rather,
he says, the problem lies in the whole atmosphere -- the totality of
messages coming at the Palestinian public from all angles, creating an
all-pervasive, war-like environment in which the idea of peaceful
coexistence is entirely absent and in which Israel is either vilified, or
not recognized at all.
The more outrageous cases periodically burst into the Israeli
headlines. Like Yasser Arafat's now-infamous Ramallah speech of
November 15 in which he declared "our guns are raised. And we will
aim them at anyone who prevents us from going to Jerusalem." Or the
scenes broadcast on PBC TV from last summer's Palestinian Authority
military-style children's camps, in which the cute-looking boys and girls
chanted, recited poems and sang in praise of armed revolution, jihad
Then there was the November 7 opinion piece penned by guest
columnist Nasser Ahmad and published in Al-Hayat al-Jadeedah, the
semi-official PA daily, asserting: "Corruption is in the nature of the
Jews all over the world, to the point that only rarely do you find
corruption that the Jews are not behind... If we take a look at history, we
discover to what extent the Jews were exposed to oppression and
expulsion worldwide because of their ugly deeds and their
wickedness." Or the fact that every news broadcast on PBC TV starts
off, and ends, with "the map": the whole area of Israel, the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, with no borders and no names.
And no sensitivities were spared when PBC recently produced a short
film commemorating the anniversary of a problematic Israeli retaliatory
attack in October 1953 on the West Bank village of Qibiyah, in which
the IDF destroyed scores of houses, killing over 40 civilians in the
process. The five or six minute-long film clip included black-and-white
images of eyeless and limbless children, taken from the Intifada and
possibly elsewhere, as well as staged scenes of "Israeli soldiers"
lining up and shooting groups of men and women against a wall, all set
to an emotional narrative and plaintive background flute. Says Marcus:
"Its purpose was only one -- a definite desire to create hatred. You can't
watch that kind of stuff and not hate the people behind it."
From first grade up, the textbooks used in PA schools in the West Bank
are suffused with similar messages. The West Bank schools still use
the Jordanian curriculum, as they have done for the past 30 years --
and despite the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, the material has
remained violently hostile. Gaza uses the Egyptian curriculum, which
is far milder in its treatment of Israel. The Jordanian books are
published in Amman, but are then embossed with the Palestinian
Authority stamp of approval. During the occupation, the Israeli
authorities used to edit out offending parts, redesigning pages and
reprinting whole books to avoid large white gaps, but the PA has
chosen not to.
An exhaustive search of these school texts by Marcus's staff -- he
himself knows no Arabic -- resulted in a report that has left many an
Israeli gasping. Second-graders, for example, are taught a "Poem of
Palestine," including the lines: "For me, the promise of martyrdom and
Palestine is my song/From Jerusalem I shall build my ladder towards
eternity." On page 29 of the "Our Arabic Language" primer for
sixth-graders, pupils are asked to "form logical sentences making use
of the following expressions: Wise opinion the Zionist danger he called
for a Jihad disaster remaining cool-headed." In a language primer of
the same series, seventh-graders are given the following as a subject
for composition: "How are we going to liberate our stolen land? Make
use of the following ideas: Arab unity, genuine faith in Allah, most
modern weapons and ammunition, the use of oil and other precious
natural resources as weapons in the battle for liberation." And so on.
The boundaries of what constitutes "our stolen land" are kept vague, at
best. The new PA-approved atlas, in this case privately published in
the West Bank city of Nablus, shows Israel, the West Bank and Gaza
as all one area with no labels. Where the territories are marked
separately, for example in the 10th-grade textbook "Modern Arab
History and Contemporary Problems, Part Two," the color key refers to
"Arab lands occupied before 1967" and "Arab lands occupied in 1967."
"The Palestinians haven't yet internalized the recognition of Israel,"
says Marcus, who moved to Israel from the United States in 1974. He
worked in the Religious Affairs Ministry under the previous Labor-led
government before turning to full-time monitoring after the 1996
elections. "It would be completely valid if they were to put a map on TV
of the whole West Bank and Gaza without a single settlement. But
Israel of 1948 is not in dispute now. They're constantly talking about
Lod, Jaffa, Acre and Haifa in future terms, which creates dangerous
expectations. It's a general world view -- a view that was supposed to
have changed with Oslo. Instead of promoting peace, it's sowing the
seeds of the next conflict."
Israel's delegation went off to the Wye Plantation talks in October
armed with Marcus's reports. It came back with a commitment from the
Palestinians to issue a decree prohibiting all forms of incitement to
violence or terror, comparable to existing Israeli legislation, and to join
Israeli and U.S. representatives on a trilateral committee to find ways of
The decree was issued in mid-November. And on the 24th of the
month, the committee held its first meeting.
Marcus was the "professional" on the four-man Israeli team, headed by
former Knesset member Yoash Tsidon of the right-wing Tsomet party.
The Palestinian side was headed by former Arafat spokesman Marwan
Kanafani. U.S. Ambassador Ed Walker stood in for former
Congressman Mel Levine, who was unable to attend the opening
The sides came out agreeing to work on a definition of what constitutes
incitement, and to meet again in early December. Now, The Jerusalem
Report has learned, the Pal-estinians are concentrating their efforts on
building up their own files citing examples of Israeli incitement against
the Palestinians. Whether or not they've fully come to terms with
Israel's existence, one thing the Palestinians have clearly internalized
is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policy of reciprocity.
"We have our own claims of Israeli incitement, every day," Hafez
Barguti, chief editor of Al-Hayat al-Jadeedah, told The Report the
morning after the first meeting, having already coordinated positions
with Kanafani. "When [Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel] Sharon tells
settlers to grab any empty land they can, what do you call that if not a
call to violence? It must be mutual, from our side and the Israeli side.
On the Palestinian side, you might find an individual here or there. But
on the Israeli side, it's government ministers who make these
Asked about the recent "corruption" article that appeared in his paper,
Barguti said he'd spent several weeks abroad around that time, and
that it was "difficult to control every word in this situation. Yesterday,"
he went on, "I gave my editors instructions not to use this word --
'corrupt' -- about a whole people. We're going to make peace with
Barguti added that another recent anti-Semitic item using Shylock
imagery had slipped by while he was preoccupied with his father, who
was in a coma. As for references in Al-Hayat al-Jadeedah to Israel as
the "Zionist entity," he said he wouldn't use such terminology himself,
then asked rhetorically, and somewhat disingenuously, "since when
being a Zionist was an insult? I think the Zionists should be happy to
use this, no?"
At PBC headquarters in Ramallah, the PA's temporary "capital" in the
West Bank, radio and television head Radwan Abu Ayyash sits under
a portrait of Arafat and the national flag. So far, he says, he's invested
three years of very hard work in getting PBC on its feet. And he insists
that while the salaries of the TV and "Voice of Palestine" radio staff
come from the Palestinian Authority, and the PBC is accountable to
Arafat's own office (the general coordinator, Hisham Mikki, is based in
Gaza), there's no real interference from on high.
Abu Ayyash even points to moments of daring. Like the time when the
popular radio program "Good Morning Palestine," which deals with
local issues, was trying in vain to get PA Information Minister Yasser
Abd Rabbo on the phone. With each call, Abd Rabbo's secretary
became ruder, until she was positively cursing. Abu Ayyash instructed
staffers to tape the last call, and broadcast it live. Only Arafat himself is
immune to criticism on PBC stations. "He's a symbol. I cannot gamble
with this," says Abu Ayyash.
When it comes to the subject of incitement, however, the PBC is
definitely up for a fight. Abu Ayyash pulls out copies of Marcus's
reports, on which he's scribbled his own notes, and dismisses
Palestinian Media Watch as "a Beit Agron production," referring to the
Jerusalem press center which houses, among other things, the Israeli
Government Press Office and the military censor. He accuses the
Israelis of "picking and choosing" from the programs and taking things
out of context. "If some sheikh says live on TV that all the Israelis
should be thrown into the sea, what can I do? Cut off his tongue?" he
goes on. "I can't change the hearts, the brains, the language of my
people. I can't make them fall in love by force. We are journalists,
mirrors, reflectors. I'm not here to lie, or make propaganda."
Abu Ayyash says that he's put aside all the songs and poems calling
for Israel's destruction that were daily fare on PLO radio that used to air
out of Algeria. "I try to be fair," he says, "but at the same time, I cannot
surrender my nationality to fit somebody's mood. We have to build up
our national feeling, to chart our origins, like any other people." Abu
Ayyash complains that Israel is ignoring the fact that "90 percent" of
PBC's news broadcasts deal with the peace process -- even if they
attack Netanyahu's political position. Like Barguti, he argues that
calling people "Zionists" is "not a curse."
As for the map, Abu Ayyash claims at first that the idea is merely to
show the Middle East, and focus on this area. "Give me a final-status
map and I'll use it," he declares. Prodded further, Abu Ayyash says that
he would put up a map of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East
Jerusalem, "but to be honest, I still have something to do with Jaffa and
Haifa. I have a Palestinian refugee problem -- I have people watching
from Jaffa whose problem hasn't been solved. That doesn't mean I
want to get into a tank and drive there."
Israel has particularly objected to a number of items that have
repeatedly cropped up on PBC TV. These include short clips showing
Intifada violence interspersed daily between regular programming; a
six-minute recording of the song "Baladi Ana," or "My Country," in
which children depict the trauma of 1948, concluding "It's still my land,
my beautiful land, Palestine"; and a blood- and gorefilled series called
"Al-Khalidun," or "The Eternal Ones," which has run weekly for the
past two years. "Al-Khalidun" features Palestinian "martyrs" killed by
Israel, describing their lives and times, and keeping their memories
alive through interviews with proud family members.
Abu Ayyash rejects charges that "Al-Khalidun" glorifies martyrdom,
stressing the centrality of the concept in Islam. "The people don't need
me to tell them this," he scoffs. "They get it from the kindergarten to the
grave. It's part of their structure, their life. I can't just delete it
Furthermore, he argues, it's important to remind people of how much
pain it's taken to get to this point. "Why didn't Israel forget the Nazis?"
he asks. "Because of Yad Vashem, you had to reach peace. Because
of the Intifada, we have to reach peace. I'm not aiming to destroy Israel,
but we have a right to show its atrocities."
In the wake of Wye, where the subject of incitement was first raised,
Israel observed slight "improvements" at PBC TV: The daily barrage of
Intifada clips stopped; "Al-Khalidun" abruptly went off the air (Abu
Ayyash says the series "came to its end"); and "Baladi Ana" suddenly
disappeared. That, Abu Ayyash conceded to The Report, was taken off
so as not to give Netanyahu "cards" to play with.
Days after the first incitement committee meeting, however, "Baladi
Ana" reappeared. And all efforts at PBC TV are focused, again, on
reciprocity. Kanafani has charged Abu Ayyash with building a file of
Israeli transgressions. "If they want to play Tom and Jerry, that's fine,"
says the PBC head. ''We're monitoring them now."
The PA Ministry of Education, meanwhile, refuses to respond to the
charges of incitement in schoolbooks on grounds that the PA is
working on its own curriculum, to be introduced in the year 2002.
Israel doesn't want to wait that long. A proposal informally thrown up at
the incitement committee would have the Americans fund an
immediate reprint of edited versions of the books now in use. The
Palestinians replied that they are not prepared to deal with their
schoolbooks unless Israeli textbooks are dealt with at the same time.
Surrounded by the mounds of evidence collected by Itamar Marcus
and his staff, many plain-thinking people might conclude that the
Palestinians don't aspire to peace at all. Indeed, Marcus's material has
been enthusiastically adopted by a myriad of right-wing Israeli and
Jewish interest groups who would rather see the Israeli-Palestinian
negotiations stop in their tracks.
Surprisingly, Marcus himself avoids coming to gloom-and-doom
conclusions, instead putting a constructive spin on his work. "I see this
whole media question as the key to peace," he says. "We're talking
about the socialization of a people to either accept the Jewish people
here or not. For the long-term good and the development of peace, we
have to create an atmosphere that promotes peace in the media and in
And Marcus goes even further. If the Palestinians themselves were
promoting peace, he suggests, there would be a "revolution" in Israeli
attitudes toward making concessions. But for that to happen, says
Marcus, the Palestinians would need to deal not only with the
symptoms -- the blatant bursts of incitement -- but with the deeper
The cure, it seems, is not available yet. Several weeks ago, PBC radio
interviewed Marcus about his work. The recording was never aired.
Marcus believes that is because he didn't come across as the
easy-to-dismiss right-wing provocateur PBC obviously assumed he
was. "They don't want to present us as reasonable," he concludes.
"They still fear presenting us as anything but the enemy."
Return to Contents
Palestine Legislative Council Declares
Death Sentence on Israelis
by Nadav Haetzni,
Ma'ariv Weekend Supplement,
3rd December, 1998
Not only has a Palestinian land law come into being,
but a Palestinian law on weapons is also now in effect,
according to which it is permissible for the Palestinian
Authority to manufacture weapons and accord its
citizens the right to bear arms. Both of these laws are
part of a new stage in the Palestinian struggle against
Israel. Brigadier-General Uri Shoham, the Chief
Military Prosecutor: "This is a serious violation of the
agreements with the Palestinians." Attorney Tewfiq
Abu-Ghazzaleh, Chairman of the Palestinian Legal
Sub-committee: "There is no declaration of war here,
although I would understand someone thinking that
there was. If it were up to me, perhaps I would not
submit this law." Palestinian Justice Minister Freih
Abu-Medein declined to comment.
A few days after the signing ceremony at Wye River,
Justice Minister Tzahi Hanegbi wrote to the Prime
Minister, and called his attention to a new Palestinian
law, which was, at that time, in the final stages of
enactment. It is called the "Law on Foreign Ownership
of Real Estate in Palestine," which was recently brought
into law in secret in Gaza, and a copy of which was
received by chance by the Justice Ministry. This law
amounts -- according to jurists -- to a declaration of war
on the State of Israel.
Justice Minister Hanegbi made it clear to the Prime
Minister that the new law severely infringes on Israeli
citizens' and authorities' land acquisition rights of Israeli
citizens and organisations, from both sides of the Green
Line, and complete contravenes the instructions of the
agreements with the Palestinians, including the Wye
According to the new law, revealed here for the first
time, any Israeli citizen or institution, certainly any settler
or the IDF, holding land in "Palestine", is harming
Palestinian "national security". Together with this, any
Palestinian who aids, in any way, the acquisition or
possession of land by an Israeli -- is guilty of treason.
The land will pass automatically to the treasury of the
Palestinian state, and the judgment on the Israeli holding
the land or the Palestinian selling it -- death.
A few months before the enactment of the land law,
senior Justice Ministry and IDF officials brought an
additional Palestinian law to the Prime Minister's
attention. This was the "Firearms and Ammunition
Law", which was also passed in secret and signed by
"Rais" Arafat last May. According to Chief Military
Prosecutor Brigadier-General Uri Shoham, and Central
Command Legal Adviser Colonel Shlomo Politis, this
law too constitutes a serious infringement of the
agreements with the Palestinians. It gives legitimacy to
the Palestinian Authority itself, to manufacture weapons
and permit citizens to bear arms. All this is seen by the
State of Israel as constituting a serious security threat,
violates the agreement between the sides, and
demonstrates aggressive intentions.
The two laws, on land and on weapons, constitute a
single unit of land and fire, and constitute a new and
additional stage in the Palestinian struggle against Israel.
Despite numerous attempts by political and professional
elements to bring this to the attention of the Prime
Minister, both before and after the Wye Agreement,
Netanyahu has done nothing. It seems, however, from
the Justice Minister's sharp words, that he will soon lead
the issue of hostile Palestinian legislation to a serious
crisis with the Palestinians.
IDF, the Anger and the Frustration
But these two new laws do not represent the whole
picture. For a long time, senior figures in the Justice
Ministry and the IDF have been climbing the walls with
anger and frustration at Palestinian behavior in the legal
sphere. According to unambiguous articles in the Oslo
Accords, which were ratified in the Wye Agreement, the
Palestinians are required to submit all legislative
initiatives to Israel via a special legal committee, in order
to enable Israel to examine whether the proposed
legislation is in keeping with the agreements. The laws
are supposed to be submitted to the legal committee
prior to their enactment, so that it would be possible to
change or cancel them, before they become law.
Precisely because of this, the Palestinians have not, until
today, submitted even one law to Israel. In fact, they are
carrying out, by means of legislation, a war against
Israel. Countless requests by senior Justice Ministry
officials to their Palestinian counterparts, asking them to
comply with the agreements and submit the laws which
have been enacted or are in the process of being enacted,
have simply been ignored. Copies of laws which have
reached the Israeli side were obtained by intelligence, or
as a result of the monitoring of internet sites and
This "legal war", which has been completely ignored by
the media, is causing much anger and frustration on the
part of the legal officials, who are required to coordinate
with the Palestinian Authority. They constantly send
letters and memoranda to politicians, but with no real
From the Land Registry to the Gallows
The "Foreign Ownership of Real Estate in Palestine" law,
revealed here for the first time, marks a new high in this
legal war. In its English version, the law is only two
pages long, but this was enough to set off all the warning
lights among top Justice Ministry officials.
The law, which, as far is known, has already passed
through all the legislative processes, defines as
"occupiers" the "Israeli occupying authority and its civil
and military institutions, settlements and whomever is
under their authority."
It states that "any actions conducted by or being
conducted by the occupying authority (Israel) on
Palestinian real estate are considered absolutely null and
void." The law contains no definition of what Palestinian
land is, so that according to the accepted Palestinian
view, the law also applies to land in Tel Aviv, Acre and
Haifa, and certainly that in Jerusalem and in Judea and
The law also prohibits "all persons who are not Arab
Palestinians, whether they are persons real or artificial, to
possess any real estate in Palestine or to obtain any
material right, by any reason of ownership ..." However,
while regarding citizens of countries "with which there is
reciprocity" the Palestinian "Council of Ministers" may
permit the holding of real estate, a special article in the
law states that regarding "occupiers," that is the
government and citizens of Israel, the Council of
Ministers has no authority to permit the holding of real
estate. Such land would be confiscated immediately by
the Palestinian authorities.
Of course, the law prohibits brokerage efforts, sales or
approval of transactions to foreigners and "occupiers"
from being carried out, and states that "Any Palestinian
who violates the terms of this law has committed the
crime of high treason," and will be punished accordingly.
A foreigner who violates the law "has committed harm to
national security" and will be punished accordingly. The
punishment for treason and harming national security is
death. Thus, Israelis and Palestinians are to march
together from the land registry to the gallows.
"A Severely Racist Law"
So far as is known, the bill has secretly passed through
all of the required legislative procedures and was even
approved by Yasser Arafat. As stated above, not a word
of this was reported to Israel. By chance, the draft
legislation reached senior officials at the Justice Ministry
last September, including attorney Jean-Claude Nidam,
who is responsible for contact with the Palestinian
Authority at the ministry. They were shocked and
appealed to the highest echelon of the judicial system,
with a demand for action.
They clarified that "the orders of the aforementioned law
severely damage the real estate rights of the country's
citizens and institutions." They also asserted that "the
Interim Agreement clearly states that there will be no
harm to these rights, and a number of articles explicitly
determine that the (Palestinian) Council is obligated to
honor the existing rights." Therefore, they stated that,
"there is a clear contradiction between the law and the
They demanded that the Palestinians be informed that the
law lacks any validity and is void, and that the lessons
from the very fact of its legislation be learned.
Senior jurists both in and outside the civil service point
to the even more severe implications than those about
which the official documents speak. "This is a racist law,
which, if it were legislated by a friendly country such as
Britain, we would interpret as a declaration of war
against us, and which would cause an immediate severing
of relations with it," says a senior jurist in the civil
service. "We must understand the meaning of the
legislation. This law states that any Israeli who owns
land in a place that the Palestinians determine is
Palestine, certainly in the settlements and in Jerusalem,
will be sentenced to death. The same holds true for the
Israeli government. This is an intolerable law that harms
the very ability to continue coming into contact with
whoever legislated the law."
Attorney Dudu Rotem, legal adviser to the Yesha
Council, towards whose members the law is especially
directed, asserts that the implications are even more
serious: "According to this law, if I travel tomorrow to
Jericho they can arrest me, since every settler, due to his
very ownership of his home, harms Palestinian national
security. In fact, this is no law, but a joke. It is a
dictator's order that grants legitimacy to murder and
racism, and harms every principle of law and justice.
However, the interesting thing is not what Arafat does,
but what the Israeli government will do regarding this
A Clear Threat to Israel
On 6 July, the legal adviser to the IDF Central Command
and the Civil Administration, Col. Shlomo Politis, wrote
a letter to OC Central Command. He warned against
another new Palestinian law which had just been
legislated. This is the "Palestinian Firearms and
Ammunition Law," which was approved in an order by
Yasser Arafat this past May, and which received nearly
The law permits the Palestinian Authority to manufacture
weapons and to issue licenses to carry all sorts of
weapons. The position of the Israeli jurists regarding it
is unanimous. Col. Politis' opinion later received further
backing from Chief Military Prosecutor Brig. Gen. Uri
Shoham. Both view the law as a direct violation of the
According to Col. Politis, "The first part of the law,
which deals mainly with licensing and carrying weapons
by Palestinians, contravenes the orders of the Interim
Agreement, since the law authorizes the 'minister of
interior' to give a weapons permit for pistols and rifles."
This "contravenes what is stated in the agreement's
security appendix, according to which the Palestinian
Police would be permitted to issue licenses only for
However, it seems that an even more severe aspect of
the law is expressed in its second section, which deals
with the manufacture and import of weapons. This
section, states legal adviser Politis, constitutes "a
violation of the Interim Agreement orders which prohibit
the possibility of the manufacture and import of weapons
"In the agreement's security appendix," he states, "it even
says that the Palestinian Police have an obligation to
prevent the manufacture of weapons in the PA areas."
The illegal legislation of this law was brought to the
Prime Minister's attention early last August. The issue
was even raised a number of times with Netanyahu and
in the cabinet by the Justice Minister, but without any
As was said, there is no disagreement between the jurists
regarding the meaning of the law, but the truth is that
one does not need to be a legal expert to understand the
full severity of the matter: the PA is giving itself the
imprimatur to manufacture, import and issue licenses for
weapons and ammunition, despite the fact that this
imprimatur contravenes both the spirit and the letter of
its agreements with the State of Israel, and despite the
fact that it is clear to it that manufacturing and licensing
weapons constitute a clear and flagrant threat to Israel.
How to Bury a Committee
"There is nothing in our legislation which violates the
agreements," claims Attorney Tewfiq Abu-Ghazzaleh,
the Palestinian Chairman of the Legal Sub-Committee,
the committee was supposed to deal with legal issues
arising between the two sides. "I am not claiming that
the Israelis are lying in the serious accusations which
they are making against us, but there is a
misunderstanding here. Regarding the law on weapons,
we are trying to create order from the scorched earth
situation which existed here when we arrived. Regarding
the land law, I would need to check if it has indeed
already been published in the official gazette and come
into force. If it were up to me, perhaps I would not
submit this law, but it has been done to show that we are
in control on the ground. There is no declaration of war
here, although I would understand someone thinking that
there was. I hope that things will be different in the
"In general," says Attorney Abu-Ghazzaleh, "I can
understand the frustration of the Israeli side. I agree
with them, there is a problem, but I hope that it will soon
be solved. If it depended on me, it would have been
solved already, but we need to create a structure and get
organized, especially in the West Bank. We need means
and people, I hope that it will happen, I am still waiting
to hear from our Justice Minister."
The Justice Ministry and the security establishment have
become used to answers of this kind over the last few
years. There they claim that Abu-Ghazzaleh's bosses are
deliberately sending him to dole out promises, but in
practice are making sure that these promises have no
cover, or indeed that in the field, the precise opposite
By the way, Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu-
Medein declined to be interviewed for this article, despite
repeated calls to his office and his home, and promises
that he would, "call back."
Abu-Ghazzaleh's basic embarrassment derives from the
committee that he heads. The Oslo Accords established
a joint legal committee, headed by the two sides' justice
ministers -- Tzahi Hanegbi and Freih Abu-Medein. It set
up a sub-committee headed by Justice Ministry Director-
General Nili Arad, and Attorney Tewfiq Abu-Ghazzaleh.
Palestinian legislation, like all other legal issues, was
supposed to be submitted to this committee. But for
years now, the Palestinians have prevented the convening
of the committee. This is hardly a great surprise, and in
the Justice Ministry, they say that "This is the only
committee in which they are supposed to give and not
receive, and therefore, they are making sure that it does
not convene or function."
Long months pass until dates are set for the meetings of
the committee, and when these dates arrive, the
Palestinians cancel the meetings at the last moment. In
the few meetings which have taken place, in small
forums, the Palestinians have been asked to submit all
proposed items of legislation to the committee for its
consideration. This has not been done.
Gaza Station Is Not Responding
One of the severest aspects of the legal war which the
Palestinians have declared is the non-functioning of the
legal assistance mechanism which was established by the
Oslo Accords. According to the Accords, a body was
set up which was supposed to carry out a series of legal
coordination activities, in the criminal and civil spheres,
as is customary between two countries which are not at
The mechanism is supposed to see to it that court
decisions of the other side are enforced, that bailiff's
office decisions regarding the collection of debts are
implemented, etc., etc. A senior Justice Ministry official,
attorney Jean-Claude Nidam, heads the mechanism. His
counterpart is an Arab-Israeli attorney, Jamal Abu-
Toemeh. Dozens and even hundreds of appeals from the
Israeli side reach the mechanism daily. These range from
decisions against convicted rapists, to detention orders
against criminals who fled, requests to summon
witnesses, and requests to carry out decisions against
Palestinians who owe vast sums to Israelis. All requests
are checked and passed on to the Palestinian side, but
merit no response. Even attorney Abu-Toemeh, the man
in charge on the Palestinian side, does not succeed in
obtaining any cooperation on his side. Gaza station is
The result is severe. Debts of tens of millions of shekels
are not collected, and thousands of files involving
residents of the territories are closed. The paradox is
that the Israeli taxpayer is massively financing the
defense of Palestinian Authority residents who are up for
trial inside the Green Line, via the public defender's
office. Indeed, a considerable portion of our crime is
perpetrated by Palestinian Authority residents. But the
Authority is avoiding any assistance and cooperation,
and at the same time, with characteristic audacity, is
insisting that VAT funds -- which Israel collects from
Palestinian residents -- be fully refunded.
In the justice establishment, it is claimed that it is
precisely the judicial sphere that could serve as the first,
and precedent-setting, area for cooperation between the
two entities, Israeli and Palestinian. This is not
cooperation between peoples carrying difficult
psychological baggage, but two bureaucracies, that take
orders from the politicians, and are supposed to obey.
But in practice, the Palestinian bureaucrats receive
contradictory orders from their politicians, orders to
make things difficult and obstruct. And thus, the judicial
field has become a battlefield which broadcasts hostility
and alienation, just like between two hostile entities.
Return to Contents
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