The futile exercise reviving peace talks between Mahmoud Abbas’s half-baked puppet administration and the Israelis has come to a much-predicted end. It collapsed after Israel reneged on an agreement to release Palestinian prisoners, having achieved absolutely nothing. It should have collapsed before then under the provocation of Israel’s continuing illegal settlement programme. We now wait with bated breath for US Secretary of State John Kerry’s next step, if any. Perhaps even more lopsided peace talks while Israel’s relentless colonizing of occupied Palestinian land with Jewish squatters continues.
Seven weeks ago, in anticipation of this fateful moment in Palestinian history, I asked Dr Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) for an interview and sent her some draft questions.
Dr Ashrawi is a member of the PLO Executive Committee and runs the Department of Culture and Information. A former chair of the Department of English at Birzeit University and highly articulate, she is an experienced and formidable politician. Western activists regard her as a “good egg” and wish they could hear her speak on behalf of Palestinians more often.
I got no reply, and after repeating my request her media assistant asked me make contact again in a few weeks, which I did. That was a fortnight ago. I have heard nothing, not even an acknowledgement. It’s a familiar story with Palestinian politicians. they treat the media, and even friendly journalists and writers such as myself, with contempt. Then they wonder why they don’t get space or air-time when they want it, and why it is Israel’s narrative that’s broadcast.
It’s hardly surprising that Palestinians never make progress towards freedom – indeed the prospect is more distant than ever – despite having international law and most of world opinion on their side. Losing so heavily, in the circumstances, is a truly remarkable achievement; so remarkable, you wonder if it’s deliberate.
In the eight years I’ve been writing in support of the Palestinian cause I have had no help from Palestinian politicians or their bureaucrats. I find them an uncommunicative “awkward squad” but hoped Dr Ashrawi might be different.
Questions awaiting answers
No matter, I’ll set out the questions here. And if “good egg” Dr Ashrawi or any of her PLO colleagues wish to use this opportunity to enthuse campaigners and help sympathizers understand, they are welcome to write in with their answers.
- What do you expect John Kerry’s peace “framework” to deliver, and will it amount to any more than another giveaway of Palestinian positions, entitlements and assets?
- Why has the Palestinian leadership been so reluctant to take its case to the International Criminal Court [ICC], opting instead for more bogus negotiations mediated by a dishonest broker and giving the occupier even more time to establish irreversible “facts on the ground”? Shouldn’t maximum effort be made to reach a law-based solution, all other ways having failed?
- Why is the negotiating team still headed by Saeb Erekat, a serial resigner with a long record of failure?
- When the present round of talks ends this month, will the Palestinian Authority, or PLO, then pursue matters in the ICC? Has the groundwork been done so that there’s no further delay?
- In the meantime, what action is being taken to protect Palestine’s offshore and inland oil/gas reserves from being plundered by Israel? What is being done to retrieve Palestine’s water resources?
- When is President Abbas, who has long overstayed his term of office and exhausted his legitimacy, expected to step down? Who is likely to replace him – the mobster Muhammad Dahlan?
- How do you rate the prospects for Palestinian unity and how much longer will it take to achieve? Palestinian women have been a tower of strength throughout the long years of occupation and the Palestinians’ famed resilience in the face of brutal repression is in large part thanks to them. Could Palestinian “girl power” be mobilized to bang heads together and bring about unity? Left to the men it may never happen.
- All these years Israel has run rings round the Palestinians media-wise. Communication is practically non-existent. For example, writers such as myself are never kept informed or briefed on important developments. What professional media training do key people at the PA [Palestinian Authority] and PLO receive?
- As a Christian yourself, how would you describe Muslim-Christian relations (a) in the West Bank and (b) in Gaza where Christians are a tiny minority?
- Many people have called for the Palestinian Authority to be dissolved. If that were to happen, what should replace it?
- Israeli occupation authorities have detained 11 Palestinian MPs and one minister since shortly after the 2006 elections. We seldom hear of efforts to secure their release. What is their present situation?
These, I felt, were some of the questions at the front of activists’ minds.
No justice, no peace
As it happens the rival factions, Hamas and Fatah, have just met to agree preliminary moves to end the division and establish an interim unity government headed by Abbas. The previous unity government, in 2007, was headed by Hamas (who won the 2006 elections) and lasted only three months. It was dissolved by Abbas. Whether they’ll do better this time, we’ll have to wait and see, but America and Israel have already objected to Palestinian unity (as if it’s any of their damn business), bleating that Hamas is a terror organization and cannot be involved in government. Does anyone still buy that crapaganda about Israel being the victim of terror when it is clearly the chief perpetrator? Only the zombies in the White House and certain European Union capitals.
Spokeswoman for the US State Department Jen Psaki said the Palestinian announcement jeopardized the continuation of the fragile peace process, while Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ranted that the unity deal “buried” the peace talks – which he himself had already killed off.
Actually it doesn’t matter what any of them say. There can be no peace without justice, and justice in this case can only be obtained in a court of law. Failure to recognize this simple truth is plainly perverse.