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ARAFAT'S UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER?
FEAR, REPRESSION, ARRESTS, INTIMIDATION, CORRUPTION
WELCOME TO YASSER ARAFAT'S SURROUNDED STATELET
"...a document that is nothing but an unconditional
"The campaign of terror and the attempt to silence
critics are being perceived as proof that the
Palestinian leadership is close to signing an agreement
that has been adopted by the United States, but not
by the Palestinian people."
"...the PA's leadership knows that people will protest
and is therefore making preparations to contain the
protests, while sending out signals intended to
intimidate those who might be tempted to object.
The bottom-line message of these signals is that
people will pay a heavy price for resisting and for
even expressing criticism in public."
MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 6/14/00:
It's ironic of course, but many of the best articles and most pointed analysis about what is happening to the Palestinians in the "peace process" come from media institutions in the oppressor countries -- in Great Britain, America and Israel.
Of course we all know the sad state of the Arab media. True, there have been some improvements of late in this age of instant communications and the Internet, but even so the rule in all of Arabdom is publications and agencies owned and manipulated by the very regimes they are supposed to be commenting on. In recent years the Arab media has attempted to diversify a bit, especially when it comes to what can be published in English for a largely foreign audience. But even here its quite clear that even the most thoughtful of writers and analysts, for instance Edward Said, face a situation where important subjects are taboo, many punches have to be pulled, and a constant trade-off has to be made between telling it like it really is and reaching the readership the regimes can make available through their mass media and the persons they decide to promote.
In this situation, one often finds the most telling articles either in very small and obscure publications whose readership is insignificant, or in major western publications like THE INDEPENDENT and HA'ARETZ where diligent and expert journalists are at least supported by professional editors and substantially independent publications. This doesn't mean that subtle biases are not there -- indeed this is something one has to be extra careful about especially on matters of great important to Western political interests. And this doesn't mean that stories aren't sometimes planted and twisted -- things one also has to be most observant about. And this doesn't mean that Western publications do not twist and bend things to respond to their readership and advertisers.
But what it does mean is that when it comes to some subject, such as the true nature of the Arab regime and the "peace process", there is much more trenchant commentary to be found in English and Hebrew than is the case in Arabic.
This article today in Israel's leading newspaper, Ha'aretz, is an example
of what Israelis can read in English and Hebrew, but what the subject-people,
the Palestinians, are not able to read in their media or see on their TV.
And the answer why is in the commentary itself:
WHY SILENCE THE CRITICS?
[HA'ARETZ, by Amira Hass, 14 June 2000:]
The death of Syrian President Hafez Assad, and the process through which his son, Bashar, is preparing to take over as the leader of his country, has given birth to the following joke among the Palestinians: "We are now making preparations for an amendment to the Palestinian constitution.
According to that amendment, the minimum age for a presidential candidate will be four and a woman will be allowed to serve as president." (The daughter of Palestinian Authority Chair Yasser Arafat and his wife Suha is 4 years old.)
This joke expresses intense popular criticism of the idea that the presidency can be inherited by a deceased ruler's son. It also reveals the strong fear that the Palestinian regime is very similar to those of neighboring Arab countries. These sentiments are nothing new. Six years after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians note that they do enjoy a certain degree of freedom of expression, greater than that found in neighboring Arab states. However, over the past few weeks, a series of arrests and the closing down of local television and radio stations have served to undermine Palestinian self-confidence. Moreover, this situation has once again evoked fears that, in the final analysis, no law in the PA can protect any of its inhabitants from an arbitrary decision by the authorities to suspend that person's freedom.
The victims of the latest wave of arbitrary arrests by the Palestinian authorities have been dozens of prominent Fatah members, eight leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and three journalists. One of those arrested was a senior manager in the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sport and a popular, eloquent man from Rafah. They were all released a few days or, at most, a week after their arrest. In some cases, they were held under "sabah" conditions - that is, with their hands chained and with a sack over their head. The senior ministry official, it has been reported, was subjected to especially humiliating treatment and his head was shaved.
The latest group of detainees belong to two categories. One group consists
of persons who had participated in officially organized demonstrations
to mark the Nakba, the Palestinians' answer to Israel's Independence Day.
After the official rally was over, these persons continued to demonstrate
against Israel Defense Force roadblocks, despite specific instructions
from the Palestinian authorities that the demonstration against the Israeli
soldiers be halted. The "illegal" demonstrators considered
these instructions proof that the PA's leadership takes its orders from the Israelis and attaches greater priority to those orders being obeyed than to the right of individuals to demonstrate against what they see as an ongoing Israeli occupation of their homeland.
The second group consists of persons who participated in the funeral
of one of those killed in the demonstrations, a prominent member of the
PFLP. During the funeral, people openly protested against the agreement
they believe is being worked out with the Israelis. Many Palestinians are
critical of the details of that agreement, which are being leaked out by
Israeli sources. In the eyes of these Palestinians, the replacement of
Jerusalem by Abu Dis, the waiving of the right of return, and the
shrinking in size of the territory on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip that is intended to become the State of Palestine, are components of a document that is nothing but an unconditional surrender.
The leadership of the PA continues to deny that it is backing down on matters of principle. However, the arrests and the attempts to gag protests are undermining the credibility of the PA's declarations.
According to critics, the PA's leadership knows that people will protest and is therefore making preparations to contain the protests, while sending out signals intended to intimidate those who might be tempted to object. The bottom-line message of these signals is that people will pay a heavy price for resisting and for even expressing criticism in public.
Some people are displaying a dark sense of humor and are saying that they have already packed a toothbrush (in case they are arrested).
The critics are not ready to give up the right to express their views. Yet there are some Palestinians who are admitting that they are now weighing their words very carefully and that they do not want to be accused of coming out in public with "heretical" opinions. Furthermore, they are afraid that someone may decide to inform on them.
Two detainees have been held behind bars for a very long time and their
plight indicates how terrified the PA's leadership is of organized grassroots
protest. One of the detainees is Abd Al-Satar Kassam, one of the organizers
of and signatories to the "Leaflet of the Twenty" - a document that linked
the concessions of the PA's leadership in its negotiations with the Israelis
to the corrupt practices of the
regime. The leaflet did not produce any organized movement but did generate the dissemination of additional leaflets with a similar message, that were signed by dozens, in some case several hundreds Palestinians. Kassem, a lecturer at Al-Najah University, has been in jail for six months, yet no indictment has been made and no trial has been held.
Another detainee is Omar Assaf, one of the leaders of the Palestinian
teachers' strike. He was arrested in early May after having said over the
radio that the PA has sufficient income (from its monopolies) to raise
the very low salaries of the teachers. Assaf is a member of the political
bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine; however,
neither that fact nor his long-standing record of
resistance to the Israeli occupation has prevented his arbitrary incarceration.
The representatives of the PA are promising that an independent State
of Palestine will be declared within the very near future and that this
state will have the borders of June 4, 1967, even if no agreement is reached
with Israel. Judging from their declarations, this is an open invitation
to Palestinians not to recognize the authority of IDF soldiers stationed
on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. In other words, this is an invitation
to bloody conflict. Such an invitation, which could end in death
for those who accept it, must rely on the public's faith in its leaders
and in the leaders' respect for the public. However, there is neither
dignity nor faith in the detention of Assaf, who represents some ten thousand
teachers who are forced to moonlight in restaurants and at gas stations
in order to feed their children. The campaign of terror and the attempt
to silence critics are being perceived as proof
that the Palestinian leadership is close to signing an agreement that has been adopted by the United States, but not by the Palestinian people.
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