I Won’t Lie To You — My Hopes Were Up

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Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Member of PLO Executive Committee, at the virtual meeting with Palestinian political groups in Ramallah/Beirut September 3, 2020.

As I watched Mahmoud Abbas drone on at a video conference addressing the secretary generals of the Palestinian political groups in Ramallah and Beirut, I had my fingers crossed.

I forced myself to listen to his speech from beginning to end, gritting my teeth at his whiny self-serving message, its lack of honest introspection and the muddiness of his vision.

“In his closing, Abbas pompously exhorted the secretary generals before him and their ‘assistants’ to go forth and do the work he had assigned them. I am hoping against hope those assistants are not old but young Palestinian men and women, both.”

In a meeting where everyone was taking pains to say “we are not here to point fingers or to play the blame game,” he had the audacity to imply that the leaders arrayed before him were responsible for procrastination. Consider the following exchange:

Major General Salim Al-Bardini, Secretary General of the Palestinian Arab Front: Frankly, as time is of the essence, instead of making speeches and taking so long — it’s getting on to more than four hours now and the comrades have switched off — wouldn’t it have made more sense if we had all signed off on unity in a document issued from Ramallah and turned this session instead into a working conference?

Mahmoud Abbas (pointing to the attendees at the meeting): Go ahead and convince them of that.

When Abbas gets off the classical Arabic script he is reading, the soullessness of his message emerges with clarity. One of his more outlandish off-the-cuff remarks is a phrase made popular by an Egyptian love song “اللي شبكنا يخلصنا”. It translates as “He who hooked us up will extricate us.”

That Egyptian love song should have been: “He who hooked us up is not the one ever capable of extricating us.”

Another Abbas interjection, “By God, we are respectable,” is reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s declaration in1973, “I am not a crook.” Both were defending a shameful record by protesting too much.

Rejecting the US as the only mediator in negotiations between Palestinians and Israel, Abbas called for an international peace conference under the supervision of the UN based on the Arab peace initiative of 2002.

“Listening to Haniya speak, I wondered how safe he was in Beirut, what mechanism facilitated his being able to travel from Gaza to Lebanon, and hoped he would not meet there or elsewhere the fate of so many charismatic Palestinian leaders before him.”

In contrast, Ismail Haniya spoke without any notes, with a fervor, eloquence, empathy and clarity that brought goosebumps to many of his listeners, including myself. He called for the establishment of a political program that ends the agreements of the Oslo Accords and places resistance and struggle for liberation, in all its forms, at its center. (In comment on this, a Facebook friend later wrote: “Haniya is out of Gaza since Dec 2019 in a long tour; I guess he is staying in Istanbul. This is why it was easy for him to go to Beirut.”)

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Ismail Haniya called for the establishment of a political program that ends the agreements of the Oslo Accords and places resistance and struggle for liberation, in all its forms, at its center.

Listening to him speak, I wondered how safe he was in Beirut, what mechanism facilitated his being able to travel from Gaza to Lebanon, and hoped he would not meet there or elsewhere the fate of so many charismatic Palestinian leaders before him. Ronen Bergman’s book Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations came scarily to mind.

The Jerusalem Post posted the following news item about Haniya’s visit ahead of the meeting, without shedding light on the nature of the diplomacy that had allowed him the freedom to travel.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya met with the Islamic Jihad Secretary General Ziad al-Nahala in Beirut, according to Ynet.

The two discussed the development of cooperation and coordination between the organizations, especially with regard to opposition to Israel, the Deal of the Century, the normalization of relations and the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, according to the report. The two are in Lebanon ahead of a meeting of all Palestinian factions to be held simultaneously in Ramallah and Beirut.

Reuters described Haniya as “speaking from the fortified Palestinian embassy in Beirut.” Jewish Press has already painted the Palestinian conference as a “terror summit,” continuing to promote a lethal disinformation campaign in advocacy of the Jewish state’s plan to erase the Palestinians as a nation and take over their country. This plan, called Plan Dalet, was adopted by Zionist political and military leaders, including Ben-Gurion, on March 10, 1948.

Trump’s deal, whatever else it may be, is far from original.

As speaker after speaker followed Haniya to the podium, all careful to praise Abbas for finally convening the meeting and orating the obvious about the necessity for Palestinian unity and the dire urgency of the situation, it couldn’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the speakers were exclusively old brown men, some visibly exhausted and spent.

The bottom line of this conference was expressed by journalist Daoud Kuttab on Twitter: “Israel and the emirates as well as @realDonaldTrump have given President Abbas a new political life and now all the Palestinian leaders including all Islamic leaders are sitting silently listening to him. They have given the presidency renewed life.”

Rejecting Abbas’ speech, Palestinian writer and activist Khaled Barakat made an urgent appeal the following morning to

all the Palestinian resistance forces and our institutions, and through them all those everywhere who support the [political] approach of resistance and liberation, to converge in unity to elect a new Palestinian National Council that consolidates the Palestinian national charter to instill unity and reinforce our national institutions inside and outside Palestine and liberate these institutions from the ascendancy of the Oslo truncated self-rule framework. (My translation)

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Banner says: Abbas doesn’t represent me

The Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan commented on his Facebook page (my translation): “The Oslo agreement must be exonerated from the coup [that was] the division and control of our souls. Oslo is indeed a ‘wicked’ agreement, but it is innocent [of the crime] of this division. The division is a naive and bloody struggle for power that has caused harm to the people and the national cause and yet it still prevails. It is still causing huge damage and we know the names of those perpetrating the situation whether by act, by silence or by turning a blind eye."

In his closing, Abbas pompously exhorted the secretary generals before him and their “assistants” to go forth and do the work he had assigned them. I am hoping against hope those assistants are not old but young Palestinian men and women, both.

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Waiting For Mahmoud Abbas To Die With No Rallying Plan In Sight…Yet

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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

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