by Khaled Abu Toameh
July 30, 2015 at 5:00 am
- While many in the international community and media hold Israel fully responsible for the plight of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Abrash offers a completely different perspective.
- Referring to widespread corruption under the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, the former Palestinian minister reveals that Palestinian academic institutions, including universities and colleges, have become “commercial projects for granting certificates that have no scientific value or content.”
- This is a voice that is rarely given a platform in mainstream media outlets in the West, whose journalists continue to focus almost entirely on stories that reflect negatively on Israel. Western journalists based in the Middle East tend to ignore Palestinians who are critical of the PA or Hamas, because such criticism does not fit the narrative according to which Israel is solely responsible for all the bad things that happen to the Palestinians.
- Abrash’s criticism of Hamas and the PA — whom he openly holds responsible for the suffering of their people — actually reflects the widespread sentiment among Palestinians. Over the past few years, a growing number of Palestinians have come to realize that their leaders have failed them again and again and are now aware that both Hamas and the PA, as corrupt as ever, are hindering efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip.
It is almost unheard of for a prominent Palestinian figure to hold the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas equally responsible for corruption and abuse of power.
Dr. Ibrahim Abrash, a former Palestinian Minister of Culture from the Gaza Strip, recently surprised many Palestinians by publishing an article that included a scathing attack on both the PA and Hamas, holding them responsible for the continued suffering of their people.
In his article, Dr. Abrash also holds the two Palestinian parties responsible for the delay in rebuilding thousands of houses that were destroyed or damaged in the Gaza Strip during last year’s military conflict between Israel and Hamas. He points out that Hamas and the PA have been holding each other responsible for the suffering of Palestinians. “Sometimes, they also put all the blame on Israel for all that is happening in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Referring to the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which reached its peak with the violent takeover by Hamas of the entire Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, Dr. Abrash accused the two rival parties of exploiting their dispute to cover up corruption in vital sectors of Palestinian society.
“In light of the division [between the PA-controlled West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza], corruption and absence of accountability have become widespread,” Dr. Abrash wrote. “This division has led to the collapse of the political system and the system of values, and an increase in corruption. This has also allowed many opportunists and hypocrites to reach important positions, where they do anything they want without being held accountable.”
And while many in the international community and media continue to hold Israel fully responsible for the plight of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Abrash offers a completely different perspective.
Noting that the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip have fallen victim to the power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, he says that no one today knows who is supposed to be helping the people living there.
“The interests of the people have been lost as result of the two parties’ rivalry,” Dr. Abrash said. “No one knows who is in charge of the people’s needs in the Gaza Strip — Hamas, which is the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip, or the Palestinian Authority and its national consensus government. Or is it UNRWA and the donors who are responsible? Or is it the sole responsibility of Israel as an occupation state? To whom should the people direct their complaints?”
Referring to widespread corruption under the PA in the West Bank, the former Palestinian minister reveals that Palestinian academic institutions, including universities and colleges, have become “commercial projects for granting certificates that have no scientific value or content.”
Dr. Abrash points out that no one knows whether universities and colleges in the Gaza Strip are subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Education in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip.
He also blasts the PA’s Ministry of Civilian Affairs for exploiting and extorting Palestinians who seek travel permits, especially those wishing to leave the Gaza Strip. He goes on to hold Hamas responsible for “harassing” Palestinians who wish to leave the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing (to Israel). Dr. Abrash claims that some Palestinians are forced to pay bribes to Palestinian officials to obtain a travel permit.
“Many people have been subjected to blackmail and procrastination [by Palestinian officials] after Israel eased travel restrictions at the Bet Hanoun [Erez] border crossing,” he said. “But the people are afraid to complain, out of fear that they would be denied travel permits in the future. What is happening at the border crossing has created favoritism and bribery.”
Dr. Abrash concludes his article with a rhetorical question: “Isn’t it shameful and irritating that while Israel has been issuing travel permits for those with special needs, some influential [Palestinian] officials are placing obstacles? Until when will they continue to manipulate and blackmail the people of the Gaza Strip?”
Dr. Abrash’s article represents a rare voice of sanity among Palestinians. This is a voice that does not blame all the miseries of Palestinians on Israel alone and holds the Palestinians leadership also responsible for the continued suffering of their people.
However, this is a voice that is rarely given a platform in mainstream media outlets in the West, whose journalists continue to focus almost entirely on stories that reflect negatively on Israel.
Western journalists based in the Middle East tend to ignore Palestinians who are critical of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. That is because such criticism does not fit the narrative according to which Israel is solely responsible for all the bad things that happen to the Palestinians.
Dr. Abrash’s criticism of Hamas and the PA — whom he openly holds responsible for the suffering of their people — actually reflects the widespread sentiment among Palestinians. Over the past few years, a growing number of Palestinians have come to realize that their leaders have failed them again and again. Today, many Palestinians are aware of the fact that both Hamas and the PA are responsible for hindering efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip and that the two parties are as corrupt as ever.
But when will the international community and media wake up and comprehend what many Palestinians came to understand years ago, namely that the real tragedy of the Palestinian people has been — and remains — bad and irresponsible leadership? Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen as long as the world continues to see Israel as the villain.
Hereby an exclusive English translation By OrientalReview of an Open Letter of a group of influential German figures, the members of Willy Brandt Circle, to SPD (German Social-Democrats) Bundestag delegates and cabinet ministers urging them to abandon the confrontational course in relations with Russia. The authors reviewed the degrading EU-Russia ties in the context of Ukraine’s crisis which was the direct result of mutual misunderstandings and controversies.
Europe is experiencing the worst crisis since the end of the East-West conflict. Not only dealing with Greece and the thousands of refugees heighten tenses across the continent, but also the ceasefire negotiation process in Ukraine remains fragile. As long as the conflict over the future of Ukraine is unsolved, the real danger of escalation is on the table.
A comprehensive peace treaty for Europe, envisioned by the Charter of Paris 1990, is still needed. Europe has no interest in aggravating old controversy between the United States and the USSR, bringing Russia to its knees. There is a difference between the European and the American interests: pan-European problems cannot be solved without Russia or even against Russia. Recent history shows: Russia and the peoples of the Soviet Union contributed more than anyone to the liberation of Europe from fascism and later to the unification of Germany. Therefore, Germany has a special responsibility to win Russia as a negotiating partner in the European peace order.
In 1990 it seemed that the answer to these questions is found once and for all: Russia became a co-architect of the European integration. Russia, alongside with the USA, would naturally become an anchor and an equal partner. Since then Russia’s expectations have been deeply disappointed: EU and, what’s more important, NATO enlargement policy totally excluded the possibility of Russia’s membership. It was too difficult, as the country was too big. Moreover, some Eastern European states claimed that their quick accession to NATO membership was a military precaution against Russia. Having no perspective to join NATO itself, more and more patriotic Russia sees the expansion of the structures of the Western alliance as a threat. NATO expansion nourished Russia’s old fear of being surrounded and it was gradually forced to thinking in geopolitical categories and zones of influence.
The Ukrainian crisis is a reflection of a major conflict between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic structures. It may lead to a catastrophe if the ongoing arms race, military provocations and confrontational rhetoric is not stopped. We strongly appeal to all responsible politicians and peace-loving citizens but first and foremost directly to the SPD:
In this situation bold political initiative is needed comparable to the initiatives that helped to stop the conflict spiral during Berlin Wall and Cuban Missile Crisis. It was German social democracy that paved the way to the new Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik and the détente. In 2015 we require such courage and political wisdom to counter the threat of renewed confrontation and division of Europe. We call to stop the confrontation and restart our relations with Russia before it is too late for all of us.
- The Ukraine crisis cannot be solved by political sanctions against Russia. The underlying causes of the Russian-European alienation should be discussed at EU-Russia summit talks. Lasting reconciliation of interests can only be achieved through dialogue and negotiation. The economic sanctions undermine the development of Europe as a common economic area. Cooperation is an engine of confidence building. Energy infrastructure that has already been affected by the current sharpening of contradictions is a vital part of our mutual interests and bilateral trade.
- The European Union that is partially responsible for the roots of the crisis must contribute to its solution on the basis of consensus. The interaction of Germany, France and Poland with Ukraine and Russia in Minsk II Agreement is an innovative approach. Implementation of Minsk II may bridge the credibility gap. A wider European integration is needed. Germany must throw into the say its position as a future OSCE president and act in the spirit of dialogue.
- The United States as the most important partner of the new Ukrainian government has also high responsibility to find a solution to the crisis. All available international fora should be used to bring Russia and the US together. In times of crisis we need to maintain close ties in order to communicate effectively. Therefore, G7 should involve Russia and the work of the NATO-Russia Council should continue as soon as possible. Essential ways to negotiate in crisis should not be limited but broadened.
- The incorporation of the Crimea into Russia is a violation of international agreements. At the same time it is a political reality that cannot be undone against the will of the majority of Crimea’s voters. The status quo must not undermine the constructive cooperation with stakeholders of the common European interest.
- Ukrainian crisis is also the result of a weak federal structure in a relatively new state. Only through a strong federal system the country can protect itself from ethnic strife and the threat of secession. The experience of other European countries with federal structure should be offered to Ukraine if needed.
- NATO membership for Ukraine will not enhance Alliance’s security. It will fuel the flame of Russia’s fears about NATO objectives and increase the risks of unwanted military confrontation. The framework of the OSCE and the “Vienna Document” 2011 is vital in times of crisis and should be implemented to bring together political and military bodies of all European states.
- The Ukraine crisis threatens the European arms control. Arms race, transfer of lethal military equipment and new troop deployments on both sides of the Russian border undermine the existing system of arms control treaties. The participation of German troops in the military training of the “intervention force” can trigger on the Russian side memories of the German invasion and aggravate tension, which is unnecessary. Disengagement of troops, non-proliferation and arms curbs are goals to be achieved as soon as possible.
- During the Ukraine crisis we saw alarming rise of nuclear intent once again. There is a risk of rearming with medium range nuclear missiles in Europe as it happened in the 1980-es. Nuclear weapons must be finally outlawed. A matter of principle weapons of total annihilation should not be part of employable forces.
- European peace order is not only an order of states. It is based on strong civil societies and, among other, international cooperation in the field of culture, media, sports and science. Restart of European youth exchange programs with Russia and Ukraine may help to overcome stereotyping and encourage better understanding of each other and, consequently, build better relations.
Europe needs Russia and Russia needs Europe. We stand at a tipping point. Either we enter a more or less Cold war with dim future or pave the way together the new common European peace order.
Now is the time to act!
Berlin, July, 21, 2015
Prof. Egon Bahr was the creator of the “Ostpolitik” promoted by West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, for whom he served as Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office from 1969 until 1972. Between 1972 and 1990 he was an MP in the Bundestag.
Prof. Dr. Walther Stützle was the Deputy Minister of Defense in 1998-2002.
Dr. Christoph Zöpel is the SPD politician, Foreign Minister in 1999-2002.
Prof. Dr. Ingomar Hauchler, Bundestag MP (SPD) from 1983 to 1998.
Dr. Edelbert Richter is a Member of the European Parliament in 1991-1994, German Bundestag MP in 1994-2002, member of the Federation of German Scientists.
Dr. Hans Misselwitz is a functionary of the SPD and a founding member of the Institute Solidarity modernity.
Prof. Dr. Götz Neuneck is the Deputy Director of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH) and Director of the Interdisciplinary Research Group Arms Control and Disarmament (IFAR).
Antje Vollmer, is a member of the German Green Party. From 1994 to 2005, she was one of the vice presidents of the Bundestag.
Wolfgang Schmidt is the Hamburg Commissioner to the Federal Government, the European Union and of Foreign Affairs; Member of the Committee of the Regions.
Prof. Dr. Dieter Klein is the Head of the Commission on the Future of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation and a member of its Board.
Prof. Dr. Gustav Horn is the Professor of Economics at the University of Flensburg, Scientific Director of the Institute of Macroeconomic Research in the Hans Böckler Foundation.
Dr. Rainer Land is the German social scientist and economist.
Axel Schmidt-Gödelitz is the Chairman of the East-West Forum.
Prof. Dr. Rolf Reissig is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation.
Prof. Dr. Elmar Brähler, was the Professor of Medical Psychology and Medical Sociology at the University of Leipzig.
Prof. Dr. Peter Brandt is the German historian and retired Professor for Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Hagen.
Prof. Dr. Michael Schneider is the German political journalist and literary critic.
Prof. Klaus Staeck is a German lawyer and publisher.
Dr. Friedrich Dieckmann is the author of essays, reviews, stories and radio features.
Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Gießmann is the Executive Director of Berghof Foundation.
Prof. Dr. Lutz Götze, Professor Emeritus of the University of Saarland.
Dr. Enrico Heitzer, Researcher of the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation.
Gunter Hofmann is the German journalist working for Die Zeit.
Dr. Irina Mohr is the leader of Forum Berlin of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
Dr. Friedrich Schorlemmer, is a German Protestant theologian, civil rights activist and member of the SPD.
Volker Braun is the prominent German writer living in Berlin.
Daniela Dahn is the writer, journalist and essayist.
Ingo Schulze is a German writer from Dresden.
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) has published their quarterly research e.g. on levels of support for the two-state solution, (which is that support for the two-state solution has dropped to 51 per cent support in Israel and has stayed steady on 51 per cent support among Palestinians). However the really worrying results were related to fears of Israelis and Palestinians: As many as 56 per cent of Israelis are worried or very worried on a daily basis that they will be murdered by Arabs and 79 per cent of Palestinians are worried or very worried on a daily basis that they will be murdered or have their land confiscated by Jews.
The Palestinian sample size was 1200 adults interviewed face-to-face in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in 120 randomly selected locations between June 3 and 6, 2015. The margin of error is 3%. The Israeli sample includes 802 adult Israelis interviewed in Hebrew, Arabic or Russian between June 2 and 14, 2015. The margin of error is 3%. The poll was conducted jointly by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the for Palestinian Center Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah. This joint survey was conducted with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ramallah and Jerusalem.
These are the results:
(A) Conflict management and threat perceptions
- Now, after forming a right wing government in Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu, we asked both sides about their expectations for the future: 6% of the Israelis and 27% of the Palestinians think that the two sides will soon return to negotiations. 28% of the Israelis and 29% of the Palestinians think that the two sides will return to negotiations but some armed attacks will take place. 43% of the Israelis and 20% of the Palestinians think that some armed attacks will take place and the two sides will not return to negotiations. Finally, 8% of the Israelis and 18% of the Palestinians think that the two sides will not return to negotiations and there will be no armed attacks. In December 2014, 32% of the Israelis and 37% of the Palestinians thought that the two sides will not return to negotiations and some armed attacks will take place and 8% of the Israelis and 10% of the Palestinians thought that the two sides will not return to negotiations and there will be no armed attacks.
- Among Israelis, 56% are worried and 41% are not worried that they or their family may be harmed by Arabs in their daily life. Among Palestinians, 79% are worried and 21% are not worried that they or a member of their family could be hurt by Israel in their daily life or that their land would be confiscated or home demolished.
- The level of threat on both sides regarding the aspirations of the other side in the long run is very high. 56% of Palestinians think that Israel’s goals are to extend its borders to cover all the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and expel its Arab citizens, and 25% think the Israel’s goals are to annex the West Bank while denying political rights to the Palestinians. 43% of Israelis think that Palestinian’s aspirations in the long run are to conquer the State of Israel and destroy much of the Jewish population in Israel; 18% think the goals of the Palestinians are to conquer the State of Israel. Only 17% of the Palestinians think Israel’s aspirations in the long run are to withdraw from all (6%) or some (11%) of the territories occupied in 1967 after guaranteeing its security. 27% of Israelis think the aspirations of the Palestinians are to regain some (12%) or all (15%) of the territories conquered in 1967.
- At the same time: 9% of the Israelis say the aspirations of Israel are to withdraw to the 1967 borders after guaranteeing Israel’s security. 33% say that Israel’s aspirations are to withdraw from parts of the territories after guaranteeing Israel’s security. 18% say that Israel’s aspirations are to annex the West Bank without granting political rights to the Palestinians living there. 14% say that these aspirations are to annex the West Bank and expel the Palestinians living there.
- Among the Palestinians 38% say that the aspirations of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO are to regain some of the territories conquered in the 1967 war. 30% say the Palestinian aspirations are to regain all the territories conquered in the 1967 war. 13% say that the Palestinian aspirations are to conquer the State of Israel and regain control over the pre 1948 Palestine. 10% say that these aspirations are to conquer the State of Israel and destroy much of the Jewish population in Israel.
(B) Negotiation Tracks on the Agenda
The Saudi Plan
- 21% of the Israelis and 52% of the Palestinians support the Saudi peace plan, 67% of the Israelis and 44% of the Palestinians oppose it. In December 2014, 27% of the Israelis and 43% of the Palestinians supported the Saudi peace plan, while 63% of the Israelis and 53% of the Palestinians opposed it. The plan calls for Arab recognition of and normalization of relations with Israel after it ends its occupation of Arab territories occupied in 1967 and after the establishment of a Palestinian state. The plan calls for Israeli retreat from all territories occupied in 1967 including Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The refugee problem will be resolved through negotiations in a just and agreed upon manner and in accordance with UN resolution 194. In return, all Arab states will recognize Israel and its right to secure borders, will sign peace treaties with Israel and establish normal diplomatic relations.
The Israeli-Palestinian Track
- Dismantling settlements – 38% of the Israelis support and 54% oppose the dismantling of most of the settlements in the West Bank as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
- 51% of Israelis and 51% of Palestinians support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, known as the two-state solution and 43% of Israelis and 48% of Palestinians oppose it. In June 2014, 62% of the Israelis and 54% of the Palestinians supported this solution and 34% of the Israelis and 46% of the Palestinians opposed it. In December 2014, 58% of Israelis and 48% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution and 37% of Israelis and 51% of Palestinians opposed it.
- Mutual Recognition – As we do periodically in our joint polls, we asked Israelis and Palestinians about their readiness for a mutual recognition as part of a permanent status agreement and after all issues in the conflict are resolved and a Palestinian State is established. Our current poll shows that 44% of the Israeli public supports such a mutual recognition and 45% opposes it. Among Palestinians, 44% support and 54% oppose this step. In December 2014, 54% of the Israeli public supported such a mutual recognition and 36% opposed it. Among Palestinians, 39% supported and 60% opposed this step.
Palestinian Center Policy and Survey Research
PSR is an independent nonprofit institution and think tank of policy analysis and academic research. PSR was founded with the goal of advancing scholarship and knowledge on immediate issues of concern to Palestinians in three areas: domestic politics and government, strategic analysis and foreign policy, and public opinion polls and survey research. PSR research units conduct and organize four types of activities: research and policy analysis, empirical surveys and public opinion polls, task forces and study groups, and meetings and conferences. The units focus on current public policy issuesn with a special reliance on empirical research as a tool to advancen scholarship and understanding.
PSR is dedicated to promoting objective andn nonpartisan research and analysis and to encouraging a better understanding of Palestinian domestic and international environment in an atmosphere of free debate and exchange of ideas. PSR is registered as a nonprofit institution in the Palestinian Ministry of Justice.