Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Palestinians Need High Caliber Leaders – Urgently
By Stuart Littlewood
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, February 6, 2012
Stuart Littlewood singles out Palestinian “President” Mahmoud
Abbas’s recent visit to Britain as another example of his administration’s
public relations incompetence and argues: “If Palestinians are to retain
worldwide sympathy and support, build additional strength and galvanize the
whole movement into action against the corrupt political class, they will
have to find leaders of a much higher calibre – and fast.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in London recently.
anyone know? Did Western media care?
No. Not until reports appeared
that Jewish community leaders cancelled a meeting with him after
intervention by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Office and
Israel’s embassy in London, and Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi
condemned the move as "seeking to suppress and manipulate Jewish public
It was also typical of Netanyahu’s "persistent efforts" to
prevent dialogue, she said, according to the Palestinian Ma'an news agency.
Even then, Western media were not much interested.
The Palestinian London embassy’s “smart new website
carries ... nothing journalists can get their teeth into. It
doesn't introduce us to Palestinian chiefs and their ‘team’.
It offers no strategic briefing material on current events.
And, crucially, there is no attempt to set the news agenda.”
I put it to the Palestinian ambassador in London, Professor Manuel
Hassassian, that such a blunder by Israel was a gift to any alert Public
Relations/Public Affairs team. Why didn’t the Palestinian Authority seize
Hassassian denied the Palestinians asked to meet with the Jewish
It seems odd that Ashrawi, a shrewd, well respected
politician and close colleague of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, could have
got it wrong. Or indeed the normally reliable Israeli newspaper Haaretz,
which reported that
Hassassian himself, together with British diplomats, had pushed for Jewish
leaders to meet with Abbas.
Confused? Me too. Whatever the truth, the
Palestinian administration is in the habit of missing open goals. It has
dumbed right down. The London embassy’s smart new
carries a selection of items from news agencies but nothing journalists can
get their teeth into. It doesn't introduce us to Palestinian chiefs and
their “team”. It offers no strategic briefing material on current events.
And, crucially, there is no attempt to set the news agenda.
Information the embassy sends direct to people like me is mostly
notification of social events and similar “froth”.
After all these
years, and with momentous opportunities and threats looming, Ramallah still
fails to give a good account of itself. Is that by accident or design?
If it was never Abbas’s intention to meet Jewish community leaders, what
exactly did he come to the UK for?
What passes for “success”
The embassy says his "successful visit" included meetings with Prime
Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Deputy Prime
Minister Nick Clegg. President Abbas also met opposition leader Ed Miliband
and other parliamentarians. In addition, he met the archbishop of Canterbury
and other church leaders to brief them on the ongoing violations of places
of worship and the Judaization taking place in East Jerusalem.
Cameron told him:
Obviously, as a friend of
Israel and a friend of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian
people, we want to see a strong, democratic, peaceful Israel alongside a
strong, democratic and peaceful Palestine. We believe that is
achievable, but we can’t achieve it without the two parties coming
together and talking and discussing. In the end, this two-state solution
can only come about from the two parties talking to each other. We
cannot want it more than you want it.
So, we wish you well ...
and we say that as a friend of Israel but also a very strong friend of
the Palestinian people...
To which I understand Abbas replied:
Of course, nothing can be
achieved without negotiations ... we hope that there will be something
tangible as a result of these negotiations.
"Of course, time is
of the essence; there must be speed, we must be fast in achieving those
things because the settlements and the whole thing will go on – seeing
the settlements going on, is going to help everything; it’s what stands
in the face of everything at the same time. So, settlements have to
stop. Settlements have to stop in order for us to be able to continue
our negotiations; to come to some sort of solution and a solution which
will encompass the vision of the Palestinian state to come in the
I personally know very well
that you have a very balanced relationship, be that towards Israel or
the Palestinian Authority. This at the same time is of great importance
because you could play a political role, so to speak, so that we can
find the balance that we all want to seek. We always need your help,
Good grief, is that the best Ramallah's speech-writers can do? And what
was that about Britain’s Israel-firster government having “a very balanced
"Where was Abbas’s concern for Gaza, or isn’t Gaza part
of Palestine any more? Doesn’t the blockade of Gaza have to
end before Palestinians even think about getting once again
embroiled in futile negotiations?"
Where was Abbas’s concern for Gaza, or isn’t Gaza part of Palestine any
more? Doesn’t the blockade of Gaza have to end before Palestinians even
think about getting once again embroiled in futile negotiations?
idea, voiced by Zionist Cameron and repeated by Abbas, that nothing can be
achieved without negotiation is of course utterly false. There’s no mention
– on either side – of international law enforcement and the essential role
it must play before any negotiations can be considered fair or honourable.
Hague said after his meeting with Abbas: "I stressed the importance
Britain attaches to a secure and universally recognized Israel living
alongside a sovereign and viable Palestinian state, based on the borders of
1967, with Jerusalem the future capital of both states, and a fair
settlement for refugees.”
Only weeks earlier Hague, a fanatical
Israel flag-waver, was preparing to betray the Palestinians by abstaining if
their quest for statehood was pushed to a vote at the UN.
words devoid of meaning were paraded in the archbishop of Canterbury’s press
We continue to share the
hopes of the Palestinian leadership for a lasting and just peace in the
Holy Land, and we pray for the courage on all sides to break the current
deadlock. Young people in Israel and in the Palestinian territories long
for justice and stability and they must not be let down. We were deeply
grateful to President Abbas for taking time to share with us his
concerns and aspirations.
The only genuine boost he received was a remark by Deputy Prime Minister
Nick Clegg, referring to Israel’s illegal settlements:
Once you place physical
facts on the ground which make it impossible to deliver what everyone
has for years agreed is the ultimate destination, then you do immense
It's an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise
upon which negotiations have taken place for years and that is why we
have expressed our concerns as a government in increasingly forceful
He prefaced his comments by saying there was “no stronger supporter of
Israel than myself as a beacon of democracy in the region”. It’s a sad
reflection on the Westminster scene when Clegg, a Liberal Democrat and
supposedly possessed of certain principles, feels obliged to say such a
silly thing when it’s tantamount to defending the indefensible.
“This dreary ‘grey suit’ of a man might have done better
to just meet ordinary people – people like the 40,000 or so
displaced Palestinians living in the UK and longing to
return, and the numerous activist organizations that devote
much time and energy putting across the Palestinian case...”
Didn’t Abbas remind him about Israel’s abduction and imprisonment without
trial of the 26 elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council,
including its head, Dr Aziz Dweik? Dweik is reported to have been arrested
by Israel three times since 2002 and twice held without formal charges. This
wholesale kidnapping of democratically elected officials underlines yet
again Israel’s disregard for international law and the absurdity of its
claim to be the only beacon of democracy in the Middle East.
So, does Abbas seriously believe his visit was “successful”? This dreary
“grey suit” of a man might have done better to just meet ordinary people –
people like the 40,000 or so displaced Palestinians living in the UK and
longing to return, and the numerous activist organizations that devote much
time and energy putting across the Palestinian case, slapping down Israel's
propaganda lies and generally doing the job that Abbas and his lacklustre
Fatah outfit have failed to do.
That’s if he wanted their ongoing
support. Maybe he’s not bothered.
Under orders not to rock the Israeli boat?
Some time ago Hamas complained that the Palestinian Authority was not
getting its message across thanks to "poorly qualified or unqualified
spokespersons with inadequate political and linguistic abilities". Diplomacy
had failed and Palestinians needed “professional spokespersons with
excellent knowledge of the world and mastery of foreign languages,
especially English, to tell the world in a straightforward manner that
Israel is a murderer, liar and land thief..."
Israel's ambassador to
the UN, Ron Prosor, who ran rings round the Palestinians while ambassador in
London, recently addressed the Security Council on the situation in the
Middle East. He said:
And how many times have
members of this Council – and many others – repeated: “settlements are
the primary obstacle to peace”?... The primary obstacle to peace is not
settlements. The primary obstacle to peace is the so-called “claim of
return”. Let me repeat that: the major hurdle to peace is the
Palestinians’ insistence on the so-called “claim of return” [he means
the “right of return”].
Any press team worth its salt could make mincemeat of Prosor. A competent
Palestinian administration would have had a news release in every activist's
inbox and on every mainstream editor's desk within hours and made
spokespersons (speaking perfect English) available to follow through with
additional briefings and further comment. It would have gone worldwide via
all embassies and missions. But Prosor broadcasts his toxic nonsense
non-stop, knowing there will be no effective rebuke from the Palestinians.
It is six years since the Palestinian Authority/Palestine Liberation
Organization was urged to have all their key people professionally trained
in media skills. They haven’t done so. Consequently, for the last six
critical years the Palestinian people have continued to lose ground.
“Will the Palestinians ever seize the opportunity and
gear up properly for the communications struggle to win
justice? If it’s left to the likes of Abbas the answer is no
and the outcome will be disastrous.”
The Palestinian high command behaves as if under strict orders not to
rock the boat and not to make waves or even the slightest ripple. They
continue to squander their chances and make little impact, even though truth
and justice are on their side. So Israel has been the undeserving winner in
the propaganda war.
Will the Palestinians ever seize the opportunity
and gear up properly for the communications struggle to win justice? If it’s
left to the likes of Abbas the answer is no and the outcome will be
As campaigner Robert Stiver commented a few days ago, we
need “ideas and commitments on how we can finally get serious, via a mass
uprising, to ‘out’ Zionism beyond the choir and bring an end to the
Palestinians’ unbearable torment”.
But hopes of mobilizing the
necessary numbers are thwarted by the continuing presence of Mahmoud Abbas.
His presidential term ran out long ago and he’s clinging to power
unlawfully. He needs to step down or be removed. Someone with unquestionable
legitimacy and true leadership qualities must fill the void and deploy
On Abbas’s watch disunity has triumphed. He rides
roughshod over the Basic Law and has a crime sheet as long as your arm.
He’ll be remembered mostly for doing the Israeli occupation forces’ dirty
Another problem is chief negotiator Saeb Erekat who has
occupied that vitally important position for nearly 20 years and achieved –
well, what? He must be the most unsuccessful negotiator on the planet. Why
is he still there?
If Palestinians are to retain worldwide sympathy
and support, build additional strength and galvanize the whole movement into
action against the corrupt political class, they will have to find leaders
of a much higher calibre – and fast.