Politics of fear

The Palestinians, frankly, are a ragtag people, many who barely speak English. And whatever they say is often offensive and then used against them.
– Dr. Ziad Asali, President and founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, 1 August 2007.

[…] The ATFP’s true strategy has been on display over the past month in the “Issue” and “Policy” papers published on their website and opinion essays in Lebanon’s The Daily Star and The Jordan Times by their staff members Rafi Dajani and Hussein Ibish. Collectively, these writings suffer from a paternalistic tone and are riddled with inane and contradictory claims, glaring omissions, and factual errors that serve to undermine any pretense of impartiality. Their shared theme amounts to a defense of Abbas’ strategy of deference and obsequiousness to the US and Israel, under the guise of “political realities” and a “realistic hope for the future of Palestine.” According to Ibish’s issue paper, Abbas’ problem is not that he is a failed, corrupt and ineffectual leader who appears to Palestinians as an eager American tool, but that he is “uninspiring” and “lacks the charisma that many politicians rely upon, and is not an emotive speaker.” [11] As part of this pathetic defense, the ATFP attempts to conflate the PA with the PLO and both bodies with Fatah. Therefore, anyone critical of these organizations and their leadership is either a Hamas supporter or is unwittingly serving their cause. Moreover, they claim that these criticisms only serve to prolong Israel’s occupation and undermine Palestinian aspirations. [12] That these are facile assertions, which ignore that the vast majority of Palestinians living under occupation or in the Diaspora prefer national unity over factionalism is irrelevant. In the current American and Palestinian political climate, these accusations are designed to intimidate and silence dissent in the Palestinian community by labeling them as Hamas loyalists whose “rhetoric could have a decidedly negative influence” (i.e., incite violence and support terror) and who are “taking their lead from others in the Middle East” (i.e., Tehran). [13]

Another ATFP goal is to frighten secular leftists with the threat of a theocracy emerging in Palestine. In doing so, they deliberately ignore the presence of a thugocracy in Palestinian politics as embodied by Mohammad Dahlan, Jabril Rajoub and their ilk, which presents an equal, if not greater threat, to the independent, viable and democratic Palestinian state the ATFP contends it supports. This tactic is justified by the claim that a secular Palestinian state even if “not necessarily fully democratic at the outset would be hardly as repressive as a theocracy.” [14] Ibish also intentionally overlooks the presence of American Lt. General Keith Dayton, who has been training Fatah militias for over a year for the express purpose of confronting Hamas with the enthusiastic support of Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Conveniently, Dahlan, Rajoub, and Dayton are absent from Ibish’s 9,000 word screed. Thus, the ATFP’s idea of an independent secular Palestinian state is a US-backed government of thieves and their enforcers — definitely not what Palestinians believe “liberation looks like.” [15]

Historically, national liberation movements have only been successful when their political parties had a unified strategy. However, instead of advocating for national unity as a way out of the current political crisis, Ibish derides reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas as “utopian.” [16] It is telling that while a number of foreign policy experts and policy makers, including Israelis and Americans, have argued that an accommodation is needed between the two parties, the ATFP and Abbas have ruled this out. Rather, Ibish offers non-partisan Palestinians an unappealing and ultimately false choice: either embrace Hamas, which doesn’t have a political program and is now barred from joining the PLO, or ally with Fatah, whose political platform has been on sale to the highest bidder since the Oslo Accords. Therefore, according to the ATFP’s line of reasoning, Palestinians can prevent “unending conflict and untold suffering” and achieve independence only by supporting Fatah and forsaking Hamas. read more


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