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Posts Tagged ‘Khaled Abu Toameh’

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians’ Islamist Spring?

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

After the recent wave of protests and clashes with Palestinian Authority policemen in the West Bank, the Palestinians are asking if the “Arab Spring” might be finally knocking on their door.

The protests, organized by young Palestinians through Facebook and Twitter, are a reflection of increased discontent with the Palestinian Authority leadership.

Recent public opinion polls have shown that the popularity of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction has declined and that Palestinians are eager for change.

Most Palestinians would like to see new faces among the top brass of their leadership. They are fed up with the fact that the same leaders have been in office for decades.

Many Palestinians feel that under Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority has joined the club of corrupt Arab dictatorships that suppress the opposition and crack down on freedom of speech.

Hundreds of angry men and women continued to demonstrate in the city against police brutality. The protesters accused the Palestinian Authority of ordering the police to use excessive force to stop the demonstrations.

At least five Palestinian journalists were injured when Palestinian security officers and Fatah activists beat them in the center of Ramallah. Many protesters, including women, were also beaten during the demonstrations.

The clashes erupted last weekend in protest against a planned visit to Ramallah by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and former IDF Chief of General Staff, Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz’s planned visit to Ramallah was used an excuse to vent out frustration and anger with the Palestinian Authority leadership.

The protests forced Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to call off the visit, but the cancellation did not calm things down, especially in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians.

In March last year, thousands of Palestinians, inspired by the “Arab Spring,” launched their own protests in the West Bank to demand reforms, democracy, and regime change. But the Palestinian revolt was short-lived.

Abbas’s security forces, backed by Fatah thugs, attacked the young men and women who were protesting in the center of Ramallah, torching their tents and beating them with clubs and rifle butts. But now the Palestinian youth groups appear to have reorganized themselves and are preparing for another wave of protests in the West Bank. In recent days, the protesters have even begun chanting the same slogans that Egyptians used against Hosni Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

The Facebook and Twitter protesters say they have no political affiliations and that their only goal is to replace the old-guard leaders in Ramallah with young and charismatic faces.

The Palestinian Authority, however, says that the protests are part of a foreign conspiracy designed to undermine the leadership of Abbas and harm the interests of the Palestinians. Some Palestinian officials in Ramallah have gone as far as claiming that the US, Israel and even Hamas are behind the unrest.

These accusations are similar to those that were made by Arab dictators in the past year, including Mubarak, Muammar Ghaddafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh. Arab dictatorships often try to discredit their opponents by accusing them of being Israeli and American spies and agents.

Yet in the absence of a credible and organized Palestinian opposition in the West Bank, it is most likely that Hamas will hijack any “Palestinian Spring.” Unfortunately, the young men and women who are leading the anti-Palestinian Authority campaign in the West Bank do not represent the majority. That is why a Palestinian Spring could quickly turn into an Islamist Spring, paving the way for Hamas to seize control over the West Bank.

The only way this outcome might possibly be avoided is if the international community immediately demands reforms from Abbas: the end to corruption, and the end to repression of free speech.

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: Arab Apartheid Against Palestinians

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are considered the worst in the region in terms of poverty, health, education and living conditions, according to a report published this week by the American Near East Refugee Aid [ANERA], one of the largest American not-for-profit organizations working in the Middle East. This does not mean, of course, that Palestinians living in refugee camps in Jordan and Syria or other Arab countries are happy. But when it comes to Lebanon, the living conditions of the Palestinians are appalling.

The ANERA report coincided with news about mounting tensions between Palestinian residents of refugee camps in Lebanon and the Lebanese army.

The tensions reached their peak last week when Lebanese soldiers shot and killed a young Palestinian man in Nahr El Bared refugee camp. Later Lebanese soldiers prevented residents from going to the cemetery to attend the funeral.

In 2007, the Lebanese army destroyed most of the camp’s houses during fighting with militiamen belonging to Palestinian armed groups and radical Islamic groups.

Two-thirds of the camp’s 36,000 residents fled the fighting and found shelter in surrounding fields and valleys. Many set up new homes in the nearby Baddawi refugee camp.

Since 2007, the Lebanese army has imposed a strict siege on the camp: residents are allowed to enter and leave only after obtaining permission from Lebanese security authorities. According to the Palestinian residents, they have since been living in a ghetto.

The Lebanese authorities have also banned the residents from rebuilding the houses that were destroyed or damaged in 2007.

Palestinians are convinced that Lebanon has been trying to get rid of them for many years. Lebanon’s apartheid laws deny Palestinians access to the majority of white collar positions in areas such as banking, medicine, management, law and education.

Like many Arab countries, Lebanon has always been treating Palestinians as third-class citizens. Nearly half a million Palestinians live in Lebanon’s 12 camps. Though born and raised in the country, they are denied political, economic and social rights.

Palestinians cannot attend Lebanese public schools or own property. They do not have access to national health services or the social security system. Checkpoints restricting access to most of the camps, according to the ANERA report, thwart trade and commerce with neighboring counties.

“The refugees live in overcrowded camps and have to deal with discrimination, isolation and social exclusion,” the report states. “The refugees often refer to themselves as ‘forgotten people’ and feel they are living in a hostile environment where their basic human rights are not represented or protected.”

The plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and other Arab countries has received little attention in the mainstream media in the West. Although many international aid organizations have been working to assist the Palestinians in the Arab world, Western journalists often turn a blind eye to the misery of these refugees.

The unconscionable condition of the Palestinians in the Arab world will end the day the Arab governments and Palestinian leaders stop lying to them and confront them with reality, namely that they need to get along with their lives and secure a better future for their children. Arab and Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, continue to deceive these people by promising them that if they wait a little longer they will one day “return to the homeland.”

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: Is the Palestinian Authority Losing Control in the West Bank?

Monday, June 18th, 2012

In recent weeks, the Palestinian Authority security forces have been launching a massive crackdown on anarchy and lawlessness in various parts of the West Bank.

The crackdown was ordered by Abbas after he discovered what many Palestinians have known for a long time – that his security forces and Fatah loyalists are responsible for the chaos and anarchy.

Palestinians say this is the biggest operation to be carried out by the Western-funded security forces since Mahmoud Abbas was elected to succeed Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority in 2005.

Dozens of Palestinian security officers, some of them holding very high ranks, have thus far been rounded up and transferred to a Palestinian prison in Jericho.

The officers, who were trained and armed by US and EU security experts over the past years, are suspected of involvement in various types of crime, including extortion, armed robbery, kidnappings, physical assaults and fraud. Some of them, according to Palestinian sources in the West Bank, are also suspected of involvement in trafficking weapons and drugs. The clampdown was ordered by Abbas following a series of incidents in Jenin, which reached their peak when unidentified gunmen opened tried to assassinate the Palestinian governor of the city, Kadoura Musa, who was not hurt in the assassination bid, but died a few hours later of a massive heart attack.

Jenin residents said that the assassination attempt provided further evidence that the Palestinian Authority has lost control over their city. They said that for the past few years, Jenin has been under the control of local gangs whose members consisted mostly of former Fatah militiamen and security officers.

The ongoing security crackdown has also resulted in the arrest of scores of Fatah gunmen who were part of the faction’s armed wing, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

These security officers and Fatah gunmen have been imposing a reign of terror and intimidation on Palestinians not only in Jenin, but in other parts of the West Bank, including Nablus, the largest Palestinian city, and its nearby Balatta refugee camp.

Palestinian security sources say that the crackdown has also resulted in the confiscation of dozens of rifles and pistols, as well as large amounts of ammunition, that were found in the possession of clans, armed gangs and unruly security officers.

But while many Palestinians have expressed satisfaction with the decision to restore law and order, others have, meanwhile, criticized Abbas for acting in a “hysterical” manner.

Abbas’s critics complain that the weapons that his security forces have confiscated were being kept for use against Israel.

In Balatta refugee camp last week, dozens of Palestinians took to the streets, chanting slogans against Abbas and his security forces. The protest drew a harsh response from Abbas, who instructed his security personnel to expand the crackdown inside the camp.

In the short term, the Palestinian Authority may succeed in restoring law and order to areas under its control in the West Bank. But in the long term, the clampdown will increase bitterness and frustration among a large number of Fatah gunmen and security officers who feel betrayed by Abbas.

Abbas loyalists argue that their president if facing an “international conspiracy” aimed at undermining and isolating him because of his refusal to resume peace talks with Israel. According to these loyalists, Abbas’s enemies have been arming and funding disillusioned Fatah gunmen and security officers in a bid to spread anarchy and lawlessness in the West Bank.

Sources close to Abbas have identified the primary enemies as Mohammed Rashid, a former aide to Yasser Arafat, and Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief. Both Rashid and Dahlan are currently waging a smear campaign against Abbas and his two businessmen sons, Tarek and Yasser, accusing them of financial corruption and abuse of power.

The security crackdown in the West Bank has nothing to do with combating terrorism. The arrests and confiscation of weapons are part of an effort by the Palestinian Authority to fight crime and dissension within its own ranks.

The clampdown could last for weeks or months. Abbas is fighting to regain control over refugee camps and other Palestinian communities that have fallen into the hands of gangsters and thugs.

In the last week, Abbas has renewed his threat to go back to the UN to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state if Israel does not comply with his demand for a freeze of settlement construction and acceptance of the pre-1967 lines as the future borders of the state. But before he heads back to New York, Abbas will have to prove that he has not lost control over certain parts of the territories which are supposed to be under his jurisdiction.

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: Unilateral Withdrawal a Recipe for War

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak believes that Israel should consider a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank if negotiations with the Palestinian Authority fail to bear fruit.

Under the current circumstances, such a move would lead to the creation of another radical Palestinian Islamic entity, this time in those parts of the West Bank that would be handed over to Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad.

Any land that is handed over to the Palestinian Authority would end up in the hands of Hamas.

In the summer of 2005, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip, passing it to Abbas and his 40,000-strong Fatah-dominated security forces.

A few months later, thanks to a free and fair parliamentary election that was held at the request of the US and some EU countries, Hamas came to power.

One of the main reasons Hamas scored a victory in that election was because it took credit for driving Israel out of the Gaza Strip through rockets and suicide bombings.

A year later, in the summer of 2007, it took fewer than 10,000 Hamas militiamen to defeat Abbas’s security forces and bring down the entire Palestinian Authority regime in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’s rule over the Gaza Strip has since brought more suffering and bloodshed for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Once Israel carries out a unilateral withdrawal, the same scenario is likely to be repeated in the West Bank.

Even though Hamas does not have a strong military presence in the West Bank, the movement seems to enjoy much popularity among Palestinians.

The so-called Arab Spring, which has seen the rise of Islamists to power in a number of Arab countries, has emboldened Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups, such as Islamic Jihad.

These groups have managed to attract many followers by offering themselves as the best alternative to Western-backed corrupt secular dictatorships in the Arab world.

As before, Hamas’s chances of taking over the West Bank are high after the failure of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction to implement significant reforms or combat rampant corruption.

Fatah lost the 2006 parliamentary election mainly because of its leaders’ involvement in the embezzlement of public funds. Since then, Fatah has failed to draw the conclusions from its defeat and has not even been able to come up with a new list of capable candidates that could attract Palestinian voters.

The same Fatah men who lost the vote are, in fact, continuing to run the show in Ramallah — as if they had never lost.

Even if the Islamists do not take over the West Bank in the aftermath of a unilateral Israeli pullout, it is almost certain that the Palestinian Authority would not be able to prevent local gangs and clans from seizing power.

The case of Jenin, a city in the West Bank, is a good example of the weakness of the Palestinian Authority security forces, especially with regard to imposing law and order: Palestinian Authority officials have admitted that Jenin has been controlled over the past two years by Fatah militiamen and thugs who worked closely with many top Palestinian security officers, imposing a reign of terror and intimidation on the city’s residents.

A unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank could mean that Palestinian cities like Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Bethlehem and Hebron would fall either into the hands of Hamas or armed Fatah gangs.

Abbas and Fayyad would not be able to do much to prevent a return to scenes of anarchy and lawlessness that were once prevalent on the Palestinian street.

The chaos and violence inside the Palestinian cities would also spill over into Israel, forcing it to launch another “Defensive Shield” type of operation, like the one in 2002, to clear the area of armed gangs.

Before withdrawing from any area, Israel needs to make sure that those who would be in charge would not run away, handing the territories to Hamas or any other local gangs. Under the current circumstances, a unilateral and unconditional withdrawal would only be a recipe for more violence and bloodshed and repression.

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Khaled Abu Toameh

The Silence Abbas and the PA Want You to Hear

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

The Middle East is becoming quieter. No, the swords are not turning into plowshares, it’s not that kind of quiet. Instead, it is the sound of truth that’s slowly being silenced. And it’s happening not only because the PA grows stronger, but also because the West grows weaker.

Thirty years ago the young Arab journalist Khaled abu Toameh quit working for PLO media outlets. They did not allow reporting on what abu Toameh saw as the news people needed to know. Instead, he was told to take the words dictated by the Arab leadership, and cut and paste them into the stories they then published, but under his byline. They weren’t his words and it wasn’t the news, so he turned to western media for outlets that allowed him to write and speak about what people needed to know.

In those thirty years the PA media has not become more open. Instead, the PA leadership has become more emboldened and the western media – either because of physical or moral exhaustion – is allowing the PA’s censorship to seep into and rot away at core freedoms, both of speech and of the press.

Under the Palestinian Authority’s Penal Code, a holdover from when Jordan illegally occupied the territories, defamation suspects can be arrested and held in detention for up to six months before they are charged with a crime. Esmat Abdul-Khalik, an al Quds University lecturer and single mother of two, was arrested in late March and held in solitary confinement and denied the possibility of any visits because someone else criticized PA President Mahmoud Abbas on her Facebook page, calling him a traitor and suggesting he resign. Abdul-Khalik is not the only Arab arrested recently for Facebook page activity, at least three others have recently been picked up for daring to criticize members of the government.

In September, the director of Radio Bethlehem 2000, George Canawati, was arrested for posting on his Facebook page criticism of the Bethlehem Health Department. Last month the PA judicial and executive authorities determined Canawati will be tried for defamation – a crime punishable by up to two years in prison – in the Magistrate Court of Bethlehem City. The trial was recently adjourned until September.

Altogether, nine journalists have been arrested in recent weeks for exposing corruption or making critical remarks about the PA leadership on Facebook, and many others have been summoned for interrogation. When Facebook postings expose government critics to censure, you can be sure that no one will risk filing bona fide media reports about the topic.

But just as frightening as Arab Palestinian bloggers and journalists being arrested for posting on their Facebook pages is the steady drumbeat of pressure that is leading to a decrease in coverage by western journalists who, presumably, are not as vulnerable to the capricious selections for punishment designed to suppress criticism of the ruling regime.

In addition to whispered discussions being heard in Ramallah about the “Facebook Police” are the directives issued to western journalists to focus their reporting on “Israel’s ‘occupation’” and refrain from prying into alleged corruption committed by PA officials, because “nothing else is newsworthy and nothing else should be reported.”

Some western journalists have been warned not to work with Arabic speaking reporters who fail to toe the “All-Occupation, All The Time” reporting. This is how the PA controls not only their own media outlets, but those western outlets. All too many simply play along rather than stand up for press and speech freedoms and possibly risk losing access. For those journalists who behave and report primarily about the occupation, the rewards are access to senior officials. Senior PA officials told Arab Israeli journalist abu Toameh, “Even the Jews at Haaretz behave themselves and for that they are rewarded with interviews of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.”

It is not only individual journalists who are being intimidated, but entire news sites critical of the PA have been blocked on the internet. A report in late April revealed that several websites which had reported on corruption within the PA were blocked, including Inlight Press, which had revealed that the PA had been monitoring the phones of Mahmoud Abbas’s opponents.

What’s more, in May, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a vehicle that is supposed to act as a union to defend the rights of its members, actually began punishing Arab Palestinian journalists for meeting and cooperating with Israeli colleagues in a series of joint seminars that were held in Europe. The goal of those seminars was to promote freedom of expression and increase cooperation. The PJS is affiliated with the PA and is dominated by Fatah, the party of Abbas, and reports directly to the President’s office in Ramallah. Those who violate the will of the Syndicate, which is to sing from the hymnal of PA devotion and praise for Abbas, are threatened with expulsion from the Syndicate and a concomitant boycott by all PA newspapers and other Palestinian media outlets.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Khaled Abu Toameh: Where Are the Moderate Arabs and Palestinians?

Monday, June 4th, 2012

In Israel, there are dozens of organizations and parties that openly advocate peace with the Palestinians and the Arab world.

Some even go as far as calling on the Israeli government to comply with 100% of the Palestinians’ demands by fully withdrawing to the pre-1967 lines.

Many of these organizations and parties have also been active in launching protests against Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories, especially the construction of the security barrier and new houses in settlements.

Israeli human rights groups and other organizations are usually the first to condemn the Israel Defense Forces or the government when something with the Palestinians goes wrong. Some Israelis have decided to expand their protest by participating in Palestinian street demonstrations against the Israeli Defense Forces in the West Bank or the Police in east Jerusalem.

The Israeli media is also full of articles — by Jewish writers — who are extremely critical of the Israeli establishment and who openly back Palestinian demands for statehood and independence. Hence it is no surprise that Palestinian media newspapers devote entire pages to publish translated [pro-Palestinian] articles and news stories that originally appeared in the Israeli media.

Some Israeli politicians, especially Arab Knesset members, have used the parliamentary podium to advance and defend the causes of Palestinians. Israeli policies and actions are condemned in the Knesset more than they are denounced in the Palestinian or any Arab parliament. The Palestinian parliament, incidentally, has been paralyzed since 2007 because of the dispute between Hamas and Fatah.

In most parliaments throughout the Arab world, representatives do not enjoy the same freedom of speech as their counterparts in Israel. Members of parliament in the Arab world can not stand up and openly demand peace with Israel. When was the last time an Arab parliament or prominent politician or columnist called for peace and compromise with Israel?

Can anyone in the Palestinian territories or the Arab world form a party that advocates peace, coexistence and harmony with Israel? On the contrary, the only voices that are being heard among Palestinians and other Arabs are those who seek to boycott and delegitimize Israel.

Any Palestinian or Arab who dares to talk to Israelis or visit Israel is accused of being a traitor for promoting “normalization” with the “Zionist enemy.”

In Israel, hundreds of thousands of people once took to the streets to protest against the Israeli war in Lebanon and the killing of innocent civilians in refugee camps. The mass protest resulted in the resignation of then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.

During the last war in the Gaza Strip, more protests took place inside Israel than inside most Arab capitals or in the West Bank — where the Palestinians worked hard to suppress protests.

In Israel, there is a large movement called Peace Now that effectively endorses most of the Palestinians’ demands. Has anyone ever heard of a Palestinian or Arab “Peace Now” group?

Over the past two decades, Israeli Jews have been marching toward pragmatism and moderation. A majority now supports the two-state solution and, according to public opinion polls, is even willing to make compromises on settlements and Jerusalem. By contrast, the Palestinians seem to be marching backward.

The Palestinians have been radicalized to a point where it is almost impossible to talk about peace and coexistence with Israel. For Palestinians, the true heroes are suicide bombers who blew themselves up in cafes and buses, killing innocent civilians. Peace activists, human rights advocates, moderates, journalists and reformers have almost no say and are often denounced as “traitors” and a “fifth column.”

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Khaled Abu Toameh

Muslim Brotherhood Plotting To Take Over Jordan?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Jordanian government officials say there are growing signs that the kingdom’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood organization has plans to overthrow the regime. The organization, according to the officials, has succeeded in hijacking the anti-corruption and pro-democracy protests that have swept Jordan over the past year.

Today, most of the anti-regime demonstrations throughout the kingdom are being initiated and led by Muslim Brotherhood supporters whose goal is to turn Jordan into an Islamic republic.

Many Arabs feel that President Barack Obama’s endorsement of the Muslim Brotherhood has emboldened the Islamists and increased their appetite to drive moderate and secular rulers out of the Arab world.

King Abdullah has good reason to be worried about the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts to hijack the pro-reform drive in the kingdom. This concern was reportedly one of the main reasons that the monarch replaced Prime Minister Awn Khasawna — a staunch supporter of rapprochement with Muslim Brotherhood and its Palestinian sister-movement, Hamas — a few weeks ago.

In a bid to appease the anti-corruption and pro-democracy campaigners, King Abdullah has also taken a number of unprecedented measures against a number of senior government officials suspected of embezzling public funds and abusing their powers. The king has replaced three prime ministers since the “Arab Spring” began and has thrown a number of former officials into prison, but all this has not satisfied the Muslim Brotherhood.

What is clear by now is that no matter how much the king does to fight corruption and implement reforms, the Muslim Brotherhood will continue to argue that this is not enough.

“They have learned from the Egyptian experience, where Muslim Brotherhood also hijacked the anti-regime protests that were triggered by secular and genuine reformists,” explained a senior Jordanian government official in Amman.

Another Jordanian official said that his government has proof that “outside forces” were backing Muslim Brotherhood’s scheme to “spread chaos and anarchy in the kingdom” by exploiting demands for reform and democracy.

The official pointed out that some representatives of Muslim Brotherhood recently visited Turkey, where they reportedly met with former CIA deputy director Steven Kappes and former British MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller.

Osama Rantisi, a prominent Jordanian journalist and political analyst, claimed that Kappes and Manningham-Buller pledged in the meeting that “the US government and its intelligence services will support the Muslim Brotherhood goals of reaching power.”

The claim has been vehemently denied by both the US government and Muslim Brotherhood.

Muslim Brotherhood leaders say the report about a conspiracy backed by the US and Britain to help the group topple King Abdullah’s regime is part of a smear campaign waged by Jordan’s General Intelligence Department.

Some Jordanians have also pointed to Iran and its proxy Hizbullah militia in Lebanon as being behind a Muslim Brotherhood scheme to stage a coup in the kingdom.

But while these efforts have persuaded many Jordanians to stop their street protests, Muslim Brotherhood supporters continue to stage protests and incite Jordanians against the regime.

What has particularly worried King Abdullah is that the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to “infiltrate” many powerful Jordanian tribes, which have always been known as traditional and staunch supporters of the monarchy.

Unless the US Administration stops flirting with Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan will be turned into a radical Islamic republic and a source of further instability in the Middle East.

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Khaled Abu Toameh

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/khaled-abu-toameh-muslim-brotherhood-plotting-to-take-over-jordan/2012/05/30/

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