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January 23, 2017 / 25 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Khaled Abu Toameh’

Khaled Abu Toameh: How Much Is Mahmoud Abbas Worth?

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has just discovered what every Palestinian child knows — that hundreds of millions of dollars had been embezzled during the era of Yasser Arafat.

The “discovery”, however, was not the result of a thorough and long investigation ordered by Palestinian leaders in Ramallah with the hope of restoring public funds.

Instead, it came after one of Arafat’s most trusted aides, Mohammed Rashid, threatened to expose corruption scandals in the Palestinian Authority.

For many years, Rashid served as Arafat’s financial advisor and was given a free hand to handle hundreds of millions of dollars that were poured on the Palestinian Authority and the PLO by US, EU, and Arab donors.

A former journalist who used to earn less than $1,000 a month by working for a PLO newspaper, Rashid is now considered one of the wealthiest Palestinians anywhere. Palestinian Authority officials have estimated his fortune at more than half a billion dollars.

Rashid left the Palestinian territories almost immediately after his boss, Arafat, died in late 2004. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has done almost nothing to bring him to trial or return at least some of the missing funds.

This week, however, the Palestinian Authority finally woke up and remembered that Rashid was suspected of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Palestinian Authority’s Anti-Corruption Commission in Ramallah announced that it has issued an arrest warrant against the former Arafat advisor and asked Interpol for help in bringing him to trial.

The announcement came a day after Rashid appeared on a Saudi-owned TV station and threatened to expose corruption scandals in the Palestinian Authority leadership.

Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, including President Mahmoud Abbas, are deeply concerned that Rashid’s revelations could seriously embarrass them and expose their role in the embezzlement of public funds.

They are also worried that Rashid’s revelations could prompt some Americans and Europeans to reconsider their decision to pour millions of dollars into the Palestinian Authority’s coffers.

Rashid, after all, was not a junior official in the Palestinian Authority. He was an insider, someone who was very close to Arafat and probably the only official who knows where hundreds of millions of dollars ended up.

The Palestinian Authority’s decision to issue an arrest warrant against him does not seem to worry Rashid, who this week demanded a probe into Abbas’s personal fortune, which he estimated at more than $100 million.

So Abbas is saying that Rashid stole hundreds of millions of dollars, while Rashid is accusing the president of embezzling “only” $100 million. This is happening at a time when international donors are continuing to channel more funds every month to the Palestinian Authority, often without holding its leaders accountable or demanding to know how the money is being spent.

What is needed is an independent commission of inquiry to restore the public funds belonging to the Palestinian people. The Palestinians have many Mohammed Rashids who turned into wealthy businessmen during the peace process with Israel — thanks to the naivety of Americans and Europeans.

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

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: The Main Goal of the Palestinian Government

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

At a time when many Western governments, the World Bank and various international organizations are continuing to heap praise on the Palestinian Authority for implementing reforms, the deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Hasan Khreishah, announced that financial and administrative corruption was now more widespread than ever.

Khreishah, who is an independent parliamentarian, made it clear that the Palestinian government of Salam Fayyad, which has been hailed for combating corruption and implementing major reforms, was continuing to squander public funds.

One of the charges the deputy parliament speaker makes relates to the Palestinian government’s claim that it is facing severe financial crisis.

Khreishah says that the Palestinian government is in fact lying when it talks about a financial crisis; its main goal is to get Western and Arab donors to channel more funds to Ramallah: “Corruption in the Palestinian Authority is more widespread than in the past,” he said. “We hear about the suffering and hunger of the poor and the difficulties facing the unemployed, farmers, villagers and civil servants,” Khreishah said. “At the same time, we hear about the luxurious life of senior and influential officials and the involvement of some in money laundering.”

What Khreishah is saying is that Western donors, specifically the US and EU, are continuing to pour billions of dollars into the Palestinian Authority without holding its leaders fully accountable.

He revealed, for example, that the chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, a company that was established by the PLO, was receiving a salary of $35,000 a month, or $420,000 a year, while the average salary of a civil servant in the Palestinian Authority ranges from $500 to $1,000 a month.

Khreishah also disclosed that senior members of the PLO and Fatah have not only awarded themselves huge salaries, but also other privileges such as luxurious vehicles.

A senior Palestinian official, he said, spends an average of five days abroad together with aides, advisors and secretaries — all at the expense of the Palestinians.

“Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, we have had 228 ministers, in addition to advisers,” Khreishah said in an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.” All receive high salaries and luxurious vehicles,” he continued. “In light of the financial expenses [of the PA leadership], the talk about a financial crisis is repugnant and baseless,” he charged. “This talk has become a sort of political statement.”

Khreishah also lashed out at the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for violations of human rights and freedom of expression. Journalists have become a target for anyone who wants to violate human rights,” Khreishah added. “Palestinians are being held hostages by the two parties.”

Despite his senior status in the Palestinian Authority, including the fact that he is an elected parliament member, the international media chose to ignore his statements. Instead, some journalists rushed to seek denials from Palestinian government officials, who tried to discredit the whistle-blower by claiming that he was a Hamas supporter — a charge that sounds ridiculous, especially to all those who have known Khreishah for many years.

The Palestinian government — with the help of mainstream media in the West — does not want such statements to appear in the international media lest they affect financial aid to the Palestinians. The next time the Palestinian government complains about a financial crisis, it would be advisable for Western donors to translate Khreishah’s statements into English and read them before channeling additional funds to the Palestinian government’s coffers…Unless the Western donors enjoy being deceived and stripped of their money.

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

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinian Journalists Union Fights Palestinian Journalists

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

As journalists worldwide celebrated World Free Press Day on May 3, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the West Bank chose to wage a campaign of intimidation against Palestinian reporters who commit the “crime” of meeting with Israeli counterparts.

The decision to punish Palestinian journalists who hold meetings with Israeli colleagues began after a series of joint seminars that were held in Norway, Germany, and France. At these seminars, Israeli and Palestinian journalists discussed joint cooperation and ways of promoting freedom of expression.

The syndicate, dominated by Fatah and affiliated with the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah, threatened sanctions against any Palestinian journalist who engages in “normalization” with Israel.

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate functions more as a political body than a union that is supposed to defend the rights of its members.

The syndicate wants Palestinian journalists to serve as soldiers on behalf of the Palestinian cause. Journalists, according to the syndicate, should first and foremost be loyal to their president, prime minister, government, homeland, and cause. As for the truth, it appears at the bottom of the syndicate’s list of priorities.

The syndicate’s main task should be to defend freedom of media in the Palestinian territories. But instead of fighting for the rights of Palestinian journalists, who are facing a campaign of intimidation under the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the syndicate has also decided to join the clampdown on freedom of expression.

A syndicate that reports directly to the office of the president in Ramallah can never serve the interests of Palestinian journalists.

Cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian journalists has never been a new or unique phenomenon. Long before the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, representatives of the two sides maintained close ties, often exchanging information and helping each other cover stories both inside Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But the Palestinian Authority’s syndicate is now trying to put an end to this cooperation under the pretext of combating normalization with Israel.

Sanctions include expulsion from the syndicate and a boycott by Palestinian newspapers and other media outlets belonging to the Palestinian Authority.

If anyone stands to lose from the ban on holding contacts with Israeli media representatives, it is the Palestinian journalists themselves. Over the past few decades, Palestinian journalists have helped Israeli newspapers and TV stations cover the story on the Palestinian side. Thanks to this cooperation, the Israeli public learned a lot about what was happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In recent weeks, Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested at least nine Palestinian journalists and bloggers for exposing corruption scandals and posting comments critical of Palestinian leaders on Facebook. The affected journalists complained that the syndicate did not make a serious effort on their behalf, limiting its response to issuing laconic statements demanding the release of some of the detainees.

The Palestinian Authority and its media group clearly do not want the Israeli public and the outside world to receive information about the situation in the Palestinian territories.

This is why they are now waging the new campaign of intimidation against journalists who are found guilty of meeting with Israeli counterparts.

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

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: How Journalists Allowed the Palestinian Authority to Fool Them

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The Palestinian Authority has been boasting over the past four years of its success in restoring law and order to the West Bank city of Jenin.

Journalists from all around the world were invited to Jenin, once notorious for dispatching suicide bombers to Israel, to report on the Palestinian government’s successful efforts.

Palestinian leaders and government officials told the journalists how their security forces have managed to end the state of chaos and lawlessness that used to prevail in Jenin.

They talked about how Fatah gangsters and thugs who used to roam the streets, imposing an atmosphere of intimidation and terror on the population, have vanished.

Most of the gangsters, the Palestinian government officials noted, had been recruited to various branches of the Western-funded Palestinian security forces and were indirectly receiving salaries from American and European taxpayers’ money.

Many Western correspondents rushed to Jenin to cover the story about the success of the Palestinian Authority in restoring law and order.

One of the most popular stories was the fact that Zakaria Zubeidi, the former commander of Fatah’s armed militia, Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which was behind dozens of terror attacks against Israel, was now running a local theater and promoting coexistence and peace. But while the international, and Israeli, media were breaking the “good news” about Jenin, the journalists failed to understand what was really going on in Jenin and its surrounding villages. Some journalists, in fact, chose to turn a blind eye to the grim reality on the ground.

The murder of Israeli Arab actor and film producer Julian Mar-Khamis in Jenin last year should have sounded an alarm bell among the media representatives. His killers have never been caught, sparking a wave of unconfirmed reports about the involvement of influential Fatah gangsters and Palestinian security officers in the case.

A Western journalist who wanted to do an investigative report into the case was warned by senior Palestinian security officers that she would be putting her life at risk if she insisted on carrying out this mission.

Last week, the truth about the situation in Jenin finally exploded in the faces of everyone: the local governor died of a fatal heart attack following an unsuccessful assassination attempt. For the Palestinian Authority leadership, the assassination attempt was what lifted the veil: Palestinian leaders in Ramallah realized that they could no longer continue to hide the truth about what was really happening in Jenin.

Palestinian security forces have since arrested dozens of Fatah “outlaws” and police officers for various crimes — including murder, extortion, abductions, sexual harassment, and armed robberies.

Radi Asideh, the security commander of the Jenin area, admitted that it was the Palestinian security establishment that was responsible for the anarchy and lawlessness. “There is a defect inside the security establishment and officers were responsible for this,” he revealed.

The biggest mistake, Asideh added, was that the Palestinian leadership had turned its back to the defect, allowing the situation to deteriorate at the expense of the people’s security.

Palestinians say that anarchy and lawlessness are to be found also in other areas in the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority claims to have imposed law and order. And, they add, in most cases it is the Palestinian Authority’s security forces that are responsible for the chaos and corruption.

If the Western journalists and donors continue to ignore the reality on the ground, the West Bank could soon fall into the hands of gangsters and armed clans, as has been the case in Jenin — among the main reasons the Palestinian Authority collapsed in the Gaza Strip in 2007, speeding the rise of Hamas to power.
Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: What the Palestinians Want

Friday, May 4th, 2012

No matter how much the US tries to help the Palestinians, it will always be viewed by many of them as an enemy.

Last week, President Barack Obama gave $147 million to the Palestinians. A few days later, Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah against the US and boycotted a ceremony held by the US Consulate-General. The protesters carried placards which read: “USAID go out!” and “We reject aid from those who deny our people the right to self-determination.”

USAID is the leading provider of bilateral development assistance to the Palestinians. This agency has given the Palestinians more than $3.5 billion since 1994 for programs in the areas of democracy and governance, education, health, humanitarian assistance, private enterprise, and water resources and infrastructure. The demonstration in Ramallah was held outside a hotel where US officials organized a ceremony marking World Press Freedom Day.

Palestinian Authority policemen were deployed outside the hotel to prevent angry demonstrators from disrupting the ceremony. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing US “bias” in favor of Israel. They accused the US of “covering up” for Israeli “war crimes” and blocking the Palestinian leadership from receiving UN recognition of a Palestinian state.

More than 20 Palestinian professional unions and other organizations announced a boycott of the US-sponsored event for the same reason.

Many Palestinian journalists who were invited to cover the event also decided to stay away. Their representatives accused the US of supporting Israel and working toward “normalizing” relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

In a similar show of hostility, US diplomats who visited Ramallah several months ago had shoes thrown at their vehicles.

As far as most Palestinians are concerned, the “friend of my enemy is my enemy.” Palestinians hate the US because of its continued support for Israel. The Palestinians want the US to endorse all their demands and force Israel to give them everything.

As one of the leaders of the demonstrators explained, “The US will remain our enemy for as long as it does not fully support the Palestinians.”

US threats to veto Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statehood bid at the UN have only intensified anti-US sentiments among the Palestinians.

The Americans can pour billions of dollars on the Palestinians every year, but that won’t change their hearts and minds, especially toward the US. The same applies to the rest of the Arab world, where the masses continue to strongly detest the US.

The $147 million that Obama released to the Palestinians will probably help pay salaries of civil servants and improve infrastructure in Palestinian cities and villages, but the aid will surely not change the Palestinians’ attitudes toward the US.

The anti-US sentiments are the direct result of incitement by the Palestinian Authority and other Palestinians against the US. Palestinians are reminded almost every day that the US, which has been providing them with billions of dollars, as a foe rather than friend, although no one seems to ask how come a foe is so generous.

US aid should be conditioned not only on transparency and accountability in the Palestinian Authority, but also on an end to the campaign of hatred and incitement, as officially agreed in the Oslo Accords, but never implemented.
Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: How The Palestinian Authority Fights Corruption

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Jamal Abu Rihan is a Palestinian blogger and activist who is being held in a Palestinian Authority prison in the West Bank.

Security forces belonging to the Palestinian Authority government arrested Abu Rihan after he created a Facebook group called “The People Want to End Corruption.”

Demanding reform and democracy has become a crime in the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Direct and indirect criticism of Palestinian Authority leaders has also become a crime that can land journalists, bloggers, cartoonists and political opponents in prison.

Instead of going after top officials suspected of embezzling public funds and abusing their powers, the Palestinian Authority government has chosen to wage an unprecedented clampdown on those who dare to raise their voices in support of transparency and freedom of speech.

Abu Rihan’s anti-corruption group on Facebook has won the backing of more than 6000 followers. These people clicked “like” and joined the group within days of its launching. Some of the followers, especially those living under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, now fear being thrown into prison for committing the crime of demanding an end to corruption.

The arrest of Abu Rihan and others is aimed at sending a warning to Palestinians against criticizing their government and leaders.

The Palestinian Authority government has also warned Palestinian journalists against reporting about the crackdown or helping Western correspondents cover the crackdown on journalists and bloggers.

In the past few weeks, Palestinian security forces summoned a number of Palestinian journalists for questioning about their ties with Western journalists and media outlets.

Palestinians say that the campaign of intimidation and harassment against the media is designed to prevent “negative reporting” about the Palestinian Authority government. The Palestinian Authority does not want anyone to report about corruption and abuse of power out of fear that this would affect financial aid from the US, EU, and other donors.

The clampdown has thus far been successful and most Palestinian and international journalists seem to have understood the warning. That is why the case of Abu Rihan, for example, has received almost no attention in the Palestinian and Western media.

If Abu Rihan were a Chinese dissident imprisoned by the authorities in Beijing, his case would have been endorsed by human rights groups around the world and the mainstream media in the West. Had Abu Rihan been arrested by the Israeli authorities for such a crime, his story would have most likely made it to the front page of many respected newspapers.

But when it comes to violations of freedom of expression in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is given a pass by many Americans and Europeans. By arresting reformists and critics, the Palestinian Authority is once again proving that it is not serious about combating corruption and reforming its institutions.

The crackdown on journalists, bloggers and political activists also serves as a reminder that the Palestinian Authority government is not different than most of the dictatorships in the Arab world.

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

Khaled Abu Toameh

Khaled Abu Toameh: Pro-Palestinian or Anti-Israel?

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Pro-Palestinian groups and individuals in the US and Europe are doing Palestinians injustice by devoting all their energies only against Israel. There is a feeling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that most of these groups and individuals are more interested in campaigning against Israel than helping the Palestinians.

Being pro-Palestinian does not necessarily mean that one also has to be anti-Israel.

The pro-Palestinian camp in the West should raise its voice against violations of human rights and media freedoms under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

In the past few weeks, six Palestinian journalists, bloggers, and cartoonists were arrested by security forces belonging to the Palestinian government in the West Bank.

The pro-Palestinian activists around the world chose to turn a blind eye to the ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression in the West Bank.

They also failed — even refused — to condemn the Palestinian Authority government’s decision to block web sites that are critical of Palestinian leaders in the West Bank.

The pro-Palestinian activists in the West also refuse to examine what is happening under Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They apparently do not care, or do not want to see, that there are executions, arbitrary arrests, and assaults against women and torture in Hamas prisons.

The pro-Palestinian activists and organizations also do not seem to care if the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are brainwashing Palestinian children and filling their minds and hearts with hatred.

Those who care about the Palestinians should come to the Gaza Strip and work toward promoting human rights under Hamas — of children, women, and journalists.

It would help immensely if hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists came to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to teach Palestinian children English and expose them to the benefits of democracy and Western values, such as equal justice under law, free speech and a free press, and financial transparency and accountability.

It would also help immensely if these activists came to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to offer advice on, and help in building, proper government institutions, and in combating administrative and financial corruption.

But as far as many of the pro-Palestinian activists in the West are concerned, the interests of the Palestinians are not as important as hating Israel.

Anti-Israel messages and campaigns serve only the radicals in this region who do not want either peace or coexistence.

The time has come for the emergence of a genuine pro-Palestinian camp in the West that would focus less on Israel and more on helping the Palestinians.

 

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

Khaled Abu Toameh

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/khaled-abu-toameh-pro-palestinian-or-anti-israel/2012/04/27/

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