Thursday, December 29, 2011

If You Care for the Palestinians, Boycott the Palestinian Authority

Mudar Zahran • December 29, 2011

The Palestinian Authority's (PA) president, Mahmoud Abbas, went to the UN General Assembly in September, seeking recognition for a Palestinian state -- a request that was not only unilateral in breach of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 838. In response, three congressional committees blocked $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, a move the PA described as "collective punishment" -- although it is hard to understand why it does not consider firing thousands of rockets at civilians in Israeli villages "collective punishment." In November of 2011, 44 lawmakers, all Democrats, wrote to the heads of the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee, claiming that "Maintaining U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority is in the essential strategic interest of Israel and the United States"]. Nonetheless, it might just be in the Palestinians' best interest if the US, and the world, not only stops financial aid to the Palestinian Authority, but even boycotts it.

When the autonomous PA came into existence through the legal framework of the Oslo Peace Accord, signed between the Israelis and the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO] in 1993, the agreement was the most advanced political accomplishment ever by any terrorist organization. The PLO was the first terrorist entity ever to be rewarded with such as internationally-supported agreement as Oslo. This reward for bad behavior doubtless inspired the PLO to continue doing what it has always done best: promoting terrorism.

When the PLO arrived in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it began breaching the Oslo Accord on day one, with then-Chairman Yasser Arafat trying to smuggle into Israel in his very own car a terrorist whom Israel had banned. When the PLO evolved into the PA , it created entire armed-terrorist factions, such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, whose members identified themselves as the military wing of Fatah, and posting on their insignias the emblem of Fatah, controlled by the Palestinian Authority. This Brigade then carried out dozens of terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians;as early as 2003, evidence shows that Arafat not only financed this group, but according to the BBC, that much of the PA's funding went to terrorists.

The PA has therefore been working against peace -- unless peace is defined as an Israel with no Jews in it; or with Jews, but under Palestinian subjugation. The PA has also been an obstacle to peace through its diplomatic evasions and its refusal to make even one counter-offer to Israeli offers of peace, as well as through its commitment to support and continue funding terrorism -- which has continued through the Al-Akas Martyrs' Brigade since Arafat's death in 2004, even though since 2007 this group has frozen its activities, after then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave a conditional pardon to 178 terrorists. The group, however, is still there and still officially a part of the Fatah Council. The Palestinian Authority still refuses to amend its charter, which demands liberating "all of historical Palestine," from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, with its ultimate mission being the destruction of the State of Israel.

Israel, on the other hand, responded to Abbas's UN-bid by freezing, for a few weeks, the payments of the tax and customs money it collects on behalf of the PA , only to release those funds by the end of November, 2011.

How will this money, together with US aid money, be used? To benefit and welfare of the Palestinians under the PA rule? In 2005, for example, even though the PA was the second-largest recipient of international humanitarian aid per capita in the world, the Palestinian Authority ranked 108 out of 159 countries on the corruption index presented by the United Nations Development Program, with no statistical information provided for years to follow. The lack of any information for the next six years indicates the loose accountability the PA, not to mention the UN, makes available.

When Arafat arrived from Tunis in 1982, he started establishing himself as an untouchable idol, just as the rest of Arab dictators do. Torture, and even murder, of those criticizing either the Fatah or him had become regular, a pattern Arafat even extended when he arrived in Judea and Samaria in 1994 to rule PA territories. Racketeering and extortion become common practices, but were described by PA officials as part of an Israeli conspiracy. To the Palestinian public, an economy controlled by the Palestinian Authority's leaders and their relatives – including both sons of the Palestinian president who, among other things, won a shady US government contract to fix a road – has become just another sad fact of life.

To be fair, the reformist Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, has brought some change by introducing rigorous fiscal governance to the operating and financing of the PA , nonetheless, Fayyad is one man facing serious opposition from the strong PA leadership -- who possibly regard him as having spoiled the fun -- to the point that PA president Abbas is said to be seeking a unity government with Hamas that excludes Fayyad.

Today, Western powers have been imposing tough sanctions on Syria's Assad regime for its brutality and corruption, and on other dictatorships, such as North Korea and Iran. The West has also been imposing sanctions on counties that support terrorism, as well as reducing aid to corrupt governments, but for some reasons these stands are not applied to the PA. Why is the Western world imposing sanctions on Hamas alone and not the on Palestinian Authority? The Palestinian Authority still incites terrorism and glorifies terrorists every day in its media, in its textbooks, in its summer camps and even in its crossword puzzles [see:]. It also oppresses its own people; therefore how is it different from Hamas?

Considering the sharp drop in the number of terrorist acts coming from the PA-controlled factions, some might argue that the PA is not as violent as Hamas. But Hamas and the PA still share the same goal: destroying Israel --only Hamas wants to accomplish it through violence, while the PA thinks it can accomplish it through diplomatic manoeuvres, without violence. All the while, it keeps its own terrorists – despite Abbas's promises to dismantle Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in 2005] --most likely just in case the PA turns to violence against Israel again. Apart from extremist religious observance, is the PA really all that different from Hamas?

The suffering, disappointment, frustration and anger of the Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority's regime must be addressed by the world. Western governments should reconsider their financing of the PA. If the Western world cares about the Palestinians, it must ensure that its the generous funding actually improves the lives of those people; not, as is the case,the people in places where corruption still exists—despite Prime Minister Fayyad's efforts. Palestinian terrorist factions are still finding a safe haven in the PA, thereby posing a threat to regional security as well as to the welfare of the Palestinian people. It would be better for the Palestinian people to see aid to the PA stop altogether. No wonder the Palestinians say they prefer "Israel's hell" over the Palestinian Authority's "Paradise". As a recent poll revealed, 70% of the Palestinians in Jerusalem say they would still prefer to live under the rule of Israel.

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