Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

"Pro-Palestinian" in name only

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Jerusalem Post Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh has recently been writing prolifically on the oppression of the Palestinian people. Unusually for an Arab writer broaching this subject matter, while he does have some criticisms of Israel, the Israelies are not the primary objects of his criticism. In fact, the oppression that he is exposing comes at the hands of the Jordanians, the Syrians and even fellow Palestinians.

One of these pieces noted the redoubled efforts by the Jordanian King to marginalise Jordan's Palestinian population -- which he sees as a threat to his hold on power:

In 2009, Amman quietly began revoking the Jordanian citizenship of thousands of Palestinians, triggering strong protests from human rights organizations and pro-Palestinian groups around the world. ...

The monarch's biggest fear is that the powerful and popular Muslim Brotherhood organization would form an alliance with the Palestinians and turn against his regime, seriously undermining his grip on power. King Abdullah is now hoping that a new electoral law would prevent both the Islamists and Palestinians from gaining victories in the upcoming parliamentary election, scheduled for later this year.

Furthermore, as Abu Toameh explains in another report, the Jordanian King is keeping thousands of Palestinians in squalid camps in Syria as they try to escape the conflict there for refuge within his borders -- presumably in order to prevent them from strengthening the Palestinian population in Jordan. All the while, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been permitted to enter.

More than 1,000 Palestinians who fled from the violence in Syria and were hoping to find temporary shelter in Jordan ... The Jordanian authorities have set up a makeshift refugee camp along the border with Syria, where the Palestinians are being held in tents, with poor sanitary conditions. ...

Meanwhile, an additional 100,000 Syrians, who have fled their country in the past year, have been permitted to enter Jordan.

Meanwhile, closer to Abu Toameh's home has been the crackdown on journalists in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank. As he reports, the PA has been busy arresting journalists and bloggers - and continues to hold one blogger who was speaking out-against the endemic corruption in the Authority.

Over the past few weeks, PA security forces in the West Bank arrested four journalists and a blogger on orders of the attorney-general.

The journalists - Rami Samara, Youssef al-Shayeb, Tarek Khamis and Esmat Abdel Khalik - have since been released, although blogger Jamal Abu Rihan remains in prison. Rihan created a Facebook group titled "The people want an end to corruption."

All of the people and groups who like to refer to themselves as "pro-Palestinian" have been almost completely silent on these matters. The last month or so has seen two global campaigns against Israel, demanding "rights" for Palestinians; however, there have been absolutely no comparable efforts against Jordan or the PA.

There is a simple yet disheartening explanation for this, which another Israeli Arab journalist has identified. Writing about one of these global campaigns, the extremely underwhelming "flytilla", Haaretz columnist Salman Masalha noted where exactly the moral standards of these protesters are coming from.

Those who divide the world, and the human beings who populate it, into two categories - some to whom universal moral rules apply and some to whom they don't - cannot be called moral. Universal morals must be applied to everyone. The morality of anyone who excludes any group of people who are not required to act according to moral codes is in itself dubious. ...

Human rights activists of this kind, who cannot find the time to hold demonstrations of solidarity with Arab citizens who are being massacred on a daily basis in Arab countries, in effect reveal anti-Arab racism through their inaction. For them, the Arab and Muslim world belongs to a different cultural world that behaves according to different moral codes, which are not part of "our" lofty Western moral codes.

This phenomenon was demonstrated by Palestinian leader Mustafa Barghouti in a recent interview. Barghouti was one of the main organisers of the "Global March on Jerusalem" -- the other recent anti-Israel protest, which similarly ended up having little consequence. He was being interviewed by an anti-Israel activist who supported the "March" and was only given one challenging question -- concerning the crackdown on the protests from Palestinian groups.

Notice the difference between the language that he uses to describe the Israeli response to the protests compared with the Palestinian response:

Amnesty International ... called on Israel to stop using excessive force against demonstrators. Did the Israelis use an unusual amount of violence against the Global March?
It was unusual how early they started attacking us. I think they were hoping that somehow the demonstrations would be aborted, and when they realized they would not be, they immediately turned to severe violence. Not only was the violence disproportionate and extreme and excessive, but also - for example in Qalandia, where I was - they started shooting the tear gas and the metallic bullets covered with a thin piece of rubber when well before we reached the checkpoints ... they injured at least 320 people, including one who was killed in Gaza with a high velocity bullet; a man in Bethlehem who was hit directly in the face, with a broken jaw; and I myself received one of their tear gas bombs that grazed my head. ...

Amnesty International also cited reports that Palestinian Authority security forces tried to prevent protests in areas under their control and that Hamas security forces had beaten protesters in Gaza. Is the popular resistance in Palestine now facing Palestinian security as the first obstacle?
... In Qalandia, there was a mob that attacked the people participating in the demonstration and tried to prevent the demonstration from reaching the checkpoint. Of course these were people wearing civilian clothing. We don't know them. We don't know exactly who was directing them, but clearly there are suspicions that there were efforts to try to prevent the demonstration from proceeding. The Palestinian Authority officially declared that it supports popular nonviolent resistance. So we expect that no Palestinian should try to prevent or stop Palestinians from nonviolently, peacefully struggling for their rights, because we are struggling for the freedom of everybody...

The distinction is so stark that it is almost unbelievable. He gives precise (and likely exaggerated) details of the Israeli response -- what weapons were used, how many people were injured etc -- and describes it in terms such as "severe", "extreme" and "disproportionate". Meanwhile, his description of the Palestinian-on-Palestinian violence was vague at best. He gives no detail of what actually took place, does not even speculate on who may have been the perpetrators and does not condemn the violence at all.  He states that the PA has "declared that it supports popular nonviolent resistance" and then refuses to so much as entertain the idea that this declaration may have been nothing more than meaningless rhetoric.

Meanwhile, the term "nonviolent resistance" seems to have different meanings to different people. As far as Barghouti and the PA are concerned, throwing rocks is not a "violent" activity. Even New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman seems to have bought into the narrative that stone-throwing constitutes "nonviolent resistance". Of course, the reality is a little different for the people who the stones are being thrown at, given that stones not only injure but have killed on a number of occasions. It is rock-throwing that invokes the kind of non-lethal crowd control response -- tear gas and rubber bullets --  that Barghouti describes the Israelis employing.

It is unclear whether Barghouti's failure to condemn the Palestinians who attempted to thwart his protest movement is from fear of reprisal or from his general desire to blame Israel for whatever woe befalls him. Either way, the self-proclaimed "human rights activists" who marched with Barghouti on the ground seem to march with him in rhetoric as well.

There is a bitter irony in the failure of the "pro-Palestinian" movement to advocate for the rights of Palestinians where they are being abused in a ways that can not be attributed to Israel. The only people who suffer from this are Palestinians, yet -- as we can see -- when they speak about this, they are intimidated into silence. Such activities expose the truth behind the motives of most of those in the "pro-Palestinian" movements: they do not actually care much about Palestinians one way or the other. In fact, they have one true goal -- demonising the State of Israel at all costs.

Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

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