THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE DESERVE BETTER

Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor-in-Chief of Rai al Youm, an Arab world digital news and opinion website, recently wrote an article entitled “The Palestinian People’s Principal Problem Is Their Own Leadership.”

I could not agree more.

While I cannot put myself into the minds and hearts of the Palestinian people, I have traveled to Palestine enough times and listened to a great many people to understand the deep distrust they have toward President Mahmoud Abbas. Since his election in January 2005, he has offered his people nothing new. In his last eight speeches, delivered each time to an almost empty United Nation Assembly Hall, he has repeated the same old phrases. The same appeals for international sympathy. Even the wording of his complaints about Israel’s failure to respect agreements has not changed. And his declaration that the United States is not an honest broker we have heard at least a million times.

We know President Trump will not heed Abbas’ demands to rescind his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We also know by now that East Jerusalem will not be the capital of a Palestinian state because there will be no Palestinian state.

Since Abbas came to power, nothing has changed for the Palestinian people. The occupation, the repression, the assassinations, the incursions into villages, the nighttime raids into homes, the house demolitions, the collective punishment, the control of water supplies, the settlements built on Palestinian land and the Separation Wall construction all continues as do the daily humiliations at Israeli checkpoints. I discuss these abuses in great detail in my book Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides

Something not included in that list of human rights abuses is the security cooperation Abbas allowed when he became president in 2005. Then, US Lieutenant General Keith Dayton formed the US Security Coordination Team (USSC) tasked with maintaining law and order within the West Bank, essentially taking over the job as the occupation enforcer for the Israeli government. The USSC has rightly earned the name of “Dayton’s Army.” There is legitimate concern, and I have heard reiterated many times, that the role of Dayton’s army has been both to stem the influence and power of the legally elected Hamas and to consolidate and enforce Abbas’ power across the West Bank. One prominent Palestinian activist has argued that in the West Bank “there is a systematic plan to target any resistance to Abbas through oppressive acts carried out by Dayton’s army, including killing, arrest and torture.

The USSC has essentially taken over the occupation for Israeli forces, as opposed to operating as a truly independent national force accountable to the majority. Accusations of torture and the lack of legal justification for a number of arrests has become commonplace. Recently, B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, raised concerns after a prisoner died in PA custody as a result of suspected torture.

To support these claims, I am reminded of President Trump’s recent and dramatic cuts in aid to the Palestinians. The only aid that was maintained and its funding increased was for the USSC.

It is time for Mahmoud Abbas to step down. He has shamefully acted as lackey for both the Israeli and American governments in order to hold onto his presidency for far too long. The Palestinian people, both in the diaspora and the homeland, deserve a better leader.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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US AMBASSADOR JOHN GUNTHER DEAN’S ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION

As I recount in A Beirut Heart One Woman’s War, my family and I lived through the first eight years of the Lebanese civil war. Once we made the decision to stay I struggled to acquire the coping skills necessary to resist and survive the absurd dysfunction of war.

The war began in the spring of 1975. Unfamiliar as I was with any type of conflict, I was convinced that by winter the warring factions would come to their senses and resolve their differences. Winter arrived, and they had not, and before I realized it my own neighborhood had descended into a war zone.

Months passed; the senseless killings and kidnappings increased. Explosions became an integral part of each day. I tried to ignore them. I had to carry on, run my errands, send my husband off to the hospital so he could tend to the wounded, put my children on their school bus and pray I would see them at the end of the day.

It was my love of cooking that helped me keep my sanity. I retreated to the kitchen. Cooking became my tranquilizer.  Most days my table was surrounded by people engaged in lively conversations, which was good for everyone’s morale, particularly my children’s. I strived to create an atmosphere of connectedness, of community. This helped alleviate the fear. It warded off despair and became a therapeutic act of resistance.

We eventually left Beirut in 1984 and resettled in the States. And after years of trying to recover from war, I had convinced myself that nothing about that period in my life—no hitherto unknown revelations—could possibly surprise me but I was wrong. A recent article by Phil Weiss in Mondoweiss rocked me to my core. I am at a loss as to explain why it affected me so profoundly other than the lingering effects of PTSD which occasionally creep back into my consciousness.

I attribute that trauma specifically to the summer of ’82 when the Israeli government used the attempted assassination of its ambassador in London on June 3, 1982, as a pretext to launch an invasion into Lebanon. Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s Defense Minister led ‘Operation Peace for Galilee.’ In two days his troops had advanced all the way to Beirut. On June 6, Israeli warplanes began bombing Beirut. The assault on the city lasted sixty-seven days. Night after night, I watched the bombs falling and the lights flashing across the sky. I had no sense that those lights were coming from human being. It was more like Heaven was fighting Hell.  And down below, where the bombs exploded, there were ordinary people—women cradling screaming babies in their arms, old people holding terrified pets, a husband frantic because his wife and children had not returned from an outing. It was the worst three months of my life.

And this brings me to Phil Weiss’s article because it also involved the Israelis.

In August 1980, an attempt was made on the life of then US Ambassador to Lebanon, John Gunther Dean. At the time Israel and the US were quick to blame a right-wing Christian group. Given some of this group’s unscrupulous behavior, for which I was personally familiar, we were quick to believe their assertion. It wasn’t until the release of Ronen Bergman’s book Rise and Kill First, that I learned the truth. Ambassador Dean had long maintained that Israel had been behind the assassination attempt because he was doing something antithetical to Israel’s interest: consulting with the Palestinian Liberation Organization at a time when such contacts were the third rail in US politics.

According to Ronen Bergman, the Lebanese Intelligence services retrieved the empty canisters from the anti-tank weapons shot at the ambassador’s car and had then sent to Washington to be traced. The weapons had been sold and shipped to Israel in 1974. In 1979 Rafael Eita and Meir Dagan, both brass in the Israel Defense Forces, created the Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners and ran the fictitious group from 1979 until 1983. In 1981 and 1982, Ariel Sharon used that Front to conduct a series of indiscriminate car bombings that killed hundreds of civilians. “The objective of this massive terrorist car bombing campaign was to sow chaos amongst the Palestinian and Lebanese civilian population” and in 1981-82, to provoke the PLO into resorting to terrorism thus providing Israel with an excuse to invade Lebanon.” Because the Palestinians did not take the bait, the Israelis used instead the attempted assassination of its Ambassador to London as the excuse for invasion.

Not a single review of Bergman’s book in the US media has mentioned these Israeli operations in Lebanon. The US media has thus been fully silent about the fact that Israeli officials directed a major and fully indiscriminate car bombing campaign that killed more than one hundred civilians. Given our media’s recent behavior, this is no surprise but then the US government and its lackeys in the media have a miserable record of investigating known Israeli attacks on Americans. I cite two examples—the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 which killed 34 servicemen and wounded 171, and the death of Rachel Corrie, deliberately killed by an Israeli bulldozer driver in Gaza in 2003 while she was trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes.

This book is available for purchase here: Amazon

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