That title is strange enough, but even stranger is that Michael Totten (I enjoy calling him “Larry of Arabia”) who hosted the conference at which Abu Toameh made these remarks, took them down from his site at the Jerusalem Post reporter’s request. This, of course, piqued my interest. What would be so dangerous that Abu Toameh would want the world not to see what he’d said?
Someone should tell Michael Totten that though he takes material off his site it’s easily available through other means. Here are a few of the items that made the Palestinian journalist think better of his candor:
When I tried to alert my foreign colleagues in 1995, 1996, and 1997, to the fact that there was corruption in the Palestinian Authority, many of them asked me if I was on the payroll of the Jewish Lobby. I wanted to know where was this Jewish Lobby? If there was one maybe they would pay me.
I told them: “This is what I am hearing. The writing is on the wall. Come and listen to what Palestinians are saying.” And they told me they weren’t interested in that story. They told me they wanted anti-Israel stories because it made their lives so much easier. They told me they didn’t want to write anything bad about Palestinians, that Arafat was a man of peace and should be given a chance. I heard this from major American journalists, by the way. Leading American journalists. I don’t want to give you their names right now, but I was really frustrated. And angry.
The notion of a love affair between Yasser Arafat and the American media is utterly preposterous. Where were all those anti-Israel articles those U.S. reporters were so eager to write? And who are these conveniently anonymous journalists who refused to report on Arafat’s corruption?
Do you think it’s even remotely possible that the Palestinian House Negro is telling his neocon interlocutors and American Jewish Committee sponsor what they want to hear, rather than the truth, which the Palestinian claims is his most cherished goal?
Here Abu Toameh explains why Hamas won the 2006 legislative elections:
…When Hamas decided to run in free and democratic elections under the banner of “change” and “reform” they won. It was all very obvious…Because in January of 2006…Hamas was ready to deliver. What did they do? They came to the Palestinians and said “Listen, folks. You’ve tried all these PLO people. They’re corrupt. They’re bad. Arafat was a thief. Abu Mazen is also a total failure. These guys stole your money. These guys are US agents, they are CIA. Why don’t you try us now? We will show you that we can establish good government.
And, by the way, look at what we’ve done for you since 1988. We’ve established a vast network of educational, social, health, and economic services. Arafat built a casino, and we built two universities. Arafat gave his wife 100,000 dollars a month so she can do her shopping while we gave poor people money. Arafat built bars and restaurants in Ramallah while we built orphanages and charities.” So the Palestinians said “Let’s try Hamas. If they come to power there is nothing left to steal. They can’t be more corrupt than the PLO.”
Here he documents the Israel and U.S.-inspired planned coup by the PLO against Hamas. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the journalist wanted his words removed from the web. It’s quite inconvenient for the pro-Israel crowd to admit that Israel instigated a coup against a democratically elected Hamas.
…What has been happening since then is also very interesting. The U.S. government, with the help of some Europeans and some Israelis, after Hamas won the election, they went to the guys who lost the election and said “folks, here are guns and here is some money. Go bring down this democratically elected government.” And what was the result of this U.S. meddling in Palestinian affairs? It backfired. It played into the hands of Hamas and even boosted Hamas’ popularity on the street.
What did Palestinians think when they saw Condoleeza Rice and George W. Bush openly campaigning against this democratically elected government? Their sympathies went to this democratically elected government even though it was Hamas. And when Palestinians see PLO people, the Fatah people, openly conspiring with the Americans and the Israelis to bring down a democratically elected government, they’re going to hate the PLO even more.
So U.S. and European meddling in Palestinian affairs in the aftermath of the Hamas victory further strengthened Hamas to the point where in June 2007 Hamas says “Everyone is trying to bring me down. No one is giving me a chance. The whole world is against me. You corrupt PLO people are conspiring against me. I won in a free and democratic election.
The following passage denouncing Fatah is also surely inconvenient to Israel, which needs to prop up Abbas and Fatah as the “legitimate” partners for peace:
What we have in the West Bank is the secular, corrupt, powerless regime of the PLO. Abu Mazen, Abu Shmazen, all these Abus. The Arafat cronies who failed their people over the past fifteen years. Who lost the election in January 2006 because of the corruption. Who were kicked out of Gaza because they failed. Who have lost control over half the Palestinians who live in this part of the world. And they are sitting in Ramallah. These people are in power only thanks to the presence of the IDF in the West Bank. If the Israeli army were to leave the West Bank tomorrow morning these PLO people would collapse in five minutes and Hamas would take over.
What you have here is a Palestinian Uncle Mahmoud who, despite himself, is revealing the bankruptcy of Fatah and the critical role that Hamas is playing within Palestinian politics. This is a guy who doesn’t even like Hamas. But you can read between the lines to understand that Hamas is a much more authentic representation of Palestinian nationalism than Fatah. Such sentiments are entirely inconvenient to Abu Toameh’s masters at the Jerusalem Post and the rest of the Israeli right.
The real problem with the Post’s resident Palestinian is that he is essentially a nihilist. For him, no one on the Palestinian side can make peace with Israel. And this too serves the Israeli rejectionist position that there can be no peace with Palestinians because there is no reasonable leadership with whom to negotiate.
Sentences like this are music to the ears of the Post and Likud crowd:
If Israel gives up the West Bank, you will have to go to Cairo or Amman to take a flight back to America because snipers will be sitting on the hilltops above Ben-Gurion airport.
But almost in spite of himself he tells the truth, though in small increments; like here, where he attempts to disabuse the Israeli politicians and generals who argue that Hamas is on its last legs:
All those talking about how Hamas is finished or on the verge of collapse or that it’s only a matter of time before the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip revolt against Hamas, I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t share these assessments. Hamas may have suffered a major blow…It has been undermined in many ways. But…Hamas still enjoys a lot of political support. Hamas continues to be as strong as it was in Gaza.
…I’m afraid that under the current circumstances Hamas is going to be around for a long time.
And here he argues against those Israelis deluded enough to think that Gazans will blame Hamas, rather than Israel, for their troubles:
I don’t see a mass movement rising against Hamas. Not now. I’ve been talking to many people in Gaza. I haven’t heard one person there blaming Hamas for the destruction of his house. I’m hearing a lot of voices against Israel and against the Arab states. And much of the anger is being directed against Mahmoud Abbas. This operation makes the moderate Arabs look like fools. It makes them look as if they were on the wrong side.
Curiously, Abu Toameh does credit some aspects of Israeli propaganda as having an impact on the Palestinian street. His claims seem entirely dubious when you’re speaking about people in Gaza who have nothing and therefore as Bob Dylan sang, “have nothing to lose:”
The West Bank was quiet during the attack in Gaza. Now, I was talking to many people. You know what they were saying? And this is the funny part. “You know what?” they said. “The Jews have gone mad. This is not the time to mess around with them.” And, you know, when you hear this from the man on the street, it really does create deterrence. I would rather see deterrence created in another way, but there is this perception on the Arab street today that the Jews have gone crazy, there are no more red lines, nothing, they don’t care, and we should be careful. So in that sense, yes, there is some kind of deterrence, for the short term at least.
A few interesting things to note about this comment. First, he’s talking about the West Bank, which is Fatah territory, while Israeli propaganda claimed not that Fatah would be deterred by its Crazy Eddie attack, but that Hamas would be. Second, it’s important to note that even Abu Toameh realizes that deterrence, even in the West Bank is “short term.” You can be sure that the Israeli military strategists who dreamed up this little adventure were hoping for more than short term deterrence. So in that sense, Gaza was once more an operation that disappointed. And even an Israeli apologist like Toameh concedes this.
Despite the utter cynicism in this passage, I love the utter cluelessness of the neocon Bushite hitting his head against the brutally cold impassivity of the Middle Eastern Arab. It points to the hopelessness of the neocon American Middle East agenda:
General Tom McInerney, Fox News Military Analyst: Is there a solution to this problem?
Khaled Abu Toameh: You Americans are always asking us that. Why are Americans always asking me if there is a solution? A solution to what?
Michael J. Totten: The whole thing.
Khaled Abu Toameh: What is the whole thing?
Anthony Cordesman: Is there anything useful that could be done this year?
Khaled Abu Toameh: Listen. Look. We must stop dreaming about the New Middle East and coexistence and harmony and turning this area into Hong Kong and Singapore. If anyone thinks a Palestinian will wake up in the morning and sing the Israeli national anthem, that’s not going to happen. If anyone thinks an Israeli Jew will go back to doing his shopping in downtown Ramallah or to see his dentist in Bethlehem or eat fish in Gaza City, that’s not going to happen. There has been a total divorce between Jews and Palestinians. We don’t want to see each other.
In the following passage, Abu Toameh argues that Israel should negotiate with Hamas. Certainly, this is the reason he asked Totten to remove the transcript from his site. It’s got to be downright embarrassing to anyone writing for a rightist Israeli site like the Post:
…All you need is a strong partner on the Palestinian side. There is some hope, but only if there is a strong partner on the Palestinian side.
General Tom McInerney: But not Hamas.
Khaled Abu Toameh: I don’t care. If I were Israeli I would talk to any Palestinian who wants to talk to me, and I would shoot any Palestinian who shoots at me. I wouldn’t ask if they were Hamas…
…Let’s stop saying “Fatah” and “Hamas.” Talk to anyone who wants to talk. Talking to Hamas does not mean that you recognize Hamas or that they become your buddies. The funny thing is that Israel went to war against a party that it doesn’t recognize. And in the end Israel made a cease-fire unilaterally…And Hamas is still sitting there.
There’s nothing wrong with Israel talking to Hamas if they want a ceasefire. Israelis can’t ignore the fact that Hamas is in power. And Hamas continues to enjoy tremendous support over there.
In his screed, the journalist takes everyone to task (except himself). He even claims it was a big mistake to hold the 2006 elections because it brought Hamas to power. It seems that for him, the idea of Palestinian democracy is not essential. My problem is I can’t see what he DOES stand for. Not for Fatah, not for Hamas, not for democracy. Critical of Israel and the U.S. Who’s left? Oh, that’s right, Abu Toameh is left. The last honest Palestinian.
Perhaps the main reason Abu Toameh asked Totten to remove his remarks was that it would harm his credibility with the American Jewish right-wing community which hosts his U.S. speaking tours. I don’t imagine either the pro-settler ZOA, which is hosting a current Abu Toameh speaking tour, or Stand With Us, which hosted one last year, will view these unorthodox views with much favor. It appears the Palestinian House Negro may be getting a bit too uppity for his right-wing Jewish masters, which would explain the “take down” of the Totten transcript.
H/t to Phil Weiss and Jerry Haber.