THE BUSY LIFE OF AN ANGEL OF PEACE.
By Paul Merkley.
The key to understanding Mahmoud Abbas’ spectacular success as a world figure is that he cannot be embarrassed. This is a virtue that he has in common with his predecessor and model Yasir Arafat, who spent half of the last decade or so of his life travelling around from world capital to world capital, collecting plaques and trophies for his work as a Man of Peace and the other half in his office directing terrorist actions against Israeli civilians and assassinations against those fellow-Palestinians who wanted some share of this limelight.
Consider these two news items, just a few weeks apart — one commanding virtually-identical, buoyant headlines on the front page of almost every news paper in the world and the second swept away in the stream of minor websites:
EXHIBIT A (from ABC News :
Pope Francis has met Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and labelled him “an angel of peace”, just days after the Vatican announced a treaty to officially recognise the state of Palestine…It was the first formal bilateral treaty between the two and confirmed the Holy See’s de facto recognition of the Palestinian state since it was granted the status of a non-member observer state in the United Nations in 2012 …. The two met for around 20 minutes in the Vatican and are due to meet again later this weekend at a ceremony to canonise two Palestinian saints …
Pope Francis presented Mr Abbas a medallion representing an angel of peace, telling the Palestinian leader he thought of him “as an angel of peace”. (abc.net.au/news, May 16, 2015.)
We owe something to one alert soul who scolded the media for claiming (too late for any newspaper editor to take notice and correct anything) that the Pope had hailed Abbas as “an angel…etc,” while a closer look at the official transcript suggests that he had urged him to become one , or perhaps behave like one. (Stephen Kruiser, “Contrary to Popular Outrage, Pope Francis Didn’t Call Mahmoud Abbas ‘an Angel of Peace’ May 16, 2015.) For the purpose of the argument of this essay, this is a distinction without a difference, as either interpretation makes clear the universal determination of opinion elites as well as our governments to pump up the reputation of Mahmoud Abbas and, in the same gesture, highlight Israel’s responsibility for standing in the way of Abbas’s angelic mission.
Last week, Palestinian Authority Member of Parliament and Director of the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Karake led a delegation of fellow Commissioners in a visit to the families of three of the terrorists, sentenced by Israeli courts to life for their part in the lynching and murder of two Israeli reservists in 2000. The purpose of the visits to the families was to award them all “plaques of honor.” Itamar Marcus, “PA honors 3 terrorists who lynched two Israeli reservists,” Palestine Media Watch, May 11, 2015, citing Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 9, 2015.)
Not everyone will remember the story behind this: On Oct. 12, 2000, a Palestinian mob brutally murdered and then mutilated the bodies of two Israeli reservists who had inadvertently and innocently entered Ramallah (the interim capital of the Angel of Peace.) Some will recall pictures distributed with pride by PA media which actually show the bodies of the two Israelis as they are thrown out of the window and then as they are dragged through the streets of Ramallah. The individuals who dumped the bodies show off their bloodied hands to chanting and dancing crowds — and to the cameras of Agence France Press.
From the website of Palestine Media Watch (www,palwatch.org) anyone can retrieve a report, “From Terrorists to role models: the Palestinian Authority’s Institutionalization of Incitement, presented to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 3, 2010.) Among the exhibits we find here is the PA’s recent naming of a square in Ramallah (March 2010) after the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who hijacked a bus and murdered 37 civilians, and who has been immortalized through the naming of numerous places and events, including: Two elementary schools, a kindergarten, a computer center, summer camps, football tournaments, a community center, a sports team, a public square, a street, a university club, a dance troupe, a military unit, a dormitory in a youth center, a TV quiz team. All in all, PMW identifies one hundred examples of places and events throughout the PA named after 46 different terrorists:
“A Palestinian child can walk to school along a street named after the terrorist Abu Jihad, who planned a bus hijacking that killed 37, spend the day learning in a school named after Hamas founder Ahmad Yassin, in the afternoon and end his day at a youth center named after terrorist Abu Iyad, responsible for the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes and one German police officer during the Olympics held at Munich in September, 1972.
All of this, of course, is contrary to the formal commitment made under the Oslo Accords by the PLO to seek out and stifle all incitement against Jews and Israelis throughout the Palestine Authority.
Every serious student of the politics of the Palestine Authority understands that nothing happens in this dictatorship without the initiative of “President” Abbas. But as it might be argued that Mahmoud Abbas cannot be everywhere and do everything we will go to another not-quite-so-recent item that has all over it the finger prints of the Angel Peace:
The Palestinian Authority (PA), whose leaders say they are planning to file “war crimes” charges against Israel over its last war with Hamas, is now calling on Arab countries to launch a military strike against the Gaza Strip, similar to the Saudi-led campaign against Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. The call to launch an Arab military strike against the Gaza Strip was made by Mahmoud Habbash, a senior advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Commenting on the Saudi-led military operations in Yemen, Habbash, who also holds the post of Chief Islamic Judge, said in a Friday sermon [emphasis added] at a mosque in Ramallah: “Protecting legitimacy in an Arab country is a duty of all Arab leaders. [emphasis added.] They must take the initiative to strike with an iron fist against those who come out against legitimacy, regardless of the time and place, starting from Palestine” … The following day, addressing the 26th Arab League Summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, Abbas declared: “I hope the Arab states carry out the same policy that they are in Yemen in the case of all Arab nations that suffer from internal conflicts — such as Palestine, Syria, Libya and Iraq.” Khaled Abu Toameh., “Abbas Wants Arabs to bomb Gazam Srip,” www.gatestoneinstitute.org, March 31, 2015.
Anyone totally unfamiliar with the career of Mahmoud Abbas might ask, “What is the ‘President of Palestine” doing inviting the rulers of several other neighbouring nations to bomb his own people – as though this were the best way of endearing his own regime to this own subjects?
But the key to all of this is that Mahmoud Abbas is not the President of Palestine. Furthermore, the people he claims to represent despise him, and regard him as their worst enemy.
It is hard for anyone who has been raised in our part of the world to imagine that Abbas thinks that he gains by bring the word “legitimacy” into play in this way. The term of office to which he was last elected ran out in 2009, and the mandate of the Legislative Assembly that ratified his leadership likewise closed down at the same time. Since 2009 “President” Abbas has been refusing to call another election for the good and sufficient reason that he knows he and his party cannot win it. Every informed observer of Palestinian politics, regardless of partisan affiliation or inclination, understands that. Abbas has repeatedly and publicly accused the Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh of conducting assassination attempts against him, and Haniyeh has with equal fervour returned the accusation. Is the Pope really unaware of this?
Over the six years that have elapsed since his legal mandate lapsed, Abbas has been strutting about the world, wined and dined by all the major governments (including ours) as the President of the Palestine Authority — or, worse still, by most governments as the “President of Palestine.” Mahmoud Abbas has no more claim to either of these offices than George W. Bush has to the office of the President of the United States or Paul Martin (remember him?) has to that of Prime Minister of Canada.
What makes Mahmoud Abbas unsinkable is simply his brazen gift for striking dumb with embarrassment everyone who gets close to his genius – not least those that operate under our own democratic rules!
The most bloody pages of history are those that are dominated by world-class politicians of this same type – men who could never be embarrassed. Adolf Hitler was in the front rank of these geniuses and it was this quality that saw him through to victory at the Munich conference of 1938. He had them all convinced that he was somehow irreplaceable. That is really all that the Pope means with his Angel of Peace talk.