At 80, Failed Abbas is Probed, Derided and Scapegoated
14 June 2016
By Ramzy Baroud
''We won't act like them, we will not use violence or force, we are peaceful,
we believe in peace, in peaceful popular resistance.'' This was part of a
message issued by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in October,
only days after a few incidents took place in which Palestinian youth were
accused of attacking Israeli soldiers and settlers with knives.
The message would have carried some weight were it not laden with
contradictions. On one hand, Abbas' supposed 'peace' quest has only entrenched
the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank, and all but completely isolated
illegally occupied and annexed East Jerusalem.
Moreover, what 'peaceful popular resistance' is Abbas, 80, referring to? What
war of 'peaceful' national liberation has he been leading? And how could a
leader, ever so unpopular, be leading a 'popular resistance' anyway?
Just two weeks before Abbas made that statement in which he referred to some
illusory 'popular resistance' under his command, a poll conducted by the
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah revealed that a
majority of Palestinians, 65% of respondents, want him to resign.
Of course, while Abbas continues to prophesize about some non-existent peace –
as he has done for most of his lucrative career – Israel continues to wreak
havoc on Palestinians, using every means of violence at its disposal.
Granted, Israel's propensity to maintain its violent occupation cannot be
blamed on Abbas. It is Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his
rightwing coalition that should be blamed squarely for the Occupation, the
mistreatment and humiliation of Palestinians on a daily basis.
However, such truth should not detract from Abbas' terrible legacy and ongoing
misconduct. In fact, some urgent questions must be asked in that regard:
If Abbas is such a peacenik, why is his military budget so disproportionately
According to information published by Visualizing Palestine, 31% of the PA
budget is spent on the military and policing of the West Bank. Compare this to
18% on education, 13% on health and only 1% on agriculture. The latter
percentage is particularly troubling, considering that Palestinian land,
orchards and olive groves are the main target for Israel, which usurps the
land in order to expand its military zones and illegal settlements.
The huge discrepancy between funds allocated to Palestinian security forces –
which never confront Israel's military occupation, only Palestinian Resistance
– and those spent to assist farmers in their 'sumoud' (steadfastness) while
their land is being targeted and confiscated daily, is a testament to the
mixed priorities of Abbas and his Authority.
Even Israel, which is obsessed with its security, and manages several fronts
of war and military occupation spends only 22% of its total budget on the
military, which is still quite high by average standards.
Abbas' 'peace' is, of course, quite selective. He rules over Occupied
Palestinians with an iron fist, rarely tolerates dissent within his party,
Fatah's, ranks, and has done his utmost to isolate Gaza and sustain a state of
conflict with his enemies in the Hamas movement.
More recently, and due to mere criticism levelled at him by the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine, a prominent Palestinian faction and PLO
member, Abbas decided to choke them of funds. In Abbas' 'peaceful' world,
there is zero room for tolerance.
The PFLP criticism was a response to statements he made on Israeli television.
In a recent interview, he insisted that security coordination with Israel is a
top priority for him. Without such coordination, the PA will find itself ''on
the brink of collapse,'' he told Israel Channel 2on March 31.
Apart from apprehending suspected Palestinian resisters, the security
coordination includes searching school children's bags for knives, according
to the Palestinian leader. ''Our security forces are entering schools and
checking if students are carrying knives. In one school, we found 70 students
with knives, and we told them that this was wrong. I told them I do not want
you to kill someone and die; I want you to live and for others to live, too.''
Abbas' statement on life and death does not, in the least, address the context
of oppression, the humiliation of military occupation and the prevailing sense
of despair that exists among young Palestinians, caught between a belligerent,
violent Occupation, and a submissive leadership.
Convincing them not to 'kill someone and die, ''involved the security forces
arresting the students who were found with knives, questioning them, torturing
them and threatening their families,'' wrote Palestinian commentator, Munir
''We only need to listen to the experiences of many who were tortured by the
Israeli Shabak and the Palestinian security agencies, who said that the
Palestinian security agencies are harsher, more barbaric and more brutal than
the Shabak,'' Shafiq wrote in Arabi21. So much for being 'peaceful' and
'believing in peace.'
Writing in Rai al-Youm, Kamal Khalf wonders if it is time to look into the
legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas, a man who has ruled with an expired mandate for
years. While refraining from any personal attack on Abbas, Khalf raises the
possibility whether the PA President's emotional and psychological well-being
in his old age ought to be questioned, especially when one considers some of
his latest statements: attacking Palestinian Resistance, searching children's
schoolbags and avowing his love for Israeli music.
When Abbas Zaki, the well-respected member of Fatah's Central Committee,
returned from a recent visit to Tehran, he was attacked by Abbas who ''accused
him of receiving $50 thousand from the Iranians and he demanded the money be
given to him instead'', he wrote.
The number of Abbas' bizarre actions and strange statements seem to be
increasing with age. It is no secret, of course, that there has been much
discussion about succession within Fatah and the PA, once Abbas is no longer
in the picture. Until then, such eccentricity should be expected.
However, it is essential that the discussion does not entirely focus on Abbas,
for he is merely representative of a whole class of usurpers who have used the
Palestinian cause to advance their own positions, wealth and prestige.
There is little evidence to suggest that Abbas' current position – soft on the
Occupation, hard on the Palestinians – is new, or motivated by age and mental
health. For the sake of fairness, the arbitrator of the Oslo accords has been
consistent in this regard.
Since Arafat's death in 2004, and his advent to power through a questionable
democratic process in 2005, Abbas has worked laboriously to co-exist with the
Israeli Occupation but failed to co-exist with his own Palestinian rivals.
True, it has been a decade of unmitigated Palestinian leadership failure, but
it certainly took more than Abbas to manage that political fiasco. Now, at 80,
Abbas seems to have become a scapegoat for a whole class of Palestinians which
has worked to manage the Occupation and benefit from it.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include ‘Searching Jenin', ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada' and his latest
'My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story'. His website is: