UPDATE: WE WERE AWAKENED IN ASHDOD THIS MORNING BY THE SOUND OF CANNON FIRE COMING FROM ISRAELI NAVAL VESSELS OFF THE COAST. NO OTHER DETAILS.
Forget everything you may have already read about Mahmoud Abbas’ address to the Palestinians last night (already this morning there have been very misleading accounts of what Abbas said.) Your humble servant actually watched the speech as it was being given, wrote down every word, and will now give you the details–so apologies in advance for a long blog today.
Under a large banner topped with a smiling Yasser Arafat on one side and himself on the other, and an enlarged photograph of the city of Jerusalem underneath, Abbas sat on a slightly raised podium behind a small rectangular-shaped table covered with a large bouquet of flowers that incongruously looked like a casket. He was carefully positioned by his handlers to sit in such a way that the Dome of the Rock in the banner-photograph appeared prominently just over his right shoulder.
After the event facilitator made all of the necessary introductions to the “dignitaries” present including representatives of Fatah and all of the other Palestinian ‘factions’, the Palestinian anthem was played and a prayer was said. Abbas then began to speak.
From the moment Abbas began speaking, his demeanor was a curious mixture of seriousness, anger, and humor–at times even joking with the crowd. He immediately launched headlong into the Palestinian myth–praising those “fighting and resisting inside the Palestinian homeland and without.” The Palestinians, he claimed, have been “the subject of injustice for 63 years–living in refugee camps deprived of their homeland.” (Never mind the apparent contradiction between the first sentence in which many were fighting in their homeland and the second sentence in which they were deprived of their homeland.)
Then quite remarkably, Abbas laid all the blame on the United Nations saying that “this disaster was created 63 years ago by the United Nations”. He continued by spelling out precisely what the Palestinians are going to ask for: “a state based on the June 4, 1967 ‘borders’ with east Jerusalem as its capital.” (One couldn’t help but notice that he did not mention land swaps, and he falsely used the word ‘borders’ instead of ‘lines’.)
Next Abbas gave his first rationale for going to the United Nations, blaming Israel for its “refusal to return to peace talks”, its “continuing colonization”, and the increasing “Judaization of Jerusalem”. (Your humble servant found this latter description particularly appalling in its import as Abbas stressed the word “Judaization”–specifically referring to ‘Jews’ and not to ‘Israelis’.)
What followed was a paean to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as Abbas noted that the PLO is “the unique representative of the Palestinian people”, “the sole representative of the Palestinian people”, and that “the Palestinian Authority works under the sponsorship, direction, and at the discretion of the PLO.” In the same sentence, Abbas declared that “first and foremost”, the PLO is concerned with the issue of Palestinian ‘refugees’.”
After falsely claiming again that Israel had rejected talks in the last two years, Abbas then sought to show that the Palestinians are ready for a state: “we have built institutions and infrastructure and have international support.” He then devoted several sentences to how the World Bank has stated that the Palestinians are ready for statehood. (He omitted of course that the World Bank has actually said that the Palestinians are in an unsustainable fiscal crisis.)
Abbas then returned to why the Palestinians are going to the United Nations now–and at this point he abruptly turned on President Obama–asserting that it was Obama’s fault because Obama had said last year that “talks should continue to this September” at which time the Palestinians should declare their independence. He then added that Obama’s argument that the Palestinians are acting “unilaterally” is absurd because “126 countries–2/3 of all countries–support the drive for Palestinian statehood.”
Abbas then asked rhetorically why the Palestinian flag is not flying at the United Nations–because after all Palestine “assures freedom for all, respects men and women’s rights, and obeys the rule of law.” (Your humble servant really doesn’t know what to say in regard to nonsense like this.) Again, he hammered home the point that the Palestinians are asking for the ‘borders’ of June 4, 1967, Jerusalem (not ‘East’ Jerusalem this time) as its capital, and the repatriation of ‘refugees’. And that the Palestinians want nothing less than to be “a full-fledged member state.”
Then in a remarkable section, prefaced by the absurd claim that the Palestinians are coming to the United Nations with the same “olive branch held by Yasser Arafat” (actually you may remember, dear reader, the controversy caused by Arafat’s insistence on wearing his gun at the U.N. podium), Abbas played to the Israeli and world press: Palestinians, he claimed, “do not want to push aside Israel and take away its legitimacy; what the Palestinians want is to “remove the legitimacy of occupation.”
And then the mythic laundry list of accusations tumbled from Abbas’ mouth: Israel’s occupation is “a daily nightmare” with “walls, colonies, aggression, attempts to burn down mosques, training of dogs to attack Palestinians, and the breeding of hogs to uproot olive trees”; in essence, Abbas said, every conceivable threat is being used against Palestinians. To which he added that Palestinians have been undergoing “massacres” for 63 years including “Deir Yassin, Sabra, and Shatila.”
Abbas then concluded his remarks with comments like “armed with the will of our people”, “able to live a life like other people”, “faced with a difficult situation”, “need realistic objectives”, and “occupation will not end overnight.” Again, he returned to the June 4, 1967 borders–and said that the Palestinians “need to unite our forces” (an obvious reference to Hamas) and peacefully pursue statehood. But, he added, “we need to pay tribute to our fighters.”
Saying that he thanked the Arab countries that support the Palestinians, he said that the Palestinians are going to the Security Council–but that no one should expect too much.
In tomorrow’s blog, your humble servant will discuss this speech further–with particular emphasis on why the Palestinians are dead set on trying to isolate the United States in the Security Council.