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Friday, January 12, 2007
PLO Chief Abbas Supports Hitting Israel, Not Hamas, And Rejects U.S. Plans and Compromise

PLO Chief Abbas Supports Hitting Israel, Not Hamas, And Rejects U.S. Plans
and Compromise
By Michael Widlanski 12 January, 2007

"Our rifles, all our rifles are aimed at The Occupation," [Arabic:
"Al-Ihtilal"] declared Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas today (Jan. 11) in
a major speech that was warm to Hamas and harsh to Israel and the United
States.

Abbas's comments were interpreted by Palestinians themselves as a clear
reference to attacking Israel-a badge of honor rather than something to
condemn.

The Palestianin leader's words were repeated almost exactly in later
television shows by other Palestinian officials, such as Ibrahim Abu-Naja
and Dr. Kamal Sharafy who called Israel "the enemy" and "the Zionist enemy,"
respectively.

As if to remove any doubt about the militancy of Abbas's words and the
place to aim Palestinian rifles, minutes after Abbas's own speech,
Palestinian television's senior announcer, described Israel's establishment
as the beginning of "occupation."

"No one [here] is a criminal. All our people are as one hand to free our
land," declared Abbas, speaking about the struggle against Israel that
unites all Palestinians. Not once in his speech did he condemn or even
disapprove of continuing rocket attacks and attempted suicide assaults by
Hamas and by his own Fatah movement.

But Abbas made it clear that Palestinian violence had to be curtailed for
practical reasons, because it was "crossing a red line," endangering
Palestinians.

"I have heard the sound gunshots here, and that is forbidden," asserted
Abbas, the Fatah and PLO chairman, remonstrating against the largely
pro-Fatah crowd that gathered to listen to his words in the town of
Ramallah, north of Jerusalem.

"Condemning and preventing internal fighting," was his goal, asserted
Abbas, referring to the internal Palestinian blood-letting in which about
300 Palestinians died last year. Stopping this "falatan"-anarchy in Arabic-
was his regime's first priority, said Abbas, but his words did not seem to
convince the crowd.

"Hamas is a bunch of Shiites," cried members of the crowd, using the term
"Shiite" as a kind of curse, and Abbas again rebuked his own Fatah members,
saying, "This [kind of talk] too is forbidden," as he tried to strike
nationalistic and Islamic themes of unity, departing slightly from his
prepared speech.

"No one [Palestinian] is outside our society," yelled Abbas. waving his
hands at the noisy crowd. He specifically saluted the late Sheikh Ahmad
Yassin, one of the founders of Hamas, which developed the human bomb attacks
that ravaged Israel from 1994-2004, after it signed agreements with the
Palestinians.

"No one is a traitor. No one is a collaborator [with Israel]. No one is
an infidel," Abbas continued, strongly suggesting that anyone who has used
arms against Israel, even if he vied with Fatah for leadership, was still
not beyond the pale.

[Almost all Palestinians are Sunni Muslims and the term "Shi'a" in
Arabic, which means faction or faction member, refers to those Muslims who
broke away from the majority community after the death of Islam's leader,
Muhammad, and supported Ali, Muhammad's nephew. -MW]

In what was in many ways one of the most militant speeches against
Israel from a Palestinian official normally touted as a moderate, Dr. Abbas
also stretched out his hand to the Hamas terror organization that has
never even pretended it does not want to destroy Israel.

Dr. Abbas seemed to reject all possibilities of territorial compromise
or anything less than full repatriation of Palestinian refugees, and he
repudiated Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's idea that a further Israeli
withdrawal would lead to a Palestinian state inside temporary borders.

"Today more than any other day, we must hold fast to our Palestinian
principles, and we will not accept a state with temporary borders" said
Abbas, adding, "We will not give up one grain [of land] in Jerusalem."

Referring to Palestinian refugees, Chairman Abbas said, "We send our
greetings to our brothers in Jordan, in Syria, in Lebanon," adding, "our
hearts and our hands are open to all Palestinians."

Once more Abbas signaled an invitation to Hamas and Islamic Jihad to join
the Palestine Liberation Organization officially-something which almost
occurred two years ago, failing when Hamas felt it was not given enough
representation in the PLO.

Throughout his speech Abbas hinted strongly that spilling blood of
Israelis was permitted, while explicitly saying that spilling Palestinian
blood was a crime.

"He who spills Palestinian blood is a criminal," he said. "We must say
'Palestinian blood is forbidden,'" he continued, acknowledging the
continuing bloody feuding between Hamas [which holds the PA legislature] and
Fatah [which holds the PA executive branch].

"We all know that the Israeli occupation has staged many evil and
criminal attacks, including the attack on Jenin, which President Yasser
Arafat referred to as 'Jenin-grad,'" declared Abbas, referring to comments
by his predecessor, Arafat, who likened the Fatah in Jenin to those Russians
who fought the Nazis at Stalingrad.

Jenin had been a center of suicide bombers run by the Fatah organization
until the Israeli attack in April 2002 disrupted operations by the Fatah
"Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade." Arafat called the attack a "massacre," though
investigations showed Israel had not used excessive violence against
civilians.

Frequently throughout his speech, Abbas referred to Arafat as martyr,
similarly describing those Fatah gunmen who died while carrying out
attacks on Israel.

Abbas was speaking at the forty-second anniversary of the founding of
the Fatah organization-a day commemorating the first Palestinian attack on
Israel's national water carrier on January 1, 1965, and Abbas was trying to
use the occasion unify the divided Palestinian community, perhaps by using
Israel as a common enemy.

The Fatah Day speech was delayed by ten days of massive fighting between
Fatah and Hamas, both of which are wrestling for leadership of the
Palestinian Authority in the wake of Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004.

More than 20 Palestinians have been killed in the last week of fighting,
according to reports from Gaza, where most of the fighting has taken place.

Despite the fighting, however, both Fatah and Hamas have continued to
launch rocket attacks and to attempt suicide bomb attacks against Israel.
Abbas has sometimes said such attacks "do not serve Palestinian interests,"
but again today he made it clear that such attacks are morally justified in
his eyes.
===============

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication
whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former
reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The
Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also
served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in
1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public
Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

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