Despite serving the occupation, Abbas has been demonised by Israel

Despite serving the occupation, Abbas has been demonised by Israel
Comment: He has been a virtual subcontractor of the Israeli occupation, but Israel has still managed to make Mahmoud Abbas the poster-boy of 'terror-funding'.
5 min read
19 Feb, 2019
There is much to legitimately criticise Abbas for, but Israel should have no complaint [Getty]
"I now believe in peace more than ever, and I don't want war," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a joint Palestinian-Israeli delegation in a meeting in Ramallah a fortnight ago.

Abbas stressed he would continue "to stretch out my hand towards peace" and maintain security coordination with Israel.

"We will not allow extremist minds seeking violence to end peace," he added.

Abbas' words of peace are nothing new, it's what the 83-year-old president has been repeating over and over for the past 14 years.

Since the beginning of his tenure, Abbas has been willing to say everything that Israel wants to hear, going the extra mile both in rhetoric and action, even when it infuriates his own people - all for the sake of the Israelis feeling they have a reliable partner in him.

Since his election in June 2005, Abbas has held to the same strategy: An ardent commitment to the agreements signed with Israel - including security coordination - unwavering commitment to non-violence and appeasing Israel on every possible front, hoping beyond hope that Israel will as a result trust the Palestinian leadership and agree to a withdrawal from the occupied territories.

But because Israel is not a partner to peace, never wanted peace and never believed in peace, and virtually not a single Israeli government has actually believed in an independent sovereign Palestinian state, they have had to do everything possible to demonise Abbas and find any charge to stick to the Palestinian president to label him as a "terrorist supporter" - in effect a "non-partner" - in order to avoid engaging in peace talks.

As Abbas continue to utter the same words of commitment to the Oslo Accords, protests demanding his murder have become a near weekly occurrence in Israel.

Last week, settlers took part in demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, as well as the illegal settlements of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Kiryat Arba, calling for the death of Abbas.

Those who took part carried placards that called for the "killing of Abbas, the financer of murder," as well as general incitement against the Palestinians.

And these protests have received the endorsement of Israeli officials and Members of the Knesset.

The PA president is reduced now in the Israeli political sphere and in Israeli society to a gross caricature as the "financer of terrorism". Not only is he the subject of constant attacks in the Israeli media and from Israeli politicians, but an easy target in the current Israeli election campaign.

The Israeli propaganda around Abbas has failed to convince the international community - barring the Trump administration - which rightly understands Israel's efforts to be an excuse to continue the theft of Palestinian land and resources.

Somehow, despite all the security that Abbas has managed to ensure for Israel - for which he has been praised by Israeli security officials - somehow the Israeli establishment and its media have managed to still paint Abbas as an arch-terrorist. It doesn't matter that Shimon Perez, Ehud Olmert, John Kerry and a plethora of others believed in him as a "partner in peace", while praising his commitment to non-violence.

The issue for which Abbas has been obsessively criticized and condemned for over the past few years by Israel and its Western proxies is the welfare system of payments to the families of those killed or imprisoned by Israel.

A small proportion of them were killed or imprisoned after they could no longer bear their humiliating lives under the occupation and lashed out against the status quo and attacked Israeli soldiers. Others exercised their right guaranteed in international law to fight for the right of self-determination against an occupying military.

But the payments system in no way means that Abbas is encouraging the Palestinian people to commit violent acts, quite the contrary; he's been consistent over the past 14 years in discouraging people from violent resistance and encouraging non-violent resistance as an alternative.

The payments are a social responsibility towards the families of those who were killed or imprisoned by Israel, so that they won't starve in the absence of family breadwinners.

Plus, a large number of those who were imprisoned by Israel have not been involved in any act of violence.

Since 1967, more than 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israel after being dragged in front its nearly 100 percent-conviction-rate military courts following often arbitrary arrests.

Palestinians are often convicted on false charges; many thousands are held in indefinitely-renewable "administrative detention" without any charges at all.

Israel has ignored everything that Abbas has committed to and focused solely, obsessively and maliciously over this issue.

There is much to criticise and condemn Abbas for, ranging from corruption in his inner circle, to his total lack of strategy, as well as wide-ranging authoritarianism and human rights abuses.

But as far as Israel is concerned, there certainly shouldn't be any criticism: He cracked down on his own people to please Israel and the US, he maintained security coordination despite severe criticism from virtually everybody in Palestinian society - including from within his Fatah movement - and even he refused to pursue alleged Israeli war crimes at the ICC until late last year, even though he could have done so since 2012.

Saeb Erekat often says: "If Abbas were Mother Teresa, the Israelis would find a way to accuse him of terrorism so they wouldn't have to accept the Palestinians' demand for a state."

Obviously, Abbas' strategy failed to deliver long ago; on the contrary, it has harmed the Palestinians enormously and delivered a service to Israel and its occupation through the de facto reality of the PA as a subcontractor of Israel's occupation.

The opposite of Israeli propaganda is true; the Palestinians never missed any real opportunity for peace and an independent Palestinian state - in either the eras of Arafat or Abbas - but it is Israel, blinded by narcissism, short-termism, and ideological extremism that has missed every opportunity for peace with an extremely moderate Palestinian leader.

Ahmed Zed is a journalist and researcher whose work focuses on issues linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.