ARAFAT'S, "PEACE PROCESS"
Policy Paper No. 18, 1997
The quest for a cataclysmic violent eruption that will compel Israel to succumb to pressure and surrender territories has been a key component of Arafat's strategy since the early 1970s, along with the politically expedient "Phases Program/Phased Plan". Both doctrines, which complement each other, were formulated in the aftermath of Salah Khalaf's [Abu-Iyad] high-level PLO delegation milestone visit to Hanoi (early 1970) for discussions with a Politburo team led by General Vo Nguyen Giap on how North Vietnam could help the Palestinian struggle. The Vietnamese recounted their success in manipulating the American and Western media to the point of having a direct impact on the US ability to wage war against North Vietnam and the Viet Cong.
Abu-Iyad described in his book 'Palestinian Without a Motherland' how he brought up the question why the Palestinian armed struggle was considered terrorism while the Vietnamese struggle was lauded and supported throughout the West. The Vietnamese attributed this phenomenon to the different packaging of the goals of the two liberation movements. The Vietnamese team then agreed to sit with the PLO delegation and develop a program for the Palestinians. The Vietnamese told the PLO to develop appealing catchy programs that would appear flexible and moderate. The appearance of political programs should be based on the principle that in dealing with the US one must "sacrifice the unimportant if only in order to preserve the essential."
While in Hanoi, the PLO delegation was introduced to such issues as dealing with the US media, US liberal circles and institutions, and especially the power of the Jewish community. The Palestinians were taught how to manipulate and exploit these subjects and how the west could not stomach the sight of blood and casualties. The PLO leadership stressed that the acceptance of any part of Palestine was legitimate for as long as the entity established there will serve as the basis for the liberation of the rest of the country - the ultimate destruction of Israel. The PLO found that the territories’ Arab inhabitants needed hope and that the idea of a mini state was acceptable, apparently, to the USA. Arafat has constantly stressed that Oslo is the beginning of the establishment of the whole plan, for example to the rejectionist leaders, and others such as Spiegal Salon at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 30, 1996 (40 Arab diplomats). The bombings represent a Palestinian "Tet Offensive". A sudden surge in casualties, particularly on television, shatter the resolve and determination of the Israeli population. Washington will apply tremendous pressure on Jerusalem to offer additional unilateral concessions just to avoid the collapse of the "Peace Process" and Arafat is convinced he can win the resultant media battle.
THE QUEST FOR LEGITIMACY BY ARAFAT THE ISLAMIST
An increasingly radical militant Muslim World has forced Arafat to maintain his legitimacy as leader by harnessing the Islamists and by making them a part of the PLO. He must either out escalate or use more powerful partners to create a "wider war". He must stay at the top to satisfy his greed for money. The intifada and the Gulf war have shaped things for Arafat and Abu-Jihad sought to transform the struggle for Palestine into the next "Afghanistan", a focus of Islamic militancy and solidarity: creating a unified umbrella command - a new-style PLO - that would reflect groups’ diversity but ensure Arafat's overall leadership. However differences in emphasis and HAMAS popularity in Judea, Samaria and Gaza meant the PLO's experience with the defiant HAMAS leadership in 1988-89 drove Arafat to ensure repeatedly their support and legitimization of all his subsequent moves - from committing to the Oslo Accords to repeatedly authorizing the launch of spectacular terrorist strikes.
IN THE WILDERNESS
The Gulf Crisis proved just how detached Arafat was from the real power dynamics in the Middle East. The May 30, 1990 Nitzanim strike could have been a major Iraqi-Libyan-PLO diversion for the Iraqi preparations for the invasion of Kuwait and a source of incitement for the masses had it not been foiled. After the Gulf War Arafat’s leadership came into question and seemed threatened by younger men. During 1991-92, the US was self-intoxicated by the seeming progress of the "peace process" it had initiated in the aftermath of the Gulf Crisis, pointing to the on-going talks between Israel and the Arab delegations. Reality could not have been different. The Arab regimes had to go along with the US plan for reasons of their own bilateral ties with the US not because of a sudden conversion towards peaceful relations with Israel. Arafat gravitated towards Sudan making every effort to present himself and the PLO as central figures in the emerging Islamist camp: "Khartoum will become the springboard for the liberation of Jerusalem" (Arafat, Arab and Islamic Peoples' Conference, April 1991). Syria’s Assad stepped in, pushing the PLO into militant radicalism and potential prominence in order to further his own agenda. Many were drawn to radical Islam in Israeli prisons in the 1980s: Jabar Ammar found it expedient to build working relations with both Khartoum and Tehran, using channels of communications in Lebanon and Syria. Since 1995-96, the Han Yunis-Rafah area of the Gaza Strip has been his stronghold, following a period commanding training in advanced sabotage techniques in Sudan. He serves as a contact man between Arafat and Turabi.
Between 1991 and 1993 Arafat and his PLO were virtually irrelevant to the political process in the Middle East. While official representatives were engaged in one phase or another of the US-imposed "peace process", key members of the same entities struck deals and reached understandings with the most militant Islamist leaders. After the trauma of his Libyan air crash, by late 1992, Arafat was increasingly petrified by the extent of the popular support for the HAMAS and other Islamist radicals. In light of the 415 activists banished to Lebanon, Arafat approached Turabi and the HizbAllah leadership in Lebanon asking for help in organizing a summit with the HAMAS. The transcript of the Khartoum summit, as published in Al-Safir of February 2, 1993, shows a nervous Arafat on the defensive. The HAMAS leaders were adamant against recognizing the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and against Arafat as the undisputed leader and refused Arafat’s offer of second place to Fateh. All agreed that their common objective is the entire Palestine "from the sea to the river" and that no territorial compromise was legitimate. Even so, after Oslo rescued Arafat from marginalization (he was saved by the Israeli negotiators and the Rabin Government) he kept HAMAS informed fully and endorsed the wave of Islamist terrorism unleashed in February and March 1993.
THE PEACE MAKER
Even to the West European senior officials that had staunchly supported the Palestinian cause as well as applied tremendous pressure on the Israeli governments to recognize, compromise and negotiate with the PLO, Arafat insisted he was a reluctant participant. He insisted that it was Israel's economic strength and military superiority that compelled the PLO into the negotiation table, rather then a genuine desire for reaching a negotiated solution, let alone recognizing Israel's right to exist. This logic of forced solution was to serve Arafat's real objective - legitimizing from the very beginning a future breakout from the negotiated settlement. The main reason for the PLO's participation in the "peace process" was Arafat's desperation to ensure international recognition that would guarantee his survival as a leader. The reason for Arafat's anxiety was his belief that for the first time there emerged an opportunity for the destruction of Israel through the Islamists by then convinced they had for example broken the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Jihad would now work against Israel and so it became imperative for Arafat to harness the Islamists and portray them as part of his PLO. Uri Savir asked for a symbolic gesture even though unaccompanied by change on the ground but the PLO stuck to its refusal to endorse an end to the Intifada (in the final session of the Oslo negotiations on August 20, 1993).
Arafat whilst publicly talking in more Islamic terms with more Quranic references also told the Israelis that he dare not look like an agent of theirs by attacking the Islamists; yet he never hid his true intention: the destruction of the state of Israel although he had to stress this for example in the Johannesburg speech of may 1994.
"LIKE THE WINGS OF A BIRD"
Arafat’s position was acknowledged by the Oslo process and it was not lost on him that some of the key military units of the PLO most loyal to him had turned Islamist. Thus, his support for the Islamists was now both ideologically motivated and very pragmatic - a quest for self-survival. Both PA and Islamist activists knew that Arafat's threats of an all out suppression of the HAMAS and Islamic Jihad, or even his promises of a crackdown, were empty gestures. Occasional arrests and destruction of property in no sense meant Arafat could, or wanted to, dismantle Islamist infrastructure. Several of Arafat's key intelligence and security senior commanders supervising the PLO's campaign against HAMAS, including Jibril Rajub, the Chief of Internal Security, have repeatedly declared their total support for the HAMAS. Conspiracies against Arafat, not Israeli security needs, alone prompted what action was taken. The HAMAS' Sheikh Mahmoud Zahar defined the relationship between the PLO and the HAMAS: "Like the wings of a bird, they must work together."
This was the theme of the 1995 negotiations whereby Arafat rather than HAMAS made the most compromises although HAMAS agreed to do nothing, which would damage Israeli withdrawals; the Jihad against Israel would continue. in early January 1996, the PLO and HAMAS finally concluded their agreement after about two years of on-and-off negotiations. The key provisions for enabling the HAMAS to continue its terrorist operations remained. The HAMAS would continue to adhere to its principles regarding the uncompromising Jihad for the destruction of Israel. Operationally, the HAMAS would continue to strike at will except from Zone A to avoid embarrassing the PA. For its part, the PLO committed itself to not acting against the HAMAS. The HAMAS-PA agreement reflected the reality on the ground, not the self-delusions of politicians.
Arafat’s secret speech in front of 40 Arab diplomats in the Spiegal Salon at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 30, 1996. Was titled "The Impending Collapse of Israel". "We will take over everything including all of Jerusalem," he declared repeatedly. Arafat's plan has two main components aimed to cause the Jews to abandon Israel. "Within five years we will have six to seven million Arabs living on the West Bank and in Jerusalem. All Palestinian Arabs will be welcomed back by us." Arafat explained that this will be the beginning of a pressure campaign resulting within a few years in Israel's ultimate destruction. "You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian State. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion; Jews will not want to live among us Arabs!"
These two main components in Arafat's plan are Islamist dominated. The key to making life unbearable to the Jews is through terrorism campaigns. More important is Arafat's declared intention to increase the Arab population to 6-7 millions. These will be Islamist, hence Arafat's own conclusions in Stockholm are befitting HAMAS, not the PA: "I have no use for Jews; they are and remain Jews! We now need all the help we can get from you in our battle for a united Palestine under total Arab-Muslim domination!"
Knowing that the Peres government was vulnerable to pressure, by early 1996, the operational collaboration was going beyond the routine HAMAS-PA coordination of activities or even their recent understanding/agreement. Arafat knew all along about the HAMAS desires. Now, in late February, when he needed to jolt and shock Israel, he approved the launching of a series of martyrdom operations provided they could be attributed to a HAMAS revenge on the killing of Ayash. There is clear evidence that the PA uppermost leadership must have met and worked together with their HAMAS counterparts even after the Tel-Aviv bombing. Thus, as the Islamist terrorism campaign was building up, the PA security authorities went beyond a mere tacit cooperation with the Islamists. The PA was now sliding into active participation in the armed struggle against Israel. This was a reflection of more than Arafat's commitment to the destruction of Israel. Arafat and his close aids knew that the majority of Palestinians supported terrorism. This was confirmed by a contemporary poll in the territories in which 76% of these polled expressed support for the continuation of terrorism against Israel, and 84% opposed the PA's actions against the Islamists, particularly in order to satisfy Israel (irrespective of the existence of formal agreements). This reality was not lost on Arafat and his commanders. ‘’Moderate’’ Nabil Shaath waned in March: Discussing outstanding disagreements with Israel, Shaath warned that "if and when Israel says 'That's it, we won't talk about Jerusalem, we won't return refugees, we won't dismantle settlements, and we won't retreat from borders,' then all the acts of violence will return. Except that this time we'll have 30,000 armed Palestinian soldiers who will operate in areas in which we have unprecedented elements of freedom."
Further radicalized and rejuvenated, Arabs and Muslims now demanded the return to the uncompromising Jihad. An emboldened Arafat was only too eager to comply. Ultimately, however, 1996, was a year of military preparations. Most important was the consolidation of the PLO's capabilities to operate in the context of a regional crisis and war. Most significantly, in late September, 1996, the Palestinian Authorities, not the PLO, entered into a major military agreement with Syria, thus explicitly committing the Palestinian forces in the territories. This means the Palestinian "police" forces and other armed elements (terrorist organizations) should flare-up the Israeli interior in case of an escalation in the north. Weapons and training have followed. In the Fall of 1996, in accordance with the joint agreement, the Syrians began deploying their own personnel to both Gaza and the autonomy zones in Judea and Samaria. These Syrian teams are comprised of Syrian intelligence personnel and Palestinians they control (networks of Jibril, Habbash, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, etc.). The PA and Syria are in agreement that only a fresh team, employing ruthless means, will be able truly to eradicate the remnants of the Shabak's networks. This means further harming Israel's ability to prevent and fight terrorism. Syrian teams will be able to collect intelligence about Israel, and identify and designate targets in the deep Israeli rear. In Gaza Arafat built deep bunkers and stockpiled heavy weapons. The late September mini war showed that Arafat could wage the armed struggle and helped create adversarial relations on the Palestinian side. This rehearsal failed to provoke a stern response from Israel
ARAFAT'S "PEACE PROCESS"
On March 9, 1997, Arafat and a few close aides secretly met with the heads of HAMAS, Islamic Jihad, and numerous rejectionist organizations to discuss the resumption of terrorism at the heart of Israel. Thereafter, in Islamist mosques and gatherings in Gaza and throughout the West Bank, the youth openly talked about Arafat's permission ('green light') to strike Israel in retaliation for building in Har Homa. All was agreed with Teheran and Damascus. The March bomb in the "Apropos Cafe" in Tel Aviv and the incitement and controlling of violent riots in Hebron, showed the implementation. From Gaza, forbidden weapons were being carried into the urban enclaves in Judea and Samaria in the trunks of Palestinians VIPs with immunity-passes provided by Israel. Working with Iran reduces any chance of an Islamist coup against Arafat.
PREPARING FOR THE JIHAD
The Syrians now suggested a campaign of relentless and attritiating attacks on the transportation and other infrastructure of the IDF and settlers conducted from Arab cities. There has been a widespread growth in militancy, anti-Israel sentiments, and practice of radical Islam among the Palestinian urban population. These trends in the Palestinian population are confirmed by a series of polls conducted by the Jerusalem Center of Communications. The law against land dealing with Jews applies to Arab holders of Israeli citizenship and also within the Green Line - that is, the PA insisted on having legal authority over Israeli territory. New elite Tanzim special forces highly suitable for clandestine and covert operations have been created. The storm unit teams for fighting Israeli attacks will use heavy weapons - RPGs and mortars, anti-tank, human bombs and anti-aircraft missiles (against helicopters). The primary objective of these forces is to bleed the IDF on live TV. The Palestinian media incite and promote a war-like mood, stressing that no solution or even co-existence are possible between Jews and Muslims irrespective of who's in power in Jerusalem. Arms manufacture and smuggling continues apace.
ESCALATION AND CONFRONTATION
In June, 1997, Arafat convened his closest aides and ordered the gradual escalation of violence under the tight control of the PA security organs, particularly Jibril Rajub's Preventive Security. Terror bolsters Arafat’s position and may be conducted under circumstances which allow for denial. A series of terror activities and Israeli interceptions have revealed a dangerous escalation in the PA's sponsorship of violence and terrorism, borne out by the statistics for June and July.
THE BEGINNING OF WHAT'S NEXT
Arafat intends to build pressure on Israel through gradual escalation and expansion of violence. Through a major provocation, the IDF may "invade" Zone A - the main Arab cities controlled by the PA. Such an escalation will bleed Israel, incite the "peace camp" opposition, and embarrass the US Government with carnage against Arab civilians (to be placed intentionally in harm's way and in front of TV cameras). By now, the threat of fighting in the territories escalating into a regional war and oil embargo will bring pressure from Western Europe, the US and the Israeli opposition on the Netanyahu Government to succumb to Palestinian and Arab demands. Syria and Iran feel that this would be their time for a major surprise attack. The bombs in Jerusalem conveniently occurred on the same day as the PNC conference on corruption. Arafat has gained promises from Saddam Hussein giving in exchange support for the destabilization of Jordan. A series of conferences saw Arafat agreeing effectively with HAMAS, Islamic Jihad and the ‘rejectionists’ on the necessity of escalation the armed struggle and terrorism shortly before the martyrdom bombing in Jerusalem.
Arafat himself no longer conceals his perception of where the Middle East is heading, warning the leadership of the Arab World about the return to armed struggle through interviews with Saudi-owned periodicals read by the Arab elites. Several knowledgeable Arab observers are increasingly apprehensive that Arafat is instigating a major clash with Israel aimed to draw the rest of the Arab World into a major war. The trend is thus a revived spate of terrorism in Israel leading to a regional war despite Arafat’s repeated promises to enhance security cooperation with Israel. Hardly the state of mind of a "partner in peace". For Arafat, Oslo - as an instrument of eliciting unilateral concessions and withdrawals from Israel - is dead. Hence, there is no alternative to returning to the old and proven ways of the armed struggle.
Palestinian officials acknowledge now that Arafat is suffering from several illnesses including Parkinson's disease that is already apparent in the shaking of his hands and lower lip. He is increasingly determined to complete his Jihad before he dies while seeking seek solace and guidance in Islamism. The PA incites the Palestinian street to the point that it is impossible to even contemplate a compromise with Israel on anything, including Israel's very existence. Arafat argues in Washington, and the Clinton Administration concurs, that if the PA attempts to implement further the accords he, Arafat, would be toppled by the irate public and the entire "peace process" would collapse. It is therefore in Israel's own interest that the process of Israeli unilateral concessions and withdrawals continues, he argues. Sermons in mosques inciting hatred, delivered in a growing frequency and virulence, put the PA's crackdown on Islamists in perspective. Jerusalem continues the high-level meetings and negotiations with the PA - choosing to ignore the duplicity openly displayed by Arafat and his coterie. For example in October 1997 the three senior PA security officials that met with Ayalon - Amin al-Hindi, Mohammad Dahlan and Jibril Rajub - must have known about Arafat's unyielding position before meeting with their Israeli counterparts. Thus, they arrived at this meeting with no intention to actually implement any agreement with the GSS.
Arafat began using the freed Shaykh Yassin's growing popularity as a lever to having the Clinton Administration exercise greater pressure on Israel, pushing Washington to demand unilateral concessions or else Arafat will be pushed to the corner by a growing popular swell of populist Islamism. In reality, the Islamists now dominate Arafat's policy formulation and overall position. Yassin declares publicly the need for Jihad and ‘martyrs’ [suicide bombers]. In the Fall of 1997, the Middle East is rapidly sliding toward conflagration and perhaps a major war. For the first time in the history of Arab-Israeli wars, Palestinian forces can strike out at the very heart of Israel, threatening roads and air bases. Arafat knows that the Arab states would eclipse him as a result of the war but he cannot gain Israeli concession rewards from the "peace process" because the PLO's veteran elite and the dynamics of his relations with the Islamists will not permit it.
The Israeli Government is under relentless pressure from the US-led West to persevere with the fallacy of the "Peace Process" and "Oslo Accords" simply because the Clinton White House has deemed their collapse untenable and intolerable for American domestic political considerations and from an Israeli Peace Camp dreading to see their pipe dream shatter. The argument that there's no alternative to Arafat as a negotiations partner does not hold water because there is nothing to talk about with Arafat who will settle for nothing less than Israel replaced by an Islamic State.
It's high time to face reality...
The omission of precise source notes is the least one can do to shield and protect those brave individuals who, at great risk to themselves and their loved ones, provide crucial and distinct information.
Israel's War for Standing in the Media
"They may have won all the battles. We had all the good songs"
Tom Lehrer, That Was The Year That Was - 1966.
"When you promote our cause, never say that it is a military struggle to liberate Palestine. Say that it we are a movement designed to achieve the human rights and civil liberties of the Palestinian people" - Huwaida Araf, a trainer in a training session for Palestinian activists provided in September, 2001 by PASSIA, The Palestine Association for the Study of International Affairs in Jerusalem, in a course sponsored by the US AID, the United States Agency for International Development, which reports directly to the White House.
It would be an understatement to say that any cause or movement that defines itself and projects itself as a civil liberties or human rights movement will earn an obvious edge in its fight for media sympathy, if it is pitted against the image of a highly mechanized and professional army,
The media professionals of the PLO began to adjust the way in which they market themselves to the world press during the time of the Lebanese war in 1982, when the Red Crescent, under the direction of Dr. Fatchi Arafat, Yassir's brother, issued daily situation reports from the field. Even if the claims of casualties seemed wildly out of proportion ("10,000 dead, 600,000 made homeless during the first week of the war"), the very couching of such a report in the context of a humanitarian organization made all the difference.
In 1984, a Palestinian Arab media professional, Ramonda Tawill, who six years later would become Yassir Arafat's mother-in-law, pioneered the concept of a Palestinian Press Service, based in Jerusalem and working in coordination with the other organization founded by Tawill, the Palestine Human Rights Information Center. Tawill began to slowly change the image if not the reality of the PLO, from a catchy "liberation" movement in the 1960's and 1970's to that of a human rights concern. Everything would now be couched in terms of human rights, and the media would be targeted for relationships.
Meanwhile, Arafat's trusted assistant, Abu Iyad, spent a year in Hanoi learning the lessons of the Vietnam conflict from the victorious General Giap, where Abu Iyad studied how the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese had transformed their movement in the eyes of the west and particularly in the eyes of American public opinion from that of a terror group to that of a heroic and popular movement. "It is all a matter of working well with the media", was how the Vietnamese summarized their training sessions with Abu Iyad, who managed to coordinate his Arafat's media efforts in Tunis with Tawill in Jerusalem
One of the first successful training projects that Tawill pulled off was the way in which she handled the freed prisoners from the Jibril exchange in May, 1985, when Israel freed more than 1100 convicted PLO terrorists in exchange for seven IDF troops held by PLO operative Achmed Jibril. 600 of these freed convicts returned to their homes in the west bank and Gaza, and Tawill conducted a training course for them to learn how to market themselves to the media, by discussing their allegations of Israeli torture in Israeli jails, so as to distract reporters from asking about their crimes. Tawill's trainees also learned the art of media relations, and many of them assumed key roles in the organization of the PLO rebellion, known as the Intifada, which broke out in December,. 1987.
It would be hard to say that the PLO commitment to civil liberties and human rights would represent a pure approach to human rights and civil liberties.
Perception is everything, however. When a Palestinian by the name of Dr. Mubarak Awad opened the Center for the Study of Non-Violence in the mid-1980's, he was received with adulation by the media and by western diplomats alike. However, Dr. Awad , whose office was decorated with pictures of Dr, Martin Luther King and Dr Muhatma Ghandi, told me in a taped interview in January, 1988 that he favored a coalition of violent and non violent organizations that would advocate the Palestinian cause.
When Dr Awad was asked how his approach differed from the pure approach of non-violence advocated by King and Ghandi, Awad responded that he was "more pragmatic than they were". Awad, an American Palestinian, and often described as the tactical leader of the Intifada, was deported from Israel in June, 1988.
This interview with Dr. Mubarak Awad was commissioned by Tikun magazine in the US. The above questions were left out of the March 1988 published interview.
The editor of Tikun told me on the telephone that "this was not the Awad we know.
The second PLO Intifada, which broke out in September, 2000 was also well orchestrated with the media.
John Burns, visiting correspondent for the New York Times, witnessed the preparations for that war in a front page story that he filed for the Times on August 3, 2000.
Burns desribed how the PLO's Palestinian Authority had dispatched 25,000 Palestinian children to summer camps to "learn the art of war" and to acquire skills such as the preparation and explosion of molotov cocktails and combat with Israeli troops, in the war that was going to break out following the collapse of the Camp David summit.
The article that Burns wrote was unique, since most Israeli and foreign news stories continued to relate to the PA as a peace partner that had abandoned the path of violence ever since the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House Lawn in September, 1993. That perception of the PLO embarking on a new path to peace was reinforced by the policies of the Israeli government at the time, which strongly disapproved of any news reportage which reflected a PA or PLO message of war in Arabic
Indeed, when the Institute for Peace Education Ltd began to produce videos of Arafat's speeches which continued to support Jihad holy war and the continuation of violence, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres implored the Israel TV (there was only one channel then ) to not air any of Arafat's speeches in the Arabic language.
In September, 1995, before The US House Committee of International Relations held hearings in which committee members watched videos of Arafat urging his people to war during the height of the Oslo peace process, Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovitch implored the congressional committee to cancel its hearing.
The reluctance to share Arafat's message of war in the Arabic language continued during the Netanyahu administration, 1996-1999, despite the Likud ties of Mr. Netanyahu. And during the Barak administration, the clause that required a cessation of incitement was dropped in the accord that was brokered between Arafat and Barak by US Secretary of State Madalyn Albright on September 4, 1999.
In other words, key Israeli and US decision-makers chose to ignore the consistent message of the PA in its daily calls on official PBC radio and PBC TV which carried a daily message of a renewed war against Israel.
The PLO was not sitting on its hands, however.
The PA organized an intricate media operation from the time of its inception in 1994, in anticipation of a full scale conflict with Israel. That network included:
1. The aforementioned PASSIA, working on a 1.034 million dollar grant per annum from the US, which covered more than 80% of its working budget. In 2001 alone, PASSIA shows that it was able to run 16 courses for Palestinians to learn the art of lobbying the media and elected officials abroad. (Passia can be found on the net at: www.passia.org). No counterpart yet exists on the Israeli side.
2. The JMCC, the Jersualem Media and Communications Center, run by Arafat intimate Dr Ghassan Khatib, and funded through grants from the Ford Foundation and the western European governments that comprise the European Union, the EU. The JMCC coordinates press services for the hundreds of visiting correspondents who visit Jerusalem, selling them daily press bulletins, Stringers and tours of Jerusalem and the areas under the control of the PA.
There are altogether more that 100 Palestinian stringers who provide per diem services to the media. No counterpart to JMCC yet exists on the Israeli side.
3. Union of Palestine Medical Relief Committees, run by Dr. Mustafa Bargouti, whose public relations department, funded with a US AID grant of close to $300,000. The UPMRC, in coordination with the Red Crescent, whose pr department if also funded through US AID, issues consistently wild reports concerning medical neglect and torture. The UPMRC is the organization responsible for spreading the rumored news item that Israel has developed special poisonous tear gas for use against Arab children, and that Israel has developed special methodologies of dumping waste in Arab villages so as to cause Arab villagers to come down with mass dysentery. No counterpart yet exists on the Israeli side to contradict the claims
Israel Resource News Agency assigned its student interns to the courses provided by Mrs. Tawill and later to the courses provided by PASSIA and the JMCC . One of the themes of the courses was the instruction to constantly repeat the terms that connote occupation, illegal settlements, human rights abuses, right to go home, while teaching them to emulate the leaders of the twentieth century who came to power through acts of violence
The fact that the PLO provides the media with stringers and cameramen through the good offices of the JMCC, in addition to minibuses and vans, has helped the PLO to form the reporting environment for the hundreds of foreign reporters who come to cover the middle east crisis.
The PLO is generally not heavy handed with the media, except in a few glaring instances such as the instance on October 12, 2000 when an Italian TV crew had to provide the PLO with a written promise that they would never again dispatch footage that was not first approved by Palestinian authorities, following their coverage of the lynching of two Israeli soldiers at the PA police station in Ramallah.
The PLO has developed a successful working relationship with the media arm of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the organization that actually runs the Palestinian Arab refugee camp, charged by UN resolution #194 with the task to operate the "temporary shelters" of the Palestinian Arab refugees, under the premise and the promise of the "inalienable right" of Palestinian Arab refugees to return to the homes and villages that they left in 1948. While the architect of the Oslo process. Dr Yose Beilin, declared in December 1993 that the first act of the PA would be to absorb these refugees, the PA decided in its opening session in May 1994 that all Palestinian refugees must remain in their camps until they are repatriated to their homes and villages.
UNRWA, which now maintains a news service and Television agency, has cooperated with the media services of the PLO and with the PBC, the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, to provide the visiting Press with any and all services that present the plight of the refugees who wallow in their squalor.
Awaiting their return to their homeland. It did not surprise the PLO or UNRWA when President Clinton made his speech of July 1, 1999 which indeed endorsed the Palestinian right to "return to their homeland", since the US covers $90 million of the $400 million per annum budget of the UNRWA camps.
As a result, The PLO media professionals coordinate their work with human rights organizations that operate in the areas under the control of the PA. These human rights groups rely on "eyewitness" testimony that confirm human rights abuses. Some of these human rights groups are actually Israeli based organizations, such as "Btselem". The news story that accompanies this article concerning Btselem will speak for itself
The PA does everything possible to stage events. Their attempt to project the image of a massacre after the fact at the UNRWA refugee camp in Jenin simply did not work. The IDF filmed PLO media professionals bringing dead carcasses of animals to the scenes where reporters and UN officials were likely to visit the camp. The IDF also filmed a staged funeral where the "body" actually fell off of the stretcher and jumped back on en route to his "burial".
Other "flashpoint" events worked however. The most famous event which was shown around the world was that of a boy, age 11, named Muhammad Dura, who was seemingly shot dead while his father hovered over him at a road junction near Gaza. Dura became the martyr of the first stage of the PLO rebellion, even though a German TV crew would later prove that all the firing that came in the direction of the little boy was from the Palestinian side. Yet there is even a more macabre side to this, and that is that the Palestinian TV crew that actually did the filming of the incident has made the out takes of the not shown b-roll, which conveyed yet another message. The film shows two Palestinian journalists laughing as they arrange for the same Palestinian ambulance with the same license number to come to the scene of the riot to pick up the same wounded people each time, at three minute intervals, which would not have been enough time to take the "wounded" to the Shifa hospital in Gaza. And the barrel where Muhamad Dura and his father were supposedly fired upon for 40 minutes is shown to have only one or two bullet holes. In other words, the Muhammad Dura death was also staged
Dr. Mike Cohen, a Jerusalem based strategic communications analyst who serves in the IDF reserves with the rank of captain the IDF Spokesman's office, believes that it is the PLO's ability to manipulate The images for reporters that is proving to be the crucial factor, much more so than any innate Bias that the journalist might have. In the words of Dr. Cohen: " I do not believe that the media is anti-israel or anti-semitic or pro-palestinian. From my experience, with many in the international media I would unscientifically rank the reasons as thus:
50% lack of background and knowledge of the entire picture on the part of the reporters and editors and lack of time and desire to take a deep look at the facts
25% fear of losing access if coverage was truthful
15% fear of loss of revenue if coverage was balanced
5% anger at the Israeli pr establishment
2% rooting for the underdog
2% editorial policy
1% or less built in bias
Yet in the view of senior American journalists who are permanently based in Israel. The Jewish State has not really lost the PR war
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one senior American journalist made the following observation:
"The numbers show that Israel has won the war hands down. Support for Israel in the US is overwhelming, and it's about the same it's always been in Europe, which is to say, not very good. We tend to home in on the negative articles, but there are papers full of positive ones, and even the papers we believe have a bias also run articles explaining our side.
'When it comes to hasbara, Israelis are clobbering the Palestinians. Israeli spokespeople are good, clear, concise (some of them) and most of all, available. I trip over them. I practically have to have a receptionist to keep them lined up and orderly outside the office. It's true, whenever I need a Palestinian to comment on something, I can get a senior official easily, but this government has matched that and made its people much more available for TV. Where Israel is falling down is in the inevitable TV image conflict and by making stupid decisions like keeping reporters out of places. Had reporters been in the Jenin camp, the world would have read, heard about and seen a battle, and rumors of a massacre would never have taken hold. They also would have seen some nasty things in Ramallah, because Israel did some nasty things. But in the end of the day, the pictures of destroyed buildings and wailing Palestinians (they do that so well) overwhelm any attempt to explain why. Of course, it would have been nice if the army had provided or allowed a cover shot to show that only a small corner of the Jenin camp was destroyed . . . It took them two weeks to get around to that".
And not all journalists based in Israel thing that the PA ultimately controls information and images that emanate from areas under the control of the PA.
Another reporter made the following observation:
"I think it's crucial to understand that Israel is the one that ''controls'' (read bans) information and images coming from the territories. There have been a few incidents of Palestinian police confiscating video and film and intimidating reporters, but the IDF closed the whole West Bank to reporters during Defensive Shield and left the area wide open to wild rumors, planted skillfully by Palestinian spokesmen taking advantage of this horrible Israeli mistake. We had no way to check out the rumors (massacre, human shield, etc etc), and so many of us had to report it in a he-said, she-said format. And, of course, when TV networks put Palestinian spokesmen on live to make their charges, then it's out there and we have to deal with it".
To say that Israel could do better with its media relations is the understatement of Zionism.
As this article is being prepared, at least five different aspects of Israeli officialdom meet with the media independently of one another - the IDF, the foreign ministry, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office and the Defence Ministry.
Everyone gives a different message.
No one provides any real creativity in their Respective approaches to the media
Since the Israeli government is doomed to continue in its dysfunctional way of dealing with the press, the time has come for private enterprise to take the reigns of Israel's public relations - To provide systematic bus tours, seminars with experts, interviews with the families of terror victims and independent news investigations that will help provide Israel with a chance of conveying its message to the media.
The following ten questions, developed by Jerusalem radio journalist Yoram Getzler, could easily form the basis of a quiz show that could which could counter some current popular assumptions that have seeped into the consciousness of the media and public opinion, in Israel and abroad:
1) What is the percentage of Palestinians living under Palestinian autonomy and sovereignty since the withdrawal of the IDF from Arab populated areas of in the West Bank & Gaza in 1995
Answer: - 95%, according to Dr. Kalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research (Berzeit University)
2) Did The Oslo "peace process" (1993) halt Palestinian terror attacks on Israel?
Answer: In 1994 '95 '96 & 1997 while Israel was implementing the Oslo agreement & withdrawing from the occupied territories - 134 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.
3) What did the Israel Defense Forces destroy in retaliation for the lynching of two of its IDF troops who had wandered into Ramallah?
Answer: one; the police station in which the lynching took place, after the IDF warned the Palestinians that it was going to attack so that it could evacuate the building.
4) Ariel Sharon declared a unilateral cease-fire how many days before the June 1 2001 suicide bombing at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium.
Answer: 12 days, (from May 20 2001)
4b) What did the IDF destroy after for the murder of 20 young people in the suicide bombing of the Dolphierioum Disco in Tel Aviv
Answer: five buildings of the PA security services in Gaza
5) Who first offered the "Saudi Proposal" (exchanging all land captured in 1967 for peace) for ending the Israel / Arab conflict?
Answer: Israel, one month after the 1967 war
7) What was the official response of the Arab League to the Israeli 1967 proposal to exchange all the land occupied in the 1967 war for peace - in Khartoum, Sudan on November 22, 1967
Answer: No recognition (of Israel)
No negotiations (with Israel)
No peace ( with Israel)
8) What did Israeli government confiscate from the Palestinian Authority in response to the bombing of the Sabarro Pizza parlor in which 16 Israelis were murdered?
Answer: The Orient House, which was the de facto PLO headquarters in Jerusalem
9) How many Israels were murdered by terrorists between the signing of Oslo accords, September 13 1993, to September 2000 (outbreak of current violence)
10) In 1967, was the West Bank conquered by IDF Army from the Palestinians?
Answer: The West Bank was captured from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan which had ruled there since 1948 - Gaza was captured from the Egyptians.
THE HAMAS CHARTER
Interviews with Hamas women
Hamas in its own words
A CRY FROM THE HEART
Has there ever been a peace process?
CAN ISLAM MAKE PEACE WITH ISRAEL?
WHY DID YASSER ARAFAT SIGN THE OSLO ACCORD?
The treaty of Hudabiyyah
The treaty between Saladin and Richard I
Peace? What peace?
Sermons in Palestinian mosques
The truth about Arafat and the Palestinians
Yasser Arafat over the years
Aid money used for weapons
Obituary of Yasser Arafat
Egyptian tributes to Arafat
Marwan Barghouti could succeed Arafat
Palestinian leadership should get real
Hamas on the 1967 borders
Arafat and the Viet Cong
The Hizbullah programme
The Gaza disengagement