A review of the findings: Arafat's mystery death [murdered by poisoning]

Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Qidwa told Al-Jazeera, here, that the reason there had been no autopsy on Yasser Arafat is “because the Palestinian people would have seen with their own eyes a huge betrayal, and a big crime committed against them – the crime of killing their own leader.”

From the very beginning, al-Qidwa said [to me + to others] that he believed his uncle, Yasser Arafat, had been poisoned.

He said it again in Al-Jazeera’s latest investigative documentary on Arafat’s death, “Killing Arafat”, aired on November 10: “There was clear evidence that this was a case of assassination, that Yasser Arafat was actually killed by, by poison”.

It became clear relatively quickly at the Muqata in Ramallah in October 2004 that Arafat had more than a bad case of the flu.

Saeb Erekat, perennial Palestinian chief negotiator, told Al-Jazeera that during Arafat’s final days at Percy Military Hospital outside Paris, he received a phone call from Nasser al-Qidwa, who was at the hospital. Al-Qidwa, Erekat said, asked him “to tell the Americans to ask the Israelis for the antidote.” No further information was given about what the Americans may have said or done – but no antidote seems to have been produced. Arafat died on 11 November 2004.

Over a year ago, Al-Jazeera’s documentary, What Killed Arafat?, which aired on 4 July 2012, reported stunning findings from a Swiss lab which indicated possible Polonium-210 poisoning.

This news was a jolt to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, though they had already survived, nearly unscathed, Al-Jazeera’s January 2011 “Palestine Papers”, here, a special series of reports based on documents leaked from Ramallah offices that revealed embarrassing details about Palestinian negotiating conduct during direct talks with Israel.  Clayton Swisher, now Al-Jazeera’s Investigative Journalism Manager, worked on the “Palestine Papers”.  He then worked – in close collaboration with Arafat’s widow, Suha [who’s lived abroad, with her daughter, for years] – on the two documentaries investigating Arafat’s final illness and death.

Some in the Palestinian leadership believed Al-Jazeera was out to get them.

There were subliminal messages: In “What Killed Arafat?”, Swisher states that at the time of Arafat’s death, “Regime change is exactly what Washington + Tel Aviv had in mind”.  This is superimposed over archival footage of Mahmoud Abbas speaking about democracy to the PA’s Legislative Council [PLC].

That documentary also included the archival audio of Suha Arafat calling Al-Jazeera from the hospital in France in 2004 and saying, live on air, in a strident tone: “Let the honest Palestinian people know that a bunch of those who want to inherit are coming to Paris.  You have to realize the size of the conspiracy.  I tell you, they are trying to bury Abu Ammar alive”.  This audio is superimposed over footage of Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmad Qurei’a, and Sa’eb Erekat being received soon afterwards at the Elysees Palace by France’s then-President Jacques Chirac.

Nevertheless, within hours of the broadcast, Mahmoud Abbas ordered Palestinian cooperation with any investigation. By contrast, Abbas reportedly opposed an autopsy at the time of Arafat’s death – reportedly, “to avoid any problem with the French authorities”…

Nabil Shaath said in “Killing Arafat” that “the French did not really encourage an autopsy”…

Suha had also reportedly opposed an autopsy, but she denied it adamantly again, in “Killing Arafat”.  She has told Al-Jazeera that she simply was overcome and in shock, and did not even think of it.   She then told Le Figaro, in August 2012, that it would have been “dangerous” to bring up poisoning right after Arafat’s death.

However, according to an account written by two Israeli journalists in 2005, Suha refused doing a liver biopsy in a French hospital four days before his death.  Neither she nor her daughter returned to Ramallah for the burial in the Muqata’a, which was a chaotic scene. Arafat’s body was returned to Ramallah by Egyptian helicopter in a sealed coffin on 12 November 2004, and buried in the midst of a churning crowd inside the Muqata’a.  However, according to a lengthy report by Suzanne Goldenberg, published  here on 16 December 2004 by The Guardian newspaper, Sheikh Taissir Tamimi, then the chief Palestinian religious official, had been upset by the non-observance of tradition during the burial, and supervised the exhumation of Arafat’s body at 2 am.  The body, according to this account, was removed from the sealed coffin, and reburied in a shroud.    Tamimi told The Guardian: “We broke the cement and the stones, and we took the coffin out. I saw him, touched him and prayed over him, and I was able to bury him properly”.  Then, the story added, “guards returned the body to its place, a cement container that was built to line and preserve the gravesite in the hope that one day Arafat would be borne to Jerusalem following the creation of a Palestinian state”.

In any case, although poisoning was suspected, there was apparently no effort, even at the time of Arafat’s burial in Ramallah, to take samples from his hair or fingernails for later testing.

Swisher just reported, in “Killing Arafat,” that the decision not to do an autopsy was taken by the “Palestinian leadership.”

After the broadcast of “What Killed Arafat?” in July 2012, the Palestinian investigation is now more closely run by Mahmoud Abbas.  Abbas’ term as President of the Oslo-Accords-created Palestinian Authority has arguably expired [after Arafat’s death, he was elected to a four-year term in January 2005,  which was then extended for another year, until January 2010, to allow for simultaneous balloting on a new Palestine Legislative Council, but the Fatah-Hamas rift has justified indefinite extension].  Abbas continues to hold office until new elections which he himself must call — he has already been ruling by Executive Decree under emergency powers since mid-2007.   Meanwhile, like Arafat, Abbas has consolidated all three  reins of Palestinian political power, including the leadership of Fateh, the largest Palestinian political movement, as well as the Chairmanship of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization [the position which carries with it the title he assumed last year, when he signed the application for UN membership: President of the State of Palestine]…

Meanwhile, Swisher became subject to conspicuous surveillance during working visits to Ramallah, was insulted and treated with disdain by Palestinian security personnel [all shown, in “Killing Arafat”]. The antagonism between Swisher and the Palestinian leadership has only increased.

Swisher has Tweeted this telling result from an Al-Jazeera Arabic opinion poll:
Clayton Swisher @claytonswisher 13 Nov — In a poll commissioned by @kasimf viewers were asked “Do you think the PA wants to find who killed #Arafat. Of 10,438 polled, 93% answer NO.

Continue reading A review of the findings: Arafat's mystery death [murdered by poisoning]

Al Jazeera correspondent in Afghanistan in Israeli jail after returning for vacation to his home + family in Nablus

The Al-Jazeera bureau chief in Afghanistan, Samer Allawi, a Palestinian from the West Bank, has been in Israeli detention for the past week, He was stopped and taken into custody just before crossing the border to Jordan, as he was returning to Afghanistan following a three-week visit to his home and family in the West Bank.

According to a statement issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] in New York, Allawi “was arrested at al-Karama border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank while leaving the Occupied Territories after a three-week vacation in his hometown near Nablus, Al-Jazeera reported. Allawi’s brother, Musaab, told Al-Jazeera that the journalist intended to cross into Jordan then travel back to Kabul. He had entered the West Bank at the same crossing without difficulty three weeks earlier … [T]he authorities provided no justification for holding the journalist, who carries a Jordanian passport, and said only that it was a ‘security-related arrest’, Al-Jazeera reported. On Thursday, Israeli authorities informed Allawi’s employer that his detention would be extended to eight days, but again failed to provide a reason. Majed Khader, program editor and head of assignments at Al-Jazeera, said Allawi told Salim Waqeem, a lawyer hired for him by Al-Jazeera, that he would be charged with transferring money and orders from Afghanistan to the West Bank if he refused to act as an informant…”

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday 16 August here that “Israel has arrested the Al Jazeera’s Afghanistan bureau chief, a Palestinian, on charges of ties to Hamas. Samer Allawi, 46, was picked up August 10 on the border between the West Bank and Jordan, the Arabic-language satellite station said Tuesday. Allawi was detained August 10 after a three-week visit with family in Sabastia, a village adjacent to Nablus”.

The JPost story added that “An Israeli security official confirmed Allawi’s arrest and court appearance but gave no further details on the case. Walied Al-Omary, Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the military court accused Allawi of making contact with members of Hamas’s armed wing. Al Jazeera Arabic’s website posted footage of Allawi appearing in court in an Israel Prison Services uniform. ‘There is nothing in this investigation that I believe harms Israel, like it is being claimed, or has any relationship with my work in this entire region’, he told the judge”…

Continue reading Al Jazeera correspondent in Afghanistan in Israeli jail after returning for vacation to his home + family in Nablus

Quote of the day – 14th in our series: Abbas said leak of Palestine Papers is a "boring soap opera"

Today’s Quote of the Day — even though it was uttered some three weeks ago — comes from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), who “dismissed the leak of hundreds of secret files on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as nothing but a ‘boring soap opera’.”

One place you can find this report published is here.

Abbas also said, to adoring crowds convened by his media counsellors and political advisers upon his return from one of many trips abroad: “We know how to respond to it and how to deal with it … We’re not shocked by this nonsense”.

Yes, the Palestinians know how to deal with it… by letting targeted people, who have become inconvenient, hang out to dry, and then settling scores… Done masterfully.

At a meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah on Sunday, President Abbas received the report of the investigation committee appointed to look into the Palestine Papers — documents leaked to Al-Jazeera, which prepared a series of programmes in late January detailing shocking behavior in the until-then secret negotiations brokered by the U.S,. first under the Bush Administration in the “Annapolis process”, and subsequently under the Obama Administration.

The documents consisted mainly of staff notes of the sessions prepared by the Palestinian negotiating team, and held by the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) of the Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD). ¨[Al-Jazeera prepared very wierd dramatic reenactments, using actors to represent the main figures, of meetings held under the Annapolis process]. But, Al-Jazeera also had documents leaked from one or more security offices, and from the office of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad…

The investigation committee report relied in part on security interviews with each and every one of the current staff members of the NSU + NAD. The finger seems to point to one or more former — now disgruntled — staff members.

The investigation committee also made a number of recommendations, including the replacement of the Chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat — who then resigned (after it was recommended that he be replaced), as he vowed he would do on the David Frost interview program aired a couple of weeks ago on Al-Jazeera English.

“If these documents were liked from my office, I and I alone will be responsible for that”, Erekat told David Frost, “if it is proven”… By that time, Erekat was apparently very well aware that most of the documents were leaked from his office. So, he added, in his remarks to Frost, “So, I don’t think I will remain Chief negotiator forever”.

Another recommendation of the investigation committee is that the NSU + NAD be disbanded.

Staff are convinced that this will happen, and note that their contracts all end on the same date — 31 March. The current prediction is that some of them will be absorbed into the President’s office — Abbas is the person responsible for negotiations anyway. However, the royal-court atmosphere in the President’s office, and the backbiting among ambitious people already there — combined with their gross incompetence in explaining the Palestinian position on anything — do not bode well for the future.

This does signal. with yet one more masterstroke, the relentless process of collecting and centralizing all the reins of power in the President’s hands….

And, yes, it proves the sharp correctness of Abbas’ words that this really is all (just) a soap opera — but it is much more discouraging than boring.

Current affairs, via a friend in Ramallah who loves the pointed political satire of the Palestine TV Program “Watan 3ala Watar” (“Homeland on a Shoestring”) – which is posted on Youtube here:

We also learn today that Abbas issued a Presidential decree Sunday (yesterday), in which it has now been ordained that “Targeting Qatar over leaked papers over” in response to the Al-Jazeera programs, as reported here.

Oh, and by the way, this Presidential decree also reportedly bans “local media” from insulting Qatar, too… The “local” journalists — and the international ones, too — have been silent so far…

And, today, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tendered the resignation of his cabinet … expecting to be asked to form a new and more convenient one.

The Al-Jazeera programs on the Palestine Papers ran for five days — the first three days were hard-hitting, then, once it became apparent how seriously the situation was imploding in Ramallah, with some Al-Jazeera staff saying they feared for their lives — days four and five really pulled punches, and withdrew from more explosive revelations.

Almost all these revelations had been already revealed over the past year in the Israeli media.

All a resourceful journalist, like Al-Jazeera’s Clayton Swisher, had to do was to follow the leads, to track down documents that he knew must exist somewhere. He had the financial backing and the resources of Al-Jazeera to do it, and he had the willing and interested cooperation of disgruntled former staff in Palestinian offices and institutions to do it.

However, it has to be said that for a journalist trying to cover all this, it has been very hard indeed. The Al-Jazeera programs ruined any social life and kept one awake late into the night for over a week. Then, this segue-ing badly right into the Egyptian protests centered on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which confined journalists their computer screens and keyboards for an additional 18-19 days. The effort required endurance, and caused real physical pain, and exhaustion. We badly need a break, some relaxation, a vacation…

Personally, I found then rather reminiscent of the Fahmi Shabaneh expose [about corruption, targetting Abu Mazen’s then-chief of staff Rafiq Husseini] that was only reported because an Israeli TV channel broke the story…

Egyptian protestors stay the course in big turnout on Friday

Al-Jazeera has been shut down on NileSat, and moved to another frequency, notices on Twitter inform us. Today is the day of the “million person” march in Egypt.

Now, livestation.com is overcapacity, too.

A Muslim Brotherhood spokesperson has just said the key demand, for them, is that Husni Mubarak step down. He said Egypt has “an unjust, repressive government”. Other demands are for freedom of expression, and dissolution of the Parliament, and removal of Mubarak’s son Gamal as a prime candidate for replacing his father…

Mubarak had been expected to make a live statement to his nation at 6pm, about 1.5 hours ago, when a 13-hour curfew was to have gone into effect. But, thousands and thousands of Egyptians are still out in the streets in cities around the country.

All protests were banned in Egypt today, too — but that, too, was completely ineffective.

The army was sent out into the streets out of Egypt earlier in the day.

By 7:30 in the evening, Al-Jazeera was reporting that there was no police presence left on the streets. At least two police personnel carriers were burning, after having been set on fire by the protestors.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a live appearance instead (from Washington) in which she called first of all upon the Egyptian government to refrain from using force against the demonstrators. She said that the U.S. supports “the universal human rights of the Egyptian people”, including freedom of expression and assembly. And she called on the government to reverse its unprecedented steps to cut off communication in the country.

UPDATE: Later — after 1 am on Saturday — a recorded statement by Egyptian President Mubarak was broadcast on state television and internationally. Mubarak said there was a “fine line between freedom + chaos”. He said that Egyptians were worried about unrest and insecurity, and fearful for the future. And, he added, “I asked govt to step down today + will name a new one tomorrow”.

After Mubarak’s statement was aired, U.S. President Obama spoke to him by phone, reportedly for 30 minutes — then Obama made his own public on-air statement. Obama said that “our first concern” was to “call on the Egyptian authorities to refrain from using violence… Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people. Wahat is needed are concrete steps to address the grievances of the Egyptian people”. And, Obama said pointedly, “all governments must maintain power by consent, not by coercion”, and added that “the U.S, will continue to stand by the Egyptian people”…

Abbas + Erekat greeted by organized demonstrations of support upon return from Cairo

It’s always been striking how much the Palestinian political style is reminiscent of the Cold War era Soviet bloc, or even of present-day North Korea — though the Palestinians are much looser and more spontaneous…

Today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas returned from a couple of days’ visit to Cairo that just happened to coincide with the big, big, big Al-Jazeera series highlighting discoveries in leaked documents detailing what’s happened in the past couple of years of Israel-Palestinian negotiations. He was greeted by a political demonstration in his favor.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who accompanied Abbas to Cairo, was hoisted, like a bridegroom, on the shoulders of young men in a similar but less glossy demonstration in Jericho upon his return.

[These scenes looked and felt very different from the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square today…]

Then, he gave an interview to Reuters which was posted by Haaretz, in which he said: “Al-Jazeera is inciting against me + my family, “asking Palestinians to shoot me, physically”…

That was even before the third night’s revelations on Al-Jazeera.

In the first segment, a B-movie reenactment of some of the negotiating sessions showed Erekat saying:
“We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun, and the rule of law… We have even killed our own people”.

This was, in fact, reported months ago in the Israeli press.

All Al-Jazeera journalist Clayton Swisher — whose introduction to this issue was as a security guard for the U.S. State Department during former President Bill Clinton’s Camp David talks with Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, and the Taba talks a few months later — had to do was simply follow-up on the reports previously published in the Israeli press. He had the Al-Jazeera organization, with the money and staff and other resources, to do it.

Meanwhile, at least one former consultants to the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department’s Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) has been named as a prime suspect in leaking these documents to Al-Jazeera.

In response, the NSU issued this statement: “We deny unsubstantiated reports in Israeli and other media outlets attributing the source of the alleged leak of classified documents to Negotiations Affairs Department advisors. The PLO is currently investigating the issues surrounding the alleged leaking. Contrary to what these irresponsible and unsubstantiated media reports have alleged, no NAD advisor has been arrested or left the country and all continue to carry out their responsibilities. Accordingly, we demand for all media allegations attributing responsibility to any Negotiations Affairs Department advisor, wherever published or broadcast, to be retracted and redacted immediately. Naming such personnel is irresponsible, constitutes willful slander and very seriously puts at risk the safety of innocent individuals. Accordingly, and pending the results of the PLO investigation currently underway, we additionally demand for corrections to be printed and broadcast conspicuously by all responsible media outlets”.

Many Palestinians in Ramallah are asking this question: Why this timing? Why were these Palestine Papers released now? Probably, simply because they were ready…

But, as the third day of destabilizing revelations coincides with post-Tunisia protests in Egypt and Jordan and Yemen (and a copycat in Lebanon, but for different reasons (Lebanon’s was rather more similar to the Palestinian demonstrations today in support of Abbas and Erekat), the volatility of the situation here increases dramatically.

The organized demonstration against Al-Jazeera in Ramallah yesterday, and for Mahmoud Abbas and Saeb Erekat today, can also be seen as not-so-veiled threats of chaos and mob action against anyone in the opposition, whoever they are.

In the Ramallah office building where Al-Jazeera studios are in the penthouse on the roof, demonstrators threaten the men filming this video:

The ante has been upped to the max.

All sides believe they are being targetted: Al-Jazeera staff, Saeb Erekat, and at least one former adviser to the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department’s Negotiations Support Unit (NSU) amed as a suspect for leaking the documents to Al-Jazeera.

Next, there could be actual killings and blood shed… Suddenly, regrettably, and most unfortunately, this is now in the air…

Israeli officials, who usually love the chance to get a word in, are uncharacteristically silent. Understandably. The future of the Palestinian leadership is now in the balance.

Though officials are silent, the Israeli media is stepping in. The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh wrote today that: “After assuming the role of prosecutor and judge, Al- Jazeera, the Arab world’s most influential TV network, has ruled that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have betrayed their people and must therefore step down from the stage … Al-Jazeera is now waiting for the executioner (the Palestinians, in this case) to carry out the death sentence. Al-Jazeera’s dramatic show trial, which began on Sunday night, has undoubtedly caused massive damage to the PA leadership in the West Bank. The blow is so severe that it’s hard to see how the PA leadership can ever recover … The TV station has already decided that the defendants are guilty of the three charges against them. The station’s unequivocal message to Palestinians is that Abbas and his men are traitors who need to be removed from the scene, and the sooner the better. It’s hard to see how, in light of this damning verdict, the PA will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility. Al- Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests. The damage to the PA’s image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.”. This is posted here.

Another JPost story, by Herb KEenon, says that “Al-Jazeera relentlessly continued to pound the PA leadership Tuesday night with its latest dump of Palestinian documents, essentially accusing it of collaboration with Israel in the killing of terrorists [sic]. In a story on its English web site entitled ‘The al-Madhoun assassination’, the network, basing itself on a handwritten notes of a meeting between then defense minister Shaul Mofaz and PA minister of interior Naser Youssef, Al-Jazeera writes that the PA has ‘shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, the Palestine Papers indicate’.” This is posted here.

Indeed, in the one-hour special on the Palestine Papers on Al-Jazeera tonight (day 3), a report by Mike Hanna from Gaza was aired, in which Hanna said, “The Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which all Palestinians are held hostage to what is called a ‘negotiating process’.”

But, Palestinian Security Services spokesperson General (?) Adnan al-Damiri was cut off during his appearance during the special program when he said (wearing a suit and a tie, and not a military uniform) when he said: “I can say that the security forces of Palestine did not take part at any time [in planning assassinations of Palestinians] … We are a small, new security force and we are under occupation…”

The situation is absolutely explosive.

If the U.S. and Israel don’t do something to support the Palestinian cause (and not just the Palestinian leadership) right now, all bets are off…

Revolution is in the air.

Al-Jazeera staff in Ramallah fear retribution for Palestine Papers leaks

A small demonstration was held in Ramallah’s central Manara Square on Monday — not against the Palestinian negotiators, but against Al-Jazeera, which is going big, big, big with a special multi-part broadcast that started Sunday night and will continue over a couple of days about documents concerning Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in recent years.

Journalists who were there said there were only some tens of demonstrators in Manara Square – and they were carrying signs denouncing Al-Jazeera (“Al-Jazeera = Zionism” and “Al-Jazeera is collaborating with Shabak”).

This small group of demonstrators then tried to enter the office building where Al-Jazeera has its studios on the rooftop, but “Palestinian police calmed them down”, one journalist reported.

He added that the local Al-Jazeera staff is afraid of the reaction. “They were expecting it, and though they were afraid of an even harsher reaction. They are even afraid for their lives”.

Local Al-Jazeera staff were reportedly distancing themselves, in conversations with their journalist colleagues, from this big Al-Jazeera story, and said it came from headquarters in Doha, Qatar, and not from their offices here.

Al-Jazeera has been working on this for several months – one report suggested three months.

It has been clear that although the Palestinian negotiators had agreed to keep silent about the content of discussions, they were also anxious to put out their side of the story once leaks began to flow from the Israeli side, blaming the Palestinians.

A team of producers and reporters and correspondents has been in the Jerusalem-Ramallah area for the past couple of days. A group of Al-Jazeera staff discussing the program on Saturday over supper in the American Colony hotel were overheard saying that only a restricted small circle of staff knew about this program ahead of time.

They thought, correctly, that this was going to be big — and the satellite channel gave the resources to support it.

They also thought that other documents (perhaps from the Israelis) might also be revealed live, on air, as the program continues for several days this week.

Many outside experts and commentators clearly had been given advance copies of some of the revealed material, Wikileaks style (and sworn to secrecy too), and their critiques and commentaries were ready immediately after the first part of the Al-Jazeera special program aired Sunday night.

The Al-Jazeera International staff were, however, apparently not prepared for the angry Palestinian denunciation.

Al-Jazeera’s bureau and staff have regularly had problems with, and been threatened with sanctions from both Israeli and Palestinian governments here on the ground. But this is the first time they have actually spoken about fearing death threats.

Al-Jazeera's "Transparency": Palestinian negotiators hung out to dry

We reported on this blog what Sa’eb Erekat said last May in a speech to an audience of Israeli officials, ex-officials, and journalists at the security think-tank INSS in Tel Aviv. [I was later told that Erekat was very pleased and thought it had been a great success, but Israelis present said that Erekat did not understand how to talk to an Israeli audience…]   At this session in Tel Aviv in May, Erekat told the crowd, who were of course polite, “that the Palestinian side had presented two maps of their own — one offering a territorial swap of 1.9 percent –countering the Olmert proposal for a 6.5 percent swap (including 0.7 percent for a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza). The second map, Erekat said, showed the built-up areas of Israeli settlements that constitute some 1.2 percent of West Bank land.  Erekat added that the 46 square kilometers of “no-man’s land” should be split down the middle ‘according to the Peru-Ecuador formula’  for their border conflict”. Our earlier report is posted here.

We reported also earlier, in March, here, that a Palestinian official in Ramallah said: “maps were ‘shown’ during the Annapolis process of negotiations in 2008. But, he said, the Israeli interlocutors ‘refused to hand over any maps or any papers’ … The Palestinians, he said, ‘gave an offer to exchange [or swap] 1.9 percent of the West Bank. We also showed this to the Americans and gave them [the Americans] a map’. The Israelis, he said, indicated they ‘had an idea of swapping 6.5 percent of the land”…

Here’s what Haaretz reported he’s been saying:
“According to Al-Jazeera, Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to concede almost all of East Jerusalem to Israel.
The Palestinian Authority reportedly offered in 2008 that Israel take control of all neighborhoods in Jerusalem except Har Homa, the first time in history the Palestinians made such a proposal, one that they refused to during the Camp David summit.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, also proposed in an October 2009 meeting that Jerusalem’s Old City be divided, giving Israel control over the Jewish Quarter, part of the Armenian Quarter, and part of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Further details reveal that the Palestinian agreed that solely10,000 Palestinian refugees return to Israel as part of the Palestinian right of return, and that Erekat agreed to the Israeli demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
Among other documents due to be released is an Israeli offer to transfer Israeli Arabs citizens to the territory of a future Palestinian state.
Moreover, Al-Jazeera revealed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was personally notified by a senior Israeli official that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip, the night before Operation Cast Lead. Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly discussed targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza”.
This is posted here.

The Jerusalem Post later reported that Erekat “denied that the PA had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said that when he was asked by Israel to accept this demand, he replied that it was tantamount to asking a Palestinian to join the Zionist movement”. Indeed, that is indeed what I heard him say, several times… This JPost report is posted here.

Al-Jazeera has been working on this for several months. A team of producers and reporters and correspondents has been in the Jerusalem-Ramallah area for the past couple of days. They thought, correctly, that this was going to be big, big, big — and the satellite channel gave the resources to support it. They also were — and are — prepared for other documents (from the Israelis?) to be revealed live, on air, as the program continues for several days this week

Many people had advance copies of some of this material.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he didn’t know where the documents had come from, but said that all information about the negotiations had been shared with his Arab brothers. Others said that the source came from within the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department itself (run by Erekat) — or perhaps some of its discontents.

It mighty be too much of a compliment to suggest that the suspended Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Dahlan and some of his group of supporters may have played a role… though this may in fact be the case.

In any case, it is worth reproducing a lot of Karma Nabulsi wrote almost immediately after the program in The Guardian’s Comment is Free Section here that: “It’s over. Given the shocking nature, extent and detail of these ghastly revelations from behind the closed doors of the Middle East peace process, the seemingly endless and ugly game is now, finally, over. Not one of the villains on the Palestinian side can survive it. With any luck the sheer horror of this account of how the US and Britain covertly facilitated and even implemented Israeli military expansion – while creating an oligarchy to manage it – might overcome the entrenched interests and venality that have kept the peace process going. A small group of men who have polluted the Palestinian public sphere with their private activities are now exposed. For us Palestinians, these detailed accounts of the secretly negotiated surrender of every one of our core rights under international law (of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, on annexing Arab Jerusalem, on settlements) are not a surprise. It is something that we all knew – in spite of official protests to the contrary – because we feel their destructive effects every day. The same is true of the outrageous role of the US and Britain in creating a security bantustan, and the ruin of our civic and political space. We already knew, because we feel its fatal effects … The release into the public domain of these documents is such a landmark because it destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process. Everything to do with it relied upon a single axiom: that each new initiative or set of negotiations with the Israelis, every policy or programme (even the creation of undemocratic institutions under military occupation), could be presented as carried out in good faith under harsh conditions: necessary for peace, and in the service of our national cause. Officials from all sides played a double game vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It is now on record that they have betrayed, lied and cheated us of basic rights, while simultaneously claiming they deserved the trust of the Palestinian people”

She continued: “This claim of representative capacity – and worse, the assertion they were representing the interests of Palestinians in their struggle for freedom – had become increasingly thin over the last decade and a half. The claim they were acting in good faith is absolutely shattered by the publication of these documents today, and the information to be revealed over this coming week. Whatever one’s political leanings, no one, not the Americans, the British, the UN, and especially not these Palestinian officials, can claim that the whole racket is anything other than a brutal process of subjugating an entire people … The Palestinian leadership’s weak and incompetent posturing is the opposite of dignified and honourable national representation, and proves useless to boot. On the positive side, had such deals eventually come to light, Palestinians would have rejected them comprehensively. But the worst betrayal has been what this hypocrisy has bequeathed to the young generation of Palestinians. These officials have led a new generation to believe that participating in public governance is base and self-seeking, that joining any political party is the least useful method to advance principals and create change. Through their harmful example, they have alienated young Palestinians from their own history of resistance to colonial and military rule, so they now believe that tens of thousands of brilliant, imaginative and extraordinarily brave Palestinians never existed or, worse, fought and died for nothing” …

Yes, and now I mourn for those who died.