The “Moderate” Palestinian Faction’s Vision

Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas: The face of “moderate” Palestinian irredentism


Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum offered this accurate assessment of today’s (Thursday, May 28, 2009) scheduled meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and President Obama,  “…President Abbas is too weak to achieve any accomplishments for the Palestinians…particularly as the president’s term has ended, he no longer represents the Palestinians.” Barhoum then noted that, at any rate “We [Hamas] will not abide by any agreement with any party in the world.”


Having written at some length recently about the Hamas Covenant—a document redolent with jihad and Muslim eschatology-inspired annihilationist Jew-hatred, it is worth re-visiting the PLO Covenant of the erstwhile “moderate” Fatah/PLO faction of Palestinian leaders represented by President Abbas, as seen through the prism of a brilliant, analysis by Yehoshafat Harkabi, originally published in 1979. As a fitting preface, Benny Morris in the book “One State, Two States” just published by Yale University Press, decries the “mendacious implication” of Palestinian agit-prop, pseudo-academic Rashid Khalidi, and his ilk, that the PLO Covenant was ever “amended in a positive, two-state direction.”


What follows are extensive extracts from Harkabi’s sadly timeless 1979 critique, entitled, “The Palestinian Covenant and its Meaning”:


[pp. 11-13] “The Palestinian Covenant declares as its central tenet a total repudiation of the existence of Israel, and institutionalizes this stand and the theoretical and practical implications that derive from it in an ideological system. The claim that Israel should not exist is implied in almost half of its 33 articles, including those that are formulated as definitions and axioms. By definition, the demand for the demise of Israel becomes a matter of an inevitable necessity, a kind of scientific truth. Israel must cease to exist not so much because the Palestinians have an interest in her disappearance, but because this disappearance is derived from the definition of Palestinism as the attribute of both a people and a country. Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinians and must not be separated from the Arab world; and the Palestinians are an integral part of the Arab nation. The whole of Palestine must be restored to them and put under their sovereignty, because only in Palestine in its entirety could they realize their self determination, redeem their personality from alienation and regain their dignity and freedom. This conception is complemented by the theory, that is also formulated as a definition, that the Jews are not a nation and thus on principle do not deserve to have a state of their own, nor can they as a non-nation maintain it. Precisely because Israel contradicts such axioms both in regard to the territory she has occupied and the essence of the Israeli Jews, it is concluded that its establishment could only have been accomplished as an historical act of aggression and plunder by a despicable movement such as Zionism. Zionism is condemned both because it is racist and linked with imperialism and because evil flows from its very essence. The abolition of Israel’s existence is legal and also beneficial to humanity, the Arabs, and Palestinians. The Covenant thus encompasses intrinsic, moral, utilitarian, volitional, legal and historical arguments, which all converge into a total negation, as a matter of principle, of the State of Israel in any form or size. The plethora of arguments in the Covenant as to why Israel should not exist perhaps have a cumulative effect, impelling the PLO leaders and their public to believe that there is no atrocity that cannot be justified in order to bring about the liquidation of Israel.


One must be cautious and restrained in assessing national movements and their doctrines, especially when they are at loggerheads with one’s own. However, I cannot help feeling that the Covenant is an ugly document according to its stand. It is not a manifesto of an extreme, lunatic fringe fraction, but the essence of the outlook of the center and mainstream of the Palestinian movement. The Covenant represents an egoistic stand that does not show the slightest consideration for the adversary, nor any trace of recognition that he too may have a grievance, a claim and justice. The Palestinian movement claims absoluteness and ‘totality’—there is absolute justice in the Palestinian stand in contrast to the absolute injustice of Israel; an unqualified Manichaean division of good and evil; right is on the Palestinian side only; only they are worthy of self-determination; the Israelis are barely human creatures who at most may be tolerated in the Palestinian state as individuals or as a religious community [NOTE: aptly termed the Palestinian dhimma by Bat Ye’or in her “The Dhimmi,” p. 390] with their numbers reduced to 5 per cent of their present level (Artcile 6 in the 1968 version) and then assimilated in an Arab environment; the historical link of the Jews with the land of Israel in Judaism is a fraud; international decisions such as the Mandate granted by the League of Nations and the United Nations Partitions Resolution are all consigned to nothingness in a cavalier manner.


The Covenant, from beginning to end, in every one of its articles, is characterized by one-sidedness; the Palestinians arrogate rights that they are not prepared to grant to their rivals. There is no ray of light in Zionism; it is totally depraved. History is distorted—Zionism is represented as if it were from the start a conquering movement, while in fact its achievements were brought about by hard labor and its lands bought with money, and a case can be made that the Arabs by their attacks on Israel forced it into conquests. As against the vices of Zionism, Palestinians bathe in self-righteousness, conferring on themselves spiritual virtues and moral values. The Covenant is a document of arrogance, without a sign of humility that should be the lot of the human condition; it is completely expressed in absolute terms, without traces of any relativity.”


[pp. 15-16] “Despite its blatant anti-Israel content. The Palestinian Covenant does not contain the expression ‘liquidation of Israel’ (the nearest expressions are: the ‘elimination of Zionism in Palestine’ (Article 15); ‘entire illegality of the establishment of Israel’ (Article 19); and ‘destroy the Zionist presence’ (Article 22). In  their dispute with Israel the Arabs have spoken in algebraic terms, whose meaning has been the liquidation of Israel, without always spelling it out. After 1967, there has developed in the principal Arab circles a trend to present Israel with supposedly reasonable demands and formulate a political plan of action that would appear feasible and just: the aim was to demonstrate a pragmatic approach and give an impression of moderation, while glossing over the situation that would result from the fulfillment of these demands, and which would bring closer the possibility of achieving the old goal—the abolition of Israel’s existence. Israel’s refusal to abide by these demands has been presented as intransigence which was perpetuating the dispute. In a sophisticated move of this kind the Arabs have aspired to win over public opinion from recognition of the legitimacy of their demands and their plan of action to a recognition, even tacit, of the legitimacy of their final goal, which could remain extremist. They have combined tactical flexibility with strategic rigidity, while putting off the discussion of their long term aims, or the situation that would transpire with the fulfillment of their demands. In this way, they have also endeavored to turn Israel into a guilty defendant while evading commitments to end the conflict in a situation of permanent coexistence. In the Palestinian arenas, the Arabs emphatically demand national self-determination for the Palestinians, playing down the latent significance in the fulfillment of this demand according to the conception of the PLO, whom the Arab states have authorized to formulate the Palestinian claims. This self-determination involves the right to define the destiny of the whole of Palestine by establishing an Arab nation-state over the entire territory while abrogating the Israelis’ right to self-determination and the right to have a Jewish state. [Note: On Palestinian Authority TV April 27, 2009, Abbas himself confirmed this position when he mocked the notion of Israel as a Jewish State.]


The magic formula uttered by commentators that Arab extremism is merely a display of emotionalism that should not be taken at its face value does not apply with regard to a meticulously drafted and polished doctrinal document such as the Palestinian Covenant. The rejection of Israel in the Covenant is not an emotional outburst or a rhetorical expedient, but a contrived political conception, a carefully worked out doctrine, and a well-built ideology. It is not hatred, but reasoned hostility, on the cognitive and not just affective level. The Covenant is the soul of the PLO and the PLO is still today the central factor of the Palestinian camp. A declaration of the leaders in the West Bank that the PLO represents them means that the Covenant, with all its absolutist implications, is their guiding light. This applies to the Israeli Arabs who identify with the PLO…The Arab states cannot disclaim responsibility for the PLO absolutism which they have most authoritatively endorsed.”


[p.20] “…[O]ne has to distinguish carefully between what formula or phrase constitutes a real change in the PLO’s position and what is only a pseudo-change or pseudo-moderation. For instance, the announcement of PLO readiness to accept a state on the West Bank was presented by PLO spokesmen and hailed by its sympathizers as a momentous change and some even explained that such a state hides somewhere in its profundities an incipient readiness to recognize Israel. That this is not the case is attested by the resolutions of the 12th and 13th Palestinian National Councils. Acceptance of such a state was stipulated as a part of an incremental process aimed at Israel’s demise and buttressed by the explicit condition that the acceptance does not involve recognition of peace and secure borders.”

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