Outrage at Abbas accusation of genocide

October 2, 2014
Sarah Benton

This posting has 4 items, plus link to transcript of President Abbas’ speech at foot:
1) +972: Accusing Israel of ‘genocide’: Major fail, Larry Derfner angrily attacks Abbas for accusing Israel of genocide;
2) Al Monitor: Abbas’ speech warning siren for Israel, Akiva Eldar says Abbas’s knowing use of the word genocide expressed his view that trying to engage Israel in civil discourse is pointless;
3) Haaretz: Why Abbas screamed, Amira Hass argues Abbas used ‘high decibel’ words because no-one is listening;
4) Ma’an news: PLO: Netanyahu UN speech ‘blatant manipulation of facts’;

President Abbas walks to the podium, UNGA, September 26th, 2014. Photo by Mike Segar, Reuters

Accusing Israel of ‘genocide’: Major fail

And deservedly so, because it’s a false accusation. This is not how to fight the occupation, this is how to help strengthen it.

By Larry Derfner, +972
September 29, 2014

Mahmoud Abbas’ speech last Friday at the United Nations General Assembly gave the highest-profile-ever exposure to the accusation, popular among anti-Zionists, that Israel practices “genocide” against the Palestinians, and that the war in Gaza was a genocidal one. That’s the highlight of the speech that was picked for the headline in any number of major international news outlets; in Israel the speech is already known, and will be forever, as Abbas’ “genocide speech.” That one word seems to have overshadowed everything else he said at the UN podium, which is a pity, because his basic message – that 21 years of internationally-sponsored peace negotiations have screwed the Palestinians, and they will stand for no more – is right and true, and must be heard, in exactly the furious, combative tone he adopted.

If his use of the term “genocide” to describe the occupation and the war in Gaza were truthful but “impolitic,” that would be one thing. But it’s not true – it’s plain false. And on top of that, it’s impolitic in the extreme – it’s politically suicidal, precisely because it’s so clearly false. It’s an Achilles heel in the argument against the occupation. It allows the right wing to sweep aside everything else, in this case every true thing that Abbas said at the UN, and zero in on that one blatant falsehood. It stamps the anti-occupation cause with fanaticism, with reckless disregard for the truth, with hysterical hatred for Israel. That one stupid word.

Using it against Israel may work well to “energize the base” in closed, anti-Zionist circles; it may also get some college kids to join a protest. But now that Abbas has, for the first time, put the term out in the mainstream, it is so painfully obvious that accusing Israel of genocide is to shoot oneself in the foot, if not the head.

When you accuse Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians, you are accusing it of deliberately, systematically executing them en masse, hundreds of thousands or millions of them. You’re accusing Israel of an attempt to exterminate an entire people, like the Nazis did the Jews, like the Ottoman Turks did the Armenians, like the Hutus did the Tutsis in Rwanda. That’s what people think of when they hear the word “genocide.”

That was not the war in Gaza, and that’s not the occupation.

But many anti-Zionists disregard the common understanding of the word, and instead point to the “official” definition adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, and still used at The Hague:

[G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (f) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

As Mitchell Plitnick just wrote, “Now, it is easy to state that Israel would love to see the Palestinians gone. But have their actions been motivated by the ‘intent to destroy’ them? If so, they’ve done a lousy job of it as the Palestinian population has grown significantly and consistently over the years.”

And if the UN definition of genocide does fit Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, or the war in Gaza, then what unjust rule of one nation by another, or what unjust, one-sided, devastating war, was not genocide?

No, the term, either in its colloquial or UN-approved meaning, misses the truth by a great distance.

It seems “genocide” has entered the far Left’s vocabulary for no other reason than to satisfy its own rising fury at Israel. Sorry, the rising fury is absolutely justified, but it’s still not an excuse to talk bullshit. Especially when there are so many harsh terms that can be applied to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians that are indeed accurate. The ones I use – sparingly, though, because otherwise they lose their effect – are “military dictatorship” and “colonialism” (for the West Bank), along with “tyranny” and “oppression” (for the Palestinians as a whole).

One of the other terms Abbas used in his speech was “ethnic cleansing.” It hurts me as an Israeli to hear it, but I have to admit it’s a true characterization of the Nakba. And while current Israeli policies toward Palestinians in East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank’s Area C don’t fit the popular image of “ethnic cleansing,” they do fit the literal meaning.

And let’s not forget “apartheid.” I don’t use the term because it’s based on racial supremacism, while the occupation is based on national supremacism, and this is a major difference. But the most significant feature of apartheid – that of one people officially, as a matter of policy, keeping another people down by force – is the most significant feature of the occupation, too, so the comparison is certainly more true than false. Besides, good Zionists like Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon and star newspaper columnist Nahum Barnea have made the comparison, so it can’t be dismissed as another exercise in slanderous Israel-bashing by the “loony Left.”

Not so with “genocide.” Using it puts you an inch away from equating Israel with Nazi Germany. This sort of rhetoric will not stand the light of day. When Abbas used it in his UN speech, he might as well have put a “kick me” sign on his back as he left the podium. And I’m just dreading to hear Bibi take him up on that inadvertent offer when he makes his own speech at the UN later Monday.

Abbas’ speech warning siren for Israel

The UN General Assembly speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reflects first and foremost the Palestinians’ despair of any hope for peace with the current Israeli leadership.

By Akiva Eldar, trans. Ruti Sinai, Al Monitor
September 29, 2014

The Sept. 26 speech delivered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the UN General Assembly was harsh, annoying and even depressing. Most worrying of all, however, the Palestinian leader, who was present at the birth of the Oslo Accord in 1993, appears to have decided to break all the rules. The assertion that “we will not forget, and we will not forgive,” which he proclaimed in the context of Israel’s activities in Gaza, was the warning siren for an impending earthquake.

Abbas is no political novice. One could assume he knew that accusing Israel of genocide would be gratifying to the ears of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who did indeed describe the speech as “inciteful.” It stands to reason that the Palestinian leader knew his speech would provide fodder for Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who was quick to declare the entire Palestinian leadership “recalcitrant.” The veteran Palestinian statesman was also surely not surprised by the public rebuke of the US State Department, whose spokeswoman said the speech did not contribute to advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The main problem — and this should be the first and foremost concern of every Israeli and anyone else who cherishes Israel’s character as a Jewish and democratic state — is that the Palestinian leader does not really care what the leaders in Jerusalem say and what the US administration thinks of him.

An Israeli source who visited Abbas’ headquarters in Ramallah in late September was not surprised by the content of his speech, not even its harsh tone. The visitor, who has maintained a long-term relationship with the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership, got the impression from talking discreetly to Abbas and his close aides that they had lost all remaining hope that negotiations with Netanyahu would bring the Palestinians closer to a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. Abbas is also not deluding himself that on the eve of the Nov. 4 congressional elections, President Barack Obama will back a UN Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state, thereby turning Israel into a country occupying the land of a UN member state.

Instead of strengthening the standing of the PA by taking advantage of the weakness of Hamas, which is licking the wounds it sustained in Operation Protective Edge, Israel chose to humiliate the PA by expropriating some 4,000 dunams (almost 1,000 acres) of land on the outskirts of Bethlehem. The Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has given up on the lame Israeli peace camp headed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Isaac Herzog.

Until further notice, should it ever come, the hollow term “peace process” is best deleted from the political lexicon and replaced by the worrisome term “confrontation process.” This process, as Abbas keeps pointing out to his Israeli and European visitors, including my source, will likely be inaugurated by petitioning the International Criminal Court in The Hague against the State of Israel and high-ranking political and military officials for construction of the settlements and violation of the Palestinians’ human and property rights. The Palestinians assume that Israel will react harshly to such a move, as it did in response to the establishment of the unity government with Hamas in April. Ramallah’s next move in the planned confrontation process will be to reduce its ties with Israel, including minimizing security cooperation.

Nonetheless, the mechanism of the PA, which provides tens of thousands of jobs and attracts funds from donor countries, will continue to exist. Not only that, but according to the agreement reached with Hamas’ leadership Sept. 25, it will pay the salaries of Hamas officials employed in government offices in Gaza. Al-Monitor has learned from a senior Israeli official that on the eve of Operation Protective Edge, Israeli defense officials warned Netanyahu that continuing to hermetically seal off the flow of funds to pay wages in Gaza was a recipe for a violent explosion. Those same officials warn that an Israeli attempt to derail the agreement on handing over the Gaza border crossings to the Hamas-Fatah government could result in renewed rocket fire in the south and its spread to the eastern front.

Netanyahu feels far more comfortable in a confrontation process than a peace process. With the whole world quaking at the images of Islamic State (IS) murderers beheading journalists, who cares about the Israeli occupation and the settlement enterprise? The Saudi initiative “was set up in another period: before the rise of Hamas; before Hamas took over Gaza; before [IS] took over chunks of Syria and Iraq,” Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post when asked whether he would accept the plan, which offers Israel peace in return for relinquishing territories it occupies. What is needed now, said Netanyahu, is ”to create the equation between our battle against Hamas, and the West’s battle against [IS].” He is convinced that if the West keeps fighting against IS, more people will understand the threat that Israel faces, and the stinging international criticism against it will subside.

Let’s assume Netanyahu is right, and Hamas’ crimes in the West Bank and Gaza are identical to those of IS in Iraq and Syria. What does that comparison have to do with the international criticism of Israel’s control over millions of politically disenfranchised Arabs and the expropriation of their lands? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and occupation of the territories were born many years before the threat of IS emerged and before the Muslim terrorists conquered land in the region. After the Western-Arab coalition wipes out IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will no more disappear than it did after the US-led coalition helped put an end to the life of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with the second Gulf War.

Mahmoud Abbas will turn 80 in six months, on March 26. We may be witnessing the last call by a Palestinian leader from the podium of the UN General Assembly to save the peace. Let’s hope we don’t miss him.

Why Abbas screamed

We tend to scream when people aren’t listening to us. Israelis are experts at not listening.

By Amira Hass, Haaretz
October 01, 2014

The use of the word “genocide” by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his United Nations speech indicates verbal distress – not only in describing the latest war (and those that preceded it) in Gaza, but also in defining Israeli control over the Palestinians (on both sides of the Green Line.) Without getting into the question of whether Abbas meant what he said or simply understood that he needed to convey his people’s feelings better than he had in the past, the entire speech boiled down to a scream. And because he couldn’t scream in the auditorium, he used high-decibel words instead.

We tend to scream when people aren’t listening to us. Israelis are experts at not listening. So, instead of talking about their failure to listen, they divert the discussion to the scream. That is the trap inherent in every scream, or in every deviation from the respectable conventions of what we call normative. The scream elicits condemnation from those cultured people who don’t scream. They do many other things – destroy, kill, expel – but they behave appropriately at cocktail parties.

Abbas isn’t alone in his verbal distress; it is shared by everyone who isn’t merely interested in describing the existing reality in the terms found in books and essays, but also wants to change it. Why do they reach the point of screaming? Because the many people who benefit from the existing reality not only don’t want it to change – they don’t want to be told that it’s intolerable, unjust and unfair either. After all, none of the negatives affect them.

Anyone who doesn’t make do with slogans or clichés ends up in verbal distress. Write about one man’s eviction from his house and land, and Israelis see it as an isolated, unrepresentative example. Write about evictions and expulsions, and it will fade into statistics that we can’t connect with. Tell about one child killed by soldiers, and Israelis’ hearts go out to the soldiers, whose lives were in danger. Tell about hundreds of Palestinians children killed by the Israel Defense Forces, and Israelis will talk about the rocket that landed in an empty Israeli kindergarten. When the details and the facts and the significance are erased, the words that conceptualize them turn into slogans and clichés in the ears of those who hear them.

Therefore, we have to reinvent the wheel every time – to tell the same story in a different fashion. The past 25 years can be summarized as follows: All the methods used by the Palestinians to express their resistance to the foreign rule imposed on them have failed. Israel didn’t listen to the message; it merely improved and escalated the methods used to suppress it (yes, stones and rockets, like speeches and essays, are ways for the subjugated to say they’ve had it.) It improved and escalated – such a cultured country – and then complained that the Palestinians continued to resist.

The improvements and escalation were suitable for all the methods employed by the master nation: bureaucratic and technical methods (restrictions on movement, control via permits, construction and development bans,) military methods (arms and ammunition whose lethality jumps by several levels each time) and diplomatic methods.

It seems we have no equal in the cunning and deceit with which we rule over another people. Many Israelis, good and bad alike, have acted with cunning and deceit in turning the endless negotiations into a license for expanding the settlement enterprise, forcing the Palestinians into crowded territorial cells and undermining their deep, historic and natural connection to this land, their homeland. They foisted responsibility for Palestinian civilians onto the Palestinian leadership, but deprived it of the powers and resources it needed to fulfill this responsibility. Only this diplomatic cunning and deceit can explain why Abbas, the great believer in negotiations, screamed at the United Nations.

PLO: Netanyahu UN speech ‘blatant manipulation of facts’

By AFP / Ma’an news
October 01, 2014

JERUSALEM — The Palestine Liberation Organization said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blatantly manipulated the facts when he compared Hamas with the Islamic State group in a UN speech on Monday.

“Netanyahu’s speech at the UN was a blatant manipulation of facts and attempted at misleading the audience through a combination of hate language, slander, and argument of obfuscation,” PLO executive member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement in English.

“Obviously Netanyahu has lost touch with reality, particularly in refusing to acknowledge the fact of the occupation itself or the actions of the Israeli army of occupation in committing massacres and war crimes,” she added.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly earlier, Netanyahu denied accusations of Israeli war crimes during its July-August offensive on the Gaza Strip that killed 2,140 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and left the enclave in ruins.

He instead said that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was jointly culpable with Hamas, which fired thousands of rockets into Israel, bringing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes down on Gaza residents.

“Hamas embedded its missile batteries in residential areas and told Palestinians to ignore Israel’s warnings to leave,” Netanyahu said.

“I say to president Abbas, these are the war crimes committed by your Hamas partners in the national unity government which you head and you are responsible for,” he said.

The Islamic State and Hamas, Netanyahu added, “share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control.”

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu was “portraying Hamas and IS as two faces of the same coin” although “Hamas is a national liberation movement, while the (Israeli) occupier is the source of evil and terrorism in the world.”

“Israel’s terrorism is a coin with one face only,” Abu Zuhri said.

He also rejected claims that Hamas used civilians as human shields, saying they were completely baseless and an attempt to justify Israeli forces’ killing of more than 500 Palestinian children during the offensive.

In his own address to the General Assembly on Friday, Abbas vowed to seek war crimes prosecutions against Israel over the 50-day conflict in Gaza, which he called a “war of genocide.”

Netanyahu hit back on Monday with a jibe at Abbas’s 1980 doctoral thesis in which he questioned whether six million Jews were really killed in the Holocaust.

“In what moral universe does genocide include warning the enemy’s civilian population to get out of harm’s way?” he asked.

“I suppose it’s the same moral universe where a man who wrote a dissertation of lies about the Holocaust, and who insists on a Palestine free of Jews … can stand at this podium and shamelessly accuse Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing,” he said.

In his address last week to the 193-nation Assembly, Abbas asserted that years of peace negotiations had failed, stressing that Israel was forging ahead with settlements and maintaining a blockade of Gaza despite formal pledges of peace.

The latest round of Israeli-Palestinian talks, fostered by US Secretary of State John Kerry, collapsed in April amid bitter recriminations on both sides.

Transcript of Abbas’s speech, Palestinian Authority President Abbas’ address to the UN General Assembly in New York

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