James Zogby of the Zogby Research Service (ZRS) is not known to be a friend of Israel. In fact, he serves as an effective spokesperson for the Palestinians. An Arab-Palestinian himself, Zogby has been a harsh critic of Israel. Yet, in an opinion piece in Cairo’s Ahramonline (the online version of Egypt’s major outlet Al-Ahram, September 7, 2020) Zogby expressed disappointment with the Palestinian leadership lack of vision. He expressed it in his piece titled Absent But Needed: A Palestinian Vision.
Zogby pointed out that, “what had gone wrong with the Palestinian cause then (and now) is “visionless leadership.” He elaborated, that they (the leadership) “Lost their spark and their way after repeated costly setbacks: Black September in Jordan, their use of horrific acts of terror against innocents, their expulsion from Beirut in 1982, and their foolish embrace of Saddam in 1990.” The latter actions were decisions Yasser Arafat took in provoking an Israeli response to repeated terror attacks by Palestinians commanded by Arafat, including the attempted assassination of Shlomo Argov, Israel’s ambassador to London, which led to the First Lebanon War.
It was Arafat’s decision in 1990 to support Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s dictator, brutal invasion of Kuwait. As a result of Arafat’s action, the Kuwaiti government expelled half a million Palestinians who lived in the oil rich sheikdom. What Zogby failed to mention was the fact that Arafat once again provoked the Second intifada which killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians and brought destruction and economic ruin to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Arafat, who gave Hamas a ‘green light,’ to execute suicide bombing against Israeli civilian targets was in total violation of the Oslo Accords. He hoped that it would weaken and demoralize Israel, then Israel would fall apart once the Palestinians launched a full-scale armed struggle.
Zogby suggested that more recently, the vehement reaction in Ramallah by the Palestinian Authority leadership to the Israel-United Arab Emirates peace deal, “By focusing their wrath on the recent UAE-Israel accord, the Palestinian leaders missed the mark. The UAE’s move to normalize in order to stop annexation is not the cause of Palestinian woes; it is a symptom of the state of affairs that has for too long plagued the noble cause of justice for the long-oppressed Palestinian people.” Clearly, the Palestinians have once again missed an opportunity to be part of a positive development brought about by the Trump administration’s “Peace of the Century” deal. It might not have satisfied all of the Palestinian aspirations, including the disappearance of the Jewish state, but it would have given the Palestinian people an economic stake that would have improved their lives, and that of their children.
Zogby takes pride, and expressed his love with Palestine in the early 1970’s. He said that he “caught the spark during (his) time in Lebanon, and in Jordan’s refugee camps.” One wonders how proud Zogby was of the many Palestinian lives lost in Jordan when his fellow Palestinians hijacked western airplanes and blew them up in Jordan, which precipitated a bloody war between the Palestinian terrorist/hijackers and the Jordanian army. In Lebanon, Arafat’s “state within a state” in what was at the time called “Fatah-land” in southern Lebanon, sparked the Lebanese civil war that devastated Lebanon, and cost the lives of tens of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinians. When one counts the Palestinian-Arab casualties in Jordan and Lebanon, the numbers dwarf all the Palestinian casualties suffered at the hands of the Israelis.
Zogby bemoaned the current state of affairs in the Palestinian Authority. He wrote, “Today, it is with sadness that we must acknowledge that the Palestinian movement is without a clear vision or a strategy to move forward. For all intents and purposes, the Palestine Liberation Organization has become a hollowed-out shell of its former self. Palestinian refugees are without hope and support. The Palestinian Authority has become a dependency relying on international support to pay for its bloated bureaucracy and security forces. Denied by a repressive Israel the opportunity to develop an independent economy, as in pre-Oslo times, over 100,000 Palestinians are forced to rely on day-labor employment in Israel or Israeli settlements.”
Zogby ignores the corruption in the Palestinian Authority (PA), and among the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leadership. Instead, he blamed Israel for “denying the Palestinians the opportunity to develop their own economy.” The fact is that the PA is in control of the Palestinian economy. Israel does not interfere in the economic affairs of the PA, and if anything, Israel remits to the PA the taxes collected from Palestinians working in Israel. In fact, most Palestinians prefer to work in Israel because of higher wages, and better working conditions. The PA has not created jobs in the private sector and as Zogby alluded to, it has, “it’s bloated bureaucracy and security forces.” Zogby, however, twisted reality when he stated that 100,000 Palestinians are “forced” to rely on day-labor employment in Israel or Israeli settlements.” Without Israel, these Palestinians and their families would starve. Israel is a G-d sent gift for them, and they appreciate it.
Bassem Eid, a Palestinian civil rights activist, and former refugee, pointed out to this reporter, that, “Israel gives us an opportunity to keep our dignity. We don’t need to shout about our identity, we know who we are. We need the dignity that comes with jobs, and making a living, and the PA has failed to do it for my fellow Palestinians.” Sadly, Palestinian terror has forced Israel to limit the entry of more Palestinians into Israel. The fact that the PA (which uses international donations) “pays to slay,” namely, payments to families of Palestinian terrorists who have murdered Israelis, as well as to Palestinian terrorist prisoners in Israeli jails, convicted of killing or injuring Israelis, is deterring Israel from admitting more Palestinians workers.
The ZRS polling, according to James Zogby, showed that, “Palestinians have lost hope,” and “don’t see how the current leaders get them there (toward an independent state).” They have also “lost respect for the Palestinian leadership.” Considering the fact that the current and past Arab Palestinian leaders responded with a resounding ‘NO’ to every peace initiative that included statehood proposed by the British (Peel Commission 1937), the UN (1947 Partition Plan), the U.S. (July 2000 Clinton Camp David Summit) and Israel (Prime Ministers Ehud Barak 2000, and Ehud Olmert 2008), it is indicative of Palestinian lack of interest in having their own state. Lastly, the Oslo Accords of 1993 were violated by Arafat who initiated the Second and bloody intifada.
Zogby is untruthful about Palestinian hopes. Both Arafat (in 2000) and Mahmoud Abbas (2008) didn’t want to sign off on ending the conflict with Israel, despite generous offers from Israel and the U.S. for Palestinian statehood. The Trump administration’s more recent “Peace of the Century” would have enormously improved Palestinian living conditions. Abbas, nevertheless, rejected it even before it was presented.
The only explanation for the Palestinian leadership always saying ‘NO’ is that for several generations now, Palestinians were indoctrinated by their leaders to expect the destruction of the Jewish state, rather than seeking peace and amity with Israel. Unfortunately, destroying Israel has been the greater motivation than caring to create their own independent state. All of the above mentioned opportunities would have provided for a sovereign Palestinian state.
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