Thursday, October 03, 2013

3-Oct-13: The business of terror: how money-making and power impact the search for peace

Mahmoud Abbas [Image Source]
Corruption, money and terrorism have always been closely intermingled and nowhere more than in terrorism's Palestinian Arab variant. Illustrating this again, the Wall Street Journal carries an article today by Sohrab Ahmari, entitled "An American Blogger vs. Palestine's First Family". 

It opens with this:
In June 2012, Jonathan Schanzer, a vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote online for Foreign Policy magazine about allegations of corruption surrounding the sons of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Tarek and Yasser... Schanzer had detailed Yasser Abbas' business empire, noting that it includes a monopoly on the distribution of some U.S. cigarette brands in the Palestinian territories; an engineering firm that in 2005 built a sewage system in Hebron with $2 million paid by the U.S. government; the chairmanship of a publicly traded insurance company; and a construction firm that has also received U.S. taxpayer funds...  In September 2012, Yasser Abbas filed a libel suit against Schanzer and Foreign Policy. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan tossed out the case last week, concluding that the suit was intended to silence critics...
Schanzer's Foreign Policy article ["The Brothers Abbas | Are the sons of the Palestinian president growing rich off their father's system?", June 5, 2012] is online here.

That WSJ report prompts us to recall what we wrote here 15 months ago when Schanzer's allegations appeared. We noted how dishonesty and embezzlement on a colossal scale in the Palestinian Authority had not been interred with the dead Arafat, the exhumation of whose body was then also a news item. Arafat's widow Suha had for years embodied the brazenness and venality [see our post from May 16, 2012] that characterize the ongoing exploitation by higher-up Palestinian Arabs of those lower down. 

Following Arafat, his successor Mahmoud Abbas became the focus of enquiring investigators. Published analysis in July 2012, and no less true today, remind us again of the practical reasons why peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding with the Palestinian Arabs are, and remain, so elusive.

Consider Jonathan Schanzer's testimony given to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. A brief extract:
In the aftermath of the Hamas coup in Gaza in 2007, during which the terrorist group overran the Palestinian Authority (PA) and seized control of the territory, Washington panicked. We threw all of the resources at our disposal at Mahmoud Abbas in the belief that he was the moderate alternative to Hamas. Yet in providing him with cash, intelligence, military assistance, and other valuable services to shore up his rule, we convinced Abbas that there was virtually nothing he could do, short of starting a war with Israel, that could prompt Washington to challenge his authority. Over the last five years, Abbas’ rule has reflected his complete sense of security. He has refused to engage in bilateral talks with the Israelis. He has attempted to declare a state unilaterally—outside the scope of the Palestinians’ international agreements—at the United Nations. And in the process, he has consolidated both economic and political power to the extent that few, if any, Palestinians can challenge his rule. The West, consumed with other challenges, including a teetering European economy, Iran’s nuclear program, and the Arab Spring, has given Abbas a free pass.
Schanzer's testimony in full appears in a well-named monograph: "Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption Within The Palestinian Political Establishment".

You get a sense of just how noxious this Mahmoud Abbas free pass is, in an article by Adam Kredo, "Lifestyles of the rich and Palestinian: PA President Stealing Millions in Aid, Middle East Experts Say". This appeared on July 11, 2012 in the Washington Free Beacon. An extract:
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has allegedly deposited nearly $13 million in U.S. taxpayer aid into a secret bank account, according to testimony presented to the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday by several Middle East experts during a hearing on "Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment." Abbas has enriched himself during his seven years in office through secret land deals, and helped his two sons earn millions through their stakes in companies that profit from U.S. assistance, the experts said.Elliott Abrams, a former national security adviser for George W. Bush, recounted, "I can tell you from my own experience, as an American official seeking financial assistance for the PA from Gulf Arab governments, that I was often told, 'Why should we give them money when their officials will just steal it?'" "We have not one program dedicated to fighting corruption and to assisting those Palestinians who are doing so," Abrams said. "Why do we not make it a stated and central goal of our aid?"
Kredo illustrates:
The Palestinian president is alleged by a former official to have stashed away $39 million in a secret bank account in Jordan, according to reports in the Arab press and elsewhere. Only Abbas and two of his closest confidants have access to the account, which is said to contain $13 million in U.S. funds. Opposition websites in the West Bank have further alleged that Abbas earned $160 million from the sale of Palestine Liberation Organization-owned property in Lebanon, and that he owns “lavish properties worth more than $20 million in Gaza, Jordan, Qatar, Ramallah, Tunisia and the [United Arab Emirates]”...
This sea of ill-gotten wealth has an effect. The Palestinian Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh joined the dots to explain it (again in July 2012): "Why Abbas Will Never Make Peace With Israel":
What are the chances that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would ever sign a peace agreement with Israel? The answer: zeroAbbas, who is in his late 70s, has been in power since 2005 even though his term in office formally ended in January 2009. If Abbas did not sign a peace agreement with Israel when he was a legitimate president during his earlier four-year term in office, he is most unlikely to strike any deal with Israel now that he does not have a mandate from his people... Abbas, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, chose to turn down a generous offer that could have seen Israel relinquish control over most of the West Bank and east Jerusalem.  
Abbas is not interested in reaching any deal with Israel: he knows that such a move would require him to make concessions. Abbas knows that Israel will never give him 100% of his demands; that is enough for him to refuse to sign any historic agreement. Like Arafat, Abbas does not want to go down into history as the first Palestinian leader to make concessions, especially on sensitive issues such as refugees and Jerusalem... 
Today, Abbas is not in a position that allows him to sell to most Palestinians any agreement he reaches with Israel. Even if he were to bring home an agreement that includes 100% of his demands, most Palestinians would still receive it with full skepticism because it would be coming from a leader who does not have a mandate to make even the slightest concessionUnder the current circumstances, the wisest thing to do would be to maintain the status quo until the emergence of a new Palestinian leader who would have the true courage to make peace with Israel.
One last observation. For anyone naive enough to believe that Hamas is somehow less rotten with corruption than its despised Fatah competitors, please take a look at a brief piece we wrote almost exactly a year ago: "1-Oct-12: Hamas corruption: More-than-keeping-up with the Fatah kleptocrats". Note in particular how Hamas corruption has spawned an entire sub-class of men whose personal wealth belies the empty claims about "the world's largest open-air concentration camp". 

What's even shabbier than the facts is the way the mainstream media avoid reporting them.

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