The one-eyed is King

Overview/Facts/Leaders/Media as it was on 31 August 2011

The first thing one notices in the profile on Leaders is that Fatah/PNA head Mahmoud Abbas receives more than twice the coverage of Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya. Why is that?

The second thing is that recently resigned Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister the West has supposedly preferred for his honest, technocrat approach receives nothing at all. I wonder how long it will take for the BBC to acknowledge his resignation and/or the new boy in the profile?

Just out of curiosity when does the BBC use Palestinian National Authority and when Palestinian Authority?


Palestinian Authority President: Mahmoud Abbas

As so often with the BBC, what is missing is as significant as what is written. As with so much cut-and-paste journalism, the order of the sentences is, to say the least, odd.

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the candidate of the Fatah faction, won the January 2005 poll to replace the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

While opinion is divided about how long Abbas was Prime Minister all reports have him holding the position for less than six (6) months; some for half that, before his resignation was accepted. While technically correct the profile could be read as if he was Prime Minister at the time of his election as President.

It probably would have been relevant to note, at this point, that he submitted his resignation after disputes with Arafat over control of the Palestinian security services. The profile does mention it, if one has the patience to read that far, in the penultimate paragraph.

It also probably would have been relevant that Hamas boycotted the 2005 poll.

Mr Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, had already succeeded Yasser Arafat as leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), having been Mr Arafat’s deputy since 1969.

During most of that time the PLO was recognised as a terrorist organisation by most of the world , including the United Kingdom but the BBC bans that word. Abbas served as fundraiser and bureaucrat. Abu Daoud, who planned the 1972 Munich massacre, the hostage-taking of members of the Israeli team at the Munich Olympic Games which ended with the murder of eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German policeman, wrote that funds for the operation were provided by Abbas, though without knowing what the money would be used for. One can only speculate on how many other attacks were funded by Abbas, with or without his knowledge. In 1985 he was accused of masterminding the Achille Lauro hijack.

Could Abbas have have been Arafat’s deputy for so long without bloody hands?

The surprise victory of the militant Islamic movement Hamas in parliamentary polls in January 2006 led to heightened tension between the Palestinian factions.

It’s not clear who was surprised. The key issue of the 2006 elections was the alleged corruption of the Fatah administration including Abbas’s personal corruption. This is an ongoing issue. Disputes between the Islamists, of which Hamas is the largest and best known and the Nationalist Palestine Liberation Organisation, of which Fatah is the dominant group are long standing, deep and may well be unsolvable. Reducing it to who holds power after an election is quite misleading.

However, in June 2007 Hamas took control of the Gaza strip, seriously challenging the concept of a coalition, which Abbas subsequently dissolved.

In reality there was a brief, bloody civil war, won by Hamas. The entire Palestine Authority apparatus was thrown out of Gaza and its President has not dared to even visit since then. Hamas to this day refuses to accept their dismissal and declare themselves to be the legal, elected government.

Mr Abbas’s current term was set to have ended in January 2009, but in 2008 he announced he was extending his term by another year, in order to allow presidential and parliamentary elections to be held at the same time.

There were no elections and Abbas is enjoying the ninth year of his four-year term. What is that word for a president who keeps unilaterally extending his term without elections? Could it be dictator?

In November 2009, Mr Abbas said he would not stand again in elections scheduled for 24 January 2010, …

By some estimations Abbas has made public threats to resign fourteen times between 2003 and 2010. Ten were as President and four as Prime Minister.

… in protest against the continuing impasse in attempts to resurrect peace talks with Israel.

Some would say the chief cause of the impasse is Abbas himself . Former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice wrote in her memoirs that in 2008 former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert offered Abbas 94% of the territory he was asking for with some swaps; a division compromise on Jerusalem and a proposal on refugees. Abbas said No and nothing came of it. There was no counter offer from the Palestinian side. Abbas denied the conversation or the offer ever took place and accused the Secretary of State of fabricating but Rice stood by her version.

On 25 November 2009, Israel imposed a 10-month construction freeze on all of its settlements in the West Bank, reportedly under direct pressure from President Obama, but Abbas refused to resume talks.  Abbas has continually added new conditions that he says Israel must accept before he will return to negotiations.

Many analysts regard Mahmoud Abbas as a moderate …

While many others consider him to be Arafat in a better suit†.

What does moderate mean in this context anyway? Is he being judged relatively to his contemporaries, Yasser Arafat, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi and Hafez al-Assad? Is he being described relative to Palestinian politics? Is there a definition of moderate the BBC adheres to in its guidelines? In any case such an undefined claim has no business in a purely factual profile.

… But he faces the challenge of persuading armed groups to stop their campaign of anti-Israeli attacks.

One of those groups is his own Fatah organisation which he is titular head and like Arafat before him, controls the purse strings.

Mahmoud Abbas was born in 1935 in Safed, a town in present-day northern Israel. He co-founded Fatah – the main political grouping within the PLO – with Yasser Arafat in the late 1950s.

I suppose it would be too much to describe Safed as being considered as one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias, since the 16th century?

Abbas stills calls himself a refugee, despite being a multimillionaire President of an area with pretensions to statehood.

Taking a quarter-century jump from 1935 to around 1960 the BBC could have slipped in that  he studied at Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University, where he earned the Soviet equivalent of a PhD. The theme of his doctoral dissertation was “The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism” where he argues the Nazi Holocaust had been exaggerated and that Zionists created “the myth” of six million murdered Jews. He also claimed that Zionists and Nazis conspired to kill Jews. As so often with Abbas one can find quotes from him that this was a piece of war-time propaganda and other quotes defending the thesis.

His brief stint as premier was plagued by power struggles with Mr Arafat over the control of the Palestinian security apparatus and over planned reforms. Mr Abbas resigned in September 2003.

Not incorrect but placing this at the end of profile is to say the least, odd.

The former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died in a French hospital on 11 November 2004, aged 75.

Perhaps not as odd as the concluding paragraph? How is where Arafat died, when and how old at time of death relevant to Mahmoud Abbas’s profile?

Abbas curious profile timeline

(Normal practice is to start with the earliest date and continue to the latest or vice-versa).

  • 1st paragraph = events of 2005
  • 2nd paragraph = events of 1969
  • 3rd paragraph = events of 2006 & 2007
  • 4th paragraph = events of 2007
  • 5th paragraph = events of 2008
  • 6th paragraph = events of 2008
  • 7th paragraph = undated events
  • 8th paragraph = events of 1935 and 1950s
  • 9th paragraph = events of 1970s
  • 10th paragraph = events of 2003
  • 2nd paragraph = events of 2004

Hamas leader: Ismail Haniya

The Hamas leader with the highest public profile is Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian former prime minister who now heads the separate Hamas administration in Gaza.

Why Haniya who is Prime Minister is profiled while Khaled Mashal who is Chief of the Political Bureau is not is a question for the BBC to answer. Highest public profile seems to be a rather weak reason.

According to former U.S. Department of Treasury official and terrorism expert Matthew Levitt, the Hamas Political Bureau operates as the highest ranking leadership body determining the policy of the Hamas organization and has responsibility for directing and coordinating terrorist acts. There relationship is similar to Abbas and Fayyad, who it was noted in the Abbas fisking was ignored in the BBC profile.

As noted before Haniya and Hamas do not accept that he is the former Palestinian Prime Minister. They and the Palestinian Legislative Council consider him to be the legally elected current Prime Minister.

Born in 1962 in the Shati refugee camp to the west of Gaza city …

Al-Shati camp was then in the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip.

… but his government was soon plunged into crisis as international donors refused to cooperate with him unless Hamas rejected violence and recognised Israel.

An oversimplification. Abbas demanded Hamas accept the Prisoner’s Document that called for a two-state solution and maybe interpreted as implicitly recognising Israel. However, I have seen no record that Abbas or any of his group referred to international donors as being the primary cause for the demand. Western reaction, particularly that of the United States but also of Israel had a financial aspect. However, it is editorial speculation rather than a proven fact that Abbas’s demands were a consequence of it and as such has no place in the profile.

Violence with Fatah escalated until Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007 and President Abbas dismissed the Haniya government.

The actual chronological order is blurry. On 14 June 2007, Abbas dismissed Haniya and appointed Salam Fayyad in his place. Control by Hamas of Palestinian Authority positions followed.

Since then Hamas has tightened its grip on Gaza, accused Fatah of collusion with the USA and Israel. 

It is not clear how much tighter a grip than complete control is possible. However, if the intention is to state that the Islamists are progressively enforcing Sharia principles on relatively secular Gazans, there is a case. Except for one word the BBC ignores the religious basis to Hamas. We expect that.

As always the BBC omits interesting information. Such as, Haniya condemned the killing of Osama Bin Laden as “the continuation of the American oppression and shedding of blood of Muslims and Arabs”. Suchas, he condemned former Pope Benedict XVI for remarks on Islam. Such as, in 2010, apparently, he accepted a situation much like that demanded by Abbas. Does that make him a moderate?

Rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza have continued, prompting major Israeli reprisals.

Rockets do not fire themselves nor are they the only way attacks have come from Gaza. An alternate reading is that Hamas announced it would not extend the Egyptian negotiated ceasefire and followed this by increased rocket attacks. This together with increased Hamas threats led to Operation Cast Lead also known as the Gaza War in the winter of 2008-9. In 2012 Palestinian groups launching over 100 rockets at Israel over a 24-hour period, an attack on an Israeli military patrol jeep within Israeli borders by Gaza militants, and a tunnel explosion caused by IEDs near Israeli soldiers on the Israeli side of the fence led to Operation Pillar of Defense.

Further reading

6 April 2013
By David Guy (@5MFI)


† I haven’t located who originated that description but it was in circulation as early as January 20o5 in Danny Rubinstein’s Analysis / Arafat in a suit But make no mistake: He may wear a suit, he may not jump on tables or shout that a million martyrs will march to Jerusalem, but his demands from Israel are no different than Arafat’s were.


About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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