PA undermined accountability for Gaza victims, papers reveal

The Palestinian Authority scuttled accountability at the United Nations for victims of Israel’s winter 2008-09 attacks on Gaza, leaked documents reveal. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

Yesterday Al Jazeera released the final cache of the Palestine Papers, the network’s publication of secret documents culled from the last ten years of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority, Israel and the United States.

Among some of the latest revelations are agreements between all three parties to push the United Nations Human Rights Council to delay a vote on the Goldstone report, the fact-finding probe of alleged war crimes committed during Israel’s winter 2008-09 attacks on the Gaza Strip. Approximately 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the 22-day assault, and more than 5,000 were wounded.

Al Jazeera reported that documents prove the Palestinian Authority sacrificed potential legal accountability for Palestinian victims of Israel’s attacks “in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel” (“PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote,” S. Farhan Mustafa, 26 January 2011).

Reporting for Al Jazeera, S. Farhan Mustafa wrote yesterday: “What the Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.”

In a meeting in Washington, DC, in October 2009, US envoy George Mitchell presented Palestine Liberation Organization chief negotiator Saeb Erekat “with a document containing language that, if agreed to, would nullify one of the PA’s few weapons — the chance to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza at the International Criminal Court at The Hague,” Mustafa added.

According to documents contained within the Palestine Papers, the PA accepted Mitchell’s document, and agreed to call for a delay in the vote at the UN Human Rights Council.

“Unsurprisingly,” reported Mustafa, “this decision was met by outrage, as Palestinians and Arab nations condemned the PA leadership for kowtowing yet again to American and Israeli pressure.

Abbas alerted prior to Gaza attack

Additional revelations in Wednesday’s document leak included the possible foreknowledge of Israel’s 2008-09 assault on Gaza.

Al Jazeera reported that Erekat told Mitchell in another meeting in October 2009 that the director of Israeli military intelligence, Amos Gilad, “alerted Abbas prior to the Gaza attack” (“PA’s foreknowledge of Gaza war?,” David Poort, 26 January 2011).

“The Palestine Papers confirm here what was previously revealed by second hand sources that were quoted in some of the thousands of US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks in December last year,” Poort wrote for Al-Jazeera.

Al Jazeera began releasing the documents last Sunday, and has shared its information with the UK’s Guardian newspaper. More than 1,600 transcripts, memos, maps, notes, meeting minutes and papers exposing the willingness of the PA to concede the rights of their constituents under occupation have been made public over the last week.

The Electronic Intifada’s co-founder and executive director, Ali Abunimah, was given special access to the documents and helped analyze them for Al Jazeera.

On Sunday, it was revealed that the PA was preparing to concede significant areas of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to the Israeli state, including major illegal settlements in Jerusalem itself.

Monday’s exposé included proof of shocking concessions made by the PA on the issue of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

On Tuesday, Al Jazeera released documents detailing the security cooperation between the PA, Israel, the United Kingdom and the US. These revelations included proof that the PA was behind — or collaborated with Israel in — extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian opposition and resistance leaders.

Palestine Papers provoke protests

Since the release of the Palestine Papers, the PA has launched a campaign against Al Jazeera, accusing the network of slander. Ma’an News Agency in Bethlehem reported today that the PA’s justice ministry is preparing a lawsuit against Al Jazeera with claims that it aimed to “tarnish the image” of the Ramallah-based government (“Justice Ministry says it will sue Al Jazeera 26 January 2011”).

PA officials have accused several Al Jazeera journalists of being the source for the document leak, including Clayton Swisher and Alastair Crooke. Erekat claimed that the two are former members of the CIA and the British intelligence agency MI6, respectively.

A protest was held in the West Bank city of Nablus today to demonstrate against Al Jazeera’s release of the Palestine Papers, the Palestine News Network (PNN) reported (“Nablus governor calls for anti-Jazeera protests on Thursday,” 26 January 2011).

Earlier in the week, pro-PA demonstrators rallied outside Al Jazeera’s West Bank offices in Ramallah.

However, PLO official Nabil Shaath admitted on Monday that the documents contained in the Palestine Papers cache were authentic. Al Jazeera has maintained the veracity of all the documents, and says they will not reveal their source or how they were obtained.

Elsewhere, protests against the PA following the release of the Palestine Papers have been reported in Gaza and in London.

Ma’an reported on Thursday that protests were held against the PA in the southern Gaza Strip, and offices of the PA’s Civil Administration were sacked earlier this morning (“PA-controlled offices in Gaza ransacked,” 26 January 2011).

At the time of publication, Palestinian students in London were staging a sit-in at the offices of the Palestine Liberation Organization delegation to the UK, calling for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council and the reform of the PLO.

The students are demanding that the PLO recognize the “Palestinian neglected voice … the voice of the Palestinian youth … in exile. (“Sit-in underway at Palestinian embassy in London,” Indymedia UK, 27 January 2011)”

The students state that they are responding to the recent revelations in the Palestine Papers that outline the PLO and the PA’s willingness to give up the rights of Palestinian refugees and disenfranchise them from the political process.

In the aftermath of the release of the Palestine Papers, The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah said on Al Jazeera yesterday that the repercussions, though unclear at the moment, will be significant in the coming days and months.

“This is a bombshell,” he said during a televised panel discussion. “It’s going to take time for all the ripples to go out. One conclusion though is that the peace process, as we know it, is dead. It’s time for an approach based on equal rights, putting pressure on Israel, and [expanding the movement of] boycott, divestment and sanctions. Meetings behind closed doors are not going to bring peace and justice.”

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