April 21, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 698

Nonviolence and the Fate of the Peace Process in the Palestinian Media

April 21, 2004
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 698

Over the past three weeks, two issues that have captured interest in Palestinian politics were reflected in the Palestinian media. The first was a communique by Palestinian figures, among them Al-Quds University president Sari Nusseibah and former Palestinian ministers Hanan Ashrawi and Yasser Abed Rabbo, and Fatah members, calling for a nonviolent Intifada, and a counter-communique by Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades condemning the previous communiqué and calling it another initiative of surrender that serves the occupation.

The second was a speech by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei' (Abu Alaa) as he presented the quarterly report on his government's activity to the Palestinian Legislative Council. In his speech, Abu Alaa addressed such central issues as objections to attacks on Israeli civilians, a statement of adherence to the peace process, a qualified blessing for Israel's possible disengagement from Gaza, and conditions for peace with Israel, including a solution to the refugee problem according to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, as well as a statement of total opposition to the anarchy prevailing in the PA territories. The following are excerpts of the communiqué and response to it, and of Ahmad Qurei's speech:

Call for a Non-Violent Intifada

On March 27, 2004, over 100 Palestinians, among them public figures and Fatah members, published an announcement in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Ayyam calling on the Palestinians to reawaken to a popular and non-violent Intifada even as they condemned the assassination five days earlier of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin.

This announcement was first published in the same paper on March 25, 2004, with 70 signatories, and at the time of this publication has 155 signatories: [1]

"We the undersigned, the sons of the Palestinian people, from various political, ideological, and social frameworks that are united in their struggle and steadfastness, condemn Israel's blatant aggression against our people, which was manifested a couple of days ago in the criminal and base act carried out by Sharon and his extreme right-wing gang that led to the martyr death of the leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and his freedom-fighting companions.

"[Even while] we stress the rights of our people, which have been confirmed by all the international treaties, [and stress our right] to use all means to defend our people, even if we explode from pain at the terrible tragedy, we call upon the sons of our people across the homeland to [do as] the national interest dictates: To take the initiative from the hands of the criminal occupation gang, to contain the rage, and to rise up again a non-violent Intifada of the masses, broad in scope, with clear goals and [a] sane message, to be initiated and led by our freedom-fighting people.

"[This Intifada] will make Sharon miss the opportunity to crown his aggression against our people and against the holy places with the final touches of his security plan.

"As we appeal [to make] this Intifada of unity a step toward reawakening to popular activity, purposeful and disciplined, with a clear program and [expected] political yield, we stress our commitment to our just and legitimate demands and to our rights. We call for the unification of the ranks, based on national unity and a united leadership resisting the occupation.

"Enough of the criminal assassination operations. Enough of the bloodshed. Enough of the occupation."

The signatories include:

Al-Quds University president Sari Nusseibah
Former PA minister Yasser Abed Rabbo
PA Minister for Women's Affairs Zuheira Kamal
Fatah Executive Committee Member Abbas Zaki
PA Communications and Technology Minister 'Azzam Al-Ahmad

'Absolutely Opposed' to Non-Violent Intifada

In response to the March 25, 2004 announcement calling for a popular, non-violent Intifada, Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades published their own opposing communiqué in the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, on March 28, 2004: [2]

"The call to stop the Intifada and the armed struggle, under the feeble slogan of 'non-violent Intifada,' in the framework of the initiative of surrender published by a group that has opened a shop of initiatives, proposals, and calls for peace and surrender, began with a concession on the right of return, and ended with a call to stop the resistance.

"The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are absolutely opposed to the call by Sari Nusseibah and the People's Campaign for Peace and Democracy, because it reflects a path that weakens the Palestinian stand and serves the occupation.

"The brigades call on the Palestinian public to join the popular Intifada and its activities, and see it [the Intifada] as a vital matter that complements the other forms of resistance and struggle. Just as the marches and demonstrations in the battle against the racist fence were vital, thus the armed struggle has caused the enemy to lose his confidence and his stability and harmed him morally and economically… A true Intifada is a creative combination of both paths.

"The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades condemn the inclusion of the names of fighting individuals [known] for their illustrious past in the jails and outside them among the signatories to the announcement [in favor of a non-violent Intifada]. Similarly, they condemn the bringing of the matter to the media instead of launching a dialogue with all the organizations and factions, with the aim of convincing their people, and instead creating confusion in the national camp by publishing it in the press."

Abu Alaa: We Welcome Gaza Withdrawal, But Still Demand West Bank, Jerusalem, and Rights of Refugees

On March 31, 2004, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmad Qurei' (Abu Alaa) presented the quarterly report on his government's activity to the Palestinian Legislative Council. The following are highlights of the report: [3]

Condemning Suicide Attacks, Seeking to Resume Peace Talks

"We believe that the blood of [Hamas leader] Sheikh Yassin was not spilled in vain… The struggle against the crimes of the occupation was harmed because of the operations against Israeli civilians. These [operations] served as a pretext for the continuation of the [Israeli] aggression. We have condemned them [i.e., the operations], and we must oppose them morally. We stress again our opposition to these [operations] from this platform, because they harm the image of the [Palestinian] national struggle and create confusion and misunderstanding in the international community. These operations damage us economically and serve as a cover for the Israeli government to continue the settlements and the construction of the fence.

"The opposition to operations [against Israeli civilians] comes not only because they contradict the road map option, but also because they contribute to the accumulated hatred, enmity, and lack of trust … and weaken the peace camp.

"Despite the great damage caused us since September 28, 2000, that continues until this very moment, our steadfast belief and our adherence to the need to return to negotiations have not weakened… Our hand is still extended to a just peace based on the U.N. resolutions… We still think that negotiations are the best way to achieve our goals and to stop the bloodshed."

The Fence

"The Palestinian government has set the struggle against the annexation fence at the head of its priorities, knowing that its continued construction will have extremely grave consequences for all things connected to the Palestinian cause… This is the greatest robbery of Palestinian lands. If the construction of the fence is completed, it may prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and topple the chances of achieving a permanent solution…

"In its struggle against the fence and the settlements, the Palestinian government has attributed special importance to the struggle against the Israeli plans to isolate and Judaize Jerusalem… A special ministerial committee has been set up in order to monitor Jerusalem affairs."

'In Principle, We Welcome Israel's Withdrawal From Every Grain of Soil of the Palestinian Land'

"In principle, we welcome Israel's withdrawal from every grain of soil of the Palestinian land, and this is our position regarding the withdrawal from Gaza. But for [the withdrawal] to have real value, the peace process must be revived, and for this step a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank must be completed… Similarly, the settlers leaving Gaza must be transferred to Israel.

"In addition, Israel must pull out of the crossing points and the international borders, particularly from the border with Egypt, and must remove the sea blockade from the Gaza coast. Control must be transferred to the PA in an orderly manner, and in the presence of international observers… This step [should] not be a substitute for the road map or for Bush's view regarding a Palestinian state.

"Israel will not receive anything in exchange for this unilateral step, such as, for example, transferring settlers from Gaza to the West Bank settlements, legitimacy for the West Bank settlements, leniency regarding the racist separation fence or regarding any [Israeli] harm to the Palestinian rights recognized in the international arena, in the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees…

"We warn the Israeli government and the international bodies that any plan, proposal, or solution that is not coordinated with the Palestinian side will not be binding upon the Palestinians.

"We know that none of the facts around us indicates that the Israeli government is serious or truly wants to put an end to the hostility or to the cycle of violence. Moreover, we feel that it would take a miracle for the Israeli government's ambiguous plan to lead us to the path of negotiations and a peace process.

"Nevertheless, in order to prevent bloodshed and in order to stop the destruction, we will not close the door on any spark of hope that can help achieve this. The Gaza withdrawal proposal is an opportunity, and we must all cooperate in order to use it wisely and courageously… Thus it will be a step on the way to realizing the legitimate [Palestinian] national rights that were recognized in the international arena. This step is likely also to be a trap; thus, we must all pay attention and cooperate so as not to fall into it…

"We have established a special ministerial committee for daily monitoring of the Israeli plans for Gaza, and we will act to establish a national committee alongside it…."

Palestinian Conditions for Peace

"We are not opposed to contacts and meetings with the prime minister of Israel or other negotiating teams, but we wanted good preparation for this by means of preliminary meetings aimed at ensuring that the contacts would remain in the framework of the U.N. resolutions, the signed agreements, and the road map on the path to the end of the occupation, all of which are the source of authority for the peace process…

"We will not surrender to the use of force, to dictates, and to determining facts on the ground [by Israel]. Peace will not be established except on the basis of an Israeli withdrawal from all the areas occupied in 1967 including Jerusalem; the establishment of a Palestinian state whose capital is Jerusalem alongside the State of Israel; and a solution to the refugee problem based on Resolution 194.

"The Palestinian government has not stopped its contacts with elements and parties in Israel, and has permitted a number of meetings on various levels and in various places in order to reinforce the option of peace and in order to build better relations with the Israeli elements that believe in peace. The Palestinian government will welcome any effort, activity, or dialogue by unofficial figures and civilian institutions on both sides, particularly elements in the peace camp, provided that they are committed to the PLO program and to the U.N. resolutions…"

Anarchy in the PA

"The Palestinian government will continue with the dialogue [with the Palestinian factions] in order to stabilize the domestic arena and to mobilize every effort to cope with the [current] situation of anarchy, absence of security, and weakness of the rule of law and public order. This situation has become a grave danger that threatens our national enterprise from its very foundation. The hesitation in confronting the anarchy is graver than the damage caused by this anarchy, and is likely to lead to the collapse of the [Palestinian] National Authority. It harms the credibility of the national sources of authority, and opens a way to defeat in the domestic arena.

"We must not combine the struggle against the occupation with anarchy in [domestic] security. We must not accept the [notion] that confronting this anarchy and loss of security control will lead to civil war. The time has come to act with all our might to distance our people from a situation of submission to the worst [situation]: [that of] confusing the legitimate resistance to the occupation with the anarchy of using arms.

"We, as the [leadership] of the national rule, are charged with the responsibility for ending this phenomenon… We have employed a number of measures on the way to reorganizing the security apparatuses … but the results are very limited, and this is due to objective and subjective reasons connected to the loss of control and to the conflicts between the apparatuses and their leaders… The [Palestinian] government is determined to realize security, rule of law, public order, and preservation of the rights of the [Palestinian] residents. "Therefore, the completion of the security reforms and the development of the Palestinian security apparatuses are the most prominent issues, [and] must be handled immediately and decisively, in order to permit these apparatuses to fulfill their role; to achieve security and public order; to reinforce the Judicial Authority; to ensure the rule of law; and to stop the anarchy… There is a need to give clear instructions to the security apparatuses and to define their source of authority with all transparency and responsibility."

[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 25, 2004.

[2] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), March 28, 2004.

[3] Al-Ayyam (PA), April 1, 2004.

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