There’s been no end to the condemnation by Israeli leaders of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the Palestinian Central Council last Monday.
The Washington Post headlined its coverage “Israel slams Palestinian leader over anti-Trump speech”, and quoted Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying that Abbas had “lost his senses”, Education Minister Naftali Bennett saying that this was Abbas’s swan song, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying that Abbas “tore off the mask”.
The Jerusalem Post headline: “Abbas speech condemned across political spectrum.”
Once again Bennett was quoted, saying that Abbas has “lost power and his connection to reality”; former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said that “Abbas confirmed in his speech the suspicions that his goal was not territorial compromise but renouncing the right of the Jewish people to a state in the land of Israel”; Minister of Regional Cooperation Tzachi Hanegbi said that Abbas’s speech was “laced with vile antisemitic conspiracy theories and was unbecoming of a leader”; Former Minister Gidon Saar said that Abbas “has lost his marbles”.
It goes on. Deputy Minister Michael Oren condemned Abbas’s “disgraceful lies”; Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely decried Abbas’s “ridiculous accusation that Israel is a European colonialist project”, and even left leader Avi Gabbay condemned the speech for its “grave lies, full of anti-Semitism”.
So this seems to be a pretty wide consensus. Abbas’s speech, which lasted over two hours, is widely seen in Israel as a vile speech, and the general message here is that we should not even listen to what he is saying. Stay away.
Fortunately, Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy got on the case two days ago, stating: “Abbas Is Right. Why Does Israel Keep Saying He’s Wrong? Abbas speaks the truth. Israel’s comments against him aren’t about reality— they’re just nationalistic snarls”.
Before addressing some of the content, let’s just think about this: If extreme statements are the measure, how would this reflect on these supposedly reasonable leaders who were just mentioned? Let’s take it one by one:
Defense Minister Lieberman has called for the decapitating of ‘disloyal’ Palestinians with an axe, and drowning them in the Dead Sea; Former Defense Minister Yaalon compared the Palestinian “threat” to “cancer” and said he was “applying chemotherapy”; Education Minister Bennett considers Palestinians “shrapnel in the butt” and boasts of having killed “many Arabs, and there’s not problem with that”; Prime Minister Netanyahu has gone in for real Holocaust revisionism when he framed the Final Solution not on Hitler – but on the Palestinian Grand Mufti; Former Minister Saar has said that a Palestinian state is simply “unacceptable”; Deputy Minister Oren has recently suggested that Ahed Tamimi’s family is simply a fake family; Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely waves empty books and bibles at Palestinians and calls them “thieves of history”, and even spouts anti-Semitic claims against American Jews; and finally, left leader Avi Gabbay, has admonished the left for having “forgotten what it means to be Jewish”, and that “we have nothing in common” with the ‘Arab parties’ – following the advice of his predecessor Isaac Herzog to not be seen as an “Arab lover”.
There’s a story in the New Testament (John 8), where the Jewish scholars and Pharisees brought in a woman accused of adultery. They suggested she should be stoned, but asked Jesus what he thought should be done to her. Jesus said “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. They all left.
But these Israeli leaders, all sinful, are throwing stones at Abbas relentlessly. And about what?
Obviously, what infuriates them, is the fact that he is equating Zionism and colonialism. Gideon Levy:
“But the main shock happened when Abbas touched the rawest Israeli nerves and classified Zionism as part of the colonial project. What is incorrect here? When a sinking colonial power promises a country it isn’t ruling yet to a nation whose absolute majority doesn’t live in it, while ignoring the nation that does – what is it if not colonialism? When more than half the country is promised to less than a tenth of its residents, what is it if not a terrible injustice?”
If we let that discussion roll on, things will get very difficult indeed for Israeli leaders. They will also have to confront scholars such as Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe. The evidence for Zionism’s and Israel’s colonialist designs is massive. So let’s throw stones at Abbas instead. Thus the tactic becomes to find some dirt, as it were. Oh my God, he cursed the American President!! Yes, he reportedly said “Yeqrab Beitak” in Arabic, meaning “may your house come to ruin”, about Trump. Here’s the context: Abbas was referring to Trump and said:
“I see on Twitter ‘we will not give the Palestinians money because they refuse to negotiate’. May your house come to ruin! Where did you offer that to me? On the phone? On television?!”.
“Yeqrab Beitak” is basically like “damn you”. And that’s enough for those who want to talk all about Abbas’s temper, and avoid the real issues. Dr. Mordechai Kedar, writing in the settler-outlet Israel National News, made this epithet the center of his piece regarding Abbas’s speech: “the speech in which Abbas dug his own grave”. A senior lecturer at the department of Arabic at Bar Ilan University, Kedar accentuates for us the grave meaning of Abbas’s curse:
“This imprecation does not merely relate to someone’s present home, but to all the members of his family being thrown into the street to lead lives of destitution, humiliation and shame. Only someone familiar with Middle Eastern culture understands the real significance of this curse.”
It seems to escape him as completely irrelevant in this context, that Israel has not merely cursed Palestinians rhetorically with this curse, but has actually brought such ruin to millions of them, from the moment of its founding and until today. Kedar congratulates Trump for cutting US funds for UNRWA, the very organization that provides relief for those Palestinians who live in “destitution, humiliation and shame”. But analysis of Kedar’s piece is basically a waste of time. Suffice it to note his original claim that “not one [Palestinian] refugee remains of all the others who existed in the 1940s”, alongside the statement a few paragraphs later that Abbas “himself is a refugee born in Safed in 1935”. I noted the contradiction on my Facebook page, and I now see that the outlet edited the former quote out. In any case, Kedar, consistently refers to the Palestinian “refugee problem” in quotes, as if it doesn’t really exist, and is really just an invention – Palestinian propaganda, as it were.
But we have to talk about Abbas and his curses! Just like we had to talk about Ahed Tamimi’s slap and how awful that was for the Israeli-Zionist psyche. Never mind that Ahed was slapped first, never mind that Palestinians are constantly and institutionally slapped first – if they respond with any form of aggression, then it’s all on them. Trump definitely slapped Palestinians, hard.
Abbas noted Trump’s moves as a “slap in the face”. But Israeli leaders will not make a fuss about Trump’s slaps. After all he’s a great friend. Trump lies systematically and daily, but that’s not a big issue if he’s our friend.
But if Abbas is imprecise, or a bit upset, then it will be the talk of the week. And if he slaps Zionists with truths that are uncomfortable, well, then he is just asking for it.