Mahmoud Abbas consolidates his power


Mahmoud Abbas, now entering the seventeenth year of his four-year term as President of the Palestinian Authority, on February 7 tightened his hold on power at a meeting of the Palestinian Central Council. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald

A report on his despotic, and successful, maneuvering is here: “Media Ignores Growing Despotism Inside Abbas’ PLO, as Palestinians Protest Corruption,” by Rachel O’Donoghue, Algemeiner, February 11, 2022:

Little noted by the media, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has this week managed to consolidate his vice-like grip on power, by ensuring that both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, of which he serves as chairman, and the Fatah Central Committee are overflowing with his loyalists.

Gathered at the walled-in compound that is the presidential palace in Ramallah on February 7, leading members of the PLO held what has been described as a “rare meeting” for the group “to fill key roles that could hint at a favored successor.”

According to Israeli media reports, octogenarian Abbas is said to have secured himself a number of wins when the Palestinian Central Council (PCC), which is the legislative authority within the PLO, voted in favor of appointing a raft of his loyalists into key leadership positions.” Among this chosen few is Hussein al-Sheikh, the head of the PA General Authority of Civil Affairs, who was tapped to fill the role vacated by the late Saeb Erekat, who was the secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee until his death in 2020.

Hussein al-Sheikh has a checkered past, having been accused of sexual assaults including several rapes, but that doesn’t appear to have mattered to Mahmoud Abbas. What counts is that Al-Sheikh has for years been the most loyal lickspittle and spaniel to the rais in Ramallah, which is why Abbas is grooming him to be his successor.

Also selected for a prominent new position was Mohammad Mustafa, who fills the seat in the PLO Executive Committee that was left vacant following former PLO spokesman Hanan Ashrawi’s 2020 resignation. Ashrawi complained at the time that the Palestinian leadership was shutting officials out from decision-making.

Another significant appointment at the meeting was long-time Abbas aide Rawhi Fattouh, 73, who was chosen to lead the National Council, which is the PLO’s highest policy-making entity.

The appointment of Sheikh, in particular, is noteworthy, because it signals that he is what the AFP described as “Abbas’s preferred choice as a presidential successor.”

The billing of Sheikh as Abbas’ heir apparent is problematic, to say the least.

This week’s Palestinian Central Council events suggest that Abbas is presiding over an autocracy. Yet his and his allies’ positions of power are presented by the media as a given, while the reality that the PLO’s recent moves represent an abject repudiation of the democratic process and the rule of law, has been left unreported by leading news publications.

As if any further evidence was needed of Abbas’ tendency toward authoritarianism, one need not look further than his refusal to hold elections for the past 16 years, with the most recent vote that was scheduled for April 2021 being canceled for the dubious reason that Palestinians in the eastern part of Jerusalem would not be able to cast their ballots there.

Abbas announced at the beginning of January 2021 that both presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Authority would be held later in the year. Abbas wanted to show the Biden Administration what a democrat he was at heart. But he tore off that mask within a few months, cancelling the promised elections as soon as he realized, from the polls, that he would suffer a humiliating defeat no matter who opposed him in the presidential contest. He naturally blamed Israel for “forcing” him to cancel the elections, by refusing to allow Palestinians in east Jerusalem to vote. Israel replied that that was nonsense; it had no objection to those Palestinians taking part in the elections, as long as they cast their votes outside the city limits.

Moreover, the AFP and Reuters failed to report that Sheikh is an alleged serial rapist and sexual abuser of women, according to a 2012 post on the Palestinian Kawther website, which was set up by Hebron journalist Kawther Salam.…

What a piquant story: the man Mahmoud Abbas now hopes to anoint as his successor has been accused – by fellow Palestinians — of raping several women, including the wife of a close friend, and the wife of a terrorist imprisoned by Israel. One would have thought that the world’s media would jump all over this story – but not a word has been said about Al-Sheikh’s past in the international media. One might almost think that there is a conspiracy to protect both Abbas, for his poor judgment in favoring Al-Sheikh as his successor, and Al-Sheikh himself, for his history of sexual assault.

The absence of scrutiny by the media is helping enable Hamas and the PLO to blame Israel for the economic crises afflicting Palestinians (see here, for example). Not only is this an abdication of responsibility, but it also bodes ill for the future well-being of Palestinians living in parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

For instance, Abbas’ February 7 announcement that he would, if only left with “one penny,” pay it to the “heroic prisoners” — meaning terrorists who murder Jewish civilians and children — did not garner a single mention in international press reports.…

Wasn’t it worth mentioning in the international media that Abbas is determined to retain, no matter what, his infamous “Pay-For-Slay” program, that provides generous monthly payments to imprisoned terrorists and to the families of terrorists who were killed during the commission of their attacks? And wasn’t it also worth reporting that Abbas referred to these terrorist murderers as “heroic”? Or would that make him look bad, and that would never do?

The international media reports endlessly on every conceivable story about supposed Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians, from “evictions” and “demolitions” to “war crimes.” Meanwhile, the real plight of the Palestinians, which is seldom reported on, is the result of misrule by the Hamas despots in Gaza, and the P.A. despots – or despot — in the West Bank. The world should be told the truth about the massive corruption, the rulers who have siphoned off so much of the aid meant for the impoverished Palestinians. There are the two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Moussa abu Marzouk, each of whom has stolen at least $2.5 billion, and both of whom now live far from Gaza, Meshaal in Doha, Qatar, and Marzouk in New Cairo, Egypt. There is the P.A. leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who with his sons Tarek and Yasser has amassed a family fortune of at least $400 million. And lower down on the totem pole in both Hamas and the P.A., there are those apparatchiks who have also made out like – because they are – bandits. Six hundred Hamas millionaires live in their villas in Gaza. Abbas’ loyalists in the P.A., similarly well off, live in luxury, far from prying eyes of the impoverished, in the well-guarded “Diplomats’ Compound” in Ramallah.

Along with the theft of donors’ aid, there is rampant nepotism both in Gaza and in the P.A.-ruled parts of the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas makes sure that the relatives of his closest loyalists are provided with well-paid sinecures in the P.A. administration. Ismail Haniya offers the same employment benefits to the relatives of his retainers in Gaza. In both cases, instead of technocrats, the Palestinians find themselves saddled with well-connected incompetents and nincompoops. But the Western press seldom mentions the extent, and doleful effects, of this nepotism. One has the distinct impression that there is a determined effort to protect both the P.A. and Hamas, and to lay the blame for any Palestinian immiseration on the Jewish state. Shouldn’t those who claim to care about the Palestinians’ well-being protest this state of affairs, and place the blame where it belongs instead of on the least offending of the parties involved, the brave, resourceful, remarkable state of Israel?


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