Friday, February 04, 2011

PLO Statement on Palestine Papers Controversy

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Statement from the General Delegation of the PLO to the United States to the Palestinian-American Community

The General Delegation of the PLO to the United States has been following up on the so-called “Palestine Papers” that Al Jazeera has broadcast recently. It has become a tradition for Al Jazeera to maliciously attack the Palestinian leadership and accuse them of betraying the Palestinian cause and their own people. In December, 2008, Al Jazeera launched their first campaign after the Israeli onslaught of Gaza and accused the PLO of colluding with Israel to destroy and kill our people in the Gaza Strip. The “Wikileaks” revealed recently that these allegations were false and that the PLO refused to be part of that campaign against Gaza.

Then, in October, 2009, Al Jazeera launched a second wave of attacks against the Palestinian leadership by once again accusing them of betraying our people when the Goldstone Report was postponed. The Goldstone Report was eventually submitted and adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and today is being pursued by no one other than the PLO when everyone else who accused the PLO of not doing enough has basically abandoned the Goldstone Report.

Recently, Al Jazeera, in an unprofessional form of sensational journalism, embarked on their third wave of attacks against the PLO and the Palestinian leadership. This time around, Al Jazeera went too far in taking things out of context and in attributing things that Palestinians said to Israelis and vice-versa, publishing fragments of so-called documents that they have and resorting to a dangerous game of inciting people against their leadership risking the lives of Palestinians involved in negotiations. While we don’t deny that some of these papers are true, we would like to clarify the following:

1.) These are not official Palestinian – Israeli papers, i.e., they are not legally binding. They were a reflection of discussions that were going on between Israelis and Palestinians but were not concluded.

2.) Statements, quotes, excerpts and words were deliberately taken out of context to implicate and accuse Palestinian negotiators of making concessions in an effort to indict these people. Al Jazeera has failed to produce the full text of these documents for people to read them fully in order to understand the context under which these negotiations were conducted and allow people to evaluate these discussions. By being selective and only putting emphasis on phrases and statements that served to falsely represent Palestinian concessions, Al Jazeera deliberately misrepresented and distorted the facts. In doing so, Al Jazeera intentionally failed to provide the background for these discussions which included many meetings/discussions prior to, and after these meetings/discussions mentioned in the documents took place.

3.) The PLO position on all final status issues: Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, security, borders and water, have not changed at all since Camp David in 2000. Discussing ideas and exchanging views does not in any way mean accepting final positions that were presented to the Palestinian negotiators. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed was a condition that the Palestinians sent to President George W. Bush in December, 2008 before he left office. This remains our position today.

4.) Instead of Al Jazeera focusing on Palestinian positions from 2005-2008, they should focus on the official Palestinian position that was submitted, only a few months ago, to the United States, the Quartet, the Arab League, Arab Countries and even Israel on all permanent status issues. The official position of the PLO in negotiations with Israel remains the same: the end of Israeli military occupation, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a just and agreed solution to the refugee problem based on United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. We have asked Al Jazeera, in the name of objective reporting, to publish these official Palestinian positions stated over the last few months so that everyone has the chance to see them. Of course, Al Jazeera had no interest of doing such a thing and as of today, they have not presented these official positions.

5.) The current impasse in negotiations with Israel is a clear indication that the PLO is not conceding Palestinian national rights and interests. We have resisted pressure from many countries to return to the negotiating table due to Israeli settlement activity and colonization of Palestinian land. This principled position which continues today to be the cornerstone of any future resumption of negotiations clearly shows that the PLO has not and will not forsake Palestinian national rights.

6.) The PLO has repeatedly declared that any future agreement will be presented to the Palestinian people for referendum everywhere. Al Jazeera alleges that Palestinian negotiators said that any final status agreement brought to referendum will only be considered in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This is a lie. There is no way that the future of Palestine will only be decided by Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip without taking the diaspora into account.

7.) One cannot help but wonder about the timing of the broadcast by Al Jazeera. At a time when the PLO is diligently pursuing a United Nations Security Council resolution to condemn settlements and at a time when international recognition of the future Palestinian State is emerging from many countries in the world, Al Jazeera broadcast these so-called leaks to undermine the Palestinian position. It is no secret that the PLO and the Palestinian people are subjected to intense pressure from Israel and others to change their positions on permanent status issues. This action by Al Jazeera and those are who behind it, clearly indicates that the objective is to influence the positions of the Palestinian leadership so that they capitulate to such pressure.

We believe that Palestinians are entitled to criticize and to question the actions and statements of their leadership but we will not accept blatant defamation by Al Jazeera or anyone who questions the integrity, honesty, and loyalty of the Palestinian leadership and Palestinian negotiators. There is a big difference between informing the public of the facts and distorting the facts by misinforming the public. Al Jazeera’s campaign cannot be viewed but through the prism of trying to delegitimize the PLO and to create an alternative Palestinian leadership. This is, of course, a stated goal of Israel and enemies of the Palestinian people. It is unfortunate to see that some Palestinians have missed this point and are getting carried away with calls for the dissolution of the PLO and Palestinian National Council, inadvertently serving the objectives of those who are working against the interests of the Palestinian people.

We caution against these calls, which we have heard in the past and are aimed at misleading the Palestinian community in the United States. We trust that the Palestinian community in the United States will seek the truth and find that positions of the PLO and the Palestinian leadership are unwavering when it comes to critical issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders, security, settlements and water. We all trust that the Palestinian community understands the motives behind such calls by few who do not represent the opinion of the majority.

The challenges that the Palestinian community is facing in the United States are huge. We need to remain focused and prevent those who are trying to drive a wedge between Palestinians everywhere from succeeding because the Palestinian national cause is far more important than petty politics. We all need to join hands in engaging and exerting pressure on decision makers in the United States at all levels, public, private and official, to persuade the United States to join hands with the Palestinian people who are fighting for freedom, independence and self-determination. There is no time to waste in this endeavor because the forces working against us are relentless and powerful. We can rise up to the challenges we face and serve our people by being united in the defense of our national rights.

The PLO General Delegation in the United States is committed to volunteering its services to the community in order to help differentiate between smear, defamation, lies, accusations, and facts. To obtain the official Palestinian position, we urge you to obtain a free copy of the PLO’s Negotiation Affairs Department Primer. We are here to serve you and to work with you to further our mutual objectives.