Al Jazeera recently released almost 2,000 internal documents revealing the Palestinian Authority’s role in secret and deceptive negotiations with the Israeli government over the course of the last decade. The documents, which include memos, briefings, private emails, and transcripts shared within the administration and between the PA and the Israeli government, have proven beyond any doubt that the PA has been, and still is, complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine by compromising the Right to Return, pushing against international condemnation of Israeli military action in Gaza, and supporting the construction of illegal settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Papers send a bold and direct statement: The PA does not represent the Palestinian people.
There are just too many documents to sift through. Most, if not all, provide readers with a glimpse of just how candid and useless the PA is, particularly when it comes to securing rights for Palestinians. Over the course of the following weeks, I’ll do my best to direct you to the more relevant documents. Some (including PA administrators themselves) will claim that the Papers were meant to incite anti-Fatah sentiment, or even that the documents were forged by Al Jazeera to delegitimize the PA. But this series of revelations show that the PA, like its accomplice Israeli government, has been delegitimizing itself even before 1999.
The first document that I want to bring to your attention is an email exchanged between PA negotiator Muzna Shihabi and the rest of the PA’s negotiations unit. The email was sent on the final days of Israel’s air and land invasion of the Gaza Strip and provided a list of over 200 names and ages of children killed in the attacks. Here is a sample of the email:
Raya Al-Sersawi Girl 5
Rahma Mohammed Al-Semouni Girl 18
Ramadan Ali Felfel Boy 14
Rahaf Ahmed Saeed Al-Azaar Girl 4
Shahad Mohammed Hijjih Girl 3
Arafat Mohammed Abdul Dayem Boy 10
Omar Mahmoud Al-Baradei Boy 12
Ghaydaa Amer Abou Eisha Girl 6
Fathiyya Ayman Al-Dabari Girl 4
Faraj Ammar Al-Helou Boy 2
Moumen Alewah Boy 9
(Click here for the full list)
In total, the email confirms the deaths of 216 children, their age, their gender, and the date of death. The numbers have since risen but the email holds tremendous significance in that the PA was fully aware of the humanitarian catastrophe birthed by Israel’s invasion yet still couldn’t find the power or the motivation to intervene. The emailed information was compiled and decimated by the same hands that ignored the email the following morning.
The average age of the children is 11 and the list includes a three-month old and a six-month old, both related. What threat did they pose? To the Israeli army, none. To the PA and its stubborn complicity in maintaining the siege on Gaza and ignoring its consequences, the children must have threatened to reveal the extent to which the the occupation has negatively affected their lives.
As you will see in the coming days, even after the list was circulated among PA members, negotiators were still hesitant to pressure Israel into withdrawing its military from acting upon the civilian population of Gaza. The conversation between Mahmoud Abbas and his aides focused more on maintaining the PA’s reputation with the American and Israeli governments rather than on direct legislative and political action to be taken in support of the Palestinian people enduring missile strikes just miles from the PA headquarters. (See NSU Draft: Key Actions PLO Can Take in Wake of Gaza Disaster)
Yes, there are more urgent documents that reveal exactly how the PA intended to accept Israeli settlements within the Green Line. Other papers even highlight Abbas’ attempts to thwart the Goldstone Report, for example. But at least we now know that the PA knew exactly what was going on in Gaza. The administration knew exactly how Palestinian families were being decimated by Israeli shells that took the lives of their children and the lives of their parents. The PA was well aware, but no one from Abbas’ negotiations crew stepped forward on behalf of the children at least.
To this day, Israel has still not been formally made responsible for its actions in Gaza and in surrounding refugee camps. We blamed FOX News. We blamed the West’s spin on the issue. We blamed the ‘Israel is never wrong’ phenomenon. We blamed Barack Obama for being too soft. We had our suspicions about the PA’s collaboration but now these suspicions have been confirmed. For one thing, the only reason why the Goldstone Report isn’t taken seriously outside of activist circles is because, unfortunately, the PA joined the movement to make it that way. The lives and deaths of Gazan children in the 22-day bombardment have not been erased by any means but their stories have been blatantly shunned away and hidden from the international community.
In doing so, the PA abandoned our children.