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by Rhonda Spivak May 1, 2021

”Why is reporting about corruption in the Palestinian Authority considered to be taboo?” said award winning Muslim Arab Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh who spoke to over 1000 people at a webinar put on by Honest Reporting Canada. Abu Toameh explained that in Palestinian culture, criticism of the government or PA President  Mahmoud Abbas is “considered an act of treason.” He noted that when he goes to Ramallah he often hears from Palestinians who say “what you reported is true, but you should shut up.”
Abu Toameh has extensive experience working with correspondents from around the world, and he stated there is  “a very serious problem,” in that most of them look at the conflict as being a conflict between the “good guys” who are “the poor Palestinians” and the “bad guys”, who are the Israelis. “This delegitimizes Israelis and demonizes Jews, ” he noted.  He stated “I am not saying Israel shouldn’t be criticized” but why does the international Western media “turn a blind eye” to corruption in the PA controlled West Bank and Hamas controlled Gaza?” Abu Toameh further noted that Yasser Arafat deprived his people of international aid, but the Western media turned a blind eye, as they have with Hamas in this regard.
Some international correspondents have told Abu Toameh that they are scared to report on corruption within the PA, “because we need to be able to go back to Ramallah,” and they are concerned for their own safety. Abu Toameh doesn’t accept this answer as foreign journalists have embassies to protect them, and in his view journalists should not let one party to the conflict intimidate them. 
Abu Toameh stated that he has met many international correspondents who have no knowledge of the Middle East. For example, “ they don’t know who Hamas is”. He gave as another example, a journalist who recently asked him to show the journalist “the Jewish settlers in Gaza,” even though Israel evacuated Gaza years ago.
"There’s a lot of ignorance," Abu Toameh emphasized. He added that the PA and Hamas “systematically violate freedom  of speech” but “there is no coverage of it.” He has called journalists with a story about Hamas killing Palestinians, but they are not interested in covering this."They are only interested in covering a story of Israelis killing Palestinians," he explained.
“How many foreign journalists are [based]in Gaza ?”, Abu Toameh said.
“Foreign media also rely on Palestinian stringers and if they are affiliated with the PA of Hamas then the stringers have an agenda,” Abu Toameh said.
Regarding Palestinian refugees, Abu Toameh  stated that the PA  and Hamas would rather see refugees in refugee camps so they can milk the international community for more aid. He noted that the PA and Hamas have not done anything to benefit refugees as they don’t want them to move on with their lives. They would rather keep Palestinian refugees languishing in the camps, and claim they have the right of return on masse to Israel. This is the case even for refugees who live in camps near Ramallah, where Abbas rules—these refugees could easily be resettled in Ramallah, according to AbuToameh.
In Lebanon, it is illegal for Palestinian refugees to work in many professions/fields of endeavour, and Palestinian refugees can’t own land . ‘That is the real apartheid that no one talks about,” Abu Toameh pointed out.
He noted  that there was an Arab spring in the Palestinian Territories, where Palestinians demonstrated against the PA in Ramallah and Hamas In Gaza. “It was  short lived. It was quickly suppressed. Activists were beaten up.”
In Abu Toameh’s view, people who live under the PA are afraid of speaking up since they are afraid of being arrested, attacked, or losing their job, since the PA is the biggest employer in the West Bank. Abu Toameh  has been threatened in his work, but  he stressed that he lives in Israel. " I feel safer living in  Israel then I do in a Moslem regime."
He further noted that when he started criticizing the PA and Hamas, he lost a lot of work from the mainstream international Western media. "I refused to give the Palestinians a pass on everything.”  He stressed that when he  criticizes the PA for arresting journalists he is calling for “real reform.”
‘Journalists are afraid to report on positive stories about Israel since they will be accused of being part of the Israel lobby,” Abu Toameh said.
Abu Toameh correctly predicted that Palestinian elections for parliament and for President would  be postponed or cancelled. ‘The excuse will be to blame this on Israel”, he stated.
“He [Mahmoud Abbas] called elections only because of pressure from the Biden administration and the EU,”  said Abu Toameh, who added that Abbas will cancel elections since he doesn’t want Fatah to lose and he doesn’t want to lose the Presidential elections. [Editor’s note: The infighting in Abbas’s Fatah movement and its unpopularity  raised the specter of  Abbas's defeat to rivals both inside Fatah — such as Marwan Barghouti and Mohammed Dahlan — and outside it, such as Hamas.]
Abu Toameh also correctly predicted that Abbas would say that elections can not take place because Israel won’t let East Jerusalem residents vote in areas under Israel’s control. ‘But Israel has not said yes or no about this.’, he explained. Moreover,  Abu Toameh noted that East Jerusalem Palestinians could vote online, but the PA won’t allow this. He further said that the issue of East Jerusalem Arabs voting is overemphasized since most of them are not interested in voting in Palestinian elections as they would rather live under Israel than the PA.  They don’t want to potentially lose their residency status in Israel, he stressed.  Also, the Palestinian elections commission noted  that the vast majority of East Jerusalemites — around 150,000 voters — could head to ballot boxes in the West Bank on election day.
Regarding UNWRA, Abu Toameh noted that UNWRA has not encouraged Palestinian refugees to move on , and be resettled.  There are not too many  refugees from 1948 still alive today, but since according to UNWRA refugee status is granted to the descendants of refugees there are now some 5-6 million refugees.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.