Thursday, August 25, 2011

24th Day: Compared to other Middle Eastern regimes, the PA ain't much different

There is a saying that Palestinians started using, even those most enthusiastic about the PA, that has become a big open secret: "What the Arabs dispose, we use". It does not sound as lowly in Arabic as it does in English. The saying is not a proverb, but it certainly rhymes in Arabic as it does in English. The saying refers to the entire legal, political and even cultural aspects of the Palestinian Authority. It mostly resembles the English proverb: " One man's trash is another man's treasure".

Long before the Arabs started revolting against their own governments, and way before anyone realized that the archaic regimes of the Middle East have rotten so badly that new trees were ready to replace them, Palestinians, including the most enthusiastic supporters, were already mocking everything about the PA.

From an incompetent legal system, to the hoards of useless police officers smoking and chitchatting on the sideroads as cities were in chaos, and even from the time we lost track of the number of security forces that aided one PA subsidiary or even individual. The first name I recall people using to refer to the PA  was "Salata", meaning Salad, which sounds closest to the word "Sulta" meaning Authority. In reference to its chaotic and disorganized nature.

Coming of age when the Sulta were trying to establish their roles as the sole authority in the land (despite being under occupation) I could see the disappointment everyone was suddenly experiencing towards the same people they welcomed with flowers and rice sprinkles in 1994 following the endorsement of the Oslo Accords. 

The Returnees or "al-Ayedoun" mostly disappointed the Palestinians with their inflated egos and their sudden wealth which was unrightfully and corruptly distributed between each other. One of the confirmed stories that happened at the time was never documented and this may be the first time to be revealed in writing. It happened with Yasser Abed Rabbo, PA official who held several posts following his return to Palestine which was permitted by Israel and who currently serves as an adviser to the head of the PA. The story goes that a Palestinian who has endured much hardships during the first Intifada, and has lost most of his wealth to closures and the shattered economy has had heard enough stories about financial corruption practiced by the PA officials and semi-officials at the time, and has had heard enough repulsive roistering stories about sex, drugs and alcohol in Beirut and Tunisia by his childhood friends who had joined the PLO and were driven out to Tunisia after Israel's invasion of Beirut in 1982 but have returned home following Oslo. 

The narrator of the story, in an effort to assist his friends in trying to gain the acceptance of the local society, told them that Palestine lacks infrastructure, has no hospitals and was segmented due to the lack of paved roads, he urged them to show their decency by beginning to work for the people, and not appear as crises-beneficiaries and war profiteers. 

Ashamed of boastfully recalling their stories and their satisfaction with their current financial corruption, they promised to speak to Yasser Abed Rabbo, who was a prominent cabinet member under Arafat. Few days later one of those friends came back with an answer: "inti 7mara?!" was Abed Rabbo's answer, which literary translates as "Are you a moron (female)?!" Yasser Abed Rabbo continued to serve many posts under Arafat, he is considered to be one of the godfathers of the Geneva Accords which agreed to allowing Israel to determine the number of Palestinian refugees allowed back, and the location to where they will be allowed back into. The priority was given to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who were suffering the most. The location was close to Israel's major landfill in the Negev Desert in what seemed like a surrealistic depiction of Palestinians being dumped into the ash heap of history.

Abed Rabbo, also responsible for the rise and fall of the satirical TV show Watan ala Watar in 2011 which criticized the PA, the PLO, Hamas, social and cultural aspects of Palestine but was shut down after it remotely touched on the sanctity of Arafat in one of it's episodes, also appeared in one of the infamous propaganda videos as one of the perpetrators of the Geneva Accords, videos accessible if you click here.

This is not Cairo nor Amman (despite similar outfits
riot-bats) these are PA anti-Riot police, "containing a riot"
which appears to consist of a single old man who opposes
the Geneva Accords, in Hebron. -
[Agence France Presse]
caption by local PA-run news papers.
The videos, part of the PA's PR/ reach out campaign to improve the PA's image infront of the Israeli society was mocked by a poster which was heavily distributed amongst the youth in Palestine, and was heavily cracked down on its distributers. The poster showed the men appearing in the videos above with their pants down proclaiming "I am your partner, are you my partner?" Some of those accused of posting it on their Facebook accounts were called in for questioning at the offices of the Palestinian Intelligence Services, whose name "al-Muxabarat" now brings shivers to the spines of Palestinians who no longer feel capable of freely speaking under a growing oppressive regime that still does not have an official state. The Services are now an all-time favorite hosting compound to anyone who dares criticizes the PA, its policies, agreements, or even individual official.

Today, I met a veteran who worked at the Palestinian-Israel Coordination and Liaison who recalled a story that  happened to him during the 1990s. His role at the time as a coordinator according to him was to "limit or deny Palestinians on this street or that road" he claimed that the Liaison was integral for the security of Israel and the Palestinians and he has done his role perfectly. The veteran with a strange combination of a very healthy body, decent sense of fashion, and an extremely old face, recalled one time when a young Israeli official at that Liaison office insulted the Palestinian officers by making his orders disrespectfully then walking out in an uncivil way. The narrator of the story goes on to say that he stopped the Israeli officer, humiliated him but in a well-mannered fashion telling him that his young age and lack of "experience and proper home education" has clearly demonstrated themselves in these short moments since he made his entrance. The Palestinian officers then left angry and insulted.

The next day the narrator was called into the office of Yasser Arafat in al-Muqataa headquarters. People were already making speculations that Arafat was going to shoot him in the head (lack of law and security, anyone?). Arafat, however, was very proud of the narrator for making that stand to the Israeli officer. "What I did was the least my patriotism calls for" the officer declared. Arafat gave him one of his infamous kisses, then passed a small envelope that carried five thousand US Dollars. The narrator, proud of Arafat's move yet prouder of his own response, turned down the "gift" saying "It is not my position to refuse for I shall not turn down a king's gift, but I am a patriot and my patriotism has no price". End of story.

Did I hear him say a "king's gift?" I almost laughed at this patriot's lack of knowledge about basics of democratic elections and, oh, corruption. As I was least-shockingly listening to the story, I recalled a TV report that appeared a month after Tunisia ousted it's former president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The report was showing one of his palaces filled with cash that was directly sent to him from the central bank of Tunisia. Millions, maybe billions, the report estimated. The money was everywhere, inside drawers, desks, pantries,   even cup-boards! The report then filmed thousands, if not tens of thousands of envelopes, some of which already had names of people written on them, and most were almost on their way as "bribes" and "illegal benefits" according to the report.

I smiled to myself, the Palestinian officials have seen their share of international corruption, and as the Arab World disposes its corruption, the PA found its treasures there. you know, like the saying goes " One man's trash is another man's treasure".

No comments:

Post a Comment