In 1968, Palestinian fighters and the Jordanian army repelled and defeated advancing Israeli army units that crossed into Jordan in order to attack Palestinian positions in the town Karameh . In the aftermath of that battle, Palestinian liberation movements and its leaders became instant heroes in the Arab World and received like heroes everywhere they went .Donations and volunteers poured in to support those revolutionaries who symbolized the hopes of millions of Palestinians and Arabs then still reeling from the bitter defeat of 1967. Today, according to Arab public perception, the same Palestinian movements and almost the same leaders have come to symbolize decadence, corruption and above all working against the freedom of their own Palestinian people.
The revelation of corruption and sexual harassment against Rafiq Al Hussieni, an aid to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas last week by a former Palestinian intelligence officer, was not the first charge of corruption against the Palestinian leadership that came to exist in the occupied territories as a result of the Oslo accords between Israel and the PLO in 1993. Corruption, within this ‘Oslo leadership ordinary Palestinians claim, is endemic. That said; however, Palestinian leaders’ corruption is no different than corruption found in any other Arab regime. They differ only in style and methodology. Palestinian officials tend to raid Palestinian public money more like a highway robberor who strike his victims and then hit the road.
In the much more stable Arab states, corruption is done like secret Mafia scams. Theft of public funds is systematic and much more organized. People in power and their families tend to skim their desired shares of state’s oil revenues or their shares of state’s natural resources right off the top and in most cases leaving their people in abject poverty.
The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat used corruption as a tool to manage and control his chaotic Palestinian Authority, PA, and thus bred corruption as a way of life and a method of governance in the PA. President Mahmoud Abbas is no different according to many complaints against him by Palestinian intellectuals.
Furthermore, the manner of which the charges of corruption and sexual harassment were revealed on an Israeli TV station resulted in a public revulsion against the PA and its officials. Many commentaries in Arab press described the PA is a decaying corps that it is better off buried to save the people its stench.
It is therefore irrelevant whether the Palestinian intelligence officer who came forward with the documents and tapes took it upon himself to record and collect evidence against Abbas’s aid, or was he instructed by the former head of Palestinian intelligence Tawfiq Tirawi. Either way, it shows that PA security officials are no less corrupt than the civilian ones. Like any other corrupt regime of a failing state, Arab or non-Arab, intelligence personals use their positions to collect damming evidence against their personal enemies or people in power. Their motivation is not the public interest or the rule of law, rather, political and to further the interests of another corrupt clique. In other words, intelligence officials use corruption against their rivals as an insurance policy to continue with their own corruption schemes.
The damage this tainted Palestinian leadership is inflicting on its people due to its wanton corruption is immeasurable. True that Israel is decidedly responsible for the forced displacement and destruction of the Palestinian society and its civic institutions since 1948, but it is also true that this Palestinian leadership has, strange as it may seem, joined the enemy in destroying its own society and people.
* Written for Al Arabiya.net. Ali Younes is a Washington based writer and journalist. He can be reached at ali.younes(at)charter.net