Where Was Europe during the Intifada?

by Brad Nielson

February 20, 2005

After 53 months of self-destruction, the Intifada may be over. With the blessing of "The Quartet", including the European Union, Abbas and Sharon have met. Unofficially, through their smiles at the press entourage, they have signaled an end to the fighting.

I will leave it to others to explain why Yasser Arafat launched a war in which 4,000 people of all religions died. I wish to examine the role of European democracies in this period.

The EU saw the 1993 Oslo Accords as a chance to enter the Middle East peace process, particularly as a balance to the perceived American bias towards Israel. Observers often ignore the fact that USAID contributed a phenomenal $1.3 billion towards Palestinian projects over the next decade.

In that same period, Europe not only applied diplomatic pressure on Israel - consistently voting against her in the UN, closing loopholes in trade agreements, hosting Arafat as he ran away from peace agreements - the EU also played its financial card. It donated approximately EUR2 billion to the Palestinians, either directly to the PA or indirectly through UNRWA and other projects. This high-level involvement led individual member states to chip in with another similar amount.

Europe's foreign policy has not been without its critics. In January 2003, 169 MEPs called for a full investigation of the way funding of Palestinian projects had been handled. This led to a fudged majority report a year later by 7 MEPs, who concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that European taxpayers money had been diverted towards corruption or violence.

Mr. Chris Patten, the former Commissioner for External Relations, and one of his senior assistants, Mrs. Emma Udwin were among the prime beneficiaries of the MEPs conclusions. Right up to the last days of Chairman Arafat's life, they continued to deny that European money had been misappropriated. A detailed analysis of Patten's speeches and statements reveal a marked consistency. As Mr Patten summarised in June 2002:

...we have found no evidence of EU funds being used for purposes other than those agreed between the EU and the PA.

While this statement was never revoked, throughout the year 2004 Mr. Patten claimed much of the credit for forcing the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reform. Maybe. But then what does it suggest that so much money had been handed over previously to an unreformed PA? Where did that money end up?

Spin-doctors cannot hide holes in an argument forever. Even Al-Jazeera was forced to admit that when Chairman Arafat passed away, he left his family and the PA in a very healthy financial position, to say the least. Both have interests scattered throughout the world, including banks, mobile telephone monopolies and New York bowling alleys.

Arguably worse has been the diversion of funds towards supporting violence. It is accepted that many of the EU's contributions were delivered via The Arab Bank, a financial institution associated with money laundering scandals. In conjunction, this 75-year-old venerable financial institution is currently threatened with various legal actions in America, which have forced it to close its New York branch. The bank is suspected of paying money to executors of violence against citizens.

The EU consistently denied that its donations supported an atmosphere of violence. And yet, UNRWA, heavily bankrolled by Europeans, set up summer camps in Gaza, with names that commemorated homicide bombers such as Ayyat al-Akhras.

The EU maintained that the PA had to be strengthened, if it was to function as a government in a new Palestinian state. However, as late as 2004, the EU was embarrassed to discover that despite constant specific assurances to the contrary, the PA payroll was bloated by 7,000 fictitious names. Who received their salaries?

And the August 2004 report from The Funding for Peace Coalition lists over 20 Palestinian militants, who were officially paid members of security organizations and attacked Israeli citizens. A PA security officer recently reconfirmed that PA employees regularly and openly doubled up as members of organizations of violence.

Most of these men (PA members) doubled as security officers and members of armed groups. …The fact that they had received paramilitary training as policemen was an asset because they were able to implement the tactics they learned in the fighting with the Israeli army."

This diversion of funds should not be considered a minor aberration. Khaled Abu Toameh, a leading Palestinian Muslim journalist, cited Hafez Barghouti, editor of the Ramallah-based daily Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda:

Most of the former and current ministers have failed and that's why we need a cabinet which we can be proud of.... What is needed is a real change in the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure, structure and performance.

The full article is reproduced below.

A former cabinet minister and now political ally of Abbas, Muhammed Dahlan, has been more forthright: All of the funds which foreign countries had donated to the Palestinian Authority, a total of $5bn "have gone down the drain, and we don't know to where."

The EU has a lot to answer for. As the money has flooded in, the houses of the Palestinian elite grew larger and the statistics of lost limbs on both sides continued to stagger. The poverty levels reached new depths. The World Health Organisation had recorded that life expectancy of Palestinians had jumped from 48 to 72 years for the three decades of Israeli occupation following 1967, better than most other Arab countries.

Today, the World Bank estimates that 600,000 Palestinians need financial aid. Its report from December 2004 stresses that donor aid barely alleviates poverty, concluding that

55% of those who receive emergency assistance are not needy.... 32% of the needy do not receive emergency assistance.

As ever, the observer is left to ask: "Where has European taxpayers money disappeared to?"

Concluding this article, would it be wishful thinking to believe that the EU has learnt the lessons of previous mistakes? Facts on the ground reveal that the EU is reluctant to miss an opportunity to carry on with a bad tradition.

For example, to quote a recent EU press release, "following her visit to the Middle East 6-8 February, and the Ceasefire Declaration made by the Israelis and Palestinians at Sharm el Sheikh, the Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has announced the European Commission expects to make around €250 million available in 2005…" to the Palestinians. This includes €70 million of Direct Budgetary Aid to be posted through the World Bank Trust Fund.

In addition, the European Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO) is proposing to allocate a further €34 million. "The assistance to the Palestinian population currently represents ECHO's fourth biggest operation in the world…"

And so it goes on. Abbas and Sharon have yet to deliver. Meanwhile, who suffers? European taxpayers, poor Palestinians, and Israeli citizens.

Below are the full versions of the 2 articles quoted above.

Feb. 6, 2005

Calls to dissolve 'corrupt' PA cabinet


Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is under intense pressure to replace the PA cabinet with a new one that would exclude a number of ministers allegedly involved in financial corruption.

Fatah officials and Palestinian columnists and editors urged Abbas over the weekend to dismiss the cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, as a first step toward stemming widespread corruption.

Abbas, who arrived in the Gaza Strip on Friday for a series of meetings with Fatah officials, came under fire for failing to replace the cabinet in line with his promise to implement major reforms in the PA.

"We told him that the first thing he should do is to dismiss the cabinet because many of its members are corrupt," said a member of the Fatah "revolutionary council."

He said the council's meeting on Saturday discussed the upcoming summit between Abbas and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as well as the proposed mutual cease-fire, the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and a number of political issues.

At the meeting, Abbas reportedly reiterated his commitment to fighting corruption, but ignored demands to replace Qurei's cabinet.

"The Palestinians want a new government that would suit the new era," said Hafez Barghouti, editor of the Ramallah-based daily Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda. "The world around us has begun to change, and here is [US Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice openly talking about the establishment of an independent Palestinian state."

In addition, he added, "the world is talking about pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the Palestinian Authority and is waiting for us to reach out and take the money. All this is happening while we are continuing to waste time. Most of the former and current ministers have failed and that's why we need a cabinet which we can be proud of.

"What is needed is a real change in the Palestinian Authority's infrastructure, structure and performance. If we continue to see nepotism and factionalism, I don't think we'll ever get a strong government."

Adli Sadek, a prominent columnist and anti-corruption campaigner from the Gaza Strip, called on Abbas to dismiss the cabinet because of its responsibility for the cement scandal - a case involving a number of ministers and top PA officials who imported cheap cement from Egypt for the construction of the security fence in the West Bank.

"I call on Abu Mazen [Abbas] to reject a cabinet that is rotten," Sadek wrote in Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda. "I also call on the Palestinian Legislative Council to be prepared for toppling the cabinet.

"The people want a new government, one that they can respect. We need a suitable and credible government that would support Abu Mazen's approach. Keeping the current corrupt cabinet in power will only hamper Abu Mazen's efforts to implement reforms."

Bassem Abu Sumayah, a senior official with the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, warned that the Palestinians would not accept "cosmetic" changes to the cabinet.

"We must change the ministers who have been in office more than six years and failed," he said. "We must replace them with young and educated men who are highly qualified and speak more than one language," he said.

According to PA officials, a sharp dispute between Abbas and Qurei is preventing the formation of a new cabinet.

Qurei is opposed to major changes to his cabinet before next July's parliamentary elections.

Abbas wants to replace at least six ministers - a move strongly opposed by Qurei, who insists that the changes should not affect more than three ministers.

Abbas is also seeking to bring into the cabinet three of his loyalists - Muhammad Dahlan, who would hold a key security position, Nabil Amr, slated to become information minister, and Muhammad Shtayyeh, who would replace Maher al-Masri as minister of economy.

Sources close to Qurei say he is opposed to the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Nasser Youssef as interior minister and insists on keeping Hakam Balawi in his job.

Feb. 6, 2005

Calls to dissolve 'corrupt' PA cabinet


At least 600 members of various Palestinian Authority security services have been killed since the beginning of the intifada more than four years ago, most of them while participating in violence against Israel, a senior PA security official revealed Sunday.

The official told The Jerusalem Post that dozens of PA policemen and security agents had also been arrested by the IDF during the same period for their involvement, both directly and indirectly, in armed attacks against Israel.

According to the official, most of the security personnel killed by the IDF had joined various armed militias in the West Bank and Gaza Strip shortly after the violence erupted in September 2000. He said, however, that many others were killed in Israeli raids on PA security installations or during clashes with gunmen and were not involved with any militia.

The majority of the policemen chose to join Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, while only a few preferred Hamas and Islamic Jihad militias, he added.

"Most of these men doubled as security officers and members of armed groups," the official admitted. "The fact that they had received paramilitary training as policemen was an asset because they were able to implement the tactics they learned in the fighting with the Israeli army."

Many PA policemen and security agents were trained by Egyptian, Jordanian and American security experts; others had attended military academies in former Eastern Bloc countries and the former Soviet Union before and after the signing of the Oslo Accords.

The policemen who also "moonlighted" as militiamen came mainly from the General Intelligence Force, the Preventative Security Service and the National Security Force.

The official said the best example was that of Youssef Kabaha, nicknamed Abu Jandal, who served as the commander of the armed militias in the Jenin refugee camp during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002.

Abu Jandal, a lieutenant-general with the National Security Force in the West Bank, played a major role in organizing the gunmen who fought against the IDF in the camp. He was killed during the clashes.

Abu Jandal's friends said that although he was on the PA's payroll, he also served as commander of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad in the Jenin refugee camp.

Another famous case is that of Jihad al-Amarin, founder of the "suicide division" in the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the Gaza Strip. Amarin, from the Zaitoun neighborhood in Gaza City, was a senior officer with the National Security Force.

He was killed in an IAF missile attack on his car in July 2002. His nephew, Wael al-Nammara, 33, who was also killed in the attack, was, in addition to his membership in the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, a senior officer with the Preventative Security Service.

The Preventative Security Service in the Gaza Strip has also been boasting that two of its officers were involved in attacks on the IDF over the past four years.

In the first case, Baha Abu al-Said, who was also a member of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, led a group of gunmen that infiltrated an IDF outpost, killing three soldiers.

His colleague in the same security force, Yasser Khatib, was the commander of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Rafah before he was killed by the IDF last year. Khatib was accused of carrying out several attacks on IDF bases and settlements.

Khaled Shawish, one of the commanders of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank who spent the last three years hiding in the Mukata "presidential" compound in Ramallah, wa In a recent interview, Shawish, who remains at large, revealed that he had been stationed at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus before he decided to join the Aksa Martyrs Brigades and carry out a string of fatal attacks on settlers and soldiers.

The PA security forces have rarely distanced themselves from the actions of their officers. On the contrary, most have boasted about the fact that their officers were also involved in the fighting against Israel.

Obituary notices distributed in the West Bank town of Salfit by Fatah and the PA General Intelligence Force a few months ago revealed that the local commander of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, who was killed in a mysterious explosion, had doubled as a security officer.

Jihad Hassan, who was known as Abu Na'im, was the commander of the Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Salfit and has been wanted by Israel for two years.

Residents said Hassan had purchased from an arms dealer an M-16 rifle that apparently had been booby-trapped by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). They said the rifle exploded while Hassan was cleaning it. He was rushed to a hospital in Ramallah, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

An obituary notice published by the General Intelligence Force, headed by Gen. Tawfik Tirawi, revealed that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades commander was also serving in the force with the rank of lieutenant.

"The command of the Palestinian General Intelligence Force and all its officers and soldiers mourn the death of martyr and hero lieutenant Jihad Hassan, who was martyred on the soil of Salfit on September 26, 2004, while carrying out his duties," said the obituary statement.

But what is perhaps most worrying is the fact that some policemen who were trained in the US and Europe eventually ended up joining the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. At least two Fatah gunmen from the West Bank recently admitted that they had been trained for six weeks as bodyguards by American security experts near Washington, DC. The two were later involved in a number of armed attacks against Israel and suspected "collaborators."

In an attempt to contain the phenomenon, the PA leadership last week issued an order banning policemen and security agents from carrying weapons while they are off duty.

"We are serious about putting an end to this chaos because it shows a lack of discipline among our security forces," the PA security official told the Post.

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