It's Palestine Solidarity Week at the University of Maryland, and the student branch of ZOA is bringing Khaled Abu Toameh to campus. Abu Toameh, a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, is the Palestinian journalist beloved by the right wing. He says what the neocons want to hear: that the PA is corrupt; that Hamas will never change; that Israel has no Palestinian partner; and that we are in conflict management rather than in conflict resolution mode. When the ZOA sponsors a Palestinian speaker, it is either a "former terrorist" or a "former reporter for the PLO." One day they may find a former Arab to speak.
I can't blame Abu Toameh for being sponsored by an organization that claims that there is no Palestinian people, that the Arabs don't have any right to a state in Palestine; that none of the Israeli settlements, much less the outposts, are illegal. After all, it is hard to be a Palestinian journalist under any circumstances – if Abu Toameh can't liberate Palestine, he can at least liberate some of his honoraria money from the Zionists and their neocon allies.
But what the Maryland ZOA'ers probably don't know is that about a month ago, Abu Toameh gave a briefing to a group of American Israel advocates, on a tour sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, in which he said that Israel should offer the Palestinians a state on 98% of the West Bank, and to speak with Hamas.
Khaled Abu Toameh: If I were an Israeli Jew I would go to the Palestinians and say "Listen, folks. I'm prepared to give you a Palestinian state and the Israeli majority approves of that, not because we love the Palestinians, but because we want to be rid of the Palestinians."
There's a majority of Jews today who want to disband most of the settlements and take only two percent of the West Bank. My Israeli Jewish friends say to me, "You know, Khaled. You Arabs can take whatever you want. Just leave us alone. It's no longer a territorial dispute for us. We'll give you anything you want if you just go and leave us alone." Some of them even go further than that. Some of them say "Just leave us Tel Aviv, the airport, and the beach."
In the wake of these positive changes that have happened inside Israel, all you need is a strong partner on the Palestinian side. There is some hope, but only if there is a strong partner on the Palestinian side.
General Tom McInerney: But not Hamas.
Khaled Abu Toameh: I don't care. If I were Israeli I would talk to any Palestinian who wants to talk to me, and I would shoot any Palestinian who shoots at me. I wouldn't ask if they were Hamas. You know what? Believe me, if you listen to Hamas and Fatah in Arabic there isn't much of a difference, especially these days. Fatah fought alongside Hamas in Gaza. Today they said they lost 36 fighters and fired 900 rockets at Israel. Fatah.
Mario Loyola: Hamas pretends its casualties are lower, and Fatah pretends its casualties are higher.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Look. Look. As I said before, let's stop saying "Fatah" and "Hamas." Talk to anyone who wants to talk. Talking to Hamas does not mean that you recognize Hamas or that they become your buddies. The funny thing is that Israel went to war against a party that it doesn't recognize. And in the end Israel made a cease-fire unilaterally and negotiated with the Americans and the Egyptians for how to end it. And Hamas is still sitting there.
The entire "briefing" was published by rightwing blogger Michael J. Totten on Feburary 1. But later Totten took down the post, at the request of Abu Toameh and placed this note instead:
A Minority Report from the West Bank and Gaza (Deleted)
I had published the transcript of a talk and follow-up interview with a prominent and respectable Palestinian, and it caused a bit of trouble that neither he nor I anticpated or wanted. The transcript has been removed at his request.
Should I speculate that Abu Toameh asked Michael J. Totten to take down the post because he didn't want to offend his rightwing hosts who bankroll his appeances? Who knows? Abu Toameh, is, after all, a man of principle. When he was threatened by Fatah, he didn't back down.
On the other hand, maybe ZOA's carrot is better than Fatah's stick