Shabi’s Scaffolding of Immutable Palestinian Victimhood

July 7th saw Rachel Shabi propping up notions of Palestinian victimhood yet again, this time by resurrecting the decade-old canard of Camp David being a ‘trap’ which undermined the peace process as often propagated by various Palestinian leaders , as well as by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley .

Shabi’s revisionist view (which rejects the well-documented history of  what actually occurred at Camp David),  is best viewed in the context of the extensive commentary about the talks provided by the man who was actually the chief U.S. negotiator and Special Envoy to the Region – Dennis Ross. In an interview with Fox News in 2002, Ross went into great detail about the reasons for the collapse of the Camp David talks (July 11 to 24, 2000) and the subsequent initiatives.

DENNIS ROSS: Let me give you the sequence, because I think it puts all this in perspective.

Number one, at Camp David we did not put a comprehensive set of ideas on the table. We put ideas on the table that would have affected the borders and would have affected Jerusalem.

Arafat could not accept any of that. In fact, during the 15 days there, he never himself raised a single idea. His negotiators did, to be fair to them, but he didn’t. The only new idea he raised at Camp David was that the temple didn’t exist in Jerusalem, it existed in Nablus.

BRIT HUME (FOX News Chief Political Correspondent): This is the temple where Ariel Sharon paid a visit, which was used as a kind of pre-text for the beginning of the new intifada, correct?

DENNIS ROSS: This is the core of the Jewish faith.


DENNIS ROSS: So he was denying the core of the Jewish faith there. After the summit, he immediately came back to us and he said, “We need to have another summit,” to which we said, “We just shot our wad. We got a no from you. You’re prepared actually do a deal before we go back to something like that.”

He agreed to set up a private channel between his people and the Israelis, which I joined at the end of August. And there were serious discussions that went on, and we were poised to present our ideas the end of September, which is when the intifada erupted. He knew we were poised to present the ideas. His own people were telling him they looked good. And we asked him to intervene to ensure there wouldn’t be violence after the Sharon visit, the day after. He said he would. He didn’t lift a finger.

DENNIS ROSS: The ideas were presented on December 23 by the president, and they basically said the following: On borders, there would be about a 5 percent annexation in the West Bank for the Israelis and a 2 percent swap. So there would be a net 97 percent of the territory that would go to the Palestinians.

On Jerusalem, the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem would become the capital of the Palestinian state.

On the issue of refugees, there would be a right of return for the refugees to their own state, not to Israel, but there would also be a fund of $30 billion internationally that would be put together for either compensation or to cover repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation costs.

And when it came to security, there would be an international presence, in place of the Israelis, in the Jordan Valley.

These were ideas that were comprehensive, unprecedented, stretched very far, represented a culmination of an effort in our best judgment as to what each side could accept after thousands of hours of debate, discussion with each side.

FRED BARNES (FOX News Contributor): Now, Palestinian officials say to this day that Arafat said yes.

DENNIS ROSS: Arafat came to the White House on January 2. Met with the president, and I was there in the Oval Office. He said yes, and then he added reservations that basically meant he rejected every single one of the things he was supposed to give.

BRIT HUME: What was he supposed to give?

DENNIS ROSS: He supposed to give, on Jerusalem, the idea that there would be for the Israelis sovereignty over the Western Wall, which would cover the areas that are of religious significance to Israel. He rejected that.

BRIT HUME: He rejected their being able to have that?

DENNIS ROSS: He rejected that.

He rejected the idea on the refugees. He said we need a whole new formula, as if what we had presented was non-existent.

He rejected the basic ideas on security. He wouldn’t even countenance the idea that the Israelis would be able to operate in Palestinian airspace.

You know when you fly into Israel today you go to Ben Gurion. You fly in over the West Bank because you can’t – there’s no space through otherwise. He rejected that.

So every single one of the ideas that was asked of him he rejected.

Shabi’s revisionism extends beyond Camp David to the second Intifada and Operation Cast Lead.  She says:

“Analysts observe that the failure of those talks created a political vacuum, clearing a space for extremism on both sides. Developments after Camp David read like a chronicle of misery: the violent second Palestinian intifada followed by Israel’s brutal military reoccupation of the West Bank; the continued expansion of Jewish settlements and infrastructure in the West Bank, along with the increase in stifling roadblocks and checkpoints and the construction of Israeli’s choking separation barrier; the devastating split between Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas, and Israel’s deadly, three-week pounding of the Gaza strip in late 2008.”

Not only does Shabi fail to point out that checkpoints, roadblocks and the anti-terrorist fence were new features which came into being as methods of combating the long years of Palestinian suicide bombings in Israeli towns and cities, she also deliberately ignores the context of Operation Cast Lead and Operation Defensive Shield, both of which were the result of the terrorism and indiscriminate murder of Israeli citizens. As may be expected, neither does she put the second Intifada into its true context as a deliberately instigated and tactical wave of violence on the part of the Palestinian Authority. Far from being the spontaneous outcome of the failure of the Camp David talks, the Second Intifada had been deliberately engineered at latest from the moment they ended.

On December 6, 2000, the semi-official Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam reported as follows:

“Speaking at a symposium in Gaza, Palestinian Minister of Communications, Imad Al-Falouji, confirmed that the Palestinian Authority had begun preparations for the outbreak of the current Intifada from the moment the Camp David talks concluded, this in accordance with instructions given by Chairman Arafat himself. Mr. Falouji went on to state that Arafat launched this Intifada as a culminating stage to the immutable Palestinian stance in the negotiations, and was not meant merely as a protest of Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount.”

And, according to Marwan Barghouti:

“I knew that the end of September was the last period (of time) before the explosion, but when Sharon reached the al-Aqsa Mosque, this was the most appropriate moment for the outbreak of the intifada….The night prior to Sharon’s visit, I participated in a panel on a local television station and I seized the opportunity to call on the public to go to the al-Aqsa Mosque in the morning, for it was not possible that Sharon would reach al-Haram al-Sharif just so, and walk away peacefully. I finished and went to al-Aqsa in the morning….We tried to create clashes without success because of the differences of opinion that emerged with others in the al-Aqsa compound at the time….After Sharon left, I remained for two hours in the presence of other people, we discussed the manner of response and how it was possible to react in all the cities (bilad) and not just in Jerusalem. We contacted all (the Palestinian) factions.”

Shabi’s next act of revisionism is to turn the Palestinians into victims of the West by decrying the ‘aid economy’ which she seems to tie to the Oslo accords, despite the fact that aid agencies have been active in the region since long before 1993 and naturally without any mention of the unique hereditary status of Palestinian refugees.

Shabi says:

“A toxic, humiliating consequence of those peace process years that began with the 1993 Oslo accords has been the creation of an aid economy in the occupied Palestinian territories. Palestinians, who place no less emphasis on education, economy and good business than do their Israeli neighbours, are now ashamed to point out that they are among the most aid-dependent societies.”

For Shabi, it is not wrong for the West to donate unprecedented amounts of money to the Palestinians with little accountability as to the impact of such largess; it is only the “strings attached” – designed to prevent the funding of terrorism – which seems to concern her.

“Now the aid carries its own disruptive caveats: for instance,USAID feeds funds into swathes of the Palestinian NGO sector, but only on condition that documents are signed to assure that the organisations to be funded are Hamas-free.”

So what is Shabi trying to achieve with this article? Well firstly she is perpetuating the myth of Palestinians as blameless, helpless victims – a myth which has been manufactured for well over four decades and is eminently useful in whipping up anti-Israel venom on the streets of Western cities.  According to this school of PR, even Arafat’s intransigence at Camp David or the orchestrated violence – of the Second Intifada – which he and other Palestinian leaders initiated after the talks failed can be re-written and re-marketed as Israeli sins.

Secondly, Shabi acts as nothing less than a Hamas mouthpiece, when she inserts the following quote:

“We accept ’67 borders,” he [Mahmoud Ramahi, senior Hamas representative] says. “But when we saw this proposal at Camp David, the people understood that Israel doesn’t want to give us anything and that we have to keep resisting and fighting for our rights.”

For decades now the world has watched the macabre waltz of the Middle East “peace process” going round and round, never getting anywhere. Each time talks and summits break down the Palestinians need to reposition themselves as the sole victims in the eyes of the world so that even more pressure can be applied on Israel to make further concessions.  And boy, does that tactic work. If, as Rachel Shabi claims, Palestinians indeed see Camp David as a ‘trap’ or a ‘trick’ even today, thereby perpetuating Abu Mazen’s claims from even before the 2000 talks began, then one wonders what hope there is for any future round of talks.  Because, even the most liberal Israelis understand that – to abide by even the most basic security requirements of their nation – they cannot offer more than was put on the table at Camp David.

It is recounted that several days before Bill Clinton left office, Arafat told him that he was ‘a great man’. Clinton apparently replied “The hell I am. I’m a colossal failure and you made me one.” One wonders if Barak Obama will be saying the same to Abu Mazen anytime soon.

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