Israeli Arab Journalist Addresses NSWJBD AGM

August 17, 2011 by Henry Benjamin
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Khaled Abu Toumeh is a distinguished Arab Israeli journalist. Last night, he addressed the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies’ AGM.

Khaled Abu Toumeh

NSWJBD president Yair Miller introduced Abu Toumeh telling over 300 members of the community at the standing room only meeting at Sydney’s Central Synagogue that he brings a unique perspective on Palestinian society and the interaction between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours.

Abu Toumeh began by explaining he is an Arab Muslim living in Jerusalem…an Israeli citizen who also considers himself to be Palestinian given that his mother is Palestinian. His career began working as a journalist for the PLO and continues to covers news stories from the West Bank and Gaza.

A graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Abu Toumeh works mostly in areas not deemed safe for Israeli journalists. Alluding to the rise of anti-Israel sentiment throughout Western society Abu Toumeh  wryly said that he felt safer with Fatah and Hamas than talking on a university campus in North America.

He said that in 2007 the Hamas, after gaining power, had expelled the PLO from Gaza many fleeing to Egypt. “Egypt sealed its borders and many Muslim PLO members found themselves trapped in Gaza. We saw one country that came to their aid, sending helicopters, ships and buses and even taxis to save Muslims from being slaughtered by Muslims. Israel took the Palestinians from Gaza and moved them to the West Bank” adding that the Palestinians already  have two States. Gaza, backed by Iran, Syria, Sudan, Muslim Brotherhood and the West Bank. He quietly said: “As a Muslim, I feel safer being in Israel than being in Gaza.”

Abu Toumeh said that what Palestinians say publicly is not always the official line pointing out that if Israel carries out what the PLO is demanding in public…a withdrawal to the 1967 lines, the PLO will collapse in less than a week and Hamas will take over. He pleaded that Israel should not make the same mistake as it did in 2005 by handing over Gaza to the PLO only to see Hamas gaining control over the area..He said that land should only be handed over to those who can control that.

He conjectured that ff Israel were to withdraw from the West Bank where the PLO is seen to be as being weak, the territory may well come under the control of Iran, Al-Qaeda and Hamas.

Commenting on the 1967 lines, Abu Toumeh said that there is no clearly defined boundary. He said that tracing that line today would mean going through private properties.

The journalist, who has worked for the Jerusalem Post for almost 10 years commented that if it were it not for Israel’s presence between Fatah and Hamas, there could well be war between the two Palestinian organisations.

Abu Toumeh questioned as how to move forward with the peace process.  He said relations between Israel and Palestinians have “been going downhill” since the peace process started in 1993 adding “we miss the good old days before the peace process.” He said the radical Palestinian camp is saying “I want everything. This land is all Muslim-owned land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. I want to replace the Jewish State with an Islamic State. This is the Hamas-led radical camp. It is not a tiny minority and it does not want talk with you, it does not want to negotiate. It wants to destroy you. The moderate camp is the less radical PLO camp. It wants to go back to 1967 lines with no concessions. They do not want to negotiate with Israel because Israel will not give 100%. The PLO has told its people that anyone willing to give 1% to Israel is a traitor.”

He said that next month’s United Nations Statehood Bid is all about trying to negotiate a country without talking to Israel and the campaign is ultimately aimed at isolating and delegitimising Israel.

Abu Toumeh forecasted that the UN will not declare a Palestinian State but that Palestine,should it become a member country of the UN will complain to the Security Council that one member is occupying another. He is of the view that they will demand that UN issue a resolution for Israel to withdraw from Palestine. He added: “They will not comply so they will demand sanctions against Israel calling for the country to be kicked out of all human rights groups. and its leaders brought to trial for war crimes. I feel that it is more about punishing Israel than acquiring a State”.

He continued with advice for the Palestinians:  “There is only one way of achieving a State. You have to negotiate with Israel whether you like it or not.”

The meeting was told that there are 200,o00 Jews living in the West Bank and that the majority of Jews in Israel want a two State solution. “But there should be separation. Israel should not be meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians.” he added.

Abu Toumeh believes Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is making a major mistake driving Israel into a corner at the UN, expressing concern about the possibility of sanctions against his people.

Of Abbas  he said: “He does not have a mandate from the Palestinians. There has been no debate. There is no democracy or free press in Ramallah. We do not have a functioning parliament. Abbas has only consulted with people on his payroll. He said Hamas would not accept Abbas’s concept because they want a State to replace Israel, not sit alongside it. Abu Toumeh said that this would have an effect on the millions living in refugee camps and who are being made aware of the right of return…the right to return to their original homes.”

He went on to say that the Palestinians to turn against Israel and America in case the push for the declaration of a Palestinian state fails. They want people to march on IDF checkpoints to embarrass Israel. Throwing stones and molotov cocktails will provoke reaction from the IDF adding that he PA does not treat Israel as a peace partner. They treat Israel as an enemy. The Palestinians have been radicalised by Abbas..not only Hamas. His rhetoric is very strong, They do not treat Israel as a peace partner. They treat Israel as an enemy.

Abu Toumeh is concerned about the future believing that the third Intifida could be “around the corner”.

Khaled Abu Toumeh’s message to the Palestinian Authority? “Go back to the negotiating table very quickly before things get out of hand. What he is doing can destroy the peace process and lead to more violence.”

Guest speaker Dr Danny Lamm, president of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told the meeting of the work being down by the community umbrella group and its constituent members.

Both NSWJBD president and its CEO Vic Alhadeff lavished praise on the staff at the Board as well as detailing the volume and diversity of work carried our by the Board on the community’s behalf.

Khaled Abu Toumeh has worked as a senior journalist with the JP since 2002 and has for twenty years produced news for the US NBC network covering Palestinian affairs.






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