By Michael Widlanski Tuesday, 16 January, 2007
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas made a very militant anti-Israel speech
this week, but most of its violent message was lost in translation, because
Abbas used a somewhat obscure wording in Arabic.
"Let a thousand flowers bloom, and let our rifles, all our rifles, all
our rifles, be aimed at the Occupation," declared Abbas using an apparent
reference to the old oratory of Communist leader Mao Tse Tung.
Even non-Arabs well-schooled in Arabic had trouble figuring out the
strange verb form "da'a" used by Dr. Abbas, but it is a command form that
means "let us" or "leave us begin to" from the weak Arabic verbal root
Wa-da-'a (Waw, Dal 'Ayin). [See Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written
The phrase is important in many ways, because it shows
.--That Dr. Abbas, who studied at the KGB's Patrice Lumumba University for
Third World leaders, continues to heed Communist revolutionary rhetoric and
.--That Dr. Abbas is committed to the "revolutionary path" of Yasser Arafat,
who also saluted those using violence against Israel;
.--And that Abbas believes that the Palestinian revolution requires
continued violence against Israel, and that this violence can actually be a
unifying factor among Palestinians, though Abbas has said that the timing of
the violence is of critical importance.
"I say to the master of the martyrs," declared Abbas, saluting Arafat,
"your sons will continue your march. I say to you, your lion cubs will
continue this struggle (nidal), this battle (kifaah) until a Palestinian
state is established on the land of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.
Abbas, who spoke for more than 30 minutes on Jan. 11 in Ramallah, made
it clear that he was distinguishing between the "struggle" or "battle"
against Israel and the "fighting" among Palestinians.
"Firing weapons at a my brother my friend, my neighbor," declared Arafat's
successor, "is forbidden, forbidden, forbidden," repeating his words and
waving his left hand strongly.
But Abbas said the Palestinian struggle would continue despite setbacks.
"They have killed us everywhere, but this revolution, by virtue of the
determination of its people, by virtue of the determination of its
youth--this revolution has continued and it will continue until we fulfill
the Palestinian dream."
Abbas was speaking at the forty-second anniversary of the founding of
the Fatah organization-a day commemorating the first Palestinian attack on
Israel's national water carrier on January 1, 1965, and Abbas was trying to
use the occasion unify the divided Palestinian community, perhaps by using
Israel as a common enemy.
The Fatah Day speech was delayed by ten days of massive fighting between
Fatah and Hamas, both of which are wrestling for leadership of the
Palestinian Authority in the wake of Yasser Arafat's death in November 2004.
"Since our launching to this day, we have believed in principles which we
shall not relinquish. From the dawn of our beginning we have said 'Let a
thousand flowers bloom and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles,
be aimed at the Occupation.' And we will keep the oath, the renewed national
unity, for everyone who cares for the sake of the homeland and in the path
of the homeland," declared Abbas.
Frequently throughout his speech, Abbas referred to Arafat as martyr,
similarly describing those Fatah gunmen who died while carrying out
attacks on Israel.
Abbas's comments were interpreted by Palestinians themselves as a clear
reference to attacking Israel-a badge of honor rather than something to
The Palestinian leader's words were repeated almost exactly in later
television shows by other Palestinian officials, such as Ibrahim Abu-Naja
and Dr. Kamal Sharafy who called Israel "the enemy" and "the Zionist enemy,"
As if to remove any doubt about the militancy of Abbas's words and the
place to aim Palestinian rifles, minutes after Abbas's own speech,
Palestinian television's senior announcer, described Israel's establishment
as the beginning of "occupation."
"No one [here] is a criminal. All our people are as one hand to free our
land," declared Abbas, speaking about the struggle against Israel that
unites all Palestinians. Not once in his speech did he condemn or even
disapprove of continuing rocket attacks and attempted suicide assaults by
Hamas and by his own Fatah movement.
But Abbas made it clear that Palestinian violence had to be curtailed for
practical reasons, because it was "crossing a red line," endangering
"I have heard the sound gunshots here, and that is forbidden," asserted
Abbas, the Fatah and PLO chairman, remonstrating against the largely
pro-Fatah crowd that gathered to listen to his words in the town of
Ramallah, north of Jerusalem.
"Condemning and preventing internal fighting," was his goal, asserted
Abbas, referring to the internal Palestinian blood-letting in which about
300 Palestinians died last year. Stopping this "falatan"-anarchy in Arabic-
was his regime's first priority, said Abbas, but his words did not seem to
convince the crowd.
"Hamas is a bunch of Shiites," cried members of the crowd, using the term
"Shiite" as a kind of curse, and Abbas again rebuked his own Fatah members,
saying, "This [kind of talk] too is forbidden," as he tried to strike
nationalistic and Islamic themes of unity, departing slightly from his
[See Fatah website in Arabic
"No one [Palestinian] is outside our society," yelled Abbas. waving his
hands at the noisy crowd. He specifically saluted the late Sheikh Ahmad
Yassin, one of the founders of Hamas, which developed the human bomb attacks
that ravaged Israel from 1994-2004, after Israel signed several agreements
with the Palestinians.
"No one is a traitor. No one is a collaborator [with Israel]. No one is
an infidel," Abbas continued, strongly suggesting that anyone who has used
arms against Israel, even if he vied with Fatah for leadership, was still
not beyond the pale.
[Almost all Palestinians are Sunni Muslims and the term "Shi'a" in
Arabic, which means faction or faction member, refers to those Muslims who
broke away from the majority community after the death of Islam's leader,
Muhammad, and supported Ali, Muhammad's nephew. -MW]
In what was in many ways one of the most militant speeches against
Israel from a Palestinian official normally touted as a moderate, Dr. Abbas
also stretched out his hand to the Hamas terror organization that has
never even pretended it does not want to destroy Israel.
Dr. Abbas seemed to reject all possibilities of territorial compromise or
anything less than full repatriation of Palestinian refugees, and he
repudiated Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's idea that a further Israeli
withdrawal would lead to a Palestinian state inside temporary borders.
"Today more than any other day, we must hold fast to our Palestinian
principles, and we will not accept a state with temporary borders" said
Abbas, adding, "We will not give up one grain [of land] in Jerusalem."
Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication at
the Rothberg School of Hebrew University, and his doctorate dealt with the
Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and
editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta
Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special
advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic
Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO
Archives captured in Jerusalem.
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
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