After the success of the UN a few days ago, which was orchestrated under Obama’s careful supervision, it’s hard to escape the feeling that Abu Mazen’s stop in Rome to visit Pope Francis before going to Paris (where he will has been present as non participant at the Peace Conference initiated by French President Hollande in which more than 70 foreign ministers have been invited with the obvious intent of backing again Israel into a corner) isn’t part of the same triumphal initiative that has mobilized many Western leaders.
The Vatican waived flags of peace and exalted the common struggle against terrorism, but even a superficial look at Abu Mazen’s policy makes it very difficult for us to believe Pope Francis thinks – if he has informed advisors – that he embraced a man of peace in the Middle East yesterday.
It’s harder yet to believe that it was a wise gesture yesterday to inaugurate in the name of peace a “Palestinian” Embassy to the Holy Sea. A country that for now doesn’t even exist has been recognized with papal blessings, while recognizing Israel took the Vatican almost 50 years and the efforts a man with a great conscience and European polish memory, namely Pope John Paul II.
It’s within the frame work of a 360-degree diplomatic offensive that Abu Mazen managed to walk through the Vatican’s thresholds yesterday. He received hugs, gifts and assurances that the Pope sees Palestine as an already existing state and Abu Mazen as its head – a bizarre choice as a prominent aim to support at a time in which the world is plagued by terrorism and wars, especially in the Middle East.
Pope Francis, who is a man of experience, knows well what kind of state it is: Abu Mazen controls his people with an iron fist since 2005, elections that should have taken place in 2009 never actually occurred; no modern and democratic country could bear the militia regime that dominates over the Palestinian territories. Moreover, Abu Mazen’s personal fortune has led to frequent allegations of corruption, his huge mansion and his children’s business affairs have been the subject of many newspaper articles, including a famous one that appeared in Foreign Policy in 2012.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, who also met with Abu Mazen while he was in Rome, reminded Italy’s gift of 240 million Euros given as an aid to the Palestinians since 2005. But he knows that it has always been impossible to verify fully how much of that money actually went towards helping the Palestinian people. The wealth of the Palestinian leadership, on the other hand, is well known and ostentatious.
The slogan that most of the press accepted as the slogan of the visit was “peace” and “war on terror.” Yet, it’s completely impossible to believe that Abu Mazen truly backs the war on terror. Someone can cite his official condolences for the truck attacks in Nice and Berlin. However, but he never expressed similar remarks for the recent truck attack in Jerusalem. He sends condolences to the victims of terrorism if they are not Jewish.
The glorification of terrorists pervades Palestinian society. It was instilled in them first through Arafat’s policies and thereafter by those carried out by Abu Mazen; streets carry the names of shahids, schools, textbooks and the media describe suicide bombers and stabbers as heroes, terrorists in prison receive a government salary as do families of terrorists who have been killed.
The entire society supports terrorism as we can see onits social media networks; Abu Mazen’s leadership shows all the time on its side, and runs a continuous propaganda for a violent behavior while running a parallel diplomatic highway. The aim of the international effort is to obtain a pass for preventive ’67 borders that avoid negotiations, and therefore, recognizing the existence of a Jewish State.
As much as a real demand for a commitment to the peace process, it would have been wise from the Pope to request a commitment by the Palestinian leader toward Palestinian Christians.
There has not been any: the Pope certainly knows, nevertheless, that the relations between the two are dramatic even if Abu Mazen attends the Christmas mass in Bethlehem. The number of Christians in the disputed territories controlled by Abu Mazen’s regime has been drastically reduced. They have been forced to flee due to Islamic attitude, which has resulted in acute persecution.
In Bethlehem the few survivors (from 86 percent in the 1950s to about 10 percent today) speak of harsh Muslim discrimination, especially against women, harassment and bullying against persons and properties. Many journalists, including myself, have reported them as they were happening.
It’s a story that the Catholic Church knows well. And yet it sent Abu Mazen to Paris with a new medal. Why? When you ask this simple question, it’s impossible to avoid an historically long and sore note about the Church attitude toward the Jews.
Translation by Amy K. Rosenthal
This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (January 15, 2017)