The Ten Year Klepto-Dictatorship of Mahmoud Abbas
For Mahmoud Abbas, these past few weeks have been busy. Last Tuesday, he applied for statehood at the UN. When that failed to get a majority vote in the Security Council due to the last minute abstention of Nigeria, he immediately set his eyes on the International Criminal Court, where he is currently applying for membership. And apparently, he’s making plans now with Jordan to go back to the Security Council for round two on getting a Palestinian state.
But that’s not all that’s happening for Mahmoud Abbas. There’s something else on his list, something that he might choose to celebrate.
This coming Friday, January 9, will mark the tenth anniversary of his victory in the Palestinian Presidential election. Funnily enough, though, his term was supposed to end six years ago. It didn’t — mainly because he’s called off every election since. Which means that this Friday will mark not only the birth of Mahmoud Abbas’ Presidential rule, but the death of Palestinian democracy.
Over the course of these past ten years, Mahmoud Abbas has completely dismantled whatever democratic process existed in the PA, to the extent that it ever did.
The truth is, though, this refusal to step down or call new elections is just one of many symptoms of the dictatorship that has developed under Mahmoud Abbas.
In line with other dictators, Abbas has scrapped any semblance of freedom of speech from the PA. Any journalists who attempt to call him out on his despotic ways are quickly imprisoned. The charge: “extending their tongue.”
Like any dictator, he’s corrupt. His predecessor, Yasser Arafat, was accused of embezzling billions of dollars of money meant for the Palestinian people, with U.S. officials estimating the man’s personal nest egg between one and three billion dollars. In line with his role model, after whom he named his own son, Abbas has continued this ignominious tradition.
At a hearing for the House Subcommittee on the Middle East entitled Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption within the Palestinian Political Establishment, committee Chairman Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) claimed that Mahmoud Abbas has used his position “to line his own pockets as well as those of his cohort of cronies, including his sons, Yasser and Tareq…allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in USAID contracts.”
In fact, according to Muhammad Rashid, Arafat’s economic and financial advisor and head of the Palestinian Investment Fund, Abbas has a net worth of more than $100 million. That’s beside the wealth of his sons, who’ve amassed their personal fortunes for such things as monopolies on imported cigarettes and public works projects.
Another PA official, former Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan, has claimed that $1.3 billion had vanished from the Palestinian Investment Fund since it was turned over to Abbas’ control in 2005.
This behavior matters quite a bit, especially when it’s happening at the highest levels of government. The world’s largest recipient of international aid, the Palestinian Authority has received about $8,462,161,328 between 2007 and 2014. At more than $3,000 per capita, and about $428 per capita per year, that’s nearly four times the aid given to Europeans by the Marshall Plan — money that totally rebuilt Europe from the devastation of the Second World War. Thus, perhaps it is the deep-seated corruption of the Palestinian Authority, and not Israeli security policies, which best explain why the economic situation of the Palestinian people is less than stellar.
Perhaps the most base feature of the Abbas dictatorship, however, is its eagerness to endorse violence. We saw this in the clearest terms just over a year ago, when Abbas named the release of murderers as a precondition for negotiations. When Israel complied, Abbas welcomed these killers home as heroes – and even called them so explicitly.
Standing before a celebrating welcome-crowd and smiling ear-to-ear, Abbas actually held up the hand of Issa Abd Rabbo, a man who at the age of 19 tied up and shot two Hebrew University students whose only crime was to go on a hike. And who can forget when, just over a decade ago, during the wave of PA sponsored terror of the Second Intifada, Mahmoud Abbas — then Prime Minister — waited nearly five years before so much as condemning the violence. He only did so in December of 2004, once 700 hundred Israeli civilians had already been blown up on buses and in pizza stores and night clubs.
The truth is, the roots of Abbas’ terrorist-tendencies stretch way back to the early 1970s. According to Abu Daoud, the Mastermind of the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre that left 11 Israeli athletes murdered, Abbas provided the funding for the Operation. [It’s worth noting that when Abu Daoud died in 2010, Abbas wrote a letter of condolence to the terrorist’s family, saying “He is missed. He was one of the leading figures of Fatah and spent his life in resistance and sincere work as well as physical sacrifice for his people’s just causes.”]
Looking back, if we were to grade these past ten years of Abbas’ Presidency, we’d have the trademark record of a villainous dictator. He has crushed democracy, stifled popular expression, amassed wealth on the backs of the people, and glorified violence.
In that regard, there are no questions. But for us, in the West, there is one. If Western leaders and intellectuals really care for the rights and welfare of Palestinians, and if they really want to pave a path toward peace – why do they continue to throw their money and support behind an anti-democratic, repressive, thieving, and terrorist-sponsoring dictator like Mahmoud Abbas?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom Newsweek and The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the Founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization defending Israel in the media. He is the author of “Judaism for Everyone” and 29 other books. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.