Khaled Abu Toameh
During a recent trip to Israel I had the unique opportunity to be part of an intimate conference with renowned journalist Khaled Abu Toameh. Khaled is an Israeli Arab journalist, lecturer and documentary filmmaker. He is the West Bank and Gaza correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and U.S. News and World Report, and has been the Palestinian affairs producer for NBC News since 1988. His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, World Tribune, and many other newspapers. Khaled spoke to us about his experience and opinions on the Palestinian / Israeli situation. Fascinating doesn't even begin to describe what the next couple of hours were.
The room was electric with both excitement and curiosity as each of us sat in our chairs, giving Khaled our undivided attention. He began by saying that there are currently 1.5 million Arabs living in Israel making up about 20% of Israels total population. These people are called Arab Israelis. He went on to say that he used to work for a PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) paper as a journalist before he began to write as an Israeli and intentional correspondent. He said that the Palestine/Arab factions do not allow freedom of press and any reporter that is critical toward the government would be censored and in danger of imprisonment, violence or even death. Being a reporter in this part of the world can be very dangerous. The violence continued to ramp up and in September of 2000 it became very dangerous going to the West Bank and Gaza as a reporter. In 2006's Yasser Arafat went against the Hamas in an open election. The Hamas was a strong party that made promises and semed better than the PLO in the eyes of the people. They promised the desperate Palestinians change and reform. This sentiment combined with the Palestinian people being mad at the PLO, believing that they were cheating them made the Hamas seem like a better deal, winning them the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. Currently 1.5 million in Gaza are run by Hamas.
This discussion made me wonder, so what happens when a free democratic election elects a terrorist organization or dictator to take power? It's happened before. We think of free democratic elections as being good, however is that always the case?
Khaled feels that if the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) were to leave the West Bank that the Fatah (PLO) would be removed by Hamas. Fatah is the largest faction of the PLO. For those of you who are wondering, Hamas runs the Gaza strip and Fatah runs the West Bank. He continued to say that there were two basic types of Islamic groups in Palestine: Radical: Those who want all the Israeli land back and Israel to be destroyed. Moderate: Those who want to see Israel give back all the land that they acquired 1967's 6 day war. Both of these groups want an "all or nothing" deal and Khaled firmly believed that they would not compromise in the slightest. Khaled explained that both groups know that this would be impossible which fuels their continued resistance, however, any concessions would not be considered.