"Yes, brothers, with our souls and blood we redeem you, O Palestine. This is the decision of the people with exceeding strength. This is a sacred bond. We are up to this duty. Allah is great! Glory to Allah and his prophet. Jihad, jihad, jihad, jihad, jihad!"
Yassar Arafat (Abu Amar) addressing Hebron Delegation, 2 January 2002
"The small jihad, which was the armed struggle, has ended, and now begins the large jihad, which will be the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the building of our homeland."
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) upon claiming victory in the Palestinian elections, 9 January 2005
Is this the maiden speech the world has been waiting to hear from a new leader of an emerging nation in a dawning era, or is it just the continuation of the same old rhetoric?!
For starters, one must establish what this ‘large jihad’ Abbas is calling for is. Even the most peaceful application of the word implies a struggle at some level (Read Daniel Pipes': What is Jihad?). Even if Abbas has good intentions, why is he giving cause to Israelis to doubt his sincerity?! There must be better ways of calling for peace...
The usual excuse that this is all part of the political game fails for the following reasons:
- That is what they said about Arafat.
- This was not a tight race for Abu Mazen, so he could have swung away from the fanatics and still have won in a landslide.
- Abu Mazen's action stands in stark contrast to his political counterpart, Ariel Sharon, who despite a narrow mandate has risked his government, his party and his life to push through a plan he believes will benefit peace.
I hope the new governments formed this week in Jerusalem and in Ramallah can bring about the much needed winds of change, but with the precedent set by Abbas over the past couple of weeks, my optimism may disappoint once again.
For more on Abbas' duplicitous election campaign, read Honest Reporting's: President Abbas - A New Age?