Fed up with the stalled peace talks, the Palestinian leader defies Israel and vents about Obama. With unfettered access, Dan Ephron profiles Mahmoud Abbas in this week’s Newsweek.
We’re somewhere over the Mediterranean, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is trying to get inside the head of Barack Obama. “We knew him before he became president,” he’s saying, struggling to understand what happened to the man who had seemed more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than any of his predecessors. “We knew him and he was very receptive.” Around us, Abbas’s closest aides are shuffling papers or typing on laptops, while his bodyguards lounge on long corduroy couches. Saeb Erekat, the ubiquitous adviser, is writing talking points for Abbas’s meeting the next day with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. A man with a sidearm is shoveling pumpkin seeds into his mouth. In a space the size of two living rooms, most of the 20-odd passengers are puffing on cigarettes, and so is Abbas. At 76, he smokes more than two packs a day.
This is the most pivotal matter plaguing society today and we have no say in even finding out the truth. My passport still says I cant visit Israel. I cant add much here. Just that I really enjoyed the documentary and that we should have the right to be able to look into this matter ourselves.
The success of Avni and Bacha’s Encounter Point at Tribeca and other venues may be attributable to its refusal to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It follows both Israeli and Palestinian members of an unfortunate “club”—–parents who have lost sons and daughters in the hostilities between the warring groups. They have formed a group that is attempting reconciliation among its own members first and then reaching out to bring about understanding on a national scale.
My attempt to make the summary above sound objective is clearly a failure. Even the summary takes sides. “Conflict” to many Israelis is too mild a word to describe what they term “acts of terrorism.” When death comes from the gun of an Israeli soldier, it is a casualty of war from the Israeli point of view, but Palestinians see it as cold-blooded murder. Thus, when I use “warring,” I am taking sides. And while I do not describe the group’s aims as “forgiveness,” “settlement,” “compromise,” or “appeasement,” by adopting the film’s use of the term “reconciliation,” I am suggesting equivalence between the two positions.