Abbas talks tough to the US and Hamas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he would take legal measures against Hamas after last week’s assassination attempt on Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. (AP)
Updated 21 March 2018

Abbas talks tough to the US and Hamas

AMMAN: Mahmoud Abbas’s verbal attack against Washington and Hamas in a 14-minute speech on Monday night seemed aimed at self-preservation and securing his legacy.
The Palestinian Authority president upped the ante with Washington, accusing it of shedding “crocodile tears” over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and he called the US ambassador to Israel a “son of a dog.”
But the president, who will be 83 on March 26, has little to lose as he will start to hand power to a new generation at a meeting of the Palestine National Council on April 30.
Abbas said he would take “national, legal and financial measures” against Hamas after last week’s assassination attempt on Rami Hamdallah, his prime minister and head of Palestinian intelligence. He blamed the bomb attack on Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip and remains bitterly divided from Abbas’s Fatah movement.
Mohammad Laham, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council from Bethlehem, told Arab News it had become clear that Hamas was involved soon after the attack.
“The visit to Gaza was only known 24 hours earlier and the size of the explosives (30 kg) as well as the choice of the location of the attack, all point that those behind it are not a peripheral group, but a group that is well connected and knowledgeable,” he said.
Abbas’s speech sent a message to the US, which had recently held a meeting in Washington about the humanitarian needs of Gaza. In that meeting, Jason Greenblatt, US envoy to the Middle East, told attendees to “park their politics outside” when discussing Gaza, which is under a long-standing Israeli blockade.
“Unfortunately, we cannot ‘leave politics at the door’ because the crisis in Gaza is a result of right-wing extremist Israeli policies seeping into the rhetoric of the international community,” Dr. Saeb Erekat, PLO secretary general, wrote last week in Newsweek.
The Palestinian president knows that the White House meeting on Gaza was held because Israel is worried about a total collapse in Gaza, as the US plans to cut off millions of dollars in aid to the United Nations Agency Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees.
It seems that by adding to the pressure on Hamas, the Palestinian leader is hoping for either a capitulation of the Islamic movement or for intervention by Egypt, Israel or a combination of forces in which Ramallah would be eventually called on to keep the peace in Gaza. He appears to be applying the well-known Arab proverb “it needs to get bigger before it gets smaller.”
Abbas may be thinking in terms of his reputation and legacy — many Palestinians feel that he has wasted years trying to appease Israel and the US in search of a compromise.
By attacking Washington, he has thrown the dice, but how will he deal with the chaos that will engulf the Strip if external powers decide not to intervene?


US honors head of France’s Arab World Institute

Updated 28 January 2020

US honors head of France’s Arab World Institute

  • Dr Jack Lang was recognized for promoting the Arab region and cross-cultural understanding
  • First recipient of the Global Cultural Leadership Award from the National Council on US-Arab Relations

WASHINGTON: Dr. Jack Lang, president of the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab World Institute) in Paris, on Monday received the inaugural Global Cultural Leadership Award from the National Council on US-Arab Relations.

The honor was recognition for his achievements in expanding knowledge of the Arab region and promoting cross-cultural understanding. It was presented to him at the French ambassador’s residence in Washington by the council’s Founding President and CEO Dr. John Duke Anthony, board Chairman John Pratt, International Advisory Board member Leo A. Daly III, and Executive Vice President Patrick Mancino.

Lang and a delegation from the institute were in Washington for the opening of the IMA exhibition “Age Old Cities: A Virtual Journey from Palmyra to Mosul” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art.

“What Monsieur Lang and the IMA have achieved in highlighting the rich history and culture of the Arab region is considerable,” said Anthony during the award presentation ceremony. “They have done much to showcase Arab contributions to knowledge and understanding that have benefited the world’s civilizations and humankind in general.

“Under Monsieur Lang’s leadership, the IMA has effectively pushed into new territories in storytelling and technology that help further illuminate the innumerable, extraordinary and myriad impacts that Arabs have had on humanity’s endless quest for modernization and development.”

Lang was appointed IMA president by French President Francois Hollande in 2013. He was previously a National Assembly member for more than two decades, including stints as France’s minister of culture and minister of education. He was also mayor of the city of Blois from 1989 to 2000, and served as a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

The IMA, which is located on the banks of the Seine in Paris, opened in 1987 as a center dedicated to the promotion of Arab civilization, knowledge and art. It contains unique collections and hosts special touring exhibitions. These include “AlUla: Wonder of Arabia,” showcasing Saudi Arabia’s Nabataean archaeological treasure, the dates for which were recently extended after it proved to be incredibly popular.

The National Council on US-Arab Relations was founded in 1983 as a nonprofit, nongovernmental, educational organization. It is dedicated to raising awareness and appreciation of the extraordinary benefits the United States has derived from its special relationships with countries in the Arab region, and vice versa. Anthony and the council are working on plans for an Arab Cultural Institute, similar to the IMA, in Washington.