Report on concessions riles Palestinians
RAMALLAH, West Bank — A senior Palestinian official condemned Qatar-based Al-Jazeera yesterday and a crowd of protesters vandalized the satellite channel’s West Bank offices after it reported on leaked documents that purportedly said Palestinian leaders offered large concessions in peace talks with Israel in 2008.
The angry outburst followed the airing late Sunday of what Al-Jazeera said were internal Palestinian documents showing that Palestinian leaders had offered broad concessions on two of the thorniest issues in negotiations with Israel: Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told reporters the news network engaged in “media games . . . to trick and mislead the simple citizen.’’ He angrily accused the gulf state of Qatar, which bankrolls the station, of damaging Palestinian interests.
“What Al-Jazeera is doing today is an attempt to distort the national position of the Palestinian leadership,’’ he said.
Abed Rabbo said the report relied on out-of-context quotes, insinuations, and outright fabrications.
He also took aim at the emir of Qatar, calling the Al-Jazeera report “a political campaign of the first degree’’ coming from “a political decision at the highest level from our brother in Qatar.’’
Ultimate authority in Qatar — and at Al-Jazeera — rests with the hereditary emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. However, Al-Jazeera has long operated with considerable editorial freedom compared with other government-run media outlets in the Arab world.
The show’s assertions were embraced by the rival Hamas, the Islamist movement that seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, leaving Abbas governing only in the West Bank. Hamas refuses all negotiation with Israel.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri yesterday said the documents “reveal the close collaboration with [Israel], and reflects its role in trying to kill off the Palestinian cause.’’
In Ramallah, about 250 Abbas loyalists rallied in support of the president in front of the building housing Al-Jazeera office.
A small group climbed the stairs to the station’s offices, where they broke security cameras, glass door panels, and station logos.