Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will address the General Assembly of the United Nations today. In doing so he will resume his disastrous campaign to get the world body to enable him to avoid peace negotiations with Israel by recognizing Palestinian independence. Though he will get more applause than Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who will follow him at the podium, he will not succeed. There are many reasons why the so-called “diplomatic tsunami” flopped last year and why the same thing will happen at this session. But high on the list is the fact that the rest of the world knows that the PA doesn’t control all the territory it claims (Gaza is ruled by Hamas), survives only by foreign charity, and is utterly corrupt and dysfunctional. That corruption again came to the notice of the American media in the days prior to Abbas’s speech. That the issue was highlighted through an initiative undertaken by Abbas’s family rather than friends of Israel is ironic but telling.
The Blog of Legal Times reported earlier this week (h/t Politico), that Abbas’s son Yasser has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Foreign Policy magazine and author and COMMENTARY contributor Jonathan Schanzer for his June 2012 article “The Brothers Abbas,” about the way that Yasser and Tarek Abbas have become wealthy in the Palestinian territories through the use of their contacts and legal monopolies awarded to them by their father’s government, as well as from foreign aid from countries like the United States. The truth of Schanzer’s assertions is self-evident because of the circumstances of the Abbas family’s hold on such lucrative deals as the monopoly on selling American cigarettes and being awarded numerous public works contracts by the PA. But given the widespread corruption that began under his father’s predecessor Yasir Arafat, the only question to be posed about the lawsuit is why the Abbas clan would bother to sue in an American court when the only thing such a proceeding could possibly do is to shine a brighter spotlight on their shady activities.
While Yasser Abbas may have a degree in civil engineering from Washington State University, the notion that firms that he is associated with have won tens of millions of dollars of contracts from his father’s government solely on the virtue of his expertise is ludicrous. The world knows that the Palestinian leadership has already stolen a large portion of the billions of dollars in aid from the European Union and the United States that have been lavished on the territories since the Oslo Accords were signed.
Some of that corruption takes the form of outright theft and bribery and the senior Abbas is believed, like his predecessor Arafat, to have socked away vast riches (perhaps as much as $100 million) in foreign back accounts. But much of it comes in the form of crony capitalism by which family members are given control of product distribution or construction businesses that live off the public purse. The idea that Schanzer has damaged Abbas’s reputation is the stuff of satire, not law.
It isn’t likely that the United States District Court where Abbas filed his suit will take it seriously. Or at least his father should hope so. Should the suit be allowed to go forward, it would give Foreign Policy and Schanzer the opportunity to dig deep into the PA’s finances and records and expose even more wrongdoing. That might even help give those fighting to make U.S. aid to the Palestinians dependent on ridding themselves of the sort of corruption that the Abbas clan and other ruling families there embody.
That’s something to remember today when you hear the senior Abbas, who is currently serving the eighth year of his four-year PA presidential term, blame all of his people’s problems on Israel.