In October 1522, Machiavelli gave some valuable advice to a colleague about to become ambassador to Spain. He suggested that if it sometimes becomes necessary to conceal facts with words then it should be done in such a manner that no one becomes aware of it. It is obvious that Mahmoud Abbas, now in the tenth year of his four-year term as President of the Palestinian Authority, is familiar with this principle. It was clear he had become a disciple of Machiavelli when he delivered his speech to the UN General Assembly on September 26, 2014.
President Abbas spoke of his commitment to achieve a just peace with Israel through a negotiated solution and an adoption of a diplomatic and political effort by UN bodies. Although speaking from a seemingly peaceful perspective, he was actually acting on Machiavelli’s advice, or speaking under the influence of the Chicago school of philosophy for whom the words of writers may have multiple or layered meanings, often disguised with irony and even self-contradiction.
Abbas was concealing his true thoughts except from careful listeners at the UN and elsewhere. He began his speech by declaring that Israel had chosen to make 2014 a year of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people. Careful listeners knew his seemingly peaceful words covered his true meaning. They knew he was referring surreptitiously either to Hamas, the Palestinian terrorists eager to kill Jews and eliminate the State of Israel, or to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria which is conducting a Nakba (catastrophe) to destroy the infidels of the world, or to Turkey which has denied the genocide committed since 1915 against the Armenians.
Abbas obviously also had Turkey in mind when he spoke of genocide. Like many others Abbas is evidently surprised that Turkey still refuses to acknowledge both its murder of 1 to 1.5 million Armenians, though 23 countries and 42 states in the U.S. have recognized the fact, and also its attempt to eliminate the cultural and religious heritage of the Armenians. He is evidently also surprised that Turkey has refused to allow more significant rights to its large Kurdish population of about 14 million.
In this respect, Abbas spoke of occupation and historic injustice. He did speak aloud about Israel as a colonial occupying power, as a racist occupying state.
But he must really have been thinking of Turkey, which invaded the island of Cyprus in 1974. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which declared itself an independent state in 1983, now occupies 40 per cent of the island, which Abbas knows is an illegal occupation of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus. To use Abbas’ words referring to another country, so far Turkey has evaded accountability for its crimes.
Abbas spoke of the denial of freedom and independence of people for citizens of Gaza. Here he was clearly alluding to the situation in the Muslim country of Mauritania. Though a law was finally passed in 2007 making slavery a criminal offence, real slavery of 600,000 or 20 per cent of the population, still exists, the highest proportion of slaves in the population of any country in the world. The situation for these descendants of black African slaves is mainly in the form of chattel slavery, with individuals being bought, sold, rented out, or given as gifts.
President Abbas assumed that no one would wonder anymore why extremism, hatred, and terrorism is rising. He did not mention the gruesome beheadings of American and British journalists, but it was kind that he thus drew attention to the Islamic State and its barbarous activities that in Abbas’ language, are ongoing and escalating. He recognized the problems of ghettos on fragmented lands without borders under an army of occupation.
Abbas declared his support for those who stand for human values, freedom, justice, and peace. He did not mention Saudi Arabia specifically by name but Abbas did refer to the racism in the political and media discourse and its entrenchment in the school curriculum and in a series of laws and practices. He did speak openly of “the Israeli occupation... an abhorrent form of state terrorism,” but it was clear that indirectly he was praising Israel when talking of strengthening the values of citizenship, equality, the rule of law, human rights, the role of women and pluralism.
Of course, Abbas spoke openly of the need for peace. He must therefore have been disconcerted by the glorification by his Fatah group of female suicide bombers. Nine women have been honored in this way by the Fatah group. The most recent one is honored for her attack on September 22, 2014 when she blew herself up in Jerusalem, killing two Israeli security guards.
The Obama administration has found the provocative and offensive statements by Abbas about Israel deeply disappointing and counterproductive. Those statements certainly do not make him a partner for reasonable diplomatic discussions and are not the way to create a positive atmosphere in which peace negotiations between Israel and Arabs might occur. Nevertheless, we should be grateful to the seemingly permanently installed President Abbas for all his unstated allusions to the misdeeds of Islamic terrorists that are a threat to Western civilization.