This Hanukkah Give the Gift of Truth

The Media Line led twenty years ago in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

We're proud of the dozens of young students we've trained in our Press and Policy Student Program who will form the vanguard of the next generation of journalists to the benefit of countless millions of news readers.

Non-profit news needs public support. Please support us with your generous contributions:
We thank our loyal readers and wish you all the happiest of holidays
The Media Line
Palestinians Turn against ‘Interaction’ Committee
Angry Palestinian students are shown in February burning a photo taken a few days before of a meeting with Israelis by a member of the PLO’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society. (Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)

Palestinians Turn against ‘Interaction’ Committee

Critics say PLO panel that oversees meetings with rank-and-file Israelis is pursuing normalization, a move they call premature

A meeting in Ramallah between Palestinian officials and Israeli journalists has sparked a major debate in the Palestinian street. Held on Sunday, it was the latest in a series of encounters organized by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society.

Critics accuse the committee’s members of normalizing relations with Israel at a time when there is no prospect for a political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Activists add that with such activities, the panel is taking an alternative route to negotiations while breaking a boycott of Israel.

“I’ve been against this committee since its establishment [eight years ago], as normalization comes after a political solution is found, not before,” Hasan Khresheh, a senior member of the mothballed Palestinian Legislative Council, told The Media Line.

Khresheh urged the Palestinian Authority to communicate with its own people, end the division between the mainstream Fatah party and Hamas, and bring all sectors of Palestinian society together.

“These kinds of meetings are absurd and strike at the Palestinian national fabric,” he said. “The majority of Israelis are right-wing and believe in the Zionist project, which doesn’t include us as Palestinians, and assures that Jerusalem remains part of Israel.”

Hiba Wazani, a Palestinian journalist, told The Media Line that recent developments, especially the unveiling of the Trump Administration’s plan for Middle East peace, make coordination and meetings with Israelis worthless.

“Whether we visit them or they visited us, nothing is going to change,” Wazani said. “They don’t see the Palestinians as people or recognize their rights, so there is no point.”

Political activist Khalel Assaf believes the committee bestows upon Israel a positive image regarding its desire for peace “while in reality, Israel doesn’t want peace or work for it.”

He insists that unlike Israelis, Palestinians are seeking true peace on the ground, not meetings.

“We have the right to live in peace,” Assaf said. “We have been negotiating with Israel for the past 25 years, and all this time, Israel has been leaning toward extremism, which the elections results there show.”

The Committee for Interaction, chaired by senior Fatah figure Muhammad al-Madani, was formed by a decision of the PLO’s Executive Committee in December 2012 to build bridges with Israeli society. Over the years, it has sought to shape political, economic and security relations despite official decisions by the Palestinian leadership to boycott Israel’s government.

Ziad Darwesh, a member of the committee, told The Media Line that the main goal is to communicate with Israeli society in the absence of a political partner.

“Israeli people live right next to us,” he explained. “We have been holding meetings and activities in coordination with Israeli associations, universities and organizations for the past eight years, which is extremely important for us as Palestinians.”

Darwesh believes that Palestinians, through the committee, have succeeded in changing Israeli opinions, noting that the Israeli government “doesn’t like what we do and how we are affecting its society.”

He adds that Palestinians must learn to differentiate between society and a country’s political system, government and military establishment.

“We communicate. We don’t negotiate, as we aren’t authorized,” Darwesh said. “A lot of Palestinians don’t understand the meaning of the term ‘normalization.’”

The Israelis who took part in Sunday’s meeting, he said, included “journalists from all Israeli media – extremists, leftists and others…. All came to us to hear our story. They will end up writing about this visit in one way or another, which benefits us as Palestinians.”

The group met separately with Mahmoud al-Habbash, the adviser on religious affairs to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and with Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the PA minister of information.

When reached by The Media Line, Habbash said: “The meeting was meant to deliver the Palestinian point of view in an effort to affect Israeli public opinion.”

On Sunday night, Palestinian social media platforms flamed, with harsh criticism of the meeting and the overall work of the committee.

The Student Union at Birzeit University, north of Ramallah, organized a sit-in outside the administration building demanding the resignation of a member of the Board of Trustees who sits on the PLO’s Committee for Interaction.

Saif Rayan, a prominent member of the Student Union, told The Media Line that it rejects “any kind of communication with the Israeli occupation, at any time and in any form. No communication with the occupation.”

Adding to the sense of outrage was a meeting held last week in Tel Aviv by the Israeli Peace Parliament, a left-wing group. The meeting was attended by former PA cabinet ministers.

Habbash said he understood the Palestinian discontent over such meetings and respected it.

“At the same time,” he stressed, “we have a duty to our homeland.”

Give the Gift of Trusted News!

Dear friends,

The Media Line is always there to report to you the stories and issues of the Middle East – completely and in context: TML is the source you can trust.

Know The Media Line to Know The Middle East!

Please support our ad-free, nonprofit news agency. Our seasoned journalists reporting from the Middle East are working day and night during these challenging, yet defining times; and our student interns are honing their knowledge and skills, preparing to emerge as tomorrow’s journalists.

You rely on us and we’re relying on you! Make your online tax-deductible donation here and contact us regarding donations through appreciated stock, donor advised funds, qualifying IRA distributions and other charitable instruments.

Thank you for confidence in The Media Line.
Felice Friedson
Founder, President

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.