January 25, 2011

EDITOR: The Palestine Papers set the Middle East on new path

The importance of the Palestine Papers, appearing as they do after the popular uprising in Tunisia, and while such an uprising is probably in preparation in Egypt, will surely be judged by history, but one can suggest already that the papers may change the future direction of the conflict, for a number of reasons, and in a number of ways.

That the PA was corrupt, inefficient politically and ‘in the pocket’ of the Israelis, must have clear to all and sundry for a very long time, especially to those living in the Middle East. The fact the ‘leaders’ behind the PA failed miserably in the 2006 Palestine elections, is clear evidence to the level of support they garner in Palestine. The fact they continue to rule unelected, is also evidence to their democratic principles.

However, what is at stake here is much higher. Those ‘leaders’ have, according to the already published papers, been better representatives of Israel than of Palestine. They can see (and accept) the rationale for the Jewish state, and are arguaing for it with gusto. They are less persuaded, anmd less persuasive, on the topic of a Palestinian State.

On the topic of the refugees, they have argued for 0.2% of the refugees to be allowed back. That is really great. Never mind that their love object, Zippy Livni, told them that ‘even one refugee’ is too many. They are quite happy for the US authorities to suggest new locations for the refugees – currently it is South America, next it be the South Pole, and maybe the Moon can also be tried… What do they care about the refugees – as they have signed up for the Likud programme, the refugees can get lost.

They also agree to all of the settlements around Jerusalem, bar one, which is mighty nice of them, seeing that that is exactly what Israel wants and expects of them. They also are discussing an ethnic cleansing, moving hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Israel to Palestine, in the Triangle area, without ever bothering to ask those Palestinians for their views, just to make Israel more Jewish. Well, they can say – “after all, the US has not asked Chile or Argentina if they wish to take millions of Palestinian refugees, so why should we ask anyone…” So, they are just following the big boys, US and Israel, who, as Livni says to them in one of the documents:”I don’t care about the law, especially international law. I do not accept it.”And who is going to force her to accept it? Not Obama, I don’t think.

Well, all in all, Abass and Kureia are really nice guys, don’t you think? They just don’t wish to create problems for Israel, and why should they? Better that the Palestinians have the problems – after all, they had them for almost seventy years.

Those who think that this will pass and life will be just the same, are very much mistaken, I reckon.

It is also nice to know the MI6, UK’s intelligence arm, is not only illegally infiltrating environmental organisations in Europe with ‘sleeping agent’s which work for years and act an agent provocateurs like the Cheka once did, but also dip their toes into the Palestine puddle, and help to fight the party which won the Palestine elections!

The Palestine Papers Second Installment

Palestine papers: Browse the documents: The Guardian

Use our interactive to explore the most explosive leak ever of confidential documents from inside the Middle East peace process. Click on a location to see related papers

Palestine papers reveal MI6 drew up plan for crackdown on Hamas: The Guardian

• Internment and replacement of imams among measures
• Document proposed ‘direct lines’ to Israeli intelligence
• New files reveal Israel requested assassination of militant

British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on the Islamist movement Hamas which became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked documents reveal. The plan asked for the internment of leaders and activists, the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques.

The disclosure of the British plan, drawn up by the intelligence service in conjunction with Whitehall officials in 2004, and passed by a Jerusalem-based MI6 officer to the senior PA security official at the time, Jibril Rajoub, is contained in the cache of confidential documents obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian. The documents also highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.

The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British documents, which have been independently authenticated by the Guardian, included detailed proposals for a security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted” Palestinian Authority contacts, outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, with “direct lines” to Israel intelligence.

It lists suicide bombers and rockets as issues that need urgent attention.

Under the heading “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists”, the MI6 Palestinian Security Plan recommends “the detention of key middle-ranking officers” of Hamas and other armed groups, adding: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding.”

The latest leaks come as US state department spokesman Philip Crowley said they would “at least for a time, make the situation more difficult”, while the senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath acknowledged that the documents were genuine and Palestinian groups in Latin America reacted with shock to the revelation that former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had privately suggested Palestinian refugees be settled in Chile or Argentina.

Among the newly released confidential PA documents is an extraordinary account of a 2005 meeting between Israel’s then defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, and the PA’s interior minister, Nasser Youssef.

Referring to Hassan al-Madhoun, a commander in the armed Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades who was held responsible by Israel for a suicide attack the previous year, Mofaz asked Yousef: “We know his address … Why don’t you kill him?” Yousef replied: “The environment is not easy, our capabilities are limited.” Israel killed Madhoun a few months later in a drone missile attack on his car.

The PLO’s chief spokesman, Saeb Erekat, is recorded as telling senior US official David Hale in 2009: “We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law … We have even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.”

Erekat also complained to US envoy George Mitchell in 2009 that not enough was being done to seal off tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, the documents reveal, undermining the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory, and urged that more be done by Israel and Egypt to prevent the smuggling of goods and weapons. In an echo of the proposals in the British documents, Erekat told Hale: “We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the zakat [religious charitable donations] and the sermons in the mosque.”

The intelligence papers highlight the far-reaching official British involvement in building up the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus in the West Bank, which was led from the late 1990s by the CIA and recently has focused on the build-up of forces under General Keith Dayton, who was US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October.

Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 officer who also worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said that the British documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led “counter-insurgency surge” against Hamas – which backfired when the Islamists won the Palestinian elections in 2006.

The PA’s security control of the West Bank has become harsher and more extensive since the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in the summer of 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial in recent years, and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses. In a meeting with Palestinian officials in 2009, Dayton is recorded praising the PA’s security: “The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them. But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people.

“I’ve only started working on this very recently. I don’t need to tell you who was working with them before,” – in an apparent reference to the CIA.

Palestine papers: Mosques and radio stations included in secret MI6 plan: The Guardian

Evidence in leaked documents highlights role British officials played in creating and bolstering PA administration
MI6 said the documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair, pictured above with Mahmoud Abbas, to tie security policy to a US-led ‘counter-surge’ against Hamas. Photograph: Brian Hendler/Getty Images
The Palestinian Authority’s security strategy to crush Hamas and other armed groups on the West Bank was originally drawn up by Britain’s intelligence service, MI6, leaked papers reveal.

The strategy included internment of leaders and activists, closure of radio stations and replacement of imams in mosques – the bulk of which has since been carried out.

Two documents drafted by the Secret Intelligence Service in conjunction with other Whitehall departments, which are among the cache given to al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian, are understood to have been passed to Jibril Rajoub, former head of PA security in the West Bank, at the beginning of 2004 by an MI6 officer then based at the British consulate in Jerusalem.

The evidence uncovered by the leaked documents highlights the role British officials and security advisers have played in creating and bolstering the PA administration in the West Bank, which is backed and financed by the US, the EU and most Arab states as it pursues what are now all but moribund peace talks with Israel.

Hamas, which won the Palestinian elections in 2006 and is backed by Iran and Syria, carried out dozens of suicide bombings in Israel from the mid-1990s and was the target of Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008. It opposes negotiations with Israel except on a long-term ceasefire and will not recognise it. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller group, has similar positions.

The PA is increasingly the target of domestic and international criticism for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British papers, one of which is headed Palestinian Security Plan – Confidential, included detailed proposals for a new security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted PA contacts” outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, a British/US security “verification team”, and “direct lines” to Israeli intelligence.

Issues include suicide bombing, weapons smuggling, Qassam rockets and “terror finance”. The SIS and other leaked British official documents have been independently authenticated by the Guardian.

In the most controversial section, the 2004 MI6 plan recommends “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists – Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] and the [Fatah-linked] Al Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources”.

The document adds: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding” – reflecting a concern to distance the intelligence agency from the PA security organisations’ established reputation for prisoner abuse.

The MI6 strategy, which was drawn up to implement George Bush’s Middle East “road map” as the second Palestinian intifada was winding down, can then be traced through a sequence of more public Palestinian, EU and British documents and plans, and has now been largely implemented by the US and British-advised PA security apparatus.

The leaked intelligence plan can be seen in retrospect as a blueprint for PA security control of the West Bank, which has become harsher and more extensive since the violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas in the summer of 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial at a time in recent years and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses.

In a meeting with US official David Hale in September 2009, the PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is recorded as saying that PA prime minister Salam Fayyad was “doing everything possible to build the institutions. We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the Zakat [charitable religious donations] and the sermons in the mosques” – echoing what had been proposed nearly six years earlier by British intelligence.

The former MI6 officer Alistair Crooke, who worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said today that the documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led “counter-insurgency surge” against Hamas – which backfired when the Islamists won the 2006 elections.

The CIA played the central role in building up PA security forces from the late 1990s, in close co-operation with the Israeli military and intelligence, detailed in the leaked documents. But particularly after the killing of three US officials in the Gaza strip in 2003, British forces played an increasingly active role – though always in close co-operation with their counterpart US agency, according to diplomatic sources.

The sequence of leaked British documents begins with an unmarked but detailed MI6 draft of the security plan, faxed from the Egyptian embassy, at a time when the agency was working closely with Egyptian intelligence; continues with the second more formal paper jointly drafted by SIS, which floats internment; and is then translated into a series of official papers drafted by the Jerusalem consulate’s military liaison office, which liaises with British special forces, the SAS and SBS.

The documents confirm that by 2005, British projects under the Palestinian security plan – first drafted and passed to the PA under MI6 auspices – included extensive funding of the most controversial parts of the PA security apparatus, including general intelligence, special forces and preventive security under the heading of “UK-Palestinian projects”.

The last in particular has been the subject of repeated and widespread allegations and evidence of torture, including by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. More recently, the British government has denied directly funding the PA’s preventive security.

US general Keith Dayton, who, along with a string of British deputies was in charge of building up Palestinian security forces as US security co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October, is recorded in the leaked Palestinian records as complaining about torture by PA intelligence in a meeting with chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat in June 2009. “The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them,” Dayton says. “But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people”, adding: “I’ve only started working on this very recently. I don’t need to tell you who was working with them before” – in an apparent reference to the CIA.

In an interview with al-Jazeera, former Dayton deputy US colonel Phillip Dermer described the PA as constituting a “police state” and its security forces as an outsourced “third Israeli security arm”.

Many of those now arrested and detained in the West Bank appear to have no connection to any armed group or activity. Records of a May 2008 meeting between Israeli general Amos Gilad and the head of PA security forces, Major General Hazem Atallah, refer to a senior Israel security official identified as “Poly” who asked: “How is your fight against ‘civilian’ Hamas: the offices, people in municipalities etc? This is a serious threat.”

Atallah is recorded as replying: “I don’t work at political level, but I agree we need to deal with this” – to which Poly retorts: “Hamas needs to be declared illegal by your president. So far it is only the militants that are illegal.”

Another leaked PA security document from 2005, drawn up by a Palestinian official, confirms the central role played by British officials in “unifying Palestinian security efforts” and identifies a former PA senior security figure, Bashir Nafi, as having “strong ties with the British”.

Along with Abed Alloun, Nafi was a deputy to Rajoub. Alloun and Nafi were killed in a bomb attack in Amman in 2005. Alloun, a Liverpool football fan, told the Guardian in 2003 he had been flown by MI6 to Britain and taken to see Liverpool play at Anfield and given a ball signed by Michael Owen.

Israel asked Palestinian Authority to kill al-Aqsa commander: The Guardian

Leaked papers reveal close intelligence and security co-operation between two sides in Middle East conflict

Palestinian mourners carry al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade commander Hassan al-Madhoun during his funeral after he was killed by an Israeli missile strike. Photograph: Abid Katib/Getty Images
Hassan al-Madhoun got a martyr’s funeral – his body borne aloft on a stretcher, blood seeping through the bandages swathing his head as masked men fired machine-gun volleys into the air and crowds called for revenge.

Madhoun’s life ended in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp on 1 November 2005 when the car he was travelling in with another Palestinian fighter was incinerated by a missile fired from an Israeli drone, its operators clearly aware of the identity of their target. Ten other people were wounded by the blast.

Behind the killing, leaked documents from the Palestine papers reveal, lay extensive clandestine collaboration between the Israel’s army and secret service and the Palestinian Authority (PA) – uneasy allies in a shadowy war against common enemies –which has grown still closer in the years since.

Madhoun, 32, was a commander in the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement still loyal to the idea of armed struggle against Israel and refusing to accept the new Fatah and Palestinian Authority leadership’s strategy of peaceful negotiations. Fawzi Abu al-Qarea, who died in the car with him, was a member of Fatah’s bitter rival Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.

Handwritten notes in Arabic record Israel’s defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, asking the PA interior minister, Nasser Yousef, to assassinate Madhoun.

Madhoun’s whereabouts were known to Israel and to Rashid Abu Shabak, a Fatah veteran and head of the PLO’s Preventive Security Organisation in the Gaza Strip, which Israel was preparing to evacuate unilaterally that August.

“We know his address … Why don’t you kill him?” Mofaz asked in a meeting in Tel Aviv earlier that summer.

The defence minister alleged Madhoun was planning to attack one of the crossing points from Gaza into Israel. “He is not Hamas and you can kill him.”

Yousef, apparently reluctant, replied laconically that “instructions” had been given, but then complained: “The environment is not easy, our capabilities are limited, and you haven’t offered anything.”

In the event, Madhoun died at the hands of Israeli forces in retaliation for a suicide bombing carried out by another Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad, which killed five Israelis in an open-air market in the northern town of Hadera on 26 October.

Israeli officials told the media that Madhoun was behind an incident in which a Gazan woman was arrested with an explosives belt as she tried to cross into Israel. She allegedly confessed to having been ordered to blow herself up at the Beersheba hospital where she was being treated. Madhoun had also, according to the army, played a role in a suicide bombing that claimed 10 victims in Ashdod in 2004.

“Israel had asked the PA several times to arrest him,” Ha’aretz reported, “but in vain.”

There is no evidence that the PA played a direct role in Madhoun’s death, but the Mofaz-Yousef meeting and documents from the Palestine papers and WikiLeaks give a revealing insight into the intimate intelligence and security co-operation between the two sides.

Strikingly, the head of the Shin Bet security service reported after Madhoun’s killing that his replacement as al-Aqsa leader was heavily influenced by Hamas.

The PA, formally committed to fighting violence against Israel, condemned Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups which mounted attacks, but also condemned Israel when it took military action against them. Saeb Erekat, the PLO chief negotiator, compared the Jabaliya drone strike to “pouring fuel on a fire”.

The then foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, said of the “targeted assassination” policy: “It is not our goal to continue this activity. It can end immediately. It’s all up to Abu Mazen [PA president, Mahmoud Abbas]. If Abu Mazen takes the strategic decision which he still refuses to take and acts against the infrastructure of terror … [our activity] in Gaza will end the same day.”

Privately, Yuval Diskin, the Shin Bet chief, complained at the end of November 2005 that co-operation with his Palestinian counterparts against Hamas had been “useless” . “We have to do the most to help Fatah,” he said.

Nearly a year later, none of the main Palestinian security chiefs, including theveteran security strongman Mohammed Dahlan and Tawfiq Tirawi, head of general intelligence, were capable of providing leadership in Gaza and the West Bank, Israelis officials insisted. Diskin told the US security coordinator, Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, that Tirawi was “motivated, cruel and decisive, but has no standing in Gaza”.

He said Dahlan’s Preventative Security Organisation was under pressure from Hamas. “If he sees personal benefit in helping President Abbas, he will do so, because when he wants to, he knows how to pull the strings in Gaza.”

Israel’s approach was to urge the PA to arrest or kill wanted people but to act itself if it did not. In one meeting Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence official, named a suspect and said: “We gave the name to Dahlan and he refused to act. So we took him by force.”

PA leaders repeatedly assured both the Israelis and Americans in private that they were committed to fighting terrorism, especially after the Hamas takeover of Gaza in the summer of 2007.

The shock of that defeat galvanised US-led efforts to overhaul the PA security apparatus. The aim was to simplify the chain of command to reduce the rivalries of competing agencies and improve performance.

By 2008, Israeli leaders were much more confident about co-operation from PA security. “In the West Bank,” Israel’s foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, remarked in March 2008, “the situation is more under control due to the fact that we are there … and working together”. Hazem Atallah, the PA police chief, boasted that newly trained National Security Force units had fired back when attacked in Qabatya, in the northern West Bank. “That is the way, they have to learn to respect the authority of the Palestinian security forces,” he said. “I understand human rights, but this is not Switzerland.” Amos Gilad responded: “I agree – freedom is not chaos.”

Israel’s chief of staff, General Gabi Ashkenazi, was said to be “no longer sceptical about the utility of co-operation with the PA on security matters”.

In September 2009, Erekat, told a US official, David Hale: “We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law. We have even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.”

Earlier that year, it had reported privately to George Mitchell the extent of its crackdown on Hamas and others in the West Bank: 3,700 “members of armed groups” had been arrested: 4,700 individuals had been “summoned for questioning” and more than 1,100 weapons had been confiscated.

PLO urged Israel and Egypt to do more to prevent Gaza smuggling: The Guardian

Leaked documents underline hostility of PLO towards Hamas – but show Palestinian leadership willing to negotiate in long run

Hamas security forces standing guard in Gaza in December. The documents show the PA willing to negotiate with Hamas ‘in order to avoid the loss of Gaza and the break-up of the territories’. Photograph: Ali Ali/EPA
Ian Black and Seumas Milne

The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership complained to the US envoy George Mitchell in 2009 that not enough was being done to seal off tunnels breaking the siege of the Gaza Strip and urged that more be done by Israel and Egypt to prevent the smuggling of goods and weapons into the territory, leaked documents reveal.

The papers underline the profound hostility of the PLO towards its Islamist rival, which grew after the Hamas takeover of the strip in June 2007 effectively split the occupied Palestinian territories into two separate zones and show PA leaders resisting giving Hamas any role in controlling crossing points into the Gaza Strip.

The PA demanded at once that the “international community not legitimise the actions of Hamas” but also made clear that in the long run “there must be some sort of dialogue and reconciliation with Hamas in order to avoid the loss of Gaza and the break-up of the territories”.

But in September 2009 Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s chief negotiator, told Mitchell that the tunnels dug under the border were still functioning despite huge expenditure and extensive counter-measures on the Egyptian side.

Referring to a meeting with senior Israeli security official Amos Gilad, Erekat said: “I told Amos Gilad: you are Egypt’s man. You know the Egyptians.” In a reference to the length of the Egyptian border with Gaza, he went on: “11kms! What’s going on with you and the US, the $23million [donated by the US to block the tunnels]. It’s business as usual in the tunnels — the Hamas economy.”

In 2008 there were also repeated warnings that Hamas could claim victory after the Gaza crossings were opened. “The opening of the crossings works both ways,” the PA prime minister, Salam Fayyad, told Quartet envoy Tony Blair that March. “If Hamas is seen as having succeeded in opening them then the message will be that rockets yield results….Israel’s dealing unilaterally on Gaza is only undermining the PA. I am not sure how many more blows our government can take before we are rendered completely ineffective.”

Israel’s policy, then as now, was to back the PA. “Our strategic view is to strengthen you and weaken Hamas,” Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, told Palestinian negotiators. The PA was painfully aware of the dangers posed by the rival movement, especially when peace talks were not advancing. “We know the devastating impact of a stalemate vis a vis Hamas, Iran, relations with Israel,” Erekat told a US official last January. In the same vein, he told colleagues in May 2009: “Hamas is a tool for (Israeli prime minister Binyamin) Netanyahu, he is counting on them to stay the course. And Hamas is counting on Netanyahu to stay the course. Netanyahu’s only card is Palestinian division.”

The papers show that PA leaders also feared that the US, specifically the CIA, and Israel were secretly planning to deal with Hamas behind their backs. Russia was criticised for sending the wrong signals, which President Mahmoud Abbas compared to a Palestinian dialogue with anti-Russian Chechen Islamist rebels.

Fighting Hamas emerges also as the central feature of the security cooperation between the two sides, with Israel repeatedly warning the PA against a Hamas takeover in the West Bank. “I know that Israel wants security and it’s a major concern for her,” PLO negotiator Ahmed Qureia told his Israeli counterparts in February 2008. “But sometimes I feel that you exaggerate the whole matter and other times that it’s part of a policy of conspiracy and the imposition of new realities on the ground for the purpose of confiscating more land or dictating new conditions.”

Palestinian refugees rule out compromise on return to homeland: The Guardian

Disclosure in Palestine papers that negotiators gave up fight over refugees is greeted with disgust in Bethlehem camp

A section of Israel’s separation barrier runs alongside the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/AP
In a crowded room in Aida refugee camp, Abu Khalil sipped sweet tea before listing reasons why he will never give up his right to return to his family’s pre-1948 home.

“My home, my land, my mosque, my identity, my dreams. Everything I live for. You want me to give up all these things for a state?” All Palestinians agree, he said; there can be no compromise.

Certainly in this refugee camp at the edge of Bethlehem, where boys today played football in the shadow of the huge concrete wall which cuts it off from Jerusalem, it was hard to find any dissent.

The collective memory of the Palestinian homeland, before the State of Israel was born amid anguish and bloodshed in 1948, is bequeathed like a treasured heirloom through generations. The disclosure that Palestinian negotiators were prepared to make big concessions on this, the most visceral of issues, was greeted with disgust among the refugee population.

For Amar al-Masaid, 28, history was something he lived with every day. “Our country was taken by force,” he said, amid jumbo boxes of cornflakes, tins of spam and chocolate Santa Clauses in his family’s shop. “They invaded us. They are a colonial power. We will never make any compromise. We will never sell our land. It would be better to stay with the Jews under occupation that give up our rights.”

His family had fled from Deir Aban in 1948; his father still has the deeds to the land they lost. “If you ask a little baby in these camps where their home is, they will answer you,” he said.

On cue, seven-year-old Dahoud and his sister Ranim, five, arrived to buy dried coconut, sent by their mother. Where did they come from? “Palestine,” said the boy; his sister whispered “Al-Maliha,” an Arab village south of Jerusalem until 1948, now home to a huge Israeli shopping mall and sports stadium.

According al-Masaid, the refugees live in a prison. Look around you, he said gesturing at the wall looming a couple of hundred yards away.

Nearby, 63-year-old Mousa al-Masaid, wearing a red-and-white keffiyeh, was passionately dismissive about the recent disclosures of negotiations. “I don’t care what they say on al-Jazeera,” he said. “All I care about is going back to my homeland. You want me to give up my land for peace? To hell with peace! I would rather live under the rule of monkeys than give up my land for peace.”

The Palestinian negotiators did not represent him, he said, and had no right to bargain away his homeland on his behalf.

In the view of 73-year-old Um Mahmoud, the negotiators had not sold the rights of the Palestinian people but given them away. “Whatever they give up, the Israelis give nothing in return.”

She remembered as a child being forced to flee her home near Jerusalem. “They [Jewish soldiers] came in the middle of the night, shooting at us. At first we slept in caves. I was terrified.”

From their refuge, the family could see their former home. “Every morning we were full of hope that we could go back. We still have that hope, and we put our trust in Allah.”

In Ramallah – the stronghold of the ruling party Fatah – hundreds of Palestinians today greeted their president Mahmoud Abbas, returning from a trip to Cairo, in a show of support.

“The Palestinian principles … have not and will not change and the first of them is that East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine,” Abbas told the crowd. “No one in the world can make us give up on a centimetre of our land, the issue of the refugees or the issue of Jerusalem.”

The documents published by al-Jazeera and the Guardian were fake, he said. Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian negotiator, meanwhile confirmed earlier that the documents were authentic.

In Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, called for protests over the issue of Palestinian refugees.

EDITOR: Good old Joanthan beats the drum again…

An old Zionist which can always be depended upon in the Guardian… always on about the Two State Solution, which will resolve all the problems in a jiffy…  To read him, peace is always achievable and around the corner. It is always Pax Israeliana, but that should not surprise anyone.

The Palestine papers have broken a taboo. Now the arguments for peace can be open: The Guardian CiF

The papers show how much ground Palestinian negotiators were willing to concede. This isn’t craven. It’s admirable
Jonathan Freedland
Critics of the publication of the Palestine papers by the Guardian and al-Jazeera are aiming their fire in several directions. They have variously claimed that the documents are fake; that they are partial; that they reveal nothing new; that they should never have been published; and that they help Hamas, damage the peace process and threaten to destroy the two-state solution.

Let’s start with the silliest first: the claim of forgery, casting these papers as the Hitler Diaries of the Middle East. That was swiftly swept aside today by Nabil Shaath, a former member of the Palestinian negotiation team who, along with several others close to the talks, vouched for the documents’ authenticity. Are they partial? Only in the sense that 1,600 pages out of tens of thousands could always be described as incomplete. Some have complained that the documents only provide the view from the Palestinian side of the negotiating table. But they purport to do nothing else. To suggest that makes them unsuitable for publication is to suggest the New York Times should never have published the Pentagon Papers without an equivalent stash of paperwork from the North Vietnamese defence ministry.

But clearly, say the critics, these were leaked by someone with an agenda. I don’t know the identity of the source for the Palestine papers, but I’d be pretty surprised if they didn’t have a purpose for their actions. That is true of every leak through recorded time. Should the Daily Telegraph not have published Liam Fox’s letter protesting over defence cuts last autumn because the leaker of that letter clearly had a political objective? Of course not. Observe that standard and we’d never know anything. Besides, readers can usually put two and two together.

Still, say some complainers, these papers don’t reveal anything we didn’t know. Indeed, they are “incredibly boring”, according to Noah Pollak of Commentary magazine – so boring that they warrant six separate pieces on the magazine’s website.

Joining the “nothing new” chorus is Benny Morris, eager to pour cold water on the revelation that the Palestinians were ready to concede areas of East Jerusalem settled by Jews. Didn’t the Guardian remember that those very areas were conceded back in 2000 as part of the “Clinton parameters” that followed the Camp David negotiations? But it’s Morris who’s suffering memory loss here. Surely he recalls the claim, repeated endlessly, that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians had rejected those 2000 terms. He should remember: after all, Morris was one of the lead disseminators of that message. If Palestinians now accept what they once rejected, that’s news.

What of the graver charge that the Guardian had no business publishing papers whose exposure could discredit the Palestinian leadership and thereby damage, even destroy, the peace process? This is not a question confined to the wilder shores of the rightwing blogosphere. In a round of media interviews, I was asked by one mainstream journalist: “How does the Guardian feel about putting a gun to the head of the two-state solution?”

This touches on the argument rehearsed so fiercely during the WikiLeaks furore. It is that once an organisation has been handed information like this, it either publishes it or it suppresses it. Those are the options. Which is why no news organisation worthy of the name would hesitate to release a trove of documents of this kind.

Only in the rarest exceptions – where there is a direct risk to a named individual’s life – should journalists withhold such information from their readers or viewers. (Indeed, to protect certain individuals some documents have been redacted by both the Guardian and al-Jazeera.) Of course publication will have political consequences, even awkward ones. But that cannot be for journalists and editors to decide: their job is to find out what is happening and report it, as best they can. The consequences are for others to manage. It has to be that way, otherwise newspapers would never publish anything: somebody in power would always be there to argue that it was best to hold off, that now was not the time. And the public would remain in the dark.

This is particularly true for the Middle East, where there is all too little daylight. Take Tunisia. It may be an exaggeration to call the people’s revolt there the “first WikiLeaks revolution”, but it’s clear that revelations about the luxury lifestyle of the ruling family played a crucial role. Yet when those diplomatic cables were first released, Barack Obama slammed the document dump as “deplorable”, while Hillary Clinton branded it an attack on America and the international community.

The point here is that journalists shouldn’t be expected to weigh all the possible consequences of publication because the most important can – as in the Tunisia case – be unforeseen. Already there are signs of that with the Palestine papers.

The initial assumption of many observers – and perhaps of the leakers themselves – was that the revelation of Palestinian negotiators’ willingness to compromise would not just offend Palestinian pride but instantly spark a wave of revulsion, leading to a Tunisia-style revolt against the PA. With the PA gone, the peace process would be over and the two-state solution gone for ever.

That could still happen, especially given the PA’s already low standing among its population. But, initially at least, the Palestinian public does not seem to be following the script. One Palestinian insider told me yesterday that some Palestinians suspect a plot against the PA, hatched by al-Jazeera’s Qatari paymasters in favour of their Hamas allies. The man in the Ramallah street may have little faith in the PA, but he doesn’t relish the Hamas alternative or like outside interference.

What’s more, says that senior Palestinian figure, the leak of these papers could do something the PA had failed to do: prepare Palestinian public opinion for the painful concessions that peace will, one distant day, require. This leak has blown apart any pretence that an agreement could come without a heavy price. Now there can be an argument about what precisely a future deal would look like and what it would be worth – an argument in the open.

A similar process happened in Israel after Camp David in 2000, when a leak revealed the prime minister was countenancing the division of Jerusalem. There was sound and fury, but a taboo was broken. This time round the Palestine papers are already having a useful impact in Israel – prompting a clutch of influential figures to realise there is, after all, a partner on the Palestinian side.

So yes, you might not like every word. For the record, I disagreed with the Guardian editorial that described Palestinian concessions as “craven”: I prefer to admire the readiness of the Palestinians to move, urging Israelis to do the same. Still, I cannot join those who wish these texts had stayed in the dark.

Palestine papers: live updates: The Guardian

• New Palestine papers reveal MI6 role in secret Palestinian Authority strategy to crack down on Hamas
• Israel asked Palestinian Authority to kill al-Aqsa commander
• US says leak of the papers makes a deal ‘more difficult’
• Full coverage of the Palestine papers

MI6 said the documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair, pictured above with Mahmoud Abbas, to tie security policy to a US-led ‘counter-surge’ against Hamas. Photograph: Brian Hendler/Getty Images
9pm: That’s it for tonight’s new disclosures. We’ll be back if there are any further developments, for the moment you can read all the latest on our Palestine papers page.

8.49pm: The papers also reveal that Israel asked the Palestinian Authority to kill al-Aqsa commander Hassan al-Madhoun, giving an insight into the level of security co-operation between the two sides.

Madhoun was a commander in the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, part of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement still loyal to the idea of armed struggle against Israel and refusing to accept the new Fatah and Palestinian Authority leadership’s strategy of peaceful negotiations. He died when his car was hit by a missile fired from an Israeli drone, along with Fawzi Abu al-Qarea, a member of Fatah’s bitter rival Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement.

My colleague Ian Black writes:

Handwritten notes in Arabic record Israel’s defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, asking the PA interior minister, Nasser Yousef, to assassinate Madhoun.

Madhoun’s whereabouts were known to Israel and to Rashid Abu Shabak, a Fatah veteran and head of the PLO’s Preventive Security Organisation in the Gaza Strip, which Israel was preparing to evacuate unilaterally that August.

“We know his address … Why don’t you kill him?” Mofaz asked in a meeting in Tel Aviv earlier that summer.

The defence minister alleged Madhoun was planning to attack one of the crossing points from Gaza into Israel. “He is not Hamas and you can kill him.”

Yousef, apparently reluctant, replied laconically that “instructions” had been given, but then complained: “The environment is not easy, our capabilities are limited, and you haven’t offered anything.”

In the event, Madhoun died at the hands of Israeli forces in retaliation for a suicide bombing carried out by another Palestinian group, Islamic Jihad, which killed five Israelis in an open-air market in the northern town of Hadera on 26 October.

There is no evidence that the PA played a direct role in Madhoun’s death, but the Mofaz-Yousef meeting and documents from the Palestine papers and WikiLeaks give a revealing insight into the intimate intelligence and security co-operation between the two sides.

8.22pm: Ian Black and Seamus Milne have the story on MI6’s involvement in planning a crackdown on Hamas – “the bulk of which has since been carried out”.

The latest leaks come as US state department spokesman Philip Crowley said they would “at least for a time, make the situation more difficult”.

British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on the Islamist movement Hamas which became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked documents reveal. The plan asked for the internment of leaders and activists, the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques.

The disclosure of the British plan, drawn up by the intelligence service in conjunction with Whitehall officials in 2004, and passed by a Jerusalem-based MI6 officer to the senior PA security official at the time, Jibril Rajoub, is contained in the cache of confidential documents obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian. The documents also highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.

The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British documents, which have been independently authenticated by the Guardian, included detailed proposals for a security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted” Palestinian Authority contacts, outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, with “direct lines” to Israel intelligence.

It lists suicide bombers and rockets as issues that need urgent attention.

Under the heading “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists”, the MI6 Palestinian Security Plan recommends “the detention of key middle-ranking officers” of Hamas and other armed groups, adding: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding.”

8.06pm: The latest batch of Palestine papers has been published, revealing the role of the British secret service in helping the Palestinian Authority crack down on Hamas.

The latest revelations also reveal that Israel asked the Palestinian Authority to kill the al-Aqsa commander Hassan al-Madhoun, who was killed by a missile fired from an Israeli drone in 2005.

Follow all the latest reaction here.

5.01pm: That’s it for now. We’ll have further updates later this evening when tonight’s batch of papers are published.

2.59pm: NPR has two very different reactions to the papers from two US diplomats.

Daniel Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel, says the documents, which show the Palestinians making unprecedented concessions and being rebuffed by Israel, raise “substantial questions as to why the Bush administration didn’t understand that there had been a significant narrowing of differences.”

Kurtzer, a professor at Princeton University, suggests that a big push a couple of years ago might have really advanced the peace process.

The former ambassador says the Obama administration also comes across as reluctant to put ideas on the table and should now “get its act together.” He says the documents show that the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians are narrower than most people assumed.

“If the administration has been waiting for that narrowing to put forward a bridging position, it now has evidence that the bridge can be built,” Kurtzer says.

But Robert Danin, “another US veteran of the peace process” believes the documents were leaked to embarrass Palestinian negotiators

Danin, cautions against reading too much into what he calls a “selective” leak of documents. He calls it a “Rorschach test” and says everyone is going to draw from it their own pre-existing policy recommendations.

“Those who believe that a negotiated settlement is possible will be bolstered by these revelations. Those who believe that the Israelis are not serious will point to certain things here and say that that’s what it demonstrates,” argues Danin, the Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“It was released by people who think that negotiations do not serve Palestinian interests and that this is not the way to go,” he says.

The documents were leaked at a time when Palestinians are already working on Plan B — taking their cause to the United Nations to try to win Palestinian statehood. Former ambassador Kurtzer thinks the leaks will give more impetus to this push at the U.N.

“The argument now is, ‘Look how far we went, we didn’t get anything in return, so why shouldn’t we go to the U.N.?’ ” he says, adding that he would be very worried if he were in the administration now because there is no good response.

(That’s all for now. Thanks for all your comments. Stay tuned to our Palestine papers pages for the next instalment of leaks 8pm.)

2.38pm: Saeb Erekat continues to protests at the leak of the papers and the way they have been presented.

He is also threatening to take retaliation against al-Jazeera, according to the Jordan based news site Al Bawaba.

“What Al Jazeera does is an unprecedented shame in the history of the Arabs,” it quoted him saying.

“We have lots and lots of documents that will show who is behind this channel ..these documents are not forged, but authentic .. We will expose what is going on between them and the Americans and Israelis,” he said.

A post for Just Journalism takes issue with the way the Guardian selectively quoted Erekat. It points out that Erekat’s much-repeated comments about “the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history” ignores what he said before.

The original context of the full quote, however, reveals a second point: Erekat was acknowledging that the Israelis were committed to a peaceful solution. The full quote, from the Palestinian account of a meeting between Erekat and assistant US envoy David Hale, reads:

“Israelis want the two state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised state…what more can I give?”

That passage was highlighted in the Guardian’s publication of that document.

2.34pm: The Israeli newspaper Ynet has more on a senior Palestinian negotiator confirming the authenticity of the papers.

Nabil Shaath a former member of the Palestinian negotiations team, admitted Tuthat secret documents leaked to the al-Jazeera channel were authentic. .

Violating an order issued from Ramallah, Shaath gave an interview to al-Jazeera on last night and admitted that the documents were real. “These documents present the PLO stand, and as far as I know al-Jazeera obtained most of the documents we have,” he said.

1.47pm: Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, questions the authenticity of the leaked documents.

In an article in the Telegraph he writes:

There is something not quite right about these leaks. On the cui bono [who benfits] principle, there is every reason to think this may be a Hamas or hardline Fatah hoax to weaken the current leadership. And that is what Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator in 2008, is saying. They certainly directly contradict every public statement and negotiating position of the Palestinian Authority, as well as every private briefing to the PA’s most trusted journalists.

But there is one central issue which those who believe the documents to be genuine need to deal with. The US would have known just how great a leap the Palestinians were prepared to take for peace, and how bloody-minded were the Israelis. So why has the US done nothing except pressurise the Israelis over settlements for the past two years? Why not over East Jerusalem, if the Palestinians really had offered it up?

It is inconceivable that not a single person involved in US policy-making would have dropped even the slightest hint to anyone about the Israelis’ supposed rejection of the offer of East Jerusalem, if that is indeed what happened.

We will probably never know who wrote these memos – Palestinian negotiators or forgers. But it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what comes next.

He wrote that before the Palestinian Nabil Shaath, an aide to Abbas, accepted that they were “probably” genuine.

1.22pm: Palestinians react with outrage to Condoleezza Rice idea of sending them to Chile or Argentina.

Our Latin America correspondent, Rory Carroll writes:

Representatives of the Palestinian diaspora said the plan to ship displaced Palestinians from the Middle East to a new homeland across the Atlantic clashed with their fundamental right to go home.

“It’s completely unacceptable. It contradicts our inalienable right to return to our own homeland,” said Daniel Jadue, vice-president of Chile’s Palestine Federation. “That right cannot be renounced. To make this suggestion shows the mediation was not honest. It was clearly tilted in favour of Israel. This is extremely grave.”

The suggestion dumbfounded South America’s Palestinians – a largely Christian community which emigrated in waves over the past century and settled across the region, especially in Chile which is said to be home to more than 200,000.

12.26pm: My Arabic speaking colleague Mona Mahmood has been gauging (and translating) reaction in the Arab media. Here’s her round-up:

Qatar’s Al-Shareq

By any measure the concessions offered by the Palestinian authority to Israel is very dangerous. But worse still the negotiators even dared to consider exceeding sacred red lines on al-Quds (the Arabic word for Jerusalem) and the return of the refugees. All these facts blow up the Palestinian cause entirely and reveal the phoney negotiations and the illusion of peace. Despite all these concessions, the only result on the ground is the continuation of the settlements and Judaizing of Al-Quds and the legitimising of the occupation.

Syria’s al-Ba’ath

The rights of Palestinians were already in a dark tunnel. These disclosures show that it is darker still. Palestinian negotiators have always been under pressure from foreign elements to surrender their rights. But the Palestinian negotiators made even more concessions than were expected of them, according to the documents. This confirms the worst fears about the negotiator’s apparent willingness to liquidate Palestinian rights.

Libyan London-based newspaper al-Arab

We are against negotiating with Israel in this shameful way. We all against the partition of Palestine into amputated limbs. We all against the blackout imposed on the content of the public and secret negotiations with the state of occupation. But we don’t support the revelation of the secrets in the same style of US WikiLeaks which had selected all documents that are in the interest of US and against the interest of Arabs.

Palestinian London-based newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi

The most dangerous point revealed by the documents is not the fearful extent of the concessions regarding the occupied Al-Quds and its settlements and the holy mosque, but the small group of people who installed themselves as negotiators to represent 10 million Palestinian people in the homeland and in exile without any restraint.

12.18pm: AP now has some direct quotes of Hamas calling on Palestinian refugees to protest.

Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, urged “masses in the Arab countries and refugees everywhere to voice their words because this case is more serious than anyone could imagine.”

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the leaked documents come as a shock to many Palestinians.

“This is more than just a betrayal of precious and long-held national goals and aspirations. This is treason, pure and simple.”

Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas have been bitter rivals since the Islamic militants seized Gaza by force in 2007.

The Islamic militants oppose negotiations with Israel and territorial compromise. The nightly revelations on Al-Jazeera could give a boost Hamas, at the expense of Abbas.
After the initial broadcast on Sunday evening, Abbas aides challenged the authenticity of some of the documents and said quotes were taken out of context, as part of what they described as a smear campaign against the West Bank leadership.

Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator, reiterated those allegation today. However, Nabil Shaath, a senior aide to Abbas, was quoted by al-Jazeera as saying that the station “according to my information, received all the documents we have that are related to the negotiations.”

12.12pm: A YouTube video has emerged of that al-Jazeera van being attacked in Tripoli, Lebanon.

12.06pm: Hamas is likely to strengthen Hamas, writes Kate Nevens and Jessica Forsythe from the foreign affairs thinktank Chatham House.

But writing for Channel 4 News they claim that the peace process could be boosted by more openness.

The papers are likely to have an impact at grassroots level, both in Palestinian territories and perhaps across the region, possibly influenced by the popular unrest seen in nearby Jordan and Tunisia. It is widely believed that Hamas will benefit, as the pervasive discontent with existing leaderships continues.

Palestinian officials are now accusing Al-Jazeera of distortion and are casting doubts over the papers’ authenticity. However, with over 1,600 documents about to be made public, any effect will be difficult to contain.

In the mould of WikiLeaks, the papers will lead to diplomatic embarrassments and short-term losses in the – already stalled – peace talks. But increased transparency may also be the one thing the peace process needed to get it back on track long-term.

11.00am: Reuters has more on that attack on an al-Jazeera truck in Lebanon.

Supporters of Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri set fire to a vehicle used by the Arab television channel Al Jazeera during protests in the northern city of Tripoli, witnesses said.

Journalists from the channel and other reporters said they were taking refuge in a nearby building.

“If the army does not hurry up and help us, we will be in danger,” al-Jazeera reporter Majed Abdel-Hadi said in a live call broadcast by the channel.

10.49am: Hamas has urged Palestinian refugees to protest following the disclosure in the papers that negotiators were open to accepting the resettlement of only 10,000 refugees in Israel

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar on urged refugees everywhere to protest, according to AP. Direct quotes are not yet available.

10.37am: Protesters have attacked an al-Jazeera van in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

They were taking part in a “day of rage” protest against Shia militants who are poised to take power in Lebanon.

No al-Jazeera staff were hurt in the incident, al-Jazeera said.

10.18am:Posters criticising al-Jazeera, have been put up in Ramallah, according to Boikutt, a musician based in the West Bank.

He tweets:

posters on al-manara circle in ramallah saying “al-jazeera is zionist” among other things.. #palestinepapers

Yesterday there were scuffles at al-Jazeera’s Ramallah offices and anger in Gaza.

10.02am: A chink of good news for Palestinians, Peru has announced that it recognises Palestine as a state.

Our Latin America correspondent Rory Carroll writes:

The declaration came on the eve of a Latin American-Arab summit to be hosted in the Peruvian capital, Lima, reflecting growing political and economic ties between the two regions.

“Palestine is recognised as a free and sovereign state,” Peru’s foreign minister, José Antonio García Belaúnde, told RPP radio. “There was no pressure from any side. We have acted with freedom and independence.” He expressed Peru’s continued support for peace talks.

The announcement followed similar decisions by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Guyana in recent weeks, bolstering Palestinian hopes of momentum towards global recognition.

The US has lobbied the region to say recognition is premature. That argument has fallen flat with conservative and left-wing governments but Washington will be pleased that Peru, like Chile, hedged its position on Palestinian claims for borders that existed before 1967, encompassing the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

9.46am: Whoever leaked the Palestinian papers is hero, according to Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the online campaign, the Electronic Intifada.

In a series of tweets he writes:

Whoever leaked the #palestinepapers for whatever motive did a great service to the Palestinian people and all who want justice.

#palestinepapers expose charade that “peace” can be reached through unequal, unprincipled “negotiations” with even a “moderate” Israeli govt

#palestinepapers show beyond doubt that US is not an “honest broker” but rather an active combatant in Israel’s war on Palestinians

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