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WEST BANK: Palestinian Authority versus Al Jazeera: Damage control seems to be working

January 26, 2011 | 12:24 pm

The Palestinian Authority has mobilized its forces, hidden and otherwise, to head off serious fallout from the publication of secret negotiation documents leaked to Qatar's Al Jazeera. The satellite TV station has been broadcasting rigorous coverage and analysis of the leaked documents.

The intensity of the coverage by the widely watched Al Jazeera and claims that the documents show the Palestinian Authority made serious concessions to Israel -- on issues including Jerusalem and refugees --  and had collaborated with Israel to get rid of Palestinian fighters even by killing them have seriously alarmed Palestinian officials as high up as the president.

The Palestinian Authority was caught off-guard by the Al Jazeera revelations but quickly rebounded from the initial shock and went on the offensive, accusing Al Jazeera -- as well as the emir of Qatar -- of plotting to undermine the Palestinian struggle for independence.

For the Arab world, working against the Palestinian struggle is taboo, and targeting the movement's leaders at what is considered a critical time in the fight for independence is also taboo.

The Palestinian public in general is divided over what Al Jazeera has revealed. Although the majority of Palestinians respect the TV station and its coverage of their cause, many say it has exaggerated its coverage of the documents, known as the Palestine Papers.

Discussions back and forth on the social networks show Palestinians divided between supporters of Al Jazeera and supporters of the Palestinian Authority.

“This is not the time to have internal fighting,” said Ahmad Saleem, a university student majoring in business who came to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ headquarters in Ramallah on Tuesday, along with thousands of other people, to show support for Abbas following the Al Jazeera reports.

“Our leadership made mistakes," he said, "but we can see it did not compromise on anything; otherwise, why isn’t there an agreement signed with Israel yet?”

Saleem believes Al Jazeera did not report on the documents in an objective way.

He said he did not see of himself as a strong supporter of Abbas but that Al Jazeera had made it a personal issue with Abbas and Palestinians in general. Therefore, he said, he decided to join the thousands who had come to show support for the Palestinian leader.

-- Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank

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