The Palestine Papers are back
The head of Al Jazeera's Transparency Unit lets Haaretz in on the findings his new book will reveal about the key negotiators of the Mideast Peace Process.
After creating a storm in January, the Palestinian Papers are back. In his latest book, Al Jazeera TV's Clayton Swisher releases the collection of leaked papers that document the peace-negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority between 1999 and 2010.
The January release of the papers caused a media storm with details of past negotiations, including information showing that the Palestinians had previously agreed to serious concessions, such as secret compromises over core issues like Jerusalem and refugees.
Swisher heads the Al Jazeera Transparency Unit, which operates in a similar style to WikiLeaks by inviting people to submit revealing documents. When he got his hands on the Palestine Papers he convinced his bosses to support him – together with a team of several other reporters – to embark on a research project that involved translating, analyzing and providing the context for the leaked documents.
Haaretz caught up with Swisher to see what he has to say about Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States, in light of the discoveries he made while doing research for 'The Palestine Papers – The End of the Road?'.
"The Palestinian Authority has questionable legitimacy among its people," said Swisher. Though the former Chief Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may be confident they represent their peoples' views, the refugees at Gaza's Beach refugee camp or Lebanon's Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp would not agree, he said.
“If the Arab public was offered today a free and fair vote to either make peace with Israel or unite as Arabs and commit to fully liberating all of historic Palestine, I am confident they would chose the latter,” Swisher continues. “It is Western-backed puppet governments that ensure what security Israelis experience today. But as we see, the sands are constantly shifting," he said.
Swisher criticized the Obama Administration for repeating many of the "same mistakes" of the Clinton era. One "mistake" that Swisher points out, was the appointment of the same "lobby-approved retreads [that are] renowned for tired, failed approaches" to Mideast policy.
"The American peace processors (both Democrat and Republican) believe that Arabs are foolish, and that there only needs to be a fiction of a peace process in order for them to not 'hate us.' What they don't realize is that the masses see right through it," says Swisher.
As for what he had to say about Israel, Swisher asserted that "all sides" had experienced a backslide. According to his analysis, Israelis adamantly rejected compromise, demanding more and more concessions, and the Americans behaved nothing like fair brokers, with a lack of substantial difference between the Bush and Obama administrations.
'The Palestine Papers – The End of the Road?,' published by Hesperus Press, includes the actual Palestinian Papers as well as an analysis of the 1,600 leaked documents and the parties involved in the negotiations.
Swisher seems proud of the organization he works for. “Al Jazeera proved willing to allow me and others to attack conventional wisdom, even if it is deeply unpopular," he said.
He has learned that the best advocates for Al Jazeera's brand of journalism are the people themselves. "In a part of the world where political representation is almost non-existent, we dare to put the human being at the center of our stories rather than the autocratic governments or their minions. For those reasons, we are often reviled by governments and applauded by the masses,” he said.
Swisher has gained some enemies in Washington and at the Palestinian Authority, although one senior official stressed that it doesn’t mean he turned into a “persona non grata.” Now it seems Swisher is on his way to earn the “Israel hater” crown, but he doesn’t seem bothered.
“My loyalty is to the promotion of truth and justice," he said. "And as my mother used to tell me, the truth sometimes hurts."