Muslim Press has conducted an interview with human rights activist Jennifer Loewenstein to discuss Mahmoud Abbas' policies and Palestinian rights.

Here's the full text of the interview:

Muslim Press: Ms. Loewenstein, what’s your take on Mahmoud Abbas’ policies towards Israel? Do you think he’s lenient?

Jennifer Loewenstein: I think Abbas' policies toward Israel are cowardly and shameless. The people of Palestine need a real leader they can unite behind; one who genuinely believes in human rights and democracy, and who honors public opinion and defies US pressure. Abbas is a convenient scapegoat and a tool that Israel uses to prevent progress on any level in Palestine or the Palestinian Diaspora. Abbas should step down and a popular election called again.

All this said, I am sadly aware that Israel's policies of targeted assassination of anyone who presents a real threat to its expansionist goals could mean imminent death to any emerging leader. For this reason local, regional, and international grassroots movements against Israel are perhaps what activists should be organizing more than anything else. Activists already have the support of the overwhelming number of states of the world and their public's views. I realize it is, even after all these decades, still an uphill struggle. Abbas will not help, however. He'll only hinder or worsen the unconscionable treatment of Palestinians and their land.

MP: Has he been successful in defending Palestinian rights?

Jennifer Loewenstein: In my view, he has been more unsuccessful than perhaps any other leader in Palestine's modern history. Getting observer status at the UN would have happened whether or not Abbas had been Palestine's official leader. World public opinion is overwhelmingly anti-Israel and anti-US. That Abbas did not push harder for real change in the lives of his people living in their shrinking and miserable prisons is inexcusable.

MP: What’s your take on his meeting with MKO leader? Is Abbas trying to charm Israelis?

Jennifer Loewenstein: Abbas is looking out for himself, his cronies, and his (dubious) interests - including investments the Palestinian leadership share with Israeli (and other) firms, for example on the natural gas reserves off the coast of Gaza. His administration is corrupt. It fears Israel when it should be standing up to it. I understand this fear, but I believe a truly strong, courageous Palestinian leader would help trigger greater active worldwide support for Palestine and strengthen global outcries against Israeli sadism.

MP: How do you see the future of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation?

Jennifer Loewenstein: I don't believe it will ever end, and I'm happy to say that. Still, there must be greater grassroots participation outside the occupied territories (inside, too, but the hardships there are already so immense it is not surprising that people are merely trying to survive). Ultimately there will be no stability in the Middle East without a just resolution to the Palestinian issue. I say this fully aware of the horrors taking place in Syria and Iraq. The US had a primarily role in setting the stage for the current catastrophes and there are many non-violent ways to ameliorate these problems - though their resolution will be very difficult and is a long way off. Even if Syria and Iraq attained some kind of moderate, even temporary, stability and a genuine truce, Israel's presence in the region will continue to thwart any regional long-term resolution to the on-going crimes in Palestine. ("Evil" is not a word I ever use. In the case of Israel, however, it is -finally- what I think accurately describes its behavior and dominant ideologies.)


Jennifer Loewenstein is a human rights activist and faculty associate in Middle East Studies at Penn State University. She is politically active in Madison, Wisconsin, and writes as a freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in academic journals such as The Journal of Palestine Studies, and she is a regular contributor to CounterPunch magazine.