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Monday, March 01, 2004

Palestinian offensive at the Hague led by Israeli-Arab and Americans
- and financed by Europeans

IsraelInsider: The Palestinian propaganda offensive against Israel and its security fence in The Hague is being led by American lawyers who are employed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization but whose salaries are being paid by the taxpayers of Britain and Sweden, a European research institute reported...

The Brussels-based European Institute for Research on the Middle East reported that the Palestinian propaganda offensive is "being led by two lawyers - Michael Tarazi and Diana Butto - who are employed by Arafat's PLO and whose salaries are being paid by the taxpayers of Britain and Sweden via the Negotiations Support Unit."

Tarazi, 35, is a Harvard Law School graduate and American citizen who abandoned an American corporate-law career to work for the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Ramallah, the Forward reported. Buttu, a 32-year-old Arab-Canadian who was born in Nazareth and still carries Israeli citizenship, told the Forward she decided to join the PLO when she realized how poor a public relations job it was doing. As an Israeli Arab, she said, she was particularly frustrated with what she viewed as Jewish Israelis' misperceptions of the Palestinian cause, the Forward reported.

Tarazi and Buttu, along with Stephanie Koury, 35, a Texas-born American of Lebanese origin who is considered a "specialist" on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, have been leading the Palestinian efforts to sway public opinion, at the United Nations General Assembly and in the United States, against Israel's security fence.

All three are employed by the Negotiation Support Unit (NSU) of the PLO's Negotiations Affairs Department (NAD), which until recently was headed by former Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The unit was created in 1998 with European financial assistance to support the Palestinian team negotiating with former prime minister Ehud Barak's government over so-called "permanent status" issues. Those negotiations collapsed in 2000, and members of the unit focused instead on public diplomacy, reaching out to campuses, churches, community centers and media in the U.S. and around the world.

In April 2003, senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat became head of the NAD. The NSU project is administered by the Adam Smith Institute - the British innovator of market economic policies - on behalf of the donor governments and in coordination with the NAD as the client.

According to a report published by the European research institute in January, legal experts on the NSU team helped the Palestinians prepare their written submission against Israel's security fence. Key Palestinian legal sources said the Palestinians' strategy also involved producing material to be presented by, and in coordination with different Arab states, the report said.

The NSU project has received continuous financial support from the governments of the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. The British government, through its Department for International Development, is committed to supporting the project until the end of April, 2006.