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Middle East Issues





CAMERA Op-Ed: The Growing Autocracy of the Palestinian Authority


(Note: A version of the following commentary appeared as an Op-Ed in The Times of Israel on Oct. 7, 2017)
 
 
On Sept. 26, 2017, the Palestinian Authority, the self-governing body that rules the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), hailed a terrorist named Ahmed Al-Jamal, for murdering three Israelis. Twenty-four hours later, the PA was welcomed into INTERPOL, which purports to work to “make the world a safer place.” Both instances are examples of the authority violating the Oslo accords which created it and from which it is still funded.

The PA was established in May 1994 as a result of the Israel-Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Declaration of Principles (DOP) during the Oslo peace process. As with the PLO, the Fatah movement has long dominated the PA. All three entities are currently led by Mahmoud Abbas, the 82-year old successor to Yasser Arafat, who is currently in year twelve of a single elected four-year term.

Abbas has been variously described as a “moderate” and a “peace partner” by press and policymakers alike. Much of his record suggests otherwise.

On several occasions, Abbas—like his predecessor—has rejected opportunities for a Palestinian state if it meant living peacefully next to the Jewish nation of Israel. For example, a 2008 offer issued by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert included 93% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and a Palestinian state with its capital in eastern Jerusalem. Abbas himself has acknowledged that he rejected this plan “out of hand,” and failed to so much as submit a counteroffer.

Instead of accepting statehood and peace with the Jewish state, Abbas has opted for war, by promoting anti-Jewish violence and seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state.

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), and others have highlighted, Palestinian laws passed in 2004 and amended in 2013 state that convicted terrorists must receive monthly “salaries” for their service as the “fighting sector” of “Arab Palestinian society.”

The authority honors terrorists in other ways, as well. Terrorists and their families receive cash grants and are favored in getting civil-service job placements, as CAMERA noted in a May 17, 2017 Hill Op-Ed.

Terror is institutionalized. According to PMW, no less than 75 PA schools are named after terrorists and Nazi collaborators, such as Haj Amin al-Husseini, a man Abbas has called a “pioneer.” The PA has even posthumously awarded honorary law degrees to men such as Muhanned Shafeq Halabi, who murdered two Israelis and stabbed a two-year old child in an Oct. 8, 2015 terror attack.

Al-Quds University, a PA-affiliated institution in eastern Jerusalem whose self-described mission is to encourage students "to develop a worldly outlook, an appreciation of and tolerance for the other, and a humanist moral code," features an Abu Jihad Museum that honors Khalil Al-Wazir (aka Abu Jihad), a terrorist who helped murder at least 124 Israelis.

According to an August 2015 PMW report, no fewer than eight streets in the West Bank are named after Abu Jihad.

The PA's decision to culturally enshrine and financially reward anti-Jewish violence violates the Oslo accords, under which it was created and from which it continues to receive aid. Similarly, its continual refusal to engage in bilateral negotiations—rejecting 2014 and 2016 U.S. and Israeli overtures, for example—also violates Oslo.

In a September 9, 1993,letter from then-PLO head Arafat to then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Arafat promised: “The PLO commits itself to the Middle East peace process and to the peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will be resolved by negotiation.”

Yet, contravening the promised to resolve “outstanding issues” bilaterally, the PA has instead sought to internationalize the conflict via opting for unilateral recognition and actions at the U.N., INTERPOL and other multilateral bodies and agencies. These forums are continually—and improperly used—to single out the Jewish state for opprobrium, and often to promote the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) effort, which unfairly maligns Israel.

Those Palestinians who seek co-existence are punished. For example, in early September 2017, when a former member of the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Mohamed Jabir, dared to post Facebook pictures of him visiting with a member of the Israeli Knesset, he was promptly arrested and imprisoned by the PA. Sadly, this is nothing new; one of the first laws passed by the authority called for going after any Palestinian who rented or sold land to an Israeli. In October 2014, Abbas increased the penalty to imprisonment for life and Fatah's spokesperson Osama al-Qawasmi called them “traitors destined to die a humiliating death.” Needless to say, this makes coexisting as neighbors both difficult and dangerous.

PA attacks against their own people have also increased, with the authority imprisoning Palestinian journalists for unfavorable reporting or even citizens, such as Nasser Jaradat, who was detained in June 2017 for criticizing PA official Jibril Rajoub—a possible Abbas successor.

In Sept. 27, 2017 remarks before the U.N. Human Rights Council, former Hamas member turned peace advocate, Mosab Hassan Yousef, accused the PA itself of being “the greatest enemy of the Palestinian people.” Similar to PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah's March 16, 2016 admission that “torture happens” in authority-run prisons, Yousef's remarks were underreported by Western press outlets.

So has the February 2017 ascension of Mahmoud al-Aloul, an unrepentant terrorist, to be Abbas' number two in the Fatah movement. Al-Aloul is nicknamed Abu Jihad, after al-Wazir, his former boss and mentor.

Should he succeed Abbas, Abu Jihad will be tasked with leading an authority that purports—to the U.S. and those who fund it anyways—to be committed to peace with Israel.

At Oslo's signing on the White House lawn in September 1993, President Bill Clinton hailed “the promise of a new beginning,” but warned, “Every peace has its enemies, those who still prefer the easy habits of hatred to the hard labors of reconciliation.” Those enemies seem clear enough.

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