“If you take epitaphs seriously,” Mark Twain wryly observed, “we ought to bury the living and resurrect the dead.” And when it comes to the Nov. 10, 2020 death of Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), several news outlets didn’t seem to take their jobs seriously at all. Some, such as a Nov. 11 report by Axios, presented Erekat as an “icon” and “champion of the two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who “rejected violence and terrorism.”
The historical record, however, tells a different story.
Erekat succumbed to COVID-19 in Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, where he had been receiving treatment since being admitted in October. The PLO official had a history of pulmonary issues and was 65 at the time of his death. That Erekat was being treated in an Israeli hospital for the novel coronavirus is noteworthy; in a March 2020 article he claimed that the Jewish state was intentionally spreading COVID-19 “to get rid of the Palestinian people in any way.” As David Weinberg, the vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, observed, “this is not too far from the classic antisemitic trope about Jews poisoning the wells in Europe.”
In fact, as CAMERA has noted, Israel shared lifesaving technology and training with the Palestinian Authority, the entity that rules over the majority of Palestinians. Yet, this didn’t stop top Palestinian leaders from using the virus to attack Israel. As Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has documented, in April 2020 Erekat even apologized for the PA’s cooperation with Israel to combat the pandemic. Months later he would choose Israeli medical care to attempt to save his life.
But hypocrisy and conspiracy theories were Erekat’s forte.
Perhaps most infamously Erekat propagated the Jenin libel, claiming that Israeli troops massacred more than 500 Palestinian Arabs in that town. Palestinian officials themselves would later put the figure at 52—and the majority of those killed were combatants who died in house-to-house fighting during a counterterror operation.
In 2005, Erekat told Agence France-Presse that the Israeli-Palestinian “road map” promoted by the United States, Russia, United Nations and European Union committed Israel to, among other things, releasing Palestinian prisoners. In fact, the Quartet’s diplomatic initiative did not mention prisoners.
And in April 2014 he asserted that Hamas is “not and never will be a terrorist organization.” Yet, the U.S., Israel and numerous countries have designated the Gaza-based entity as a terror group. Hamas routinely launches rockets at civilians, uses human shields, has carried out suicide bombings, and calls for the destruction of Israel and the genocide of its Jewish citizens.
In March 2014, Erekat wrote an official PLO strategy document, entitled Study Paper No. 15, which sought to incorporate both Hamas and the Iranian-backed terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, into a “new State of Palestine Executive Committee.”
Indeed, in contrast to Axios reporter Barak Ravid’s portrayal of Erekat as a peace-loving diplomat, the PLO official was a staunch defender of terrorism. As PMW noted: “Based on his fundamental rejection of the claim that mass murderers of Israeli civilians are terrorists, Erekat has declared that he sees the actions of terrorist prisoners as ‘acts of heroism’, and that Palestinians ‘bow [their] heads in admiration and honor of the prisoners’ sacrifices, for their acts of heroism.’”
Unsurprisingly, Erekat has defended the PA’s policy—enshrined in law—of paying salaries to Palestinian terrorists who are imprisoned for murdering and maiming Israelis. In a June 16, 2017 edition of the PA’s official daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Erekat called them “fighters for freedom.”
Nor was Erekat a “champion of the two-state solution” who “spent his whole life trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” As the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) documented, Erekat applauded the PA’s rejection—without so much as a counteroffer—of U.S. and Israeli offers for a Palestinian state in exchange for peace with Israel. In a March 27 2009 interview with Al-Jazeera, Erekat cheered their “defiance.” And, as leaked documents from the Palestine Papers reveal, Erekat never considered the so-called “right of return” to be negotiable.
Axios, however, claimed that Erekat was “a human archive of the peace process,” heralding his supposed ability to “obsessively document every detail in every meeting.” It is true that Erekat was, as the Washington Post acknowledged, “frequently quoted by Western media.” Indeed, as CAMERA has often highlighted, Erekat was often given a platform by mainstream news organizations. But given his track record of lies and hate, this says more about their credibility than his.
“Many Israeli and American negotiators came and went,” Axios’s Ravid declares, but Erekat “was always there. It’s hard to see who will replace him.” In fact, the PLO has no shortage of officials who are willing to herald anti-Jewish violence and reject peace.