CAMERA Op-Ed: Is Abbas Destroying Evidence of the PA’s Support for Terrorism?

The President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, ordered his security services to destroy “secret documents, fearing possible Israeli raids on their offices,” according to a June 16, 2020 report by AFP. Many Western news outlets failed to either carry or follow up on the story. Yet there’s reason to think that the PA—a significant beneficiary of international aid—is trying to cover up its support for terrorism.

Indeed, if history is any guide, the PA has good reason to fear what Israeli raids on their offices would uncover.

In the early morning hours of Aug. 10, 2001, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) raided the Orient House in eastern Jerusalem. Built in 1897 by the al-Husseini clan, the house has a storied history, serving variously as one of the residences of that Nazi-collaborating family, as well as lodging for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Entities linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), then a U.S.-designated terror group led by Yasser Arafat, also made use of the house, which eventually served as the PLO’s local headquarters.

As part of the 1990s Oslo peace process, Arafat swore that the PLO “renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators.” Yet, the PLO and the PA, the entity created by Oslo, soon violated these promises.

As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) documented, once the PA was given partial control of Gaza, Arafat snuck in Mamduh Nawfal, mastermind of the 1974 Ma’alot atrocity in which twenty-seven Israeli children were murdered, hidden in the trunk of his car. Palestinian leaders were equally clear about their intentions to exploit Oslo for their ultimate—and unchanged—objective: the destruction of the Jewish state. In a 1996 speech in Stockholm, Arafat stated: “We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. … We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.”

According to Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari, a former senior adviser on Palestinian affairs at Israel’s Defense Ministry, the Orient House soon became an “an organizing factor” for riots and demonstrations against Israel.

In September 2000, a few months after Arafat rejected a peace proposal by President Bill Clinton, the Palestinian leader launched the Second Intifada, a five year long terror campaign of suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings and vehicular assaults that ultimately claimed more than 1,000 Israeli lives. In August 2001, as part of its counterterror efforts, the IDF raided the Orient House.

Documents uncovered during the raid proved that, their denials notwithstanding, PA/PLO leadership was complicit in orchestrating the terror attacks. For example, the documents showed that Arafat had paid $20,000 to the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade (AAMB), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. As CAMERA noted in its May 2019 profile of the group, the AAMB was founded by Arafat’s Fatah movement, yet the Palestinian leader pretended not to have links to the Brigade.

Indeed, documents seized from PA offices in Ramallah and elsewhere, including the offices of the Authority’s U.S.-trained and supplied security services, showed that Palestinian leaders were deeply involved in supporting terrorism. As the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported on April 16, 2002: “The most important finding is that senior Palestinian Authority officers were actively involved in terrorism, providing logistical and financial assistance even to supposedly oppositionist elements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.”

Documents showed that Arafat even personally signed checks for terrorists, many of who sent in itemized receipts, listing the cost of each component and how many bombs per week the organization planned to use. Seized evidence also proved that the PA’s Security Services “helped recruit, arm and dispatch terrorists for attacks inside Israel.” The documents, including a letter to the late PLO apparatchik Faisal Husseini, showed that the intifada itself was pre-planned—contravening the commonly repeated narrative of a “spontaneous uprising.”

Terror victims seeking redress have cited the evidence that the IDF obtained in these raids on PA and PLO offices in court. In July 2019, the PA was held liable by the Jerusalem District Court for civil damages for a series of attacks carried out mostly during the Second Intifada.

In light of this history, AFP’s recent report that security services “began destroying” documents “a month ago after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he was ending security coordination with Israel” should attract more widespread attention from press and pundits. Anonymous PA Security Service officials stated that they received orders from “high up” to destroy the documents after they were scanned and transferred to USB drive, which were then placed in “secret places.”

The decision was made, AFP reports, out of fears that Israel will raid the offices in the event that the Israeli government decides to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Although the news service doesn’t disclose what documents were destroyed and why, it does note that Palestinian security officials remembered that Israeli security forces “repeatedly stormed offices of the Palestinian security services and removed confidential documents” during the Second Intifada and “are concerned that this could happen again if Israel moves ahead with annexation.”

Abbas and other Fatah leaders have openly acknowledged that they pay salaries to those who murder and attack Jews, refusing U.S. and Israeli demands to end what has become known as “pay-to-slay.” Yet to gullible Western audiences and donors, Abbas and top Fatah officials pretend that the payments are merely “social welfare.”

Meanwhile, the extent of the current PA leadership’s involvement in directing terror attacks, including the so-called “Stabbing Intifada” of 2015-16, might not be uncovered for years. The PA, it seems, has learned from at least some—but by no means all—of its previous mistakes.

(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an op-ed in the Algemeiner on June 23, 2020)