CAMERA Op-Ed: The Washington Post Gets Abu Jihad’s Thoughts On New Peace Plan

The Washington Post has turned to an unlikely commentator for the Trump administration’s prospective peace plan: an unrepentant Palestinian terrorist nicknamed Abu Jihad. Seriously.

The newspaper’s Jan. 23, 2020 dispatch noted that U.S. President Trump “invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his challenger in upcoming elections, Benny Gantz, to Washington” for “a discussion of Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan.” That plan, the Post reports, was finished in 2019, but “kept under wraps amid political turmoil in Israel.” No details were released by the time the newspaper filed the story.

Understandably, the Post sought comments about the plan from Palestinian officials, including Mahmoud al-Aloul, who asserted, “For sure, it’s going to be a complete rejection of the plan.” Less understandably, the newspaper failed to inform readers about Aloul’s background and history.

Mahmoud Aloul, they told readers, is “vice chairman of the ruling Fatah party and a possible successor” to the current Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. But Aloul is also a Palestinian terrorist whose nom de guerre is Abu Jihad.

Aloul was born in 1950 in Nablus. According to a March 2017 profile by Grant Rumley, an analyst of Palestinian politics, Aloul joined the Fatah movement shortly after the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1983, he helped kidnap several Israeli soldiers and worked directly for Khalil al-Wazir, an arch terrorist who was nicknamed Abu Jihad and who murdered 125 people. The Israelis killed Wazir in 1988, and Aloul inherited the nickname.

As Rumley noted in The American Interest, “When the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords, many PLO officials returned from exile to the West Bank and Gaza. However, Israel refused to allow Aloul to return for a year due to his past militant activity.” Shortly after his return Aloul became governor of Nablus, a town that has long produced some of the more extremist elements in Palestinian politics as the academic Yehoshua Porath documented in his book The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement.

In 2006, Aloul became Labor Minister for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Three years later, he was appointed to Fatah’s powerful Central Committee. In 2017, Mahmoud Abbas appointed him to be his deputy—an appointment that Fatah’s official Facebook page hailed, favorably comparing Aloul to his mentor, Wazir. As Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) highlighted, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, one of the Palestinian terrorist groups most responsible for the Second Intifada (2000-05) in which more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered, celebrated Aloul’s rise as demonstrating a “commitment to [the] path of terrorist martyrs.”

Aloul’s ascension should have been newsworthy; Abbas is an unpopular octogenarian who is currently a decade-and-a-half into a single elected four-year term. Yet nearly every major U.S. news outlet, including The Washington Postfailed to cover it as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) noted at the time.

As recently as May 12, 2019 Aloul expressed “condolences” to the mother of a Palestinian terrorist who was currently serving 11 sentences, according to Fatah’s official Facebook page. The previous month, he defended the P.A.’s policy of paying salaries to terrorists—or “heroes and fighters” as he referred to them—and called U.S. demands to end that policy “blackmail.” Indeed, as PMW has documented, Aloul’s official Facebook page frequently praises Palestinian terrorists.

On Oct. 24, 2017, The Washington Free Beacon reported that it had obtained secret audiotapes from March of that year in which Aloul admitted, “We have relations with” the BDS movement. Aloul added: “Our people work there, and we have delegates there. We cooperate with BDS on all levels, and not only with the BDS, but every group whose aim is to boycott Israel, we are with. Every group working to lay siege on Israel and isolate it from the world, we are with it.”

The P.A.’s support for BDS violates the terms and spirit of the Oslo Accords that created it and that remain the basis for its international support. However, Aloul’s admission was ignored by the Post, which has claimed that BDS is a “grassroots” movement that merely “opposes the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinian territories and treatment of Palestinians.”

It’s curious that the Post would turn to a person who supports terrorism and groups “working to lay siege on Israel” for his “thoughts” on a peace plan. What are the chances for peace when one of the “peace partners” is Abu Jihad?

The newspaper’s coverage of the proposal itself was deeply flawed. The Post published an editorial, no fewer than three columns and two news reports on the plan—not a single one of which noted that Palestinian leaders have rejected numerous offers for statehood. As CAMERA has frequently highlighted, most recently in The Daily Caller, the PA rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for peace and statehood in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. More recently, the PA refused U.S. proposals to restart negotiations in 2014 and 2016.

The Post, however, omitted all of this pertinent history. Instead, their editorial faulted the Trump administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, claiming, “Mideast peace was an already distant prospect, but these cynical and self-seeking leaders have made it more so.”

Perhaps most absurdly, The Post even faulted the proposal for “making a long list of conditions” in order for Palestinians to have “independence,” like “establishing Western-style institutions, disarming the Hamas movement and recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.” The nerve!

The paper seems incapable of endowing Palestinian leadership with any measure of responsibility and independent agency. This is the same leadership that, as recently as last few week, called to murder Jews at a Holocaust commemoration ceremony, as CAMERA documented (“The Palestinian Authority’s Word and the Media’s Silence,” Times of Israel, Jan. 21, 2020).

Nor was The Post alone in its faulty coverage. Both The Baltimore Sun (“Trump Rolls Out Mideast Peace Plan,” Jan. 29) and USA Today (“Critics Say Trump’s New Peace Plan Futile,” Jan. 29), among others, filed dispatches on the proposal which failed to mention the long history of Palestinian rejectionism.

The obvious is being left unsaid: What are the chances for peace when one of the “peace partners” is Abu Jihad?

(Note: A slightly different version of this article appeared as an Op-Ed in JNS on Jan. 28, 2020)