CAMERA Op-Ed: Palestinian Official Takes Time Off From Glorifying Terrorists

(The Op-Ed below was published in The Hill on Feb. 12, 2016).
H.E. Shukry Bishara, a finance minister for the Palestinian Authority (PA), omits much while claiming that “Aid to Palestine promotes peace and prosperity” (February 9)—perhaps omissions and distortions are essential to his fallacious argument.

Bishara claims that “Palestine” is “a dedicated partner for peace.” Yet, the PA has continued to celebrate terrorists who murder Jews. Five days before Bishara’s commentary was published in The Hill, PA President Mahmoud Abbas—currently in the tenth year of a single elected five year term—hosted 11 families of terrorists in his office. Palestinian leaders rewarding terror is the rule, rather than the exception.

On Oct. 13, 2015, the PA Ministry of Education announced that it would plant olive trees and place signs with the names of Palestinian terrorists killed while attacking Israelis, among them Muhannad Shafeq Halabi, who murdered two Israelis and stabbed a two-year old child in what official PA media celebrated as a “martyrdom operation.” Halabi was also posthumously awarded a law degree and soil from the al-Aqsa mosque was brought to his grave by Abbas.

Besides offering praise, memorial degrees and tributes, the PA has incited terror attacks against Israelis. In a Sep. 16, 2015 speech that preceded the current “stabbing intifada,” Abbas said, “We bless every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem, which is clean and pure blood, blood spilled for Allah, Allah willing. Every Martyr (Shahid) will reach Paradise, and everyone wounded will be rewarded by Allah.” This exhortation, played on official PA TV and featured on the PA’s Web site, can hardly be considered the words of a “partner for peace.”

When not glorifying or inciting terrorists, the PA is paying them.

Bishara misleads readers when he claims that “small periodic payments are made as welfare to support the families of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.” According to PA economic reports, these expenditures are not listed as “welfare” but rather are included as part of the PA general salary budget, which includes civil servants, military personnel and others. As Palestinian Media Watch, a non-profit organization that translates Arab media in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), the Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem, has noted, they are “not listed as a social service payment.”

In fact, PA documents show that the authority has been paying imprisoned terrorists, including those belonging to rival Hamas—the U.S.-listed terror group that rules the Gaza Strip. According to The Jerusalem Post, the documents show that “most of those receiving PA money are members of Hamas who were behind some of the bloodiest terror attacks in Israeli history (“Documents reveal Palestinian Authority paying convicted Hamas terrorists,” Oct. 6, 2015).”

As The New York Times has noted (“Witness for Arab Bank Says Disputed Payments Were Humanitarian,” Sept. 11, 2014), during the first U.S. civil trial under the Anti-Terrorism Act, Mr. Bishara was questioned about his previous role as the head of the Arab Bank for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. When asked by prosecutors about an Arab Bank spreadsheet that showed a line-item listing for “martyr operation,” Bishara denied that it meant a “suicide operation.”

Dispensing with facts, Bishara misdirects by blaming Israel. He claims Israel’s “military occupation creates enormous social problems” and charges that Israel has violated the Oslo 1993 peace accords. The accords helped create and fund the PA—in exchange for Palestinian promises to make peace with Israel and end incitement and support for terror.

Bishara omits that the PA rejected U.S. and Israeli offers for a “two-state solution” in exchange for peace with and recognition of Israel on three different occasions in the last 16 years: 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. Palestinian leadership similarly rejected U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2014 “framework” to restart negotiations. In each of these instances, the PA failed to provide as much as a counteroffer.

As for what the finance minister calls “illegal settlements,” the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, Article 6, calls for “close Jewish settlement” on the land west of the Jordan River. The mandate, including Article 6, is upheld by the U.N. Charter, Chapter XII, Article 80. Claims Jewish communities in the West Bank, though often made, are diplomatic or propagandist, not legal.

Bishara’s claims of “relentless colonizing” are similarly false—in the last 20 years Israel has unilaterally withdrawn from most of Hebron, southern Lebanon and all of the Gaza Strip. Jewish communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) account for less than five percent of the land. No matter, the Jewish state has experienced an increase in Palestinian terror attacks.

By attacking Israel, perhaps Bishara hopes to draw attention away from accusations—including from former PA officials—of massive embezzlement of funds (“Leaked documents raise anger over Palestinian corruption,” Ynet News, Aug. 12, 2015). Or maybe he seeks to misdirect from accusations by Palestinian journalists of torture and imprisonment by PA officials serving a government that hasn’t held elections in nearly ten years.

Looking at that spreadsheet, one is hard pressed to find the line item for “peace and prosperity.”

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