On January 29, 2007, the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat was shaken by the explosion of a Palestinian suicide bomber that killed three Israeli civilians and wounded several others. Responsibility for the attack—the first of its kind in Eilat and the first Palestinian suicide bombing in months—was jointly claimed by Islamic Jihad and Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade. It followed a speech by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas two weeks earlier to a Fatah rally in which he exhorted Palestinians to avoid internecine fighting and direct their arms at Israeli “occupation” instead.
In his January 11 speech to the central Fatah rally in Ramallah, broadcast live by Palestinian Satellite Channel Television, Abbas affirmed his own Fatah movement’s dedication to fighting Israel:
Since our launch and to date, we have believed in principles and have not renounced them. Since our launch, we said: Let a thousand roses bloom. Aim all rifles at the occupation….We have pointed our rifles at the occupation. This is a legitimate right; this is a legitimate right….
Not to be outdone by his Hamas rivals, whose reputations are built on their terrorist attacks against Israelis and steadfast commitment to Israel’s destruction, Abbas rejected any negotiation with Israel about Palestinian refugees or Jerusalem and “salute[d] the spirits” of “a long list of [Fatah] martyrs who fell in many locations during our struggle and led this blessed revolution.” Identifying them by name, Abbas hailed high ranking members of Fatah who were heavily involved with or masterminds of terrorist attacks against Israelis—including airplane hijackings, assassinations of diplomats, the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, the 1975 hostage taking at Tel Aviv’s Savoy hotel, the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre—and responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
He further inflamed the audience against Israel by describing a recent IDF arrest operation of a senior terror operative in which six Palestinians were killed, as a random, “barbaric” attack targeting Palestinians solely because of their nationality:
We remember the totally uncalled for barbaric attacks in Ramallah last week, which resulted in the martyrdom and injury of many young Palestinians for no reason whatsoever other than being Palestinians. For this reason Israel came with its deadly means in order to kill them and destroy what it indeed destroyed, and everyone witnessed this, the world witnessed this, and God witnessed this.
Given these words of incitement, is it any wonder that within weeks a Fatah group claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack against Israel? One need just listen to the words of the suicide bomber’s mother to hear Abbas’ own words echoed. Upon hearing of the murderous attack in Eilat, the suicide bomber’s mother expressed pride at the actions of her son, saying:
I pray to Allah that Muhammed will be accepted as a shaheed [martyr]. I hope that his martyrdom will deliver a message to the Fatah and Hamas fighters to stop the fighting and direct their weapons against the one and only enemy – Israel.
What is a wonder is that Abbas continues to receive a free pass by the media, who have ignored his incitement to violence against Israel. Far from reporting on his January 11 speech rousing his followers to direct their rifles against Israel, the media continues to portray Abbas as a “moderate.” For example:
Significant progress has been made in secret coalition talks between the supreme Hamas leader and envoys of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, officials from both sides said Saturday, signaling a sudden shift in atmosphere after several weeks of deadly internal fighting. (AP, Jan. 13, 2007)
At least 30 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since moderate President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah called for fresh elections last month, raising the stakes in his bitter power struggle with the governing Hamas Islamists. (Reuters, Jan. 15, 2007)
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday promised a bigger U.S. push toward a Palestinian state in a bid to bolster moderate President Mahmoud Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas. (Reuters, Jan. 15, 2007)
Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was to meet in Damascus on Saturday with the top leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, to try to forge a unity government that would satisfy all sides. (AP, January 18, 2007)
Although both Israeli and U.S. government officials have apparently preferred to downplay Abbas’ incendiary statements, such avoidance of his incitement to violence does not absolve the media in any way of its responsibility to report this critical information.
News consumers should be told the full story of the Eilat suicide attack. By ignoring the roots of the violence against Israel, the media fails in its duty to inform the public.