Mahmoud Abbas at Paris March. Media Don’t Ask Why

More than 40 world leaders marching arm-in-arm led an estimated one million-plus people in Paris on Jan. 11, 2015 in opposition to terrorist suppression of free speech, news media reported. Described as the biggest demonstration in French history, it was held to say “non” to the goals of Islamic fanatics who murdered 17 people in two attacks days earlier in the capital (for example, “’Charlie’ draws historic crowd, world leaders to Paris,” USA Today, January 11).

Two French Muslims had attacked the office of Charlie Hebdo, a cartoon-based magazine given to often-obscene mockery of public figures such as the pope, rabbis, imams and the Islamic prophet, Mohammed. There they murdered 12 people, including one woman reportedly shot not because she was a cartoonist or writer but because she was Jewish.

Another terrorist killed a policewoman and later murdered four people at Hyper Cacher, a kosher grocery.

Police shot to death all three gunmen.

In the front row of marchers, separated by French President Francois Holland, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and European Union President Donald Tusk were Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Many reports took the image of Netanyahu and Abbas together—widely circulated in Associated Press and Agence France Press photographs—as showing bitter rivals united by common opposition to Islamic extremism.

By imposing that false framework on the march reporters and editors substituted the “optics” of pro-Palestinian public relations for journalism. Here’s why:

* In Israel, journalists and anyone else are free to say, print and broadcast whatever they want, save for certain information censored on national security grounds. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority run by Abbas’s Fatah movement beats and jails its critics. Three days after the march, a Palestinian journalist sent an open letter to Hollande protesting Abbas’ participation. The writer, remaining anonymous for self-protection, noted the PA’s suppression of critics and warned that the Palestinian leader’s invitation to join other leaders in Paris would only embolden his administration’s harsh treatment of the press (“Open Letter to the French President,” by A Palestinian Journalist in Ramallah,” The Gatestone Institute, January 14).
In the Gaza Strip, ruled by the Islamists of Hamas, critics know open dissent courts death. USA Today’s report (above) noted that Reporters Without Borders said it was “appalled” that senior officials from countries like Egypt, Russia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which persecute journalists, participated in the march. The organization could have included Abbas’ Palestinian Authority as well.

* Since the 1993 start of the “Oslo peace process,” the Israeli government has upheld its commitments to avoid anti-Palestinian incitement and to educate its people to support Arab-Israeli peace. The Palestinian Authority, on the other hand, has and continues to incite hatred of and attacks against Israelis, Jews and the Jewish state. Schools, PA-supported mosques and communications media including newspapers and television chronically demonize Jews, delegitimize Israel and praise terrorist killers.

A surplus of bad examples

Palestinian Media Watch has documented countless examples of such incitement, including one just days before Abbas joined the Paris march. Al-Asima, a Palestinian bi-weekly distributed with the official PA daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, praised five Palestinian Arabs who recently murdered 10 Israelis. Among those designated as “martyrs”—Islam’s ultimate distinction—was the pair who shot and axed to death five people at a Jerusalem synagogue (“Abbas hypocrisy: Abbas participated in the anti-terror march in France, but PA, PLO and Fatah continue to glorify terrorists who murder Israeli civilians,” January 11). Rather than an isolated failure to uphold anti-incitement commitments, the item typifies PA public indoctrination that portrays attacks like the one on Hyper Cacher as worthy of the highest praise.

* Even though WAFA (the official Palestinian news agency), the Radio and Television Authority (Palestinian Broadcasting Corp.), and Al-Hayat Al-Jadida are not independent news outlets but arms of the Abbas’ PA, the latter headlined a Nov. 15, 2013 article “Journalists strike against attacks in violation of freedom of speech.” The item reported that “dozens of journalists held a sit-down strike in front of the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah to protest the arrests and attacks on journalists by security forces in recent days ….”
* Then there is Abbas himself, whose doctorate, an example of blame-the-Zionists Holocaust revisionism, came from Soviet-era Moscow University. As successor to Yasser Arafat in the posts of PA president (and chairman of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization) he has spoken against anti-Israel terrorism. But such pronouncements appear to have been examples of expediency, not principle.

Efraim Inbar, political studies professor at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, argued in a Jerusalem Post commentary (“Abbas needs to be replaced,” Jan. 16, 2013) that “while promoting non-violence, Abbas is inciting to violence, in the apparent hope that a third intifada will bring better results than the second. Abbas promised negotiations and moderation after the upgrading of the PLO observer state status by the United Nations General Assembly in November, 2012. Instead, we get inflammatory rhetoric and irresponsible, self-defeating policies.”

* The image of Abbas marching in Paris against terrorism lacked not only context of the present and recent past, as noted above, it lacked—or whitewashed—his entire career. As CAMERA has observed before, Abbas served as a right-hand man to Arafat for more than three decades. During most of that time Arafat and the PLO shed more non-combatant Jewish blood than any individual or groups since the defeat of the Third Reich in 1945. Mohammed Daoud Oudeh (Abu Daoud), planner of the PLO’s “Black September” unit massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, said “Abu Mazen [Abbas] was the financier of our operation,” though he didn’t know the details (Sports Illustrated, Aug. 26, 2002).

According to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency brief (January 12), French President Hollande invited Abbas only after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu decided, against Hollande’s wishes, to participate in the march (“Hollande asked Netanyahu not to attend unity march,” January 12). An Associate
d Press dispatch (“Israel, France honor, bury 7 victims of terrorist attacks,” The Baltimore Sun, January 14) said both governments denied that claim.

In any case, Abbas’ presence indicated that march organizers failed to comprehend what some of the participants understood: Many held signs asserting “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie Hebdo”), but more than a few carried placards stating “Je suis Juif” (“I am a Jew”).

As Netanyahu observed, Israel’s fight is France’s fight—in fact, his country continues to be the West’s point man in the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism. And Mahmoud Abbas, though politically and perhaps personally threatened by Hamas, has tried to co-opt Islamists in his life-long battle against the Jewish state. His participation in the march was not ironic, not an example of strange political bedfellows in step for once. It was a contradiction of all the march was intended to symbolize—not that you’d know if from most news media coverage.

Comments are closed.