CAMERA Op-Ed; Washington Post Commentator Whitewashes Palestinian Terrorism

(Note: An earlier version of this Op-Ed appeared in The Algemeiner on April 28, 2017)

A Washington Post op-ed by Daoud Kuttab (“Palestinian resistance spreads to Israel’s prisons,” April 20, 2017) sanitized both Palestinian terrorism and the rejection of Israel’s legitimacy. In his article, Kuttab misled Post readers, while purporting to detail the reasons behind a recent hunger strike by imprisoned Palestinian terrorists.

Kuttab described strike leader, Marwan Barghouti, as “the most prominent leader of the PLO’s Fatah movement and an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.” Kuttab said that Barghouti is a man who “in the past…has supported violent resistance against Israel.” However, this description euphemistically minimizes the grotesque acts that Barghouti committed.

Marwan Barghouti is a convicted murderer, and the founder of Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a US-designated terrorist group that carried out suicide bombings and shootings attacks during the Second Intifada (2000-05). Barghouti — who also led the Tanzim faction of Fatah, the movement that dominates the Palestinian Authority — oversaw multiple terrorist attacks, including the 2001 murder of Greek monk Tsibouktsakis Germanus, among others.

During his trial, Barghouti “showed no remorse for the murders he committed,” according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For orchestrating crimes, many of them against civilians, Barghouti has become “by far the most popular Palestinian figure in the West Bank and Gaza,” as Grant Rumley, an analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies noted in a 2015 report examining possible successors to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas is an ailing octogenarian whose autocratic rule and refusal to hold elections has prevented a clear heir—something thatBarghouti’s recent publicity ploy may be aimed at rectifying.

Rumley pointed out that “Barghouti has stayed active by leveraging a popular pulpit in Palestinian politics—Israeli prisons—where he has been issuing statements and even advising graduate students. He regularly challenges decisions made by Abbas, and issues his own policy prognoses.” In other words, Barghouti has a history of using his position as an imprisoned murderer for political gain.

Kuttab, omitting this pertinent information, painted Barghouti and his supporters as Palestinians who “have lost hope in an internationally negotiated settlement” and, accordingly are “using nonviolent acts of resistance…to remind the Israelis and the world of the importance of a peaceful solution that will end the occupation.”

Israelis hardly need a reminder of the occupation, which itself was the consequence of Arab states initiating the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel, along with the US, has submitted several offers for Palestinian statehood in exchange for peace with — and recognition of — the Jewish state. These offers were made in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba, and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference, among other instances. On all of these occasions, Palestinian leaders rejected the offers. There is no evidence that Barghouti, or any other prominent Palestinian figure, supported accepting these opportunities for Palestinian statehood. Indeed, Abbas, whom Barghouti has frequently criticized as being too soft on Israel, stated that he rejected the 2008 offer “out of hand.” Kuttab fails to note this rejectionism.

Instead, the Palestinian journalist veers into fantasy, by claiming, “most Palestinians today, including those from the Islamic Hamas movement, are convinced that any solution to the Palestinian Israeli conflict will require a territorial compromise.” But Hamas, the US-designated terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip and whose charter calls for the end of the Jewish state, disagrees. As recently as March 28, 2017, Hamas operative Mahmoud Al-Zahar stated, “Our principles say that our land is all of Palestine, including the land that is under occupation (i.e., Israel),” according to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a non-profit organization that monitors Arab media. And Fatah agrees. Just two days before al-Zahar’s comments, Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Shtayyeh said on official PA TV: “To this moment, Fatah does not recognize Israel. The topic of recognition of Israel has not been raised in any of Fatah’s conferences.”

In his op-ed, Kuttab engaged in other distortions as well, claiming that the “nonviolent” boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement” stems from a 2005 call by “Palestinian academics.” In fact, as CAMERA has noted, BDS founders include the US-designated terrorist organizations Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades of Fatah, as well as non-Palestinian Syrian extremist movements. Kuttab, in an Orwellian turn of phrase, calls them members of the “non-violent resistance.”

The BDS movement, like Kuttab, seeks to single out the Jewish state for opprobrium. In his article, Kuttab falsely implied that the boycott efforts have been gaining ground. However, in the last two-years alone, nearly 20 US states have passed resolutions condemning BDS.

Kuttab also passed on opportunities to note legitimate Palestinian human rights violations. Perhaps that’s because the offenders weren’t Israelis. For instance, he writes that the PA’s Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah supports the Palestinian prisoners. He fails to mention, however, that Hamdallah acknowledged, “torture happens” in PA prisons in a March 16, 2016, interview with German media outlet Deutsche Welle. By comparison, Marwan Barghouti has earned a PhD while in Israeli prison.

Kuttab is also silent about the Palestinians currently being held in Syrian jails. As the Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh has pointed out, there are “three times more Palestinian prisoners in Syrian jails than in Israel.” It’s hard to imagine that those prisoners are receiving the care that the Jewish state provides.

The Washington Post has, in years past, frequently provided a platform for Kuttab’s distortions. The famed renaissance thinker and artist Leonardo da Vinci reportedly said, “The greatest deception that men suffer from is their own opinions.” Perhaps it is time for the Post to stop printing Kuttab’s.

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