Just a question of timing?
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques ZilberdikWhen
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently spoke in
Washington and publicly condemned the killings of four Israelis by Hamas
terrorists near Hebron, it generated a feeling of cautious optimism:
"What happened yesterday and what is happening today is also condemned.
We do not want at all that any blood be shed, one drop of blood, on the
part of the - from the Israelis or the Palestinians," Abbas said.
years during which glorifying terror and honoring terrorists has been a
backbone of PA culture, was this statement heralding real change?
Unfortunately, an examination of the internal PA responses to the
attack, when not under the watchful eyes of Barack Obama, Binyamin
Netanyahu and the world media, quickly erased hope that the PA had
distanced itself from terror.
A comparison by Palestinian Media Watch (www.palwatch.org)
of the PA response to the murders of four Israeli civilians to their
reaction to the deaths during the flotilla confrontations, emphasizes
that the PA's response to Hamas's attack was not a condemnation of
terror or violence at all.
The central and recurring theme of PA
leaders and PA-controlled media in response to Hamas's attack was
criticism of the timing of the attack because of the damage done to the
Palestinian cause, and not criticism of the killings themselves. The
PA's central and recurring theme in response to the deaths on the
flotilla was strong condemnation of what the PA repeatedly defined as "a
massacre" and "a crime."
The day after the Hamas killings,
official PA media reported that "Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad said
that the operation which took place tonight in the Hebron area and its
timing, harms the efforts being made by the PLO to gather international
support for the Palestinian position... He said: 'We condemn this
operation, which contradicts the Palestinian interests and the efforts
of the Palestinian leadership to gather international support...'" [PLO
news agency Wafa, Aug. 31, 2010]
Abbas, when he returned to
Ramallah, like Fayyad, lashed out at his political rival, Hamas, for the
timing of the shootings: "He [Abbas] said that the recent shooting
operations in the West Bank did not constitute resistance: '... For why
isn't [Hamas] resistance happening every day, and isn't happening at
all, except on the day we went to negotiations?!... Why did resistance
become legitimate only today?" [Al- Ayyam, Sept. 6, 2010]
PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash in his Friday
sermon after the killings continued this PA line as he condemned the
timing, even accusing Hamas of trying to help Netanyahu: "What is the
secret of the timing for carrying out armed operations in the West Bank?
We want to know the secret of the timing... Suddenly! - the moment that
President Abbas reaches Washington, the moment that Netanyahu finds
himself in the corner, pressed, forced to adapt and accommodate himself
to the international approach, suddenly there is a respite for
Netanyahu, and the Palestinians are in distress [because of the
attacks]..." [PA TV (Fatah), Sept. 3, 2010]
SO THE PA objected
to the timing of the killings. Actually, were the PA sincere in their
intention to condemn the killings, the attack in Hebron was a great
opportunity for them to send a clear message to their people that
violence is wrong and immoral. If it was violence that they wanted to
condemn, timing could not have been better. Yet, none of the PA leaders
seized this opportunity to condemn violence because it is wrong.
the Palestinian Authority wants to send a clear message and seriously
condemn what it perceives as terror, it knows how to do it. After the
flotilla confrontation in May, the PA controlled daily Al-Hayat
Al-Jadida in a series of articles called Israel "pirates, murderers,
barbarians, transgressors of international law, lacking any connection
with humanity," [June 3] and referred to Israeli conduct as "more than
piracy and more serious than a massacre in its ugliness and its
inhumanity. It is worse than a crime... a gang dressed up as a state,"
[June 5] and called to "protect humanity from Israeli fascism... Another
barbaric Israeli massacre, bringing shame upon humanity and the
civilized world... Israeli savagery... a massacre against humanity."
[June 1] Tayseer Tamimi, then PA Chief Justice of Religious Court
"denounced the shameful crime," [Al- Hayat Al-Jadida, June 5, 2010].
himself demonstrated that when motivated, he too knows how to send a
clear message of condemnation."Israel has carried out a great crime" [Al-Ayyam, June 17, 2010], he said, referring to "the killing of innocent people," [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida,
June 27, 2010], terming it "premeditated and with determination to
kill" [PA TV, May 31, 2010] and that Palestinians were "subjected to
state terrorism" [Al- Hayat Al-Jadida, June 3, 2010].
WHEN THE PA
wanted to condemn Israel's conduct in the flotilla confrontations, the
recurring themes were "a new crime", "a great crime", "a long list of
crimes", "enemy crimes", as well as "massacre", "bloody massacre" and
"massacre against humanity."
On the other hand, never once was the murder of four Israeli civilians called a "crime" and certainly not "a massacre."
PA leader condemned these killings saying simply that killing is wrong.
In fact, even Abbas in Washington in his condemnation spoke not about a
crime, a killing, or a shooting but chose to condemn "what happened
Confirming the perception that the PA has not ceased
its terror glorification, the PA Minister of Prisoners visited the homes
of prisoners serving life sentences for murder, right after the Hamas
killings. The celebrations over Abbas's "condemnation" of terror and the
killing of Israeli civilians were clearly premature.
focus on the timing of terror must be understood not as a shift in PA
tactic but as part of the long-term ongoing Palestinian policy. Senior
member of the Palestinian negotiating team, Nabil Sha'ath, after the
Palestinian Authority called for the cessation of violence a few months
ago, explained repeatedly that the "armed conflict" had to be
temporarily put on hold "because of the inability to engage in the armed
struggle, which has become undesirable now, although it is the right of
the Palestinian people..." [May 20, 2010] "The current distancing from
the armed struggle does not mean its absolute rejection ... especially
since the armed struggle at the present time is not possible, or is not
effective..." [May 20] "It is our right to return to the armed conflict
whenever we view that as our people's interest.'" [June 7, all in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida]
WORST problem about the PA's criticism of the timing of the Hamas
attack is that far from being the condemnation of terror that the world
cheered, it is just the opposite: it is a reiteration of terror. The
message Palestinians take from their leaders following this murder of
four civilians is that terror remains a valid political tool - when the
timing is right and when there is political gain. As senior PA leader
Muhammad Dahlan explained: "This [the violent resistance] is our right, a
legal right. The international community affirms it for us. But it is
the responsibility of the leadership to use it when it wants, in the
proper place and at the proper time." [PA TV (Fatah) July 22, 2009]
the PA wants to be a peace partner it must sincerely renounce and
condemn terror, and the PA must stop honoring terrorist murderers and
turning them into Palestinian heroes. This must be done not in
Washington but in the PA areas and in Arabic. If the PA continues to
glorify terror and condemn only its poor timing, then Israel still does
not have a peace partner.