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Abbas' Love Letter to a Child-Killer By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 18, 2008


Reputedly moderate Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is reported to have “sent greetings to Kuntar”—referring to the Lebanese terrorist freed in Wednesday’s Israel-Hezbollah exchange who in a 1979 attack killed a 28-year-old Israeli man in front of his 4-year-old daughter and then killed the girl by smashing her head.

Abbas was on a visit to Malta at the time and was under no known pressure to issue his tidings. Even if he was—Samir Kuntar being popular among his Fatah Party, which held a rally in Ramallah to laud his release and that of the remains of Palestinian mass murderer Dalal Mughrabi—Abbas did not have to accede to the pressure. He has, after all, free will and there is absolutely no compulsion for anyone to send greetings to an unrepentant child-murderer upon his release from prison into total freedom at the age of 46.

Since Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in 2005, he has been fawned over and enshrined as a figure of peace and moderation by both American and Israeli (as well as, of course, European and other) leaders, particularly by President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the American side and by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the Israeli side.

Those of us who have been disturbed by this treatment have tried to call attention to many indications that Abbas is not really a benign or moderate figure, of which these are only some of the highlights:

* On December 5, 2005, the same day that an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in Netanya, Israel, killed 5 people and wounded over 40, Abbas signed a law giving monthly stipends to the families of suicide bombers.

* At a Fatah rally in Ramallah on January 11, 2007, Abbas told a large crowd of Palestinians, estimated between 50,000-250,000, that “We have a legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation” and “The sons of Israel are mentioned [in the Koran] as those who are corrupting humanity on earth.”

* Abbas has always insisted on the “right of return for Palestinian refugees,” code for the demographic flooding and destruction of Israel and completely unacceptable even to the most pliant of Israeli governments. A report last May cited Abbas’s insistence on this point as part of the ongoing unreconciled differences between him and Olmert. Among many other instances, at the same 2007 Ramallah rally where Abbas spoke of the “legitimate right to direct our guns against Israeli occupation” he said that the “issue of the refugees is non-negotiable.”

* Abbas has never recognized Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state. He declined to do so at the November 2007 Annapolis Conference, and after the conference “reiterated his rejection of Israel’s demand to recognize it as a Jewish state.”

* Abbas engages in dangerous incitement against Israel before Muslim and Arab audiences, as when he told the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Senegal last March—a gathering that included Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—that “Our people in Jerusalem are under an ethnic cleansing campaign” and Palestinians “are facing a campaign of annihilation” by Israel, or told the Arab summit in Damascus later that month that “Israel pursues its aggression and occupation” and perpetrates “barbaric attacks, causing hundreds of defenseless victims.”

* Abbas formed a unity government with Hamas—officially defined as a terrorist organization by both the United States and Israel—in March 2007. Since that government’s dissolution in June 2007 Abbas has kept trying to reestablish it, discussing the matter with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and international terrorist leaders in Damascus as recently as last week.

There are two basic motivations for calling attention to these counterindications of Abbas’s supposed moderacy. One is a regard for truth. The leaders of the United States and of Israel should not have to stoop to fawning over, and extolling as “a man of peace…a man of vision,” an individual with a track record like that of Abbas.

Second, as is often the case, distorting the truth in this way has harmful practical consequences. Upholding the fiction of the moderate Abbas is central to encouraging perceptions of the Palestinian Authority itself as moderate and on a path to peace with Israel, enabling a situation where, among other things:

* Lavish international aid keeps flowing to the PA. As Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen noted this week, “the PA announced on January 15, 2008 its intentions to give Hamas…‘40 percent’ ($3.1 billion) of the $7.4 billion pledged in December 2007 by international donors. Evidently, the donors did not take this statement seriously, and from January to June 2008, gave the PA $920 million in direct budgetary aid.” At the abovementioned Arab summit in Damascus, Abbas himself said the PA transfers 58 percent of its budget to Hamas-controlled Gaza and pays the salaries of 77,000 employees there. Meanwhile there is no evidence that the aid to the PA has reduced the poverty and corruption that beset the West Bank and Gaza under PA and/or Hamas rule, or has done much more than line the pockets of a venal elite.

* With Abbas and his PA perceived as benign and peaceful, no pressure is put on Abbas to address the problem of the severe anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, and anti-American incitement that permeates the PA’s schools, medias, and mosques—as abundantly documented by Palestinian Media Watch and others.

* The United States goes so far as to fund, equip, and train PA forces even though the results range from corruption and ineptness to increased terrorism.

* The belief that Abbas’s PA is conciliatory leads to heightened pressure on Israel to take measures that are harmful to it such as ceasing to build homes even in its capital city and taking down checkpoints that are vital to preventing terror attacks.

It’s not clear whether and how much, in the time they have left, Bush and Rice will keep chasing the Abbas-mirage with all the deleterious consequences. As for Olmert, who also doesn’t have much time left as leader, he said in a news conference this week with Abbas and French president Sarkozy that “I think we have never been as close to the possibility of reaching an agreement as we are today”—despite all the above and much more.

But apart from these specific American and Israeli leaders, the practice of anointing a Palestinian leader as a moderate and then treating him that way no matter how grave the counterindications goes back to Yasser Arafat in the early 1990s and remains a clear-cut danger for the future. Now that Mahmoud Abbas has sent his tidings to a heinous child-murderer, continuing to flatter and boost Abbas has gone beyond the cowardly, undignified, and harmful: it has become obscene. Both Americans and Israelis deserve much better conduct from their leaders and should demand it in no uncertain terms.


P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.


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