Turn on Palestinian television or open a Palestinian newspaper these days, and much of the content looks like it could have come from a time capsule from Yasser Arafat’s murderous reign: brainwashed mothers and children discussing the “glory” of “martyrdom,” top clerics calling for the destruction of Israel, and general vilification of the Jewish “oppressors.”
And new, supposedly moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is acting a lot like his old partner Arafat: Hamas and other terrorist organizations have yet to be disarmed, let alone shut down, and terrorist leaders continue using the revolving door to get out of jail.
Although it is still fairly early in Abbas’ tenure—less than three months since his “election” and just under five months since Arafat died—the early record is far from encouraging, yet hardly surprising.
Aside from being a communist Holocaust denier and Arafat’s right-hand man for decades, Abbas has always hailed from the same school of moral thought that “Palestine” includes all of Israel and that there’s nothing inherently wrong with suicide bombings. His criticism of terrorism, which is always noted by the media and the international community so eager to embrace him, is based on his belief that slaughtering innocent civilians is merely strategically unhelpful.
Due to the invaluable efforts of Palestinian Media Watch and its director, Itamar Marcus, we know that Abbas’ early tenure suggests he is simply Arafat in Western clothing.
On November 17, less than a week after Arafat’s death—before the January “election,” but during which time Abbas was already firmly in control—Palestinian Authority television (PATV) broadcast an interview with a mother whose two sons were suicide bombers.
To mothers who might think that sending their sons to commit murder by suicide might be “encouraging them to die,” this was her message: “No, we do not encourage our sons to die. We encourage them to Shahada [martyrdom] for the homeland, for Allah.” She further explained, in fact, that it was “joyous,” demanding celebration: “For us, the mourning is joyous. We give out drinks, we give out sweets. Praise to God—the mourning is a joyous occasion.”
Even after Abbas was officially declared prime minister, incitement remained a mainstay of PATV. On February 4, one of the PA’s top clerics, who is on the PA payroll, explicitly advocated what many Abbas critics have long charged is the new prime minister’s ultimate goal: using diplomacy to establish a Palestinian state and then switching to violence to wipe out all of Israel.
In a nationally-televised sermon, imam Ibrahim Mudyris said, “[W]e shall return to the 1967 borders [by diplomacy], but we have not given up on [Israeli cities] Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, Lod, Ramle, Netanya and Tel Aviv. Never. We shall return to every village we have been expelled from, by Allah’s will.” Making clear the means by which he believes Palestinians should reclaim Israel, he explained that Palestinians shall “return as Muhammad returned—as conqueror.”
Just over a month later, a different PA-employed cleric celebrated International Woman’s Day by encouraging mothers to send their children to death—with Abbas in the audience. Sheikh Yusuf Juma’ Salamah quoted Al Khansah, a heroine in Islamic tradition who thanked God for having her four sons die in battle: “Praise Allah, who granted me honor with their deaths.”
Not only was Abbas in the audience, but the sermon must have been given the stamp of approval by his government. “This was the first Friday sermon broadcast after the PA announced that it would control and vet all Friday sermons delivered in West Bank and Gaza mosques,” notes Marcus.
While it would be naïve to think that Abbas could change Palestinian society overnight, he has more or less carried on Arafat’s legacy. Quantity-wise, there is substantially less incitement, according to Marcus, but as already detailed, Palestinians are being fed a diet that is still peppered with violence and venom.
Abbas has the power to stop the indoctrination. The Palestinian Authority is not a real democracy. Not even close. Abbas won a coronation masquerading as an election. He is still the dictator of a closed society. Arafat’s longtime comrade-in-arms is the puppet master and all organs of Palestinian government and media are under his control.
If only it were just the media. Hamas is still intact, as is every other known Palestinian terrorist entity. Abbas refuses to stand up to the terrorists; instead, like Arafat, he proudly prefers to work with them. And work with them, indeed. He’s already announced plans to release two high-profile terrorists: Ahmed Saadat, the head of terrorist group Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Fuad Shubaki, Arafat’s former deputy who spearheaded efforts to smuggle arms from Iran aboard the Karine-A.
There is a legitimate question how far ahead of a deeply radicalized Palestinian population Abbas can go. At the very least, he could aim to be a step ahead and try to lead them in a new direction. But he’s not—and it shows.