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Abbas, Terror and Lies By: Michael Widlanski
FrontPageMagazine.com | Saturday, March 05, 2005

Amid a wave of Palestinian terror attacks on Israeli targets, the Western and even the Israeli media continue to report that the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas has resolutely condemned the terror and is working hard to stop it. Some developments show this version of events is not even remotely correct:

  • Voice of Palestine radio, the official mouthpiece of the Palestinian Authority (PA), went out of its way Saturday night and Sunday to trumpet the view that the Tel Aviv nightclub was really not a civilian target but a carefully calculated operation designed to attack “an elite Israeli army unit” and “a very senior military officer.”
  • Both Voice Of Palestine radio and official Palestinian Authority television downplayed any mention of “condemnation” of the attack but rather cited the official statement by the Palestinian news agency that criticized the “explosive operation” in Tel Aviv for “sabotaging” Palestinian policy goals, such as the early release of convicted Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails.
  • PA leader Abbas himself did not appear on radio or television to “condemn” the Tel Aviv attack. The word “condemn” actually did appear in an official statement “in the name of the Palestinian Authority” issued by the official WAFA News Agency, asserting that the PA “strongly condemns operations aimed at killing civilians be they Palestinian or Israeli.”
  • None of the Palestinian broadcast media or major newspapers—Al-Quds, Al-Ayyam, Al-Hayat al-Jadeeda—referred to the Tel Aviv attack as “terror.” They all referred to it as “amaliyyat tafjeeriyya” in Arabic—“explosive operation” — or even “amaliyyat istish-haadiyya”—“heroic martyrdom operation.” All three newspapers are tightly monitored and subsidized by Abbas and his top aides.
  • Two of the newspapers ran huge front-page pictures of the suicide bomber who murdered the five people in Tel Aviv, two of them women. One of the newspapers (Hayat al-Jadeeda from Abbas’s own Fatah organization) even described the bomber as “The operation operator, the Martyr Abdullah Badran.” [See picture and newspaper web site http://www.alhayat-j.com/pdf/27/page1.pdf.]

This media treatment and the Palestinian rendition of events were in line with the February 6th Fatah Revolutionary Council meeting headed by Abbas that called for an end to “operations against civilians” but specifically still called for “resistance operations” against Israeli civilians [“settlers”] in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Israeli military and police anywhere. The Fatah resolution—issued only two days before the Israeli-Palestinian Summit in Sharm al-Sheikh—also specifically called for attacks on those helping to build Israel’s security fence, even civilian workers.


The terror wave comes amid claims that Dr. Abbas, also known by his organizational nickname “Abu Mazen,” has worked feverishly to establish a ceasefire among various Palestinian terror groups such as HAMAS (The Islamic Resistance Movement), Islamic Jihad and his own Fatah organization’s “Martyrs’ Brigades.”


During this period, at least half a dozen attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers have occurred. For example, Palestinians tried to stab an Israeli soldier guarding the Jewish community in Hebron, the ancient West Bank town that was also King David’s first Jewish capital.


When the Israeli soldier shot the Palestinian assailant, the dead attacker was hailed as a “shaheed” or “martyr” in the Palestinian press, which called the man’s death “cold-blooded murder,” or “an execution.”


Similarly, the killing of a Palestinian school girl in a Gaza school yard on January 31 was declared to be the work of Israeli soldiers when, in fact, the girl was accidentally shot by Muslim pilgrims returning from Mecca who carelessly fired celebratory shots in the air. The Palestinian media “celebrated” the girl’s martyrdom for three days with inflammatory articles, front-page pictures and cartoons all depicting the Israelis as bloodthirsty child-killers.


In neither of these two cases — as in half a dozen others in the last six weeks — did the Abbas-controlled Palestinian media even try to tell the real story.


This use of the “atrocity story,” or what some might see as a “blood libel,” has come to replace the more crude use of bloody video film clips on Palestinian television that were a hallmark of the era of Yasser Arafat, the man who was the Palestinian leader for nearly 40 years.


Dr. Abbas, who studied in Moscow at the KGB’s “Patrice Lumumba University” in the 1980’s, is familiar with the Soviet tactics of disinformation and “peace offensives,” and he has spearheaded a policy of “hudna” (Arabic for a temporary ceasefire made with non-Muslims).


So far, this “hudna” (pronounced “hood-na”) has included several dozen attacks and attempted attacks including, within the last few days:


  • The bombing by the Islamic Jihad of a Tel Aviv night club early Sunday morning, murdering five and wounding more than 60;
  • The interception on a West Bank road Monday of another huge Islamic Jihad car-bomb with about 100 pounds of explosives;
  • And the shooting Tuesday of two Israeli civilian guards who apparently intercepted Palestinian terrorists trying to infiltrate the Israeli community of Menora near the West Bank Security fence.

Try to keep these inconvenient facts in mind when reading headlines such as The New York Times’s front-page “On the Air, Palestinians Soften Tone on Israelis.”

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

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