“The kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop… This cannot become an accepted modus operandi.”
US Vice-President Joe Biden was right. Speaking on a recent Middle East visit, the US Vice-President called on the Palestinian leadership to denounce the recent spate of terror attacks against Israelis, stating:
“Let me say in no uncertain terms: The US condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts.”
Similarly, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest indicated that the US Administration expects the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership to condemn “any act of terrorism,” including the fatal stabbing assault in Jaffa of 12 people which led to the death of US citizen Taylor Force.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas offered his condolences in response to Force’s death, but according to the Jerusalem Post, “the PA officials rejected the Vice-President’s request” to condemn acts of terrorism against innocent civilians with a spokesman stating:
“The President [Abbas] offered his condolences over the killing of the US citizen, while stressing at the same time that the occupation authorities have killed 200 Palestinians over the past five months.”
Official Palestinian Authority TV called the perpetrator of the Jaffa attack, 22-year-old Bashar Massalha, a “martyr” who carried out a “complex operation” and referred to the victims as “settlers.” The official Twitter account of Fatah, the PA’s ruling party, referred to the attacker as a “hero.”
In what appears to be a significant departure from his past comments about the violence and from language which is widespread in the Palestinian Authority official media, in a recent interview on Israeli TV, Abbas stated that he opposed the near-daily attacks on Israelis, positing that the violence stemmed from a “lack of hope, lack of trust,” and that if the peace talks were to recommence it would “give my people hope and nobody would dare go stab or shoot.” Following a raid “in one school,” Abbas commented that “we found 70 boys and girls who were carrying knives. We talked to them about it and told them it was a mistake. ‘We don’t want you to kill and die. We want you to live and the other to live.'”
Acknowledging the incitement in Palestinian media, Abbas argued that this is also true of media in Israel, with Abbas commenting this week that he was prepared to work with Israel to halt and monitor “mutual incitement.”
Abbas’ comments to Israeli media contrast with what he has been saying on official PA TV, such as his recently having referred to the attacks as a “justified popular uprising.” Earlier, he described the attacks as a “popular peaceful uprising” and said “the aggression of firing bullets has come from the Israelis.” This is a larger theme in Palestinian media, as AIJAC analyst Or Avi-Guy documented late last year, alleging that the terror-attacks are actually an Israeli fabrication simply to provide an excuse to kill civilians.
Abbas did however condemn the recent attacks in Brussels, according to a statement disseminated by the WAFA News Agency, which spoke out against terror in all forms and sent condolences to the dead and wounded.
Yet statements by other Palestinian leaders and in official media show that it is not just with regard to Israel that official spokespersons have a problem condemning terror, with officials reacting to the terror-attacks in Belgium by creating bizarre conspiracy theories to exonerate the perpetrators and blame Israel.
Recently, the PA’s Security Forces spokesman suggested that Israel was really behind the attacks, in an online post translated by Palestinian Media Watch:
“Question: How come Europe has turned into the scene of terror attacks and murder of innocent civilians after the majority of European parliaments have recognized the State of Palestine, and after the expansion of the European boycott of products made in Israeli settlements? Is it possible that the timing of the targeting [of Europe] by ISIS and its offshoots is innocent and a coincidence? And why specifically Europe now that the European popular and official support for Palestine is growing??? Help me understand and answer. Thank you!”
The spokesman also stated that the US and Europe brought the attacks on themselves by supporting Israel, and that “those who prepare the poison will taste it themselves.”
Muwaffaq Mattar, a Member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council published, comments along similar lines in the PA daily:
“We do not want to throw accusations, but why did the crimes and terrorist massacres of ISIS in France and Brussels coincide with the European Union’s first attempt to free itself of the Israeli extortion and of the Jewish persecution in Europe complex, and [coincide with] European members of parliament’s support of the Palestinian right [to statehood]?”
This is not the first time this line has been taken by representatives of the PA. In November of last year, an op-ed in the same daily made similar comments regarding the November attacks in Paris:
“It is not a coincidence that human blood was exploded in Paris at the same time that certain European sanctions are beginning to be implemented against settlement products, and while France leads Europe in advising the security council that will implement the two-state solution… The wise and correct thing is to look for who benefits. In short: They need to search the last place reached by the octopus arms of the Mossad… It is clear that its ‘Mossad’ will burn Beirut and Paris in order to achieve [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s goals.”
Similarly, another op-ed in the same publication by regular columnist Omar Hilmi Al-Ghoul stated:
“He [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], who trades with the blood of the 17 victims of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper and of the supermarket (i.e., the Jewish-owned kosher store)… because he is part of terrorism, and because he, like many Israeli leaders, violated French sovereignty and sought to exploit the terrorism that struck some French Jews (which, according to Turkish sources, including [Turkish] intelligence and the mayor of Ankara, was planned by the Israeli [Secret Intelligence Service] Mossad) [parenthesis in source] to… call on French Jews to immigrate to Israel.”
There can be few greater barriers to securing Israeli-Palestinian peace than refusing to admit that terrorism is real, or if real, wrong, or otherwise attributing the blame for international acts of terrorism to Israel, even when other groups have claimed responsibility.
Biden was right. It is not enough to condemn terrorism; the failure to condemn terrorism, as well as indulging in baseless conspiracy theories to attribute blame, must also be condemned and confronted. This is not only about addressing the global threat of terrorism, but creating the necessary conditions for an enduring two-state peace.