The international perception of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is that he is weak and ineffectual, said Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), an organization that researches Palestinian society through its press and educational curricula.
But in fact, “Everyone in [Abbas’] orbit lauds Palestinians who commit violence against Israelis and Jews as heroes,” Marcus told the The Algemeiner on Monday.
Marcus was responding to general questions about “incitement” — a buzzword ringing throughout the Knesset halls and corridors of Capitol Hill – as well as more specific ones pertaining to individual posts on Palestinian social media pages.
As a result of the persistent calls to violence cropping up on social media, Israeli legal group Shurat HaDin on Monday filed a class-action suit in the U.S. against Facebook after garnering some 20,000 signatures from concerned users who were shocked to see violent antisemitism circulating with no regulation.
Marcus brought up the October 3 murder of Rabbi Nehemiah Lavi and Aharon Bennett, in the Old City of Jerusalem, to illustrate the way in which these kinds of stabbing attacks are being encouraged and glorified. Bennett’s wife Adele and their 2-year-old son were also wounded in the assault.
Muhannad Halabi, the perpetrator of the attack, was egged on by Arab passers-by and shop-keepers as he attacked any identifiable Jews. Though Israeli security forces shot him dead in the middle of the lethal attack, he was posthumously rewarded by having a street named after him, being granted an honorary law degree, delivered “holy soil” from the Al-Aqsa Mosque to his burial site, and referred to as a “heroic martyr.”
In spite of what Marcus sees as both tacit approval and formal support from Abbas for deeds such as Halabi’s, the P.A. president nevertheless continues to portray himself as a victim of Israeli aggression.
“His message to the world, in English, is that he wants peace,” said Marcus, whose reports have been used by lawmakers in the U.S. and in Europe to put conditions on Palestinian aid.
Another monitor of the duplicity practiced by the P.A. is the anonymous pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon, who recently exposed “blood libel” cartoons posted to the Facebook pages of self-described U.N. staff (predominantly teachers) during the current wave of Palestinian violence. This week, the website juxtaposed two memes from a Facebook page associated with Abbas’ ruling Fatah party, one in English and one in Arabic, conveying opposite messages.
The English meme, posted on Sunday, shows Abbas with an outstretched hand alongside the headline: “Abbas looking for peace; Israel inciting further violence.” The text below it reads, “President Abbas has made political efforts to try and restore peace. The world can see the efforts made by him and his party with no positive response from Israel. It’s about time the international community gets behind President Abbas in order to resolve this conflict and push for peace in Palestine Jerusalem [sic].”
But the Arabic meme, posted last Friday, depicts a man whose face is covered in the Palestinian headdress throwing a rock along with a photo inlay of a knife-wielding terrorist and the words “Jerusalem’s rage” underneath as a caption.
Elder of Ziyon asks: “Which one do you believe?”
Beliefs aside, given the recent surge in rock-throwing, stabbing and vehicle attacks against Israelis that began in mid-September, it is clear which one more closely reflects the current reality.
Singing completely different tunes in English and Arabic is nothing new to Palestinian leaders, Marcus said, pointing to Abbas’ predecessor, the late PLO chief Yasser Arafat, “who was a master at the tactic.”
“But don’t take my word for it,” said Marcus. “His own bodyguard said as much to the BBC last year.”
Marcus was referring to an April 2014 interview with BBC Arabic Television, in which Arafat’s bodyguard and lifetime loyalist Muhammad Dayeh – who “suckled love for Arafat from my mother’s milk” – described the art of lying for political reasons.
Asked whether he had witnessed this kind of deception first-hand from his boss and idol, Dayeh replied: “Yes. For example, whenever [a terror attack] was carried out in Tel Aviv, Arafat would go out and say [he condemned it] — of course, after being pressured, first and foremost [by Egyptian] President Mubarak. He would call… and tell him: ‘Brother Arafat, go and condemn it; they’ll screw you.’ [Arafat] would tell him: ‘But Mr. President, I have martyrs. [Israel] destroyed us; they massacred us.’ [Mubarak] would tell him: ‘Brother Arafat, go and condemn [it]. They’ll screw you.’ Brother Arafat would go and condemn it in his special way [by announcing]: ‘I am against killing civilians,’ and that wasn’t true.”
The same goes for Abbas, Marcus told The Algemeiner. “We have documented how he and his leadership have continually called for violence and turned killers into heroes – all the while professing Palestinian victimhood. His role in perpetrating the slaughter of innocent people is no different from that of dispatchers on the ground, who physically supply terrorists with weapons and drive them to the scenes of their crimes.”
Abbas “should be imprisoned for murder,” Marcus said.