PA Negotiator Saeb Erekat Claims Family was Canaanite, in Israel for 9,000 Years
by Joshua Levitt
Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator for the U.S-brokered peace talks with Israel, claimed at a conference in Munich that he is a direct descendant of the Canaanite tribes who lived in Israel some 9,000 years ago, according to reports in the Palestine Press and Times of Israel on Sunday.
Erekat said, “I am the proud son of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho.”
However, his family tree, posted on Facebook, shows his clan descends from Arabia, not Canaan. His family is part of the Huwaitat tribe, now one of the largest in Jordan, who migrated from Medina to the desert and the Levant settling on Aqaba, then coming to Israel many decades ago, but not centuries nor millennia.
Also inaccurate was Erekat’s reference to the Biblical prophet Joshua, who lived some 3,300 years ago. According to the Bible, Joshua famously circled his troops around the city of Jericho, and, after blowing a shofar, a ram’s horn, the walls collapsed, the city was never torched.
As for Jericho, itself, Erekat wasn’t born there. He is from Abu Dis, a town two miles from Jerusalem, but, since 1996, he represents Jericho in the Palestinian Legislative Council.
His exaggerations were all countered Sunday by blogger Elder of Ziyon, who cited an interview conducted by al Rai Media with an Erekat relative, also from Abu Dis, describing their family’s more recent provenance, including when they first came to the village from Jordan to water their flocks outside Jerusalem.
For the past 23 years, Erekat, a political science professor who was also on the editorial board of the Al-Quds newspaper for 12 years, has been a lead negotiator for the PA.
In 1991, he was deputy head of the Palestinian delegation to the Madrid Conference and the subsequent follow-up talks in Washington, between 1992 and 1993. In 1994, the PA appointed him Minister for Local Government and chairman of the Palestinian negotiation delegation. In 1995, Erekat served as Chief Negotiator for the Palestinians during the Oslo period. He was involved as an adviser and English interpreter for PLO leader Yasser Arafat at the Camp David meetings, in 2000, and the negotiations at Taba, in 2001, then participated in the Annapolis Conference, in 2007.
Before the current round of peace talks that began last year at the insistence of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Erekat, who was often called upon as an international spokesman for the PA, was known for a widely viewed CNN interview in 2002 with Wolf Blitzer that also focused on his exaggerations.
According to a transcript from CNN, Blitzer began, “Mr. Erakat, you probably know that you’ve come under some widespread criticism here in the United States for initially charging that the Israelis were engaged in a massacre in Jenin. Perhaps 500 Palestinians murdered in that massacre, you suggested. But now all of the evidence suggests that perhaps 53 or 56 Palestinian civilians and combatants died in that fighting in Jenin.”
“Do you want to use this opportunity to give us your assessment now, based on what you know, how many Palestinians were killed? Blitzer asked him, adding that U.S. Secretary of State “Condoleezza Rice, only a few minutes ago on this program, said she didn’t see any evidence of a so-called massacre.”
Erakat responded, “It depends — first of all, on the number 500, I said 500 but I said at the same time I cannot confirm them because I didn’t have the chance to go and pull the rubble out and to clean the rubble out, and I don’t know exactly, and I said I cannot confirm it. But what defines a massacre? Israel called, when they had this bombing in the Netanya restaurant, 26 people, they called it a massacre. So what’s a massacre?”