Palestinian Leaders Don’t Actually Care About the Lives of Palestinians
American leaders visited Israel this week, following up on the US-sponsored Bahrain economic workshop. The goal of America’s continued expenditure of diplomatic time and energy has been to persuade financial backers to invest $27 billion to $50 billion into the floundering Palestinian economy.
While many were surprised when the Palestinian Authority (PA) condemned, boycotted, and even arrested Palestinians who participated in the event intended to jump-start the economy and benefit thousands of individual Palestinians, the rejection was consistent with ongoing PA strategy.
For PA leaders, individual Palestinians are invisible; they exist only as tiny pieces of the greater nationalist agenda. The individual has no personal rights and is of value only as a tool for advancing the PA leaders’ politics.
One tragic illustration of this is when President Mahmoud Abbas left Palestinians to die in Syria during the height of the civil war, prioritizing his nationalist agenda over the individual’s right to life.
Palestinians were being killed daily in refugee camps, and Abbas asked Israel to allow them into PA areas. Israel agreed with the stipulation that the transition had to be complete: The refugees from Syria had to be absorbed into the PA as citizens and taken off the UN refugee lists.
Any leader who minimally cares about the lives of his people would have embraced this offer and welcomed the thousands of new citizens. What was Abbas’s response? Complete rejection!
His spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh explained: “Abbas rejected the condition set by Israel … that anyone who enters the territories of the occupied state of Palestine [West Bank or Gaza Strip] renounces his right of return [to Israel], which President Abbas absolutely refuses.”
In other words, when Abbas was given the choice to either save individuals’ lives or promote the PA’s agenda — which includes forcing refugee status on all descendants of Arabs who left Israel in 1948-49 — Abbas chose the agenda over saving lives. As refugees, they have value as important pieces of the PA political plan. However, as individuals they have no value, are invisible to Abbas, and so nothing was lost by leaving them to die. And many did: 4,000 of those invisible Palestinians were slaughtered by Syrian bombings, sniper fire, and torture.
Abbas did not initiate this policy: he learned it from Yasser Arafat, the founding Palestinian patriarch. Arafat bragged about sending Palestinians, even children, to die to promote the PA’s nationalist agendas.
During the PA’s terrorist campaign (intifada) from 2000-2005, Palestinian Media Watch reported that the PA was promoting suicide terrorism, honoring all terrorists, and even naming sporting events after suicide bombers. These activities were condemned by the international community. Arafat’s answer was to try to balance murdered Israelis with dead Palestinian children.
PA TV ran music videos to brainwash Palestinian children into believing that death as “martyrs” is “sweet,” even better than life. One music video, broadcast hundreds of times, showed the famous child “martyr” Muhammad al-Dura, depicted by a child actor, playing joyously in Child Martyr Paradise, which had kites and amusement parks. The famous child “martyr” called to other children to die as well: “I’m waving to you not in parting but to say, ‘Follow me.’ (Signed) Muhammad al-Dura.”
Arafat was proud of this strategy, even telling PA TV that child “martyrs” are the “greatest” PR: “The child who is holding the stone facing the tank: Isn’t it the greatest message to the world when that hero becomes a martyr?”
With brazen cruelty, the PA was enticing its children to commit “heroic” suicide in order to rush to show the world dead Palestinian children, accuse Israel of war crimes, and balance the damage to Arafat’s image caused by his suicide bombers.
Arafat could send Palestinian children to die because he saw them as pawns who could best advance his Palestinian nationalist agenda by dying. Abbas left civilians to be slaughtered in Syria because he saw them as pawns who had to remain refugees even if it meant dying. When people are invisible, PA leaders use them, abuse them, and then throw them away.
At a recent ceremony for first-year university students, senior Fatah leader Abbas Zaki, a close confidant of Abbas, addressed the 18- and 19-year-olds. Did he tell them to thrive in school? Did he encourage them to work hard and achieve? No. He told them they are cowards if they choose life over death.
“Allahu akhbar! Cursed is anyone who does not sacrifice for Jerusalem! … What did [Arafat] say? He said: ‘Arise! The gates of heaven have opened.’ He who seeks death — life will be given to him. Those who die [naturally] are the cowards. But real men approach death with a smile. … Rush toward death.” (This appeared on the Facebook page of Abbas Zaki on November 19, 2018.)
Zaki was giving a booster shot to the Arafat-Abbas doctrine. He was demanding that young Palestinians see themselves as void of inherent value and self-worth as individuals, but rather only as tiny cogs for promoting Palestinian nationalist goals. So he ordered them to die for Jerusalem or be branded as cowards.
The greatest tragedy for the Palestinian man, woman, and child was and remains that, for their leaders, they become visible only if they are refugees, commit terrorist attacks, become “martyrs,” or can be used in some other way for their leaders’ agenda.
Now it is clear why the PA rejected the offer of billions of dollars in aid to its people. Its nationalist agenda has always dictated distancing itself from economic cooperation with Israel, from prosperity, and even from life itself. The PA fears that economic prosperity for Palestinians would be at the expense of its nationalist agenda. A prosperous Palestinian family might not bring up its sons to commit terrorist attacks. A 23-year-old Palestinian graduate with great job opportunities who is planning a future might turn his back on terrorism and martyrdom, the values that the PA has been promoting as nationalist goals.
The Americans made this offer because, to them, the Palestinian individual’s predicament is clear. The PA leaders rejected this offer because to them, the individual Palestinian is invisible. In order to help people, you have to first actually see them.
It is time the Palestinians themselves and the international community recognize that Palestinian suffering is caused by the selfish actions, corrupt values, and twisted nationalist priorities of their own leaders.
As long as this Arafat-Abbas agenda continues to be the unchallenged force driving Palestinian leaders, individual Palestinians have no hope for a better future — for they are and will remain invisible.
Itamar Marcus is founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch. A version of this article was originally published by The Jerusalem Post.