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October 28, 2020 5:24 am

What The Forward Should Acknowledge About Saeb Erekat

avatar by Stuart Weinblatt / JNS.org

Opinion

Palestinian Authority (PA) chief negotiator Saeb Erekat looks on during a news conference, following a meeting with foreign diplomats, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Jan. 30, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Mohamad Torokman.

JNS.orgEditor-in-Chief Jodi Rudoren’s recent article in The Forward about Saeb Erekat mentions “a single Israeli protester” and a few members of Knesset who objected to Erekat being treated for COVID-19 at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

Yet she fails to mention how extraordinary it is that the Palestinian Authority official would seek treatment in a hospital from the very same country of which he said in February 2019: “Normalization with (Israel) constitutes a knife in the back.”

I guess we now also know where he would go for treatment if he were to be knifed in the back. It would be to the very nation he calls to boycott — and refuses to normalize relations with.

Perhaps Rudoren fails to mention it because it is second nature and not unusual for Israel to extend humanitarian care to all, even to its enemies and those who call for its destruction.

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Nevertheless, it deserves mentioning. And Israel deserves credit for doing what so many other countries would not — and do not — do.

She tell us her most important takeaway from her four years of reporting in Israel for The New York Times came when Erekat told her that progress could not be made when talking about the past, but only when focusing on the future. Despite the implication that he is some kind of forward-thinking visionary and that Israel is at fault for bringing up the past, his very own words, cited in her next paragraph, betray the benign portrayal of him as a sage or statesman.

He contradicts himself by stating that he objects to recognizing the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people because “it’s my narrative. It’s my history. It’s my story.” So much for dismissing the past and looking to the future.

Throughout his career, Erekat has denied the presence of the Jewish nation in the ancient land of Israel and has attempted to minimize the historic connection of the Jewish people to that land. His efforts to negate the connection are so warped that he even goes so far as to claim that a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount is a fabrication, and that the first-century rabbi known as Jesus was not Jewish, but Palestinian. Throughout his career, he has sought to deny reality precisely because he knows the past validates something he cannot accept — Israel’s claim to the land.

Erekat has been one of the loudest voices in the Palestinian leadership to express support for terrorists and payments to their families, and to justify terrorist attacks against Israelis as legitimate acts of resistance. He turned to the United Nations and other international agencies and forums not out of frustration, or to pursue peace or sovereignty, but because he found there a willing platform and receptive audience where he could voice Palestinian prevarications and denunciations of the State of Israel.

It would be informative to read not just what Rudoren learned from Erekat about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but what his seeking treatment in an Israeli hospital — and Israel’s willingness to treat him — teaches us about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We would learn about hypocrisy in the Palestinian leadership, the difference between what is said in Arabic and to Western reporters in English, and about the true nature of Israel.

Rudoren somewhat wistfully and almost romantically notes that the peace process has been Erekat’s life’s work. But had he not opposed and rejected all of Israel’s offers and proposals to resolve the conflict, he would have something to show for his life’s work.

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is the founding rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Potomac, Md. He has served as the head of JNF’s Rabbis for Israel and is the founder of Coalition of Zionist Rabbis for Israel.

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