Saeb Erekat died recently in an Israeli hospital and until his last breath was the recipient of the highest level of medical treatment available. It’s ironic, considering that Erekat was a significant player in the decision by the Palestinian Authority to completely sever contacts with Israel, thereby denying his own Palestinian brothers and sisters the opportunity of receiving advanced medical treatment in Israel.*
He would have been dead much earlier had it not been for the life-saving lung transplant he also received in Israel. And this is just one example of how Saeb Erekat, the man who gave his all for over thirty years to make peace in the middle east, was in fact, a two-faced terror-apologist.
After his death, worldwide obituaries in the media focused on his peace-making efforts, his role in the Oslo accords and Western TV appearances. Erekat the dignified politician and experienced diplomat. Anyone offering an alternative view was silenced, as Likud MK Sharren Haskel found out when the BBC cancelled her interview after she disclosed her intention to discuss the far less diplomatic side of Mr Erekat. Such as his support for paying terrorist salaries or false accusations of war crimes against Israel.
It’s not only those on the right of the Israeli political spectrum that held Erekat in disdain. Many Palestinians were sick of the PA’s rampant corruption and self-defeating behaviour. Erekat’s Israeli hospital visits were just the icing on top of a long-overbaked cake. He claimed to always be fighting for the Palestinian cause – yet his actions resulted in more misery and suffering for them.
Take the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement – Erekat wholeheartedly supported boycotting Israeli products from the West Bank and publicly shamed any company working with or supplying services or materials to Jews in the West Bank. Sodastream were forced to relocate their West Bank factory, reluctantly having to let go of hundreds of Palestinian workers who earned Israeli level wages. Boycotting the settlements and the resulting freeze also impacted thousands of Palestinian labourers who lost their livelihoods.
Every year the PA pays hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists in Israeli jails. After Israel passed a law offsetting taxes they collect on the PA’s behalf against the amount the PA pays out to terrorists, the PA refused to take any money whatsoever from Israel – deepening an economic crisis in the territories. Erekat defended ‘pay to slay’ by accusing Israel of damaging a ‘welfare programme for political prisoners’. The ordinary Palestinian on the street once again suffered and were furious to know that while they were struggling to feed their families, terrorists were raking in thousands of dollars.
Erekat confirmed as much in an op-ed he penned, “Will this affect the functioning of our government? Yes. But this is a price that we are willing to pay for the dignity of our nation.”
Also known as Mr CNN, Erekat had a canny ability to turn Palestinian terrorism into ‘peaceful resistance’ and stir up anti-Israel hatred in the Western world during his media appearances.
During the second intifada, Erekat was an all too familiar face on CNN, BBC and Sky News and instead of condemning terror for what it was, would always say ‘we condemn violence on both sides’. No matter how horrific the crime, if a terrorist was arrested or killed during the attack – Erekat would berate the ‘Israeli Occupying Forces’ for committing war crimes and killing innocent Palestinians in broad daylight – while completely avoiding comment on the despicable terror attack committed by his own people.
One of his most infamous episodes was during the height of the intifada in 2002 when the IDF entered Jenin, then a hotbed of terror from where numerous suicide bombers had been dispatched, to murder hundreds of Israelis. Erekat, live on CNN, falsely claimed Israel murdered more than 500 Palestinians, when in fact 23 IDF Soldiers and 55 Palestinians (mostly terrorists) died, which was also proven in a UN report on the ‘Battle of Jenin’.
Right until his death, Mr Erekat was the proponent of self-defeating Palestinian behaviour. Be it blasting Arab countries in the Gulf for putting their interests first and signing peace agreements with Israel or rejecting shipments of medical supplies from the UAE to help contend with COVID-19 because it wasn’t coordinated with the PA. There was no end to Erekat and his ability to say NO.
From being Arafat’s mouth-piece to his actions as Secretary-General of the PA, Saeb Erekat’s legacy is one of rejection, failure and damage to the very people he claimed to be helping. And yet, his insistence and stubbornness have actually brought about what was previously unthinkable. Peace and normalization agreements with Arab countries who have simply grown fed up with Palestinian rejectionism and realised there is more to gain from relations in Israel than standing up for a self-defeating corrupt Palestinian Authority.
Let us hope that perhaps the new generation of Palestinian leaders might also wake up and realise that there is more to be gained from cooperation with Israel than to simply say no all the time.
*The PA this week announced the renewal of ties with Israel. This however does not undo the damage caused by the period without official ties between Israel and the PA.