Earlier this week, Itamar Marcus, Director of Palestinian Media Watch, exposed that the Palestinian Scout Association (PSA) is training its scout leaders to see a cold-blooded terrorist murderer as their role model. The PSA leadership established a training course named the “Martyr — Leader Baha Alyan Course,” after the terrorist Alyan who brutally murdered three innocent civilians, and injured fifteen others in a heinous terrorist attack on a public bus in Jerusalem. My beloved father, Richard Lakin, was among those murdered.
After learning that the PSA is a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) – the umbrella organization for 164 National Scout Organizations – I wrote to WOSM demanding that the PSA’s membership be revoked. A copy of this letter was published in the Times of Israel. People around the world were outraged. Many wrote directly to WOSM to complain.
Although WOSM has yet to respond to me directly, a number of people have reported that they received a formal response from WOSM stating:
“Our Regional Director based in Cairo carried out this investigation and spoke with both with the leadership of our member organization and members of the Palestinian Authority to determine the facts here. Both confirmed that this group is not a member of the recognized Scout Association.”
Scouts Don’t Lie. Terrorists Do.
Obviously, I believe that the international leadership of WOSM spoke with the leadership of the Palestinian Scout Association and with members of the Palestinian Authority to “determine the facts.” I also believe that “Both confirmed that this group is not a member of the recognized Scout Association.” However, I do not believe that the Palestinian Scout Association and the Palestinian Authority are telling the truth.
What follows is a copy of a letter that Itamar Marcus, Director of Palestinian Media Watch, sent to Stephen Peck at the WOSM setting out the facts: the official Palestinian Scout Association did indeed establish and commence a leadership course named after a cold-blooded terrorist murderer.
Now that we have set out the facts, it is time for the WOSM leadership to act.
I’m writing with regard to your email indicating that the Palestinian Scout Association claimed that they are not connected with the “Martyr (Shahid) Leader Baha Alyan Course.” All the evidence indicates that their claim is false.
- The announcement of the “Martyr (Shahid) Leader Baha Alyan Course” appeared on the official website of the Palestinian Scout Association (PSA) which is a member organization of WOSM.
- According to the PSA official website the Training and Developing Leadership framework that organized the course is a part of the Palestinian Scout Association:
“Yesterday the practical studies for the [scout] deputy unit leaders (preparation for the wood badge) – Martyr (Shahid) Leader Baha Alyan Course began at the Shabab Al-Eizariya Club in the Jerusalem district. [The course] was organized by the Committee for Training and Developing Leadership of the Palestinian Scout Association, in cooperation with the scout commission in the Jerusalem district.”
- The article on the PSA website writes and names the PSA leaders who make up the staff of the Alyan course:
“The training staff is composed of several members of the Committee for Training and Developing Leadership: Preparatory studies [course] leader and Jerusalem commissioner Sa’id Atoun, [scout] leader Muhammad Al-Dahdar, and [scout] leader Mufid Al-Barq.”
As noted above the Training and Developing Leadership Committee is a PSA body.
- According to the AP article, when first confronted with the evidence the Palestinian Scout Association did not deny the facts but tried to justify the naming of the course after Alyan.
“Palestinian scout leader Ahmed Mashahreh said Alyan was active for many years in the scouting movement and that the recognition had nothing to do with the bus attack.
He said the activity was a “pure scout course” that talked about volunteer work and other activities.
“This had nothing to do with politics,” Mashahreh said. “During his lifetime, Baha was very active in scout activities. That’s why we picked his name, not because of what he did on the last day of his life.”
- Ahmed Mashahreh who is speaking for the PSA, in addition to being a “Palestinian scout leader” as identified in the AP article, is also the person who wrote the article about the ‘Baha Alyan Course’ cited here that appears on the official website of the Palestinian Scout Association and in the official PA daily Al Hayat Al-Jadida. In addition he is a regular writer on the official website of the Palestinian Scout Association. Mashahreh himself the one who wrote that this is a course of the Palestinian Scout Association.
- Ahmed Mashahreh didn’t only write this article but numerous articles of his appear on the official website of the Palestinian Scout Association. In all these articles his name appears as follows: “Ahmed Mashahreh – Jerusalem Commission Media.”
- The home page of the official Palestinian Scout Association website has the following: “News from the Hebron”, “News from Tubas,” “News from Jerusalem” etc. The articles in the different sections are presenting PSA news from different cities. It was in this “News from Jerusalem” section that this announcement and the details about the Alyan course written by Ahmed Mashahreh appears.
- This section on the official website shows the picture of Alyan in a scout’s uniform. Every word in this article presents this course as a PSA course and publishing the picture of Alyan in his scouts uniform cements this message.
- The course was “preparation for the Wood Badge,” which is a leadership symbol of the World Organization of the Scout Movement and its member organizations including the Palestinian Scout Association.” Whereas this is not conclusive, as non-affiliated Scout movements may have chosen the same symbol, it is an additional indicator.
- In summation:
– The course was announced on the official website of the Palestinian Scout Association.
– The website explicitly writes that the course was a PSA course – organized by the “Committee for Training and Developing Leadership of the Palestinian Scout Association.”
– The training staff were PSA members of the “Committee for Training and Developing Leadership.”
– It was written by a writer who is a regular writer for the official website.
– When that same writer was first asked about the course by AP he justified the naming of course after Alyan and did not try to claim that it wasn’t a PSA course.
– Every word in the article, including the picture of Alyan in his scouts uniform, present the Alyan course as PSA course. Nothing in the article indicates otherwise.
The Palestinian Scout Association organized the Alyan course, staffed the course, publicized the course as its own on its official website and took credit for the course. If this is not a PSA course, then its official website is intentionally misleading the public. If this is not a PSA course, the burden of proof is on the PSA.
Stephen, you wrote:
“Our Regional Director based in Cairo carried out this investigation and spoke with both with the leadership of our member organisation and members of the Palestinian Authority to determine the facts here. Both confirmed this group are not members of the recognised Scout Association.”
I would appreciate your looking again into these facts and explain to the contradictions between what is plain and explicit in the official announcement of the Palestinian Scout Association on its website, and the information that the PA and PSA gave to your representative in Cairo. Based on our experience at PMW, we have examples of even senior PA officials giving conflicting messages to different audiences.
Additionally, you wrote that “this group” is not a member of the Palestinian Scout Association but you did not name “this group”. Please tell me the name of the group that the PSA is claiming was responsible for the course?
Please let me know if you have any concrete evidence other than statements by PSA officials. Until we are given evidence otherwise, will assume the information on the PSA website is correct and that this is a PSA course.
As I wrote above, since the PSA has announced and claimed credit for this course and all objective evidence indicates that this was their course, the burden of proof that it is not a PSA course is on the PSA.
Director, Palestinian Media Watch