Sean Durns

The Palestinian Authority’s word and the media’s silence

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the Palestinian Peace and Freedom Forum, which was created by the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, in Ramallah in the West Bank on February 6, 2019, with the attendance of Israeli activists. (Photo by ABBAS MOMANI / AFP)
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and head of the PLO and Fatah

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has admitted that it will not honor any agreements that violate Sharia (Islamic law). And the press, it seems, has declared that it won’t cover the Authority’s admission. The Authority’s decision illustrates the value of its word. And the media’s decision to ignore it illustrates its own value, as well.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh recently said, “The government adheres to Palestinian values and principles, and does not violate the Sharia. …Our religious and national values are above everything else, and this is in keeping with the decision of the Constitutional Court’s decision, and as a protection of our (women’s) honor, the unity of our society and the rule of law [emphasis added].”

The Constitutional Court’s decision, according to an Al-Monitor report, was for “international agreements” to “prevail over local laws, provided these are consistent with the Palestinian religious and cultural legacy.” That ruling was prompted by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) signing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 2014.

But as the blogger Elder of Ziyon noted, the PLO did so “without any real intention of implementing it, but to make it look like they are a liberal modern state so they can use that impression to attack Israel at the ICC and elsewhere.”

The signing of CEDAW prompted a backlash, particularly among several Palestinian Arab clans in Hebron, as Al-Monitor noted in a Jan. 5, 2020 dispatch. However, as Elder of Ziyon highlighted, this “goes way beyond CEDAW and women’s rights. This goes to the fundamental issue that the PLO and the Palestinian Authority will happily sign agreements they have no intention of keeping. They will tell the West that they signed the agreement, yet will privately ignore the agreement – just as they have with CEDAW.”

This “means that even if the PLO would sign a peace agreement with Israel, the agreement would be literally worthless if it violates Sharia law.  If it is against Islamic law to make a permanent peace agreement with Jews, or to allow non-Muslims to control any land that is considered an Islamic waqf (endowment for a religious cause) – and I am fairly certain that both of those are against Islamic law – then Sharia would outweigh any agreement with Israel.”

In other words, the PA, an entity that was created, backed and funded by the U.S. and its allies for the purpose of making peace with the Jewish state, has implicitly acknowledged that it will never do so. The PA has stated that its interpretation of religious law and its national values “are above everything else.” One only need look at what PA clerics say for an indication of what these values are.

As Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) has documented, PA religious officials have called for murdering Jews, beating wives, and prosecuting those who eat during religious fasting. On other occasions, including in the official PA daily newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, PA clerics asserted:

“Palestine, that includes within it Jerusalem, is waqf (i.e., an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law) land [and] it is forbidden by Shari’ah law to relinquish it or ease the transfer of ownership of it to enemies, because it is part of the Islamic public property. Granting ownership over Islamic territory or part of it to enemies is invalid and constitutes treason.”

The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has attracted considerable, indeed disproportionate, media coverage throughout the years. The so-called “peace process” itself, and the lack of a Palestinian state, have been the subject of countless reports—many of them deeply flawed as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) has documented.

Yet, not a single major Western news outlet has covered the PA’s admission that it will never make peace with Israel. Regrettably, this is part of a long-standing pattern.

As CAMERA frequently highlights, Palestinian leaders have on numerous occasions refused U.S. and Israeli offers for a Palestinian state, including in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. In 2014 and 2016, the U.S. again proposed talks based on the 2008 proposal for statehood and peace. Israel was open to negotiations, but the PA—directly violating the Oslo Accords that call for resolving outstanding issues in bilateral negotiations—rejected them out of hand.

The press has largely failed to note this recent history of Palestinian rejectionism. Indeed, when the PA’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said in a Feb. 15, 2016 press conference “We will never go back and sit again in a direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations,” not a single major U.S. news outlet reported it.

Yet, the PA’s agenda is quite clear, even if the reporting isn’t.

On Jan. 18, 2020, an opinion piece in the official Palestinian newspaper called for carrying out murders in Jerusalem to halt an upcoming diplomatic event marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

PMW provided a translation of the article in a press release. And The Jerusalem Post covered it. Yet, not a single major Western news outlet has done so.

The PA’s mouthpiece calls for murdering Jews at a Holocaust commemoration ceremony and the press is nowhere to be found. And when Palestinian leaders admit that their words and signed agreements aren’t binding, the media is similarly silent.

The press seems to have selective hearing.

The writer is a Senior Research Analyst for the Washington D.C. office of CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis

About the Author
Sean Durns is a Senior Research Analyst for the Washington D.C. office of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
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