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Week in Review: The Palestinians’ Extreme Negotiators; UNESCO Follies; Terror Worship

The Palestinians’ Extreme Negotiators

Two Palestinian peace negotiators were in the spotlight this week, but what was on display was not their compromising natures, but rather their extremism.

Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted by the official Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida earlier this month praising terrorists who are imprisoned by Israel. “The prisoners’ cause is a national and central cause, and we bow our heads in admiration and honor of the prisoners’ sacrifices, for their acts of heroism, and for their ongoing battle with the occupation,” Erekat said at a rally. In return for these “sacrifices,” the Palestinian Authority pays them and their families salaries based on the number of years they are imprisoned—in other words, the more people killed, the more the terrorist is paid. One notable example is Abdallah Barghouti, who is serving 67 life sentences over his role in numerous bombings, and who has reportedly received over $150,000 for his efforts from the PA, which pays salaries to convicted terrorists and their families.

Mohammed Shtayyeh, who no longer serves as a negotiator but still advises Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was granted an op-ed in The New York Times this week to argue for “international engagement”—code for externally-imposed terms on Israel—to push forward peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. In his essay, Shtayyeh charged that despite Israeli promises of prisoner releases and settlement freezes, “none of these was fulfilled.” This is false.

In 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a ten-month settlement freeze. The PA only met with Israel twice, during the final month of the freeze, and then refused to talk further. During U.S.-sponsored talks between 2013 and 2014, the Netanyahu government freed three groups of terrorists from jail, only to have Abbas refuse to accept an American framework for peace in the end.

As it so happens, in 2013 Shtayyeh posted an image of Israel to his Facebook account with only the word “Palestine” written across the image—putting his belief in a two-state solution into question.

Terror Worship

In addition to Erekat’s praise, another aspect of the Palestinian glorification of terror was exemplified by the PA’s decision to name a school after terrorist Salah Khalaf, a planner of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Several PA officials were present at the school’s dedication ceremony.

Itamar Marcus of the watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch, which broke the story of the school dedication, wrote an open letter to the European Union asking the body to reconsider its funding of Palestinian schools, considering that the PA is “presenting terrorist murderers of Israeli civilians as role models for Palestinian children.”

In contrast to the honor that the PA accords terrorists, a group of Palestinians who attended a coexistence event in Efrat, in the West Bank, to commemorate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot were arrested and held for several days before being released.

UNESCO Follies

The United Nations’ cultural organization picked a bad week to once again deny the Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem. UNESCO’s Heritage Committee this week passed a resolution which denied Jewish ties to the holy city, only using Muslim names for holy sites. UNESCO’s Executive Board approved a similarly worded resolution earlier this month.

Inconveniently for UNESCO, this week the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that it had found the oldest Hebrew-language mention of Jerusalem yet discovered, dating back some 2,700 years to the time of the First Jewish Temple. That came a week after the IAA’s announcement of having located the place where Roman troops breached the walls of Jerusalem during their siege of the city and eventual destruction of the Second Jewish Temple nearly 2,000 years ago.

In apparent rebuke to UNESCO during a public address on Wednesday, Pope Francis praised “the people of Israel, who from Egypt, where they were enslaved, walked through the desert for forty years until they reached the land promised by God.” The pope made his remarks shortly before meeting with Israeli Deputy Minister for Regional Cooperation Ayoub Kara, who said that he believed that the pontiff’s statement was meant to address the UNESCO resolutions.

The UNESCO resolution also effectively denied Christian historical ties to Jerusalem. National Geographic reported Wednesday that workers restoring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre believe that they have uncovered the tomb of Jesus after centuries of being buried under layers of marble.

This Week’s Top Posts

• Palestinian Authority Names School After Planner of Munich Olympics Massacre

First Temple-Era Scroll With Oldest Hebrew Mention of Jerusalem Unveiled in Israel

• Nobel Peace Prize Winner: Israel Can Teach Europe to Fight ISIS While Preserving Freedoms—The article highlighted an op-ed co-authored by 1998 Nobel Peace Prize Winner David Trimble, the former First Minister of Northern Ireland. Trimble and his co-author, a former assistant commissioner in charge of counter-terrorism for London’s Metropolitan Police, called on Europe to look to Israel’s terror-fighting strategies as “a welcome guide in navigating the difficult moral, legal and tactical terrain ahead.”

The Tower Magazine

Zach Ben-Amots, a 2016 Tower Tomorrow Fellow, wrote about The Rise of ‘Soft’ Holocaust Denial. Soft Holocaust denial, he explained, “is the exploitation of the Holocaust to attack Israel and its supporters, as well as the trivialization of the Holocaust in order to serve political ends.” Its increasingly popular use has been noted by the historian Deborah Lipstadt, among others. The tactic is often adopted by anti-Israel campus groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine. The effect of this form of denial, Ben-Amots wrote, is that “by directly connecting the negative actions of Israel with a genocide committed against Jews, soft deniers simultaneously justify Nazism, delegitimize the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, and seek to wound their Jewish targets in the most emotionally brutal manner possible.”

Trends We’ll Be Watching

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels of Yemen have repeatedly fired rockets at American naval vessels in the strategic Bab al-Mandab Strait this month. In an article last week, Jonathan Spyer, the director of the Rubin Center, wrote that while the Houthis are allied with Iran, they aren’t directly under Iran’s control like Hezbollah is. However, Spyer observed, the firing of the sophisticated C-802 anti-ship missile at the USS Mason “involves a high level of expertise and the employment of advanced technical mean.” In other words, “The targeting of the USS Mason, therefore, may well have constituted an instance of direct Iranian involvement at some level in a military attack on a US ship.”

Michael Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah and Iran, is set to become president of Lebanon. Lebanon has been without a president for more than two years. Hezbollah has blocked the appointment of any president other than Aoun. Former prime minister Saad Hariri agreed to support Aoun for president this week, possibly in return for a pledge to be appointed prime minister again.

Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, warned in a policy brief this week that Iran is building its influence in Central America. Cuba, he wrote, “is the most recent and unlikely addition to Iran’s growing network of missionary centers.” The converts Iran is attracting in Cuba are “as radical in their version of Islam and their hatred for the West as those radicalized by Sunni extremists….Tehran sees them as the vanguard of its Islamic revolution in America’s own backyard.” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif visited South America in August in order to boost Iran’s influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Last year in The Tower

On October 30, 2015, The Tower reported that Siamak Namazi an American-Iranian dual national who promoted closer ties between the United States and Iran, had been arrested by Iranian authorities. Earlier this month, Namazi and his elderly father Baquer, a former UNICEF ambassador who was arrested earlier this year when he traveled to Iran to seek his son’s release, were sentenced to ten years in prison on charges of collaborating with a foreign government. The sentences prompted The Washington Post to observe that the arrest and sentencing of the two suggested that the regime “may hope that its prisoners can eventually be exchanged for lucre.”

[Photo: Nati Shohat / Flash90 ]