Western officials are scrambling to evaluate the diplomatic consequences of extremist statements made by Jibril Rajoub, a Palestinian Authority (PA) official often emphasized by Western diplomats as a relatively moderate voice.
Rajoub is a former head of the Preventative Security Force and a member of the Central Committee of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction. A close ally of Yasser Arafat during the Palestinian leader’s life, Rajoub is a signatory to the grassroots Geneva Initiative aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But Rajoub’s conciliatory pronouncements in English and Hebrew – he’s fluent in the latter after spending 17 years in Israeli jail on terror convictions – are in tension with his rhetoric in Arabic. Palestinian Media Watch recorded this exchange on June 2 on Qatari television:
TV host: “Mr. Jibril, does the visit of Barcelona’s [football] team include a visit to the occupied lands?”
Rajoub: “They are coming to the occupied lands. All of Palestine – from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea (i.e., all of Israel) – it’s all occupied.”
TV host: “I mean the Israeli occupied lands.”
Rajoub: “You mean [occupied in] 1948 (i.e., Israel’s establishment)?”
TV host: “Yes.”
Rajoub was subsequently reported to have told an audience at UN headquarters in New York that the Palestinians had suffered “three times as much” as Israelis because of the 1972 Munich Massacre, in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. Rajoub is head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee. The statement will be taken in many quarters as minimizing the scope and destructiveness of Palestinian terrorism.
The 60-year-old Rajoub has been criticized before for making statements in support of terrorists and terrorism.
In 2011 he said his Fatah faction “salutes” the kidnappers of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Last year he told an Arab sports conference that Palestinian normalization with Israel is “impossible,” and he referred to “Zionist Satans” and “Jewish sons of bitches.”
Last month he told Lebanese media, “Resistance to Israel remains on our agenda…I mean resistance in all of its forms.” “In the name of Allah, if we had nuclear weapons, we’d be using them,” he added.
On Saturday, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon barred Rajoub from a Tel Aviv conference convened by Israel’s left-wing Meretz party. Ya’alon criticized Rajoub for his “demonization and hatred against” Israel, and emphasized that Jerusalem had been forced to take official notice of the incitement.