Saeb Erekat in his own words
Dr. Terror and Mr. Peace – the legacy of PLO Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat
Support for terror and terrorists
Threatening "chaos and bloodshed" in response to US embassy move to Jerusalem
“Peace” as a means to destroy Israel
For almost three decades, PLO Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat touted himself as a man of peace. In his role as Mr. Peace, Erekat traveled the world to sweet talk the willfully blind with the illusion of the Palestinian moderation, flexibility, and thirst for peace. But at home, in Arabic, Erekat, in his dominant role as Dr. Terror, made his true feelings clearly heard. Support for terrorists, whitewashing terror organizations and terror, threats of violence, rewriting history, and perpetuating libels against Israel, are just some of the views and actions espoused and carried out by Erekat.
While Palestinian Media Watch has often exposed the statements made by Erekat, the following is a special compilation focusing on a number of different themes exposing the true face of Saeb Erekat.
Support for terror and terrorists
The bedrock of Erekat’s terror support is his belief that Palestinian terror organizations and Palestinian terrorists, including mass murderers, are in fact not terrorists at all but rather “fighters for freedom.” For Erekat, internationally designated Palestinian terror organizations who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of Israelis and other innocent people - such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and others - are not terror organizations, and it is “forbidden” to describe their homicidal actions as terror.
When the EU dared to condition its financial support to Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations on the beneficiaries signing a commitment that no EU funds would be funneled to EU designated terror organizations, Erekat made his fundamental objection clear:
“The Palestinian people's struggle is meant to achieve freedom, independence, and the end of the occupation, settlement, collective punishments, and war crimes, and it is forbidden for anyone and any party that relies on international law and the international bodies to describe this struggle as terror.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 9, 2020]
When referring to Hamas, Erekat has made clear:
“I am telling everyone, on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas and the [PLO] Executive Committee, that Hamas is a Palestinian movement, which never was and never will be a terrorist movement.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 6, 2014]
After the UN rejected a motion to condemn the terror organization Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and inciting violence, and demanding that it and other terrorist groups such as Islamic Jihad cease their terror activities, including the use of airborne incendiaries, Erekat again stressed that Hamas is not a terror organization and declared the decision to reject the motion a victory of Palestinian unity:
"PLO Executive Committee Secretary Saeb Erekat emphasized that [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas, the PLO Executive Committee, the Fatah Movement Central Committee, and the Palestinian [PA] national unity government granted a victory to the Palestinian unity and placed the supreme Palestinian interests above all other considerations. This was when they stood against the unjust American-Israeli attempts to consider the Hamas Movement a terrorist movement…”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 8, 2018]
Poignantly, the proposal was voted on by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 6, 2018. Although it received a majority of the votes, the proposal did not receive the two thirds needed to be ratified.
Based on his fundamental rejection of the claim that mass murderers of Israeli civilians are terrorists, Erekat has declared that he sees the actions of terrorist prisoners as "acts of heroism", and that Palestinians "bow [their] heads in admiration and honor of the prisoners' sacrifices, for their acts of heroism":
"Our brave prisoners, who gave and sacrificed their freedom for Palestine and its freedom, are worthy of aid, support, and constant activity by us in order to release them and put an end to their suffering. 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."
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 19, 2016]
In a feast to break the Ramadan fast for families of terrorist prisoners, and to the shameful silence of the UN Secretary General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, Erekat declared:
“We are working to end the occupation, to realize the sovereignty of the State of Palestine whose capital is Jerusalem, and to release all of the prisoners unconditionally, as they are fighters for freedom.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 16, 2017]
As part of his whitewashing and justification of Palestinian terror, , Erekat claimed in a speech to the UN that acts of terror are a right of the Palestinians and that terror organizations are an integral part of the Palestinian struggle:
“The Palestinian people is implementing its legal right to defend itself against the war crimes that the occupation authority Israel is committing against it through an occupation that has continued for five decades… [the Hamas Movement] are an inseparable part of the Palestinian people and its struggle against the occupation."
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, June 30, 2017]
The 2004 PA law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners, that inter alia codifies the PA’s monthly salary payments to the imprisoned terrorists, also conditions any Palestinian agreement to peace, on the release of all the terrorist prisoners. In the eyes of Erekat and the PA/PLO, peace with Israel can only be achieved when terrorists such as Abdallah Barghouti (murderer of 67), Ibrahim Hamed (murderer of 54), Hassan Salameh (murderer of 44), and dozens of other mass murderers and other terrorists are released from prison.
Erekat’s warped drive to release the terrorist prisoners even allowed him to try and manipulate the Covid-19 pandemic, while all the time inventing provisions of international law that do not exist.
“The fact that the occupation is continuing to imprison Muhammad Majed Hassan… even though he was diagnosed as being sick with the Coronavirus, is an arbitrary violation of international law… The international community and UN Secretary-General [António Guterres] has the responsibility to force Israel to release him immediately in order to monitor his health and take the necessary steps.”
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 26, 2020]
Needless to say, international law does not prohibit holding terrorists in prison simply because they are sick with Covid-19 or any other disease.
In October 2015, a PA-incited terror wave started. The terror wave known as the “Knife Intifada” witnessed scores of Palestinian terrorists arming themselves with knives and murdering dozens of Israelis. When the terrorist attackers were neutralized, Erekat, the ultimate spin-master, quickly turned the terrorist attackers into victims, claiming that Israel was carrying out “summary executions” of Palestinians trying to protect themselves:
"The Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people still continues, through summary executions and collective punishments.' … 'We are protecting ourselves with the bodies of our sons and daughters, because Israel does not protect itself, but rather its crimes, occupation and settlement."
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 26, 2015]
Referring specifically to Marwan Barghouti, who was convicted for the murder of Greek monk Tsibouktsakis Germanus and Israelis Yoela Hen, Eli Dahan, Yosef Habi, Police Officer Sergeant-Major Salim Barakat, Erekat claimed that he is a “hero” who should not be in prison:
“Marwan Barghouti [is] a hero whose natural place is in the Palestinian leadership together with his brothers, the members of the [Fatah] Central Committee, and not behind bars."
[Donia Al-Watan, independent Palestinian news agency, Dec. 12, 2016]
Considering his unequivocal and unwavering support for terrorists and their actions, it should be no surprise to anyone that Erekat also supports the PA/PLO monthly terror reward payments to the terrorists.
When Congressman Doug Lambourn recently adopted PMW’s recommendation and called on President Trump to designate the PA/PLO Commission responsible for the payment of the terror rewards as a terror organization, Erekat was quick to try and spin reality. Rejecting the move to designate the commission as a terrorist entity, Erekat played the “Palestinian victim” card and tried to deflect the move as an attack on PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas:
“American Congressman Doug Lamborn’s call [on July 30, 2020] to impose sanctions on His Honor the president and the leadership (sic., Lamborn called to designate the PLO Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs and its Director Qadri Abu Bakr as sponsors of terrorism –Ed.) will lead to punishing the victim for rejecting the Trump – Netanyahu plan (i.e., refers to US President Trump’s Middle East peace plan). [This is] obscene bullying and blackmail.”
[Official PA TV News, Aug. 2, 2020]
In 2017, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman declared the PLO financial arm, the Palestinian National Fund (PNF), a terror organization.
Explaining the decision, Israel’s Ministry of Defense cited "massive support for elements responsible for committing severe acts of terrorism against Israel," and the fact that the fund serves "as a significant financial pipeline for tens of millions of shekels that are transferred on a monthly basis to security prisoners held in Israel for committing acts of terrorism and to members of their families," and "also supports family members of terrorists who were wounded and killed while perpetrating acts of terrorism against Israel."
Instead of demanding and ensuring that the PNF immediately cease and desist from paying the terror rewards, Erekat expressed “strong opposition” to the move, and chose to deflect the criticism, claiming that the move undermined Israel’s recognition of the PLO:
“He [Erekat] called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to announce the position of his government and whether the government has revoked its recognition of the PLO”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 19, 2017]
In July 2018, Israel passed legislation that would punish the PA for its terror rewards. The law instructs the state to deduct and freeze the amount of money the PA pays in salaries to imprisoned terrorists and families of dead terrorists, so-called "Martyrs", from the tax money Israel collects for the PA.
In February 2019, shortly after the brutal rape and murder of Israeli Ori Ansbacher by a Palestinian terrorist, Israel's Security Cabinet implemented the law and decided to withhold 502,697,000 Israeli shekels (approximately $138 million), the sum PMW exposed to be the PA’s expenditure on the terrorist prisoners in 2018, from the PA.
Responding to the decision of the Cabinet, and again, instead of denouncing the terror salaries, Erekat promoted the idea of the PA refusing to accept the tax revenues in their entirety:
“The political reality requires a political confrontation with the occupation and non-acceptance of the rest of the money so that this will not turn into a regular means to which it will turn and steal the money whenever it wants.'"
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 1, 2019]
Needless to say, the PA acted in accordance with the advice of Erekat, and plunged itself into months of a self-inflicted financial crisis.
For masters of propaganda such as Erekat, rewriting history is an integral weapon of his propaganda war. Whether it is to fit the general PA/PLO narrative or just whitewashing a terrorist, Erekat is a master .
In an attempt to justify the Palestinian claim that their right to the Land of Israel predates that of the nation of Israel in the Bible, the PA often claims falsely that today’s Palestinians are descendants of the different tribes that inhabited the land prior to its conquest by Joshua and Israel. Erekat himself has adopted this approach claiming that his family are the descendants of the ancient Canaanites:
“My Canaanite family lived in Jericho 3,000 years before the people of Israel came to the city, led by Joshua Bin Nun.”
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 2, 2014]
In Erekat’s world, even Jesus was a Palestinian. During the reopening ceremony of the Jericho Culture and Art Center Erekat declared:
“I will demand of Dr. Rami Hamdallah, as Prime Minister, that he issue a decision to name Jericho ‘Mother of Cities,’ because it is the cradle of civilizations and its roots go back ten thousand years, and Jesus lived there, the first Palestinian after the Canaanite Palestinians.”
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 27, 2013]
When the City of David archeological dig, situated immediately to the south of Jerusalem’s Old City, uncovered a historical road - The Pilgrimage Road - dating back almost 2,000 years, and which could itself have been used by Jesus, Erekat was quick to condemn the find as “Judaization”:
“Yesterday [June 30, 2019] US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and American Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt participated in the inauguration of a ‘Judaization tunnel’ in the neighborhood of Wadi Hilweh, in the town of Silwan (sic., a neighborhood in Jerusalem) south of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was called ‘the Pilgrimage Road’.
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 1, 2019]
Erekat’s unlimited devotion to distorting truth also allows him to demand that the UK apologize for the 1917 Balfour Declaration. For Erekat, and the PA/PLO leadership in general, the Balfour Declaration alone is responsible for the creation of the Jewish state. For Erekat, it is irrelevant that the UK declaration was twice adopted and ratified by the international community in the 1920 San Remo conference and again in the British Mandate. It is similarly irrelevant that the British actually did very little to realize the declaration.
“We have demanded of the government of Britain that it bear its legal, political, and moral responsibility for the historical injustice that the Balfour Promise (i.e., Declaration) caused to the Palestinian people, and to fix this mistake by apologizing to the Palestinian people.”
[Ma'an, independent Palestinian news agency, Feb. 15, 2017]
Using this same idea of rewriting truth, Erekat is similarly able to whitewash terror.
In October 2015, Palestinian terrorist Israa Ja’abis tried to carry out a car bomb attack near the Israeli city of Ma’ale Adumim, a few kilometers east of Jerusalem. A policeman who noticed a suspicious vehicle signaled the Ja’abis to stop, but instead she drove closer to a group of police officers and detonated a gas balloon. One policeman suffered light injuries and Ja’abis was seriously injured.
Two days later, rewriting the facts of the event, spin-master Erekat retold the story of the events on PA official TV:
“A woman from Jericho, Israa Ja’abis, who has an 11-year-old son and travels to Jerusalem daily. Her car had an electrical fault and the airbags inflated, and [the Israeli forces] immediately fired at her. They [Israel] immediately said it was a suicide attack.”
[Official PA TV, Oct. 13, 2015]
In Erekat’s world, everyone is simply meant to believe that it was just a complete coincidence that Ja’abis was driving with gas balloons in her car, when a freak electrical fault caused an inexplicable explosion just as she was approaching Israeli security personnel.
It was also clearly Erekat’s flexibility with the truth that allowed him to claim in a 2018 interview in ‘Conflict Zone’ with acclaimed journalist Tim Sebastian, that the PA is a “true democracy”.
In making that claim, Erekat ignored the fact that there have only been two general elections in the PA in the last 25 years, the last of which happened 15 years ago. He similarly ignored the fact that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, last elected in 2005, is now in his 15th year of a term limited by PA to four years.
Erekat’s revisionist approach also serves him in his quest to deny Jews the right to practice religious freedom on the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. When Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan dared to suggest that Jews too should be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, Erekat was again quick to reinvent the story to be proof of Israel's alleged plan to carry out “ethnic cleansing.”
Erekat said that the move to grant Jews religious freedom - which as Israel had suggested it would not infringe on the rights of Muslims to pray on the mount - is “an inseparable part of [an Israeli] plan that is striving to impose the occupation's demographic and geographic facts on the ground through ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.” [WAFA, official PA news agency, Aug. 14, 2019].
Part of the PA rewriting of Jewish history in Jerusalem, is denial of the 2000 year Jewish historical connection to the Western Wall, a remnant of the Temple Mount. Accordingly, when US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo visited the Western Wall together with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Erekat was again quick to condemn the visit, this time threatening another 100 years of conflict:
“The joint visit to the Al-Buraq Wall (i.e., Western Wall) in occupied East Jerusalem constitutes a fundamental change in the American policy… If this continues, it will constitute a sure recipe for the continuation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for another 100 years.”
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, official PA daily, March 22, 2019]
Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem
In December 2017, US president Donald Trump announced that he had decided to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His decision was made in accordance with the US law, particularly, the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and called for Jerusalem to remain an undivided city. However, the sovereign decision of a US President to respect US law was unacceptable to Erekat and provided him with an additional opportunity to condemn Trump and threaten violence.
Days before the official announcement, Erekat, never a man of peace among Palestinians, was at the forefront of the Palestinian response, using the language of violence and prophesying bloodshed and chaos.
"If the US dictates the fate of Jerusalem before the negotiations on the matter – whether by transferring the embassy [to Jerusalem], or what is even more dangerous, by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – this means the end of the entire peace process and the pushing of the region – with its peoples and borders – into the furnace of violence, chaos, extremism, and bloodshed."
[Official PA TV, Dec. 2, 2017]
Soon after, Erekat threatened grave consequences should the US administration actually move the embassy.
“The Palestinian National Council (i.e., the legislative body of the PLO) will make very fateful decisions, if the administration of new American President Donald Trump transfers the American embassy to Jerusalem… Transferring the embassy to Jerusalem means the destruction of the peace process, and that in doing so the US will turn into part of the problem and will no longer be able to be a mediator in the peace process, which will obligate the [Palestinian] National Council to cancel its recognition of Israel and the agreements that were signed with it.”
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan 5, 2017]
When the US administration announced the date on which the embassy would move, Erekat struck again with wild exaggerations of the impending consequences.
“The states have understood that [US] President [Donald] Trump’s administration is threatening the interests, threatening the international security, peace, and stability. This is the truth... This administration constitutes a true danger to the security, stability, and integrity of this region and of its peoples, in the full sense of the word.”
[Official PA TV, Feb. 24, 2018]
Neither the local nor regional violence Erekat predicted ever materialized. Instead, and in direct contrast to the doomsday predictions, the administration of President Trump has since managed to broker two unprecedented peace deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and between Israel and Bahrain.
It was not only on the subject of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem that Erekat employed his spin-master skills. A 2015 Congressional mandate stipulated that the PLO cannot operate an office in Washington if the Palestinians try to get the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute Israelis for crimes against the Palestinians. In September 2017, after Mahmoud Abbas, in a speech at the UN, called on the ICC to investigate and prosecute Israelis, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson determined that the Palestinians had violated the congressional mandate and decided to close the PLO office in Washington DC.
Explaining the decision, the Department of State wrote:
“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians... However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel. To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a U.S. peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the U.S. government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise. As such, and reflecting Congressional concerns, the Administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point. This decision is also consistent with Administration and Congressional concerns with Palestinian attempts to prompt an investigation of Israel by the International Criminal Court.”
[Website of the US Department of State - https://www.state.gov/closure-of-the-plo-office-in-washington/]
In true form, Erekat ignored reality and attempted to rewrite the script in order to suit his narrative. Instead of recognizing that the Palestinians had once again crossed a congressional red line, Erekat spun the decision as the basis for the PA/PLO to sever relations with the US administration.
“We have received a letter from the American Department of State, according to which they were unable to extend the opening of the PLO office in Washington due to our joining the International Criminal Court, and our request to the International Criminal Court to transfer the Israeli war crimes… to the legal council in order to open a legal investigation…Therefore, we have also responded to the American administration in a letter, in which we said that if the PLO office is closed, we will freeze all of our contacts with the American administration until the office is opened."
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 19, 2017]
One of the largest stumbling blocks of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is the Palestinian demand that every Palestinian so-called “refugee” will be allowed to settle in Israel as demarcated by the 1949 Armistice lines. As PMW has shown, the real meaning behind the demand that Israel settle 5.6 million refugees, is the Palestinian goal of the destruction of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Erekat has been a constant proponent of this idea, often repeating the demand that any peace agreement guarantee the Palestinian “right” to flood Israel.
One of Erekat’s greatest propaganda successes was his repeated use of his demand that Israel retreat to the “1967 borders” as a condition to achieve peace. Referring to the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, Erekat repeatedly used the term “1967 borders” as a means to persuade the world to believe in an illusion. Any honest student of history knows that no “border” ever separated Israel from Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Erekat’s “1967 borders” were, in reality, the armistice lines set at the end of Israel’s War of Independence in 1949. While Israel had urged the Arab countries to accept the lines as “borders” in 1949, and thereby give legitimacy to Israel’s right to exist, it was the Arab countries that rejected the Israeli request.
When Arab countries dared to consider their best interests, and give them precedence over the continued Palestinian rejection of every peace deal offered to them, Erekat was quick to lash out.
Eighteen months before the Israel-UAE and Israel-Bahrain peace agreements were announced, Erekat was already shouting that any act of “normalization” by Arab countries with Israel would be seen as “a knife in the back” of the Palestinians and tantamount to “permitting the spilling of Palestinian blood.” Trying to rekindle the flame of the failed Arab boycott, Erekat added the call that the Arab states boycott any country that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In other words, Erekat called to renew the Arab boycott of the US as well.
“Normalization with the Israeli occupation constitutes a knife in the back, permitting [the spilling] of Palestinian blood… Today we recalled that there are three decisions that were made at the Arab Summit conferences in the past – in Jordan, Baghdad, and Cairo – that determined that the Arab states will cut their ties with any state that recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transfers its embassy to it. This must be implemented.’"
[Official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 10, 2019]
Responding to the recent peace agreements, Erekat spared no criticism and repeated old tropes and libels against Israel and its falsely alleged intentions to conquer Arab lands and destroy the Al –Aqsa mosque.
“One wonders, what is the UAE’s interest in taking a step such as this? Especially in light of the fact that Israel’s leaders are not hiding their aspirations to take control of the Arab resources through so-called ‘normalization.’ Their position regarding the question of selling advanced American weapons to the UAE indicates that what they truly want is to take control of the region, control its resources, and expand their influence beyond the borders of Palestine to the wider Arab region.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 8, 2020]
Instead of welcoming these agreements, Erekat called them “forbidden Zionist thinking” accusing the UAE and Bahrain of being “Arab Zionists,” [Official PA TV, Topic of the Day, Aug. 22, 2020] and having ““stabbed [the Palestinians] in the back with a poisoned knife.” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 16, 2020]. For Erekat, the Abraham Accords are merely a fiction for Israel to take over the Temple Mount:
“The American lie, according to which the normalization agreement will open the door to Muslims for prayer in Jerusalem, is exposed by the statements of [Senior US Presidential Advisor Jared] Kushner, which support the malicious Israeli plan to change the legal and historical status quo, to divide the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque according to times and areas, and to Judaize it on the pretext that all of the religions have the freedom to worship there (sic., PMW found no records of such a statement by Kushner), as happened and is still happening at the Ibrahimi Mosque (i.e., Cave of the Patriarchs). This is part of the frantic escalation of the Israeli assault, whose goal is to Judaize the Old City [of Jerusalem], erase its Arab, Islamic, and Christian identity, and negate the Palestinian presence within it… This is in addition to the incessant excavations in order to undermine the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (sic., Israel does not carry out excavations under the Temple Mount); … [and] incessant attacks against the sites that are holy to Islam and Christianity and … in conjunction with increasing the terror attacks by the settlers and intimidating peaceful Palestinian residents…”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 8, 2020]
The common themes of all of Erekat’s statements are clear. For Erekat, in the battle to destroy Israel, all Palestinian means and methods are legitimate. In the world of Erekat, Palestinians have an inherent right to murder Israelis; internationally designated homicidal terror groups are legitimate partners; mass murderers are heroes and their release from prison is an unequivocal prerequisite to peace; every action of sovereign countries to apply their own laws or consider their best interests, is met with threats of violence and doomsday predictions; history and truth are just clay in the hands of Erekat to mold and remold according to his needs and purposes.
It is Erekat’s approach and belief that Palestinian propaganda can shape the world that has been the true obstacle to peace for the last three decades. If Erekat and those like him would stop poisoning the well, Israeli-Palestinian peace would become a possibility.