Inconvenient Truth?

It was a touching scene in Ramallah, to judge by the New York Times‘ account. Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, meeting with Israeli students on February 16, spoke to them in “a conciliatory tone” while sharing anecdotes about his grandchildren. Surely only the stoniest of hearts would not be moved by his stirring words: “Everything we are doing these days is for the young generation in Israel and Palestine; it’s for their future. The younger generation of Palestinians is similar to the Israeli one in that it wants peace.’

Yet even as Abbas spoke to Israeli students –in front of Western reporters and television cameras– about achieving peace for young people, he has been speaking to Palestinian audiences about a different kind of peace –the peace of the grave— for Israeli students.

When Israel released 26 terrorists last October –including Issa Abd Rabbo, who murdered Israeli university students Ron Levi and Revital Seri– Abbas personally hailed the killers as heroes. According to Palestinian Media Watch, which monitors Palestinian newspapers and television and radio broadcasts, Abbas held up Rabbo’s hand in front of the crowd of celebrants. They cheered wildly as the killer made a V-for-victory sign and Abbas proudly announced: “We welcome our heroic brothers who come from behind bars to the world of freedom!”

The hand that Abbas clasped and made the victory sign was the same hand that tied up the two students, Ron and Revital, in a forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem in 2002 and shot them each in the head.

Nor was Abbas’s praise for Rabbo a one-time aberration.

Just last week, the Fatah movement which Abbas chairs, and the PA-controlled media, which is under Abbas’s thumb, likewise glorified two other murderers of Israeli students, whose bodies were given by Israel to the PA.

One was Habash Hanani, who murdered three Israeli high school students in the town of Itamar in May 2002. Hanani was a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which is Fatah’s armed (i.e. terrorist) wing. He was given a state funeral with full honors, fully televised on PA TV.

Hanani’s casket was draped with an official Fatah poster which declared that Fatah was “escorting its Martyr Commander, Habash al-Saud Hanani, to the dark-eyed maidens” –that is, the 72 virgins Fatah believes Hanani will encounter in heaven. The poster praised Hanani for “saturating the soil of Beit Furik with his blood in his heroic operation.”
The second killer of Israeli students whose body was given to the PA last week was Ahmad al-Faqih. He broke into an Israeli school in the town of Otniel in December 2002 and murdered four students.

He too was lionized in what PA Television called “the funeral procession that turned into a national wedding.” Shedding all pretense of journalistic objectivity, the reporter for Abbas’s television station had this to say about al-Faqih: “After a 12-year separation, the city of Dura now embraces the remains of its Martyr, who wrote the most wonderful and sublime words of sacrifice with his blood.”

A few days before the Hanani-Faqih funeral celebration, there was another such “national wedding” under Abbas’s auspices. Israel gave the PA the remains of Jalal Mahamid. If not for his bad timing, Mahamid would have murdered countless Israelis: he was on his way to carry out a suicide attack when his car detonated prematurely.  At his funeral on February 5, PA officials placed a wreath on Mahamid’s casket. The inscription on the wreath is signed “President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas.”

It’s not hard to understand why most Israelis are opposed to the creation of such a “State of Palestine” in their back yard. A man who honors killers of Israeli students with one hand while embracing Israeli students with the other, will never be a good partner for peace.

Moshe. Phillips, a veteran pro-Israel activist, and Benyamin. Korn, the former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, are president and chairman, respectively, of the Religious Zionists of America – Philadelphia Chapter (www.phillyreligiouszionists.org).

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