With terror raging, Abbas is in a state of denial
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Analysis

With terror raging, Abbas is in a state of denial

By demonizing Israel and its government, the Palestinian leader is hacking away at the branch on which he perches

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A woman carries a painting of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as others fly their national flags following his speech at the U.N. General Assembly shown on TV in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 (AP/Nasser Nasser)
A woman carries a painting of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as others fly their national flags following his speech at the U.N. General Assembly shown on TV in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 (AP/Nasser Nasser)

The Palestinian Authority leadership is refusing to acknowledge the wave of lone-wolf terror attacks taking place in Israel and the West Bank, instead blaming Israeli forces for purportedly killing innocent Palestinians in cold blood.

The Palestinian cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, met Thursday to discuss the escalation in violence that has left four Israelis dead and several more injured in a relentless series of Palestinian attacks in recent days. A statement issued after the meeting accused the international community of “not lifting a finger” to hold the Israeli government accountable for supposedly summarily executing Palestinian civilians.

“The Israeli government and its prime minister must be held accountable for their decision to allow the occupation forces to kill and assassinate defenseless children and civilians, who have become a permanent target for acts of summary executions and cold-blooded murder, which we witness daily under false pretexts,” the cabinet communique read.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, for his part, has focused his recent speeches on settler violence against Palestinian villages, ignoring the wave of knife attacks perpetrated by Palestinians across Israel.

Medics and police at the scene of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on Thursday, October 8, 2015 (Magen David Adom)
Medics and police at the scene of a stabbing attack in Jerusalem on Thursday, October 8, 2015 (Magen David Adom)

On Tuesday, during his opening comments to a meeting of the PLO’s Executive Committee, Abbas accused Israeli troops of killing a three-year-old Palestinian child “under the pretext of stone throwing.” The only remotely relevant case was the death of 13-year-old Shadi Ubaidallah of Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem on Monday, in an incident currently under IDF investigation.

Abbas then went on to lambaste Israel for new house demolitions, roadblocks, and settler attacks against innocent Palestinians “all across the West Bank.”

Effectively, Abbas and his government have been echoing rumors and misinformation disseminated on Palestinian social media, rather than refuting them

“Honestly, we don’t know the reason for this,” Abbas said. “Because the Palestinian side didn’t attack, nor did it carry out any act against Israelis. The residents of Jerusalem are acting in self defense, which is our right. We must all protect our holy sites — the Islamic and Christian ones. If they [the Israelis] think of dividing al-Aqsa, that will never happen.”

On Thursday, Abbas’s tone was slightly more conciliatory, though he still fell short of acknowledging individual acts of Palestinian terror or calling for an immediate end to them.

“We will not use violence nor will we use force,” he said in reference to alleged settler violence, speaking at the opening of a commercial center in Ramallah. “We are peaceful and believe in popular, peaceful resistance … this is our right, as long as there’s aggression.” He did not specify what precisely peaceful resistance meant.

Unlike Abbas, Prime Minister Hamdallah addressed what he called a “popular awakening” focused in Jerusalem.

“What is taking place is a popular awakening caused primarily by the attempts of the Israeli occupation to divide the al-Aqsa Mosque according to [visiting] time. If it succeeded in doing so, it will certainly move to a physical division,” he told Palestinian news website Dunya al-Watan.

By consistently demonizing Israel and its government in Palestinian public opinion, Abbas is making Hamas the only credible alternative

Abbas and his government have effectively been echoing the rumors and misinformation disseminated on Palestinian social media, rather than refuting them. By doing so, the PA leadership has pandered to populism, keeping the debate in the emotional realm rather than attempting to bring it into the rational.

By consistently demonizing Israel and its government in Palestinian public opinion, Abbas is cutting the branch on which he is perched. His followers will find it difficult to forgive a leader who accuses the Israeli government of executing a toddler in cold blood while at the same time calling for the resumption of negotiations, as he did on Tuesday. If Abbas’s propaganda is to be believed, Hamas is the only credible alternative.

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