Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, on Monday condemned statements made by senior Hamas official Fathi Hammad last week calling on members of the Palestinian diaspora to kill Jews around the world.
“The just values of the Palestinian cause include love for freedom, justice and equality. The repugnant statement of Hamas leader Mr. Fathi Hammad about Jews doesn’t represent any of them,” Erekat tweeted on Monday. “Religion shouldn’t be used for political purposes.”
Hammad, a Hamas politburo member considered a hardliner and known for his fiery rhetoric, made the remarks in a speech at a protest in the border region between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Friday.
“Our patience has run out. We are on the verge of exploding. If this siege is not undone, we will explode in the face of our enemies, with God’s permission and glory,” Hammad said, referring to significant Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods between Israel and Gaza. “The explosion is not only going to be in Gaza but also in the [West] Bank and abroad, if God wills.”
“But our brothers [in the diaspora] are still preparing. They are trying to prepare. They are warming up. A long time has passed with them warming up. All of you 7 million Palestinians abroad, enough of the warming up. You have Jews everywhere and we must attack every Jew on the globe by way of slaughter and killing, if God permits. Enough of the warming up,” he added.
Israel has said that it maintains the restrictions on movement into and out of Gaza to prevent Hamas, an Islamist terror group sworn to Israel’s destruction, and other terror groups from importing weaponry.
Erekat said that when he saw Hammad’s comments Monday morning, he felt disgusted.
“When I saw that statement, I couldn’t take it. So I had to go [tweet] in Arabic and English, calling it repugnant,” he told The Times of Israel in a phone call, adding that the comments made him feel like he wants “to vomit.”
Erekat has long said that he has great respect for Judaism. In an interview in June, he said that Judaism is “one of God’s great religions.”
Nikolay Mladenov, the United Nations special coordinator to the Middle East peace process, also condemned Hammad’s comments.
“A dangerous, repugnant and inciteful statement! It must to be clearly condemned by ALL. There can be no complacency with such rhetoric. Ever!” he tweeted on Monday.
A Hamas official in Gaza tried to distance the terror group from Hammad’s comments, insisting that they do not represent its official position.
“These are personal statements that do not represent Hamas. They are no more than emotional comments that he may have said because of the killing of one of our members,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the Israeli press, told The Times of Israel on Sunday. “Our problem is not with the Jews, but rather the occupation and the Zionist movement that is occupying Palestine.”
On Thursday, according to the Israel Defense Forces, Israeli soldiers apparently misidentified a Hamas operative for an armed terrorist in the border region between Gaza and Israel and shot him dead.
Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, also slammed Hammad for the comments, describing them as “absolutely vile.”
“Calls to kill based on one’s religion have no place in a freedom movement & should be relegated to the dustbin of history,” Shakir tweeted on Sunday.
A number of Palestinian social media users including Ahmad Abu Artema, an activist in Gaza, lashed out at Hammad’s comments.
“Our enemy is the occupation and not Jews. There are many Jews supportive of what is right and just in the world,” he said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Issa Amro, a prominent activist in Hebron, said: “I condemn strongly what Fathi Hammad said. It is not part of our tradition nor religion to ask to kill the Jews. No one should be targeted based on religion.”
He added, “In a free society, hate like Hammad’s fizzles and dies. In an unfree society where millions are subject to injustice, siege, and apartheid, this ugliness can sadly catch. Ending Israeli apartheid and occupation will stunt the growth of this hate more than anything else.”
In the past year, Hammad has made a number of incendiary comments against Israel.
In late July 2018, for example, he called on Muslims to kill Zionist Jews.
“O Muslims, wherever you find a Zionist Jew, you must kill him because that is an expression of your solidarity with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and an expression of your solidarity with… your Jerusalem, your Palestine and… your people,” he said at the time in a speech at a funeral at the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City.