PA governor defends naming school after Black September chief

‘Occupation is delusional if it thinks we’ll forget leadership of our martyrs,’ says official in response to criticism from Netanyahu spokesperson

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: Palestinian girls at a UNRWA school in Gaza. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)
Illustrative: Palestinian girls at a UNRWA school in Gaza. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The governor of the West Bank district of Tulkarem on Wednesday defended the naming of a local school for the leader of an infamous Palestinian terror group, calling Israel “delusional” for protesting the move.

Issam Abu Bakr was responding to a tweet by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Spokesperson Ofir Gendelman, who charged the Palestinian Authority with the “glorification of terrorists” for naming a school in Tulkarem after Salah Khalaf, who was the head of the Palestinian terror group Black September.

“The occupation [i.e. Israel] is delusional if it thinks that the Palestinian people can change its culture and forget the leader of its martyrs, Yasser Arafat and Khalil al-Wazir [a co-founder of Fatah] and Salah Khalaf, and the large number of fighters who sacrificed their blood for freedom and independence and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital,” said Abu Bakr at a rally at Al-Quds Open University in Tulkarem on Tuesday.

Salah Khalaf (YouTube screenshot)
Salah Khalaf (YouTube screenshot)

Black September carried out a number of attacks during the early 1970s, including the hijacking of planes and the assassination of two US diplomats in Sudan.

The group’s most well-known attack was the murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics in 1972.

The Palestinian Authority named the school in Tulkarem after Khalaf on September 24th, during a cornerstone-laying ceremony. During the event in September, Abu Bakr said the school was named after the “martyr Salah Khalaf in order to commemorate the memory of this great national fighter.”

According to the Israeli watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch, this is the fourth PA school named after Salah Khalaf.

The Times of Israel contacted the Palestinian Education Ministry for a response, but was told both the education minister and deputy education minister were abroad and unavailable to comment.

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