Why the Palestinian Authority is no better than Hamas

The Biden administration has yet to spell out what it means when it talks about a ‘revitalized’ Palestinian Authority.

By Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute

As the Biden administration continues to promote the idea of having a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority (PA) govern the Gaza Strip the day after the current Israel-Hamas war, PA leaders are again proving why they are not much different from the Iran-backed Islamist terrorists who want to destroy Israel and murder Jews.

After the January 2 assassination in Beirut, Lebanon, of Saleh al-Arouri, deputy head of the Hamas “political bureau,” who was behind countless terroir attacks against Israelis over the past decade, PA leaders were quick to praise him as a “martyr” and a “hero” and condemn Israel for allegedly killing the top Hamas terrorist. This glorification of an arch-terrorist is nothing less than a full endorsement of Hamas’s Jihad (holy war) on Israel, as outlined in its 1988 charter, which states that “Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.” (Article 8)

This is the same PA whose leaders continue to meet on a regular basis with senior Biden administration officials to discuss scenarios for the day after the Israel-Hamas war. Biden administration officials have made no secret of their desire to see a supposedly “revamped” Palestinian Authority replace Hamas as the ruler of the Gaza Strip.

It is worth noting that in 2018 the US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program offered rewards of up to $5 million each for information leading to the identification or location of al-Arouri and Lebanese Hezbollah leaders Khalil Yusif Mahmoud Harb and Haytham Ali Tabataba’i.

Al-Arouri, who funded and directed Hamas military operations in Judea and Samaria, has been linked to several terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings. He announced Hamas’s responsibility for the June 12, 2014 terrorist attack in which three Israeli Jewish teenagers, including the US-Israeli citizen Naftali Fraenkel, were kidnapped and murdered.

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The Biden administration has yet to spell out what it means when it talks about a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority.

If the Biden administration is hoping that the PA leadership will halt its ongoing campaign of incitement against Israel in the mosques, media and the rhetoric of Palestinian officials, it is living in a dream world. If the Biden administration believes that the PA, as part of a “revitalization” process, will cease its endless glorification of terrorists and stop systematically rewarding them with monthly stipends for murdering Israelis, it is also in for a rude awakening.

Shortly after the killing of al-Arouri, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction issued a statement condemning the “cowardly assassination” and praising the Hamas terrorist as a “prominent Palestinian national figure, fighter and martyr.” According to Fatah, “the martyrdom of al-Arouri hurt the feelings of all Palestinians.” Fatah also called for a general strike in Judea and Samaria on January 3 to mourn the death of al-Arouri and other Hamas terrorists.

Fatah Central Committee Secretary-General Jibril Rajoub, who is closely associated with Abbas, called Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to offer his condolences over the “martyrdom” of al-Arouri, saying: “With the martyrdom of Saleh al-Arouri, Palestine lost one of its faithful sons and fighters who devoted his life to serving the Palestinian cause.”

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh also hailed al-Arouri as a “martyr” and extended his condolences to Hamas and the Palestinians. Shtayyeh also asked God to “cover [al-Arouri] with his vast mercy and accept him in Paradise.”

In the Samaria city of Jenin, Jamal Hawil, a senior Fatah official, led a demonstration to denounce the killing of al-Arouri, whom he labeled as a “martyr.”

Hawil also praised Hamas’s October 7 massacre, in which the terrorist group more than 1,200 Israelis were murdered, more than 5,000 wounded, and more than 240 kidnapped and taken as hostages to the Gaza Strip.

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He emphasized that al-Arouri had inspired the upsurge in anti-Israel terrorism activities in Judea and Samaria:

“Saleh al-Arouri called on the Palestinian youths [in the West Bank] to resist with stones, Molotov cocktails, pistols, and explosive devices. Our armed factions will teach [Israel] a painful lesson.”

It should come as no surprise that Abbas and other PA leaders have long been glorifying terrorists by calling them “martyrs” and “heroes.” In 2021, Abbas called to console the families of two Palestinian terrorists who were killed while attacking Israelis. Abbas told the father of one of the terrorists:

“Allah will increase your reward over our martyr [Israa Khzaimiah], the Palestinian people’s martyrs. Allah will let her dwell in Paradise, and certainly her place is in Paradise because she is a martyr of Palestine and Jerusalem. I always bow to our male and female heroes.”

Since the brutal Hamas massacres of Israelis on October 7, the atrocities have been celebrated by at least 11 Palestinian schools, including eight run by the PA, according to the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se).

In one example, the Ya’abad Boys Secondary School (near Jenin) told parents that it would be closed on October 18 “out of respect for the pure blood of our martyrs. God punish the Jews and those who support them.”

Similarly, the Adnan Zaki al-Safarini Boys High School in Tulkarm staged a demonstration on October 12 praising Hamas’s massacre, with a video showing a male student’s speech, entitled: “A day that will live forever in the history of the Arab Palestinian struggle… the day of al-Aqsa Flood [the name Hamas uses for its October 7 atrocities[.”

IMPACT-se noted:

“It appears that many schools across the Palestinian Territories have seized the opportunity of the October 7 attacks to celebrate the massacre, glorifying Hamas terrorists and lauding their bravery and sacrifice. The imagery of gliders, used by Hamas militants to carry out the atrocity, is specially invoked in some instances, including a social media post from one school showing second-grade students coloring in drawings which depicted Hamas terrorists on gliders, made by their art teacher, featuring the words ‘Glorious Gaza.’ Many schools also took this opportunity to disseminate expressly antisemitic messages, wishing God to ‘punish the Jews’ or calling the Jews ‘prophet killers’ in the tradition of antisemitic deicide accusations. These findings indicate that the next generation of Palestinians are being desensitized to violence and death, to see Jews and Israelis as inhuman creatures, and to perceive their own death in battle as an utmost goal. In light of this, one cannot escape the conclusion that should the status quo of Palestinian education continue, the next atrocity is all but assured.”

If the Palestinian Authority were to be allowed to return to the Gaza Strip, as the Biden administration wants, it would continue its decades-long path of education for terror. Abbas and his PA leadership would do exactly what Hamas has been doing in the Gaza Strip for the past two decades: raise yet another generation of Palestinians on Jew-hating messages and the glorification of terrorists.

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The Biden administration, meanwhile, can continue to dream about “revamping” the PA, but every Palestinian child knows that this will never happen as long as Palestinian leaders continue to finance the murder of Jews and call for the elimination of Israel. It is time for the Biden administration to understand that there is no real difference between those who perpetrate terrorist attacks and those who encourage them, glorify them and pay terrorists bountifully for each murder.

As the Biden administration doubtless knows, replacing Hamas with the PA will change nothing in the Gaza Strip.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.