Opinion

Lessons from a terrorist’s death

Released Palestinian Arab terrorists only return to their ways, whether as part of a “mainstream” movement or an “extremist” one.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank, on Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Flash90.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the city of Ramallah in the West Bank, on Feb. 13, 2017. Photo by Flash90.
Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

A Palestinian Arab terrorist was killed last week near the city of Nablus (Shechem). What made the incident unusual was that he was killed in a clash with Palestinian Authority security forces. One wishes it was a sign that the P.A. is finally cracking down on terrorists. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The terrorist, Hatem Abu Rizek, was affiliated with the Fatah movement, the largest faction of the PLO. Fatah was chaired by Yasser Arafat for four decades, then succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas, who heads both Fatah and the P.A.

Fatah, however, has various factions, and they often settle their disputes in ways reminiscent of the Wild West. Abu Rizek was part of a faction headed by Mohammed Dahlan, who is a rival of Abbas.

Last week, Abu Rizek and others from the Dahlan faction got into some sort of quarrel with members of Abbas’s P.A. security forces. Everybody reached for their guns. “Armed clashes” ensued, according to The Associated Press. There are two versions of how Abu Rizek ended up dead. His side says the P.A. security men shot him. The P.A. says he was about to throw a hand grenade at them, but it exploded in his face.

Media reports vaguely noted that Abu Rizek “previously spent time in Israeli prisons for security-related offenses,” which is a polite way of saying that he either was planning to, or tried to, murder Jews (or Arab rivals). The families of his victims, or intended victims, aren’t mourning his death.

According to the Oslo accords, the P.A. was obliged to disarm terrorists like Abu Rizek, outlaw terrorist groups, and extradite fugitive terrorists to Israel for prosecution. Twenty-seven years later, the P.A. still isn’t doing any of that.

The reason that Abu Rizek and his fellow gangsters are roaming the region around Nablus/Shechem, and other areas under P.A. rule, is that the P.A. lets them.

Abbas has one of the largest per-capita security forces in the world. It’s the size of a small army. If he wanted to crush the terrorists—as the Oslo agreement requires—he could do so. But he doesn’t. Which is why Israel has to periodically send its soldiers into P.A. territory to catch terrorists.

The most the P.A. security forces have ever done is intervene briefly, and halfheartedly, when there is some internal quarrel among the Palestinian gangs. Three years ago, for example, the P.A. arrested Abu Rizek, and six of his fellow thugs, because they were terrorizing local Arabs. But soon enough, the P.A. released them.

The conflict between the pro-Dahlan faction and the pro-Abbas security forces last week was not a conflict between “extremists” and “moderates.” It had nothing to do with Israel. Both camps hate Israel. Both camps want to destroy Israel. Both camps sponsor terrorism against Israel.

When Abbas sent his forces to confront Abu Rizek and company last week, it wasn’t part of some crackdown on terrorists. It wasn’t a fulfillment of the P.A.’s Oslo commitments. It was just another settling of internal rivalries and feuds.

There was another noteworthy element to the incident. Some media reports described Abu Rizek as “a senior commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.” It’s worth refreshing our memories about that “brigade.”

When Arafat signed the Oslo accords in 1993, as chairman of the PLO and Fatah, he, of course, promised to halt all terrorism against Israel. Yet in the days and weeks and months following the signing ceremony on the White House lawn, the terror continued.

Some of it was perpetrated by Hamas or Islamic Jihad. But some of it was carried out by a number of terrorist groups which seemed to spring out of nowhere. Suddenly, we were reading about bombings or shootings that supposedly were committed by the “Hawks,” the “Red Eagles,” the “Black Panthers,” the “Tanzim” or the “Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.”

It was all fiction. Eventually, the members of these so-called new groups were arrested and interrogated, and—like Abu Rizek—they were revealed to be the same old Fatah terrorists, just using different names in order to cover Arafat’s tracks.

So, what should we remember and learn from the life and death of Hatem Abu Rizek?

That terrorist who are released return to their terrorist ways. That the “mainstream” Palestinian Arab factions are just as anti-Israel and pro-terrorist as the “extreme” Islamic factions. And that the P.A. has no intention of ever doing what the Oslo accords require it to do.

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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