OpinionMiddle East

‘The Washington Post’ gets Abu Jihad’s thoughts on new peace plan

It’s curious that a major daily would turn to a man who supports terrorism and groups “working to lay siege on Israel” for insight into a U.S. initiative to help bridge differences in the Middle East.

“The Washington Post’s” old building. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
“The Washington Post’s” old building. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Sean Durns
Sean Durns
Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

The Washington Post has turned to an unlikely commentator for the Trump administration’s prospective peace plan: an unrepentant Palestinian terrorist nicknamed Abu Jihad. Seriously.

The newspaper’s Jan. 23, 2020 dispatch noted that U.S. President Trump “invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his challenger in upcoming elections, Benny Gantz, to Washington” for “a discussion of Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan.” That plan, the Post reports, was finished in 2019, but “kept under wraps amid political turmoil in Israel.” No details were released by the time the newspaper filed the story.

Understandably, the Post sought comments about the plan from Palestinian officials, including Mahmoud al-Aloul, who asserted, “For sure, it’s going to be a complete rejection of the plan.” Less understandably, the newspaper failed to inform readers about Aloul’s background and history.

Mahmoud Aloul, they told readers, is “vice chairman of the ruling Fatah party and a possible successor” to the current Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. But Aloul is also a Palestinian terrorist whose nom de guerre is Abu Jihad.

Aloul was born in 1950 in Nablus. According to a March 2017 profile by Grant Rumley, an analyst of Palestinian politics, Aloul joined the Fatah movement shortly after the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1983, he helped kidnap several Israeli soldiers and worked directly for Khalil al-Wazir, an arch terrorist who was nicknamed Abu Jihad and who murdered 125 people. The Israelis killed Wazir in 1988, and Aloul inherited the nickname.

As Rumley noted in The American Interest, “When the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords, many PLO officials returned from exile to the West Bank and Gaza. However, Israel refused to allow Aloul to return for a year due to his past militant activity.” Shortly after his return Aloul became governor of Nablus, a town that has long produced some of the more extremist elements in Palestinian politics as the academic Yehoshua Porath documented in his book The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement.

In 2006, Aloul became Labor Minister for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Three years later, he was appointed to Fatah’s powerful Central Committee. In 2017, Mahmoud Abbas appointed him to be his deputy—an appointment that Fatah’s official Facebook page hailed, favorably comparing Aloul to his mentor, Wazir. As Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) highlighted, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, one of the Palestinian terrorist groups most responsible for the Second Intifada (2000-05) in which more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered, celebrated Aloul’s rise as demonstrating a “commitment to [the] path of terrorist martyrs.”

Aloul’s ascension should have been newsworthy; Abbas is an unpopular octogenarian who is currently a decade-and-a-half into a single elected four-year term. Yet nearly every major U.S. news outlet, including The Washington Postfailed to cover it as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) noted at the time.

Now the Post is uncritically quoting Aloul while omitting his background, as well many of his statements and actions.

As recently as May 12, 2019 Aloul expressed “condolences” to the mother of a Palestinian terrorist who was currently serving 11 sentences, according to Fatah’s official Facebook page. The previous month, he defended the P.A.’s policy of paying salaries to terrorists—or “heroes and fighters” as he referred to them—and called U.S. demands to end that policy “blackmail.” Indeed, as PMW has documented, Aloul’s official Facebook page frequently praises Palestinian terrorists.

On Oct. 24, 2017, The Washington Free Beacon reported that it had obtained secret audiotapes from March of that year in which Aloul admitted, “We have relations with” the BDS movement. Aloul added: “Our people work there, and we have delegates there. We cooperate with BDS on all levels, and not only with the BDS, but every group whose aim is to boycott Israel, we are with. Every group working to lay siege on Israel and isolate it from the world, we are with it.”

The P.A.’s support for BDS violates the terms and spirit of the Oslo Accords that created it and that remain the basis for its international support. However, Aloul’s admission was ignored by the Post, which has claimed that BDS is a “grassroots” movement that merely “opposes the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestinian territories and treatment of Palestinians.”

It’s curious that the Post would turn to a person who supports terrorism and groups “working to lay siege on Israel” for his “thoughts” on a peace plan. Nor did the Post ruminate on another obvious fact: What are the chances for peace when one of the “peace partners” is Abu Jihad?

Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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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