This interview was first published by Israel National News, and republished here with the author’s consent.
Deceitful Palestinian Statements as Strategic Weapons
Manfred Gerstenfeld Interviews Michael Widlanski
“Palestinian leaders have developed ambiguous messages as strategic weapons to disarm, demoralize and deceive foes while gaining third-party support. They use duplicitous statements for different audiences in the tradition of taqiyya—the art of dissimulation. This is an Islam-approved application of lying to defeat enemies. When conversing in English they may sound peace-loving. Yet they simultaneously broadcast bellicose messages to Arabs in Arabic.
“This method of destructive ambiguity was practiced already by the pre-war Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini. He was heavily involved in spreading false messages about Jews ‘trying to conquer the Temple Mount’ in the early 1920’s and later in propaganda broadcasts for the Nazis. Fatah leaders, particularly Yasser Arafat and Mahmud Abbas, follow in Husseini’s footsteps using ambiguity.”
Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat.1 He teaches at Bar Ilan University and was Strategic Affairs Advisor in Israel’s Ministry of Public Security editing the Orient House Archives of the PLO. He will be Schusterman Visiting Professor at the University of California, Irvine 2013-14.
“Communication and especially dissimulation were major motifs in Arafat’s life and career. He became leader of the PLO through the microphone and pen and not through the rifle. Arafat became head of Fatah by gaining newspaper attention in Egypt in the 1950’s. In 1968, he became the undisputed leader of the PLO after skillful press exploitation of the ‘Battle of Karameh.’
“From 1968 through 1974, Fatah/PLO made it clear that it wanted to replace Israel with a ‘democratic Palestine.’ This was a euphemism for what former PLO leader Ahmad Shukeiry had declared: ‘…destroying Israel and driving the Jews into the sea.’ Beginning in 1974, the PLO further ‘moderated’ its tone, but not its real goal. It adopted the ‘Strategy of Stages’ and declared that it would try to gain parts of Palestine/Israel via peaceful means. Thereafter it would employ arms for the final battle. Arafat and Abbas refined this strategy further over the years.
“Hamas has been more direct than Fatah/PLO in declaring its goals and tactics – destroying Israel with the force of arms. It has since learned from Arafat and Abbas. In recent years, Hamas, too, has had spokesmen who suggest that it might consider letting Israel survive if and when it withdraws to the 1949 armistice lines or the 1947 partition lines.
“Despite all claims to the contrary, no PLO leader has given up demands for Palestinian ‘refugees returning to their homes’ in Israel. Yet many prominent Israelis and Americans also promote this fallacy. Arafat, Abbas and negotiators like Yasser Abd-Rabbo, Nabil Sha’ath and Ahmad Qrei’a –also known as Abu ‘Ala – have publicly and repeatedly repudiated such Israeli claims on the refugees issue made by Ehud Olmert, Tzippy Livni and especially Yossi Beilin and Shlomo Ben-Ami.
“Similarly, claims by many Israelis and Americans that the PLO has agreed to recognize and accept Israeli settlement blocs in return for ceding territory in Israel to Palestinian sovereignty, have been repudiated. This is also true about claims that the PLO leadership is willing to accept Israeli control of some holy places in eastern Jerusalem and that Ramallah or Al-Azzaria would serve as a Palestinian capital. Abbas repeatedly told Arab media—as late as August 2013—that there will be no Jews living in Palestinian territory and that Jerusalem will be the Palestinian capital.
“Abbas told an Israeli interviewer that he did not want to return to Safed. Thereafter, he declared to Arab interviewers that all Arabs could decide where and when they would go. He specifically said all refugees would have the ‘right” to return to their homes.
“Claims that the PLO has amended its charter are false as well. The ‘ceremony’ in 1998 concerning this is deemed a stage act by Palestinians, even though it was sanctioned by Bill Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu. Leading Palestinians—such as Palestinian National Congress speaker Salim Za’anoun—say that the PLO charter still stands.
“Periodically, Arafat and Abbas said that they ‘recognize Israel.’ They thereafter explained in Arabic that they recognize the fact but not the right of Israel’s existence. They further rebuff any attempt to recognize Jewish sovereignty or even Jewish nationalism. Abbas has repeatedly rejected Netanyahu’s demand that the PLO accept Israel as a predominantly Jewish state. The PLO leadership until today approves maps and text books that refer to all of “Palestine” including Tel Aviv and Haifa, as Arab. Many Israelis and Westerners prefer to believe that PLO leaders ‘do not mean what they say’ in Arabic. However, history has shown that the messages to their own people is their true approach.”
Widlanski concludes: “Israel fails in its external communications partly because there is no unified Israeli view. Every struggle has a mental aspect. This is particularly true in battles involving terror. In order to win, Israelis have to educate themselves about the real Palestinian goals and tactics.”