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Fatah Brags of Having Slain 11,000 Israelis

President Mahmoud Abbas

In an effort to appeal to Palestinians ahead of hotly contested elections, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas listed one of its main achievements as having “killed 11,000 Israelis.”

The party, Fatah, made the incendiary claim on Tuesday in an Arabic-language post on one of its official Facebook pages.

“For the argumentative … the ignorant … And for those who do not know history,” begins the Facebook post, “The Fatah movement killed 11,000 Israelis.”

Fatah also claimed to have “offered 170,000 martyrs,” and hundreds of its followers, it said, were in “Israeli occupation jails.” By Thursday the post had been shared 30 times and liked 163 times.

The post garnered additional attention after it was translated into English by Palestinian Media Watch, an organization that monitors anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements in the Arab news media. The website noted that it was the second time Fatah had made the inaccurate claim. The first was in August 2014.

Israelis and Palestinians have long accused each other of incitement to violence. But in Israeli eyes, Palestinian leaders starting with Yasir Arafat, the father of Palestinian nationalism who helped found Fatah in 1959, have had a habit of saying one thing in Arabic and another in English.

In the early 2000s, at the height of the second Palestinian uprising, Mr. Arafat led crowds in the West Bank city of Ramallah in a chant of “To Jerusalem, we are going, martyrs in the millions!” days after writing an Op-Ed article in The New York Times about the Palestinian vision of peace.

Mr. Abbas, who succeeded Mr. Arafat, has repeatedly said he supports nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation. But Fatah has historically championed armed resistance as a central tenet of its doctrine for the liberation of the Palestinian people.

Fatah is now a large and unwieldy movement, and its activists often make statements that do not reflect Mr. Abbas’s position.

“President Abbas’s party boasts about committing mass murder and yet it is called ‘moderate’ by many,” said David Keyes, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. “Imagine if Palestinian leaders spent their time praising coexistence instead of terror.”

Husam Zomlot, the strategic affairs adviser to Mr. Abbas, first questioned whether the Facebook page was official, and then said it was probably the work of some “hot-blooded youths.”

Mr. Zomlot said that Israeli officials frequently wrote incendiary Facebook posts, and that Fatah’s concerns were elsewhere.

“I’m from Fatah and one of its leaders,” he said. “We present a complete political platform, and the most important thing is to end the Israeli occupation.”

The comments on the official Fatah Facebook page came in the context of coming local and municipal elections that are expected to be held on Oct. 8.

The prospect of the elections is already whipping up strong emotions. They will be the first to be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a decade since Fatah, the mainstream, secularist party that has long dominated the Palestine Liberation Organization, suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Hamas, the Islamist militant group, in legislative elections in 2006.

A year later Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, routing Fatah’s forces there and confining Mr. Abbas’s influence — and that of his Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which is largely staffed by Fatah loyalists — to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The West Bank and Gaza have since been divided by a bitter schism. Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and has battled Israel several times in recent years.

The coming elections are seen as an important barometer of public sentiment in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Fatah activists appear particularly nervous about the elections, because Hamas is widely seen by Palestinians as the less corrupt and more efficient party.


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About the author

Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field