Palestinians who are being held in Israeli prisons are "a model for sensibility and national culture and constitute a pillar for the establishment of a Palestinian state." This glorification of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are behind bars for murdering Jews, was issued last week by Fayez Abu Aitah, a senior representative of President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction.
Abu Aitah's words of appreciation for murderers of Jews came during a visit he paid to Hatem al-Maghari, a Palestinian Authority (PA) policeman who was released last week after serving 17 years in prison for his role in the lynching of two Israeli reserve soldiers who mistakenly entered Ramallah. Upon his arrival at his home in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Al-Maghari received a hero's welcome. Hundreds of Palestinians have since converged on his home to congratulate him on his release from prison and heap praise him on for his "contribution" to the Palestinian cause.
Abbas's Fatah was quick to embrace al-Maghari as "one of our sons" in order to send a message to Palestinians that the Fatah faction is also involved in terror attacks against Israel. For years, Fatah's opponents have been accusing it of abandoning the "armed struggle" in favor of a peace process with Israel. Groups such as Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to criticize Fatah for not being sufficiently active in the terror campaign against Israel.
The release of al-Maghari provided an opportunity for Fatah to remind its Palestinian enemies of its "contribution" to the war against Israel. The lynching of the two soldiers inside a Palestinian Authority police station in Ramallah was one of the most brutal crimes perpetrated by Palestinians. The PA leadership has never accepted responsibility for the lynching of the two soldiers, who were being held by PA policemen inside the station after taking a wrong turn into the city as they were on their way to their base.
The hero's welcome that al-Maghari received and the words of praise from Fatah leaders serve as a reminder of how murderers of Jews continue to be hailed as role models for Palestinians. President Abbas and his PA and Fatah representatives have long lauded Palestinian prisoners held by Israel as "heroes" and future leaders of a Palestinian state.
As Abu Aitah explained during his well-wishing visit to the released terrorist:
"The prisoners are the pillar of our national movement. They have sacrificed the best of our committed and responsible national cadres that are leading the struggle of our people. Our prisoners have turned (Israeli) prisons into universities from where the future leaders graduate."
Besides sending a message to Palestinians about who is valued in Palestinian society, the Fatah leader is also making it clear that the path to leadership and employment passes through Israeli prisons. In no uncertain terms, he is saying to young Palestinians: "If you want to become a leader, you need to prove your qualifications by following the example of those Palestinians who carried out terror attacks against Israel and spent time in Israeli prison." Again: Abbas's senior representative is telling Palestinians that there is no need for them to pursue actual education: Israeli prisons are the best "universities."
Palestinians have every reason to believe Abu Aitah; he is the top Fatah official. Just a glance at their leaders and senior officials tells them that Palestinian Authority jobs go to "graduates" of Israeli prisons. There is no shortage of such leaders who rose to power thanks to their involvement in terror attacks against Israel.
In the world of the Palestinians, terror is indeed the diploma of currency. Serving time in Israeli prison can even earn one a military rank without having to go to any military or security academy.
The PA, according to Palestinian sources, has one of the largest numbers of Generals and Colonels in the Arab world. Most of these high-ranking officers earned their titles thanks to the time they served in Israeli prison, not because they studied at any military academy.
Take, for example, Jibril Rajoub, the former commander of the Palestinian Authority's notorious Preventive Security Force, who holds the rank of Major-General. Rajoub's rank is largely the result of the 17 years he spent in Israeli prison for his role in terrorism. Rajoub is only one of dozens, if not hundreds, of former prisoners who hold such high-ranking titles but do not have any real military background.
Many high-ranking PA security officials, such as Major-General Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces, wear medals and decorations on their military uniforms even though they have not participated in any war. Damiri spent 10 years in Israeli prison for security-related offenses.
These are the leaders touted as role models to young Palestinians. No small number of Palestinian senior "officers" failed even to complete their high school education. But that should not bother any Palestinian who is dreaming of assuming a senior job in a Palestinian state.
On April 17, the Palestinians will again mark "Palestinian Prisoners' Day" by holding as series of rallies in solidarity with prisoners who carried out terror attacks against Israel. This event is marked every year by Palestinians to honor the "heroes" who made "huge sacrifices" on behalf of the Palestinians.
These "sacrifices" include the maiming and murder of Jews. The annual event in the West Bank is sponsored and funded by Abbas's Fatah, in turn funded by Europe and the West, in the context of glorifying terrorists and encouraging Palestinian youths to follow their presumably heroic example.
A Palestinian teenager who wishes to become a "general" under Abbas need not apply to any sort of academy. The shortest route to achieve rank is by carrying out a terror attack against Israel and doing time in Israeli prison. The longer the time spent in prison, the higher the military rank. Ten years will earn them the rank of Colonel. More than that will earn them General. The path to winning a job with a Palestinian Authority ministry also passes through Israeli prisons. Former prisoners are treated as the "good boys of the revolution" and granted the plum jobs. Meanwhile, those Palestinians who actually choose to become educated once again lose out.
It would be no surprise, then, if al-Maghari finds himself awarded the rank of General in Abbas's Fatah-controlled security forces.
And so it continues: the unashamed glorification of murderers; terrorists paraded as role models and paragons of virtue to yet another generation of Palestinians. Under these conditions of unremitting incitement, no Palestinian can talk about peace with Israel.
When President Abbas visits the White House, it will be interesting to see if his "peace" stance includes a discussion of the Diploma for Terror.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.