Palestinian officials continue, on a daily basis, to spread lies about Israel and Jews, even as Israel is helping them combat the coronavirus. For Palestinian leaders, it seems that the war on Israel is more important than the battle against a pandemic and saving the lives of their own people. Pictured: A Palestinian Authority policeman stands outside a hospital in Ramallah on March 12, 2020. (Photo by Abbas Momani/AFP via Getty Images)
What is the connection between US President Donald Trump's recently unveiled plan for Middle East peace and the coronavirus?
Palestinian leaders seem to believe that there is a connection between the peace plan, also known as the Deal of the Century, and the coronavirus pandemic. According to these leaders, Israel is taking advantage of the health crisis to implement the Trump plan and build new housing units for Jews in the West Bank. They are referring to Israel's intention to build a new road between the E1 area and Jerusalem, and 3,500 apartments in Ma'aleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem.
First, the building program in the area has been on the agenda for more than 20 years. All Israeli governments since Yitzhak Rabin's second tenure as prime minister in the 1990s have supported it.
Second, the recent Israeli announcement was made in the last week of February, before the outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel and the West Bank. In fact, the announcement came on the eve of the March 3 election and was more likely a pledge from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's electoral campaign.
On March 18, the PLO Executive Committee, whose members held a meeting in Ramallah, said that it "rejects the Israeli occupation government's exploitation of the coronavirus to pursue its policy of settlement construction and colonial expansion."
The committee, consisting of veteran PLO leaders and loyalists of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, claimed that the Israeli government and Jewish settlers were exploiting the outbreak of the virus to "destroy trees, attack houses and vehicles, and pave new roads for the use of settlers [in the West Bank] in order to implement the ominous so-called Deal of the Century."
In addition, the PLO leaders went on to condemn Israel for supposedly allowing "herds of Jewish settlers to storm the Al Aqsa Mosque" in Jerusalem. They were referring to routine, peaceful, visits by Jews to the Temple Mount. In fact, Jews do not "storm" the compound. Instead, they enter as visitors in coordination with the Israeli authorities. Moreover, contrary to the claims of the Palestinians, none of these Jews has ever set foot inside the Al Aqsa Mosque.
The Palestinian officials, however, are not prepared to be "confused by the facts." They continue, on a daily basis, to spread such lies about Israel and Jews, even as Israel is helping them combat the coronavirus. In Arabic, we call it wakkaha (audacity).
While Israeli and Palestinian medical professionals were working together to prevent the spread of the virus, the Palestinian Authority's official news agency, Wafa, came out with yet another blood libel against Israel.
According to Wafa, Israel was now releasing wolves to attack calves belonging to Palestinian farmers in the Jordan Valley. The agency claimed that three calves were killed when they were attacked by wolves "released by the Israeli occupation forces in the Jabarees area in the northern Jordan Valley." There have always been wolves in the area, but the claim that they are being released by Israel is false. There is no evidence that Israelis -- or anyone else -- have ever released wolves in the area.
Another false charge spread by Palestinian officials and media outlets claims that Israel is taking advantage of the world's preoccupation with the outbreak of the coronavirus to "impose abusive measures" against Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. The Palestinian Authority's Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS) published a statement on March 17, accusing "the Israeli prison administration of using the coronavirus as a pretext to continue with the imposition of abusive measures against Palestinian prisoners." The PPS called on international organizations, particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross, to "stop exploitation of the current situation for the imposition of more abusive measures against prisoners."
Mahmoud Aloul, deputy chairman of Abbas's ruling Fatah faction, also contributed to the anti-Israel campaign by repeating the claim that Israel was taking advantage of the world's preoccupation with the virus to implement the Trump peace plan.
As is obvious from the PPS statement and the false charges made by the PLO officials, it is the Palestinian leadership, not Israel, that is exploiting the coronavirus. Clearly, Palestinian leaders are leveraging the virus to continue their campaign of incitement against Israel and Jewish settlers instead of focusing their energies on preventing the spread of the disease.
The Palestinian leadership also seems to have enough time to pursue their effort to prosecute Israelis for "war crimes" at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Palestinian leaders are evidently determined to pursue their efforts to delegitimize Israel in the eyes of the rest of the world.
On March 16, the Palestinian Authority submitted its "observations" to the ICC in relation to the prosecutor's request for a determination on the scope of the court's territorial jurisdiction in the PA-controlled areas. These "observations" were submitted to the ICC at the same time that Israel was busy distributing coronavirus test kits to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"In the past two weeks, hundreds of coronavirus testing kits have been delivered by Israel to the Palestinian territories and health systems in response to the outbreak of the virus in the region," said Major Yotam Shefer of the Israeli Defense Ministry.
"Israeli and Palestinian health and medical bodies are cooperating in the training of medical staff and in the sharing of knowledge and equipment. We will continue our joint efforts to prevent the spread of the disease and maintain public health throughout the region."
On March 18, Israel delivered hundreds of kits for detecting the coronavirus to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, together with equipment for medical protection. This is the same Gaza Strip from which Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups have been firing thousands of rockets at Israel for the past few years, and launching party-balloons carrying hidden bombs as recently as last week. In February alone, more than 40 rockets were launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian leaders, who are pursuing their efforts to prosecute Israelis for "war crimes," have been concealing from their own people and the international community the fact that Israel is assisting them in the war on the coronavirus.
Instead of telling Palestinians the truth, these leaders are continuing to incite their people against Israel. The Palestinian "observations" submitted to the ICC are silent about the Israeli aid to the Palestinians in the fight against the spread of the virus. Only on March 16, a spokesman for the Palestinian government admitted that the Palestinians and Israel have set up a joint command center to fight the virus.
Palestinian leaders have again shown that they are grandmasters at playing a double game.
On the one hand, they seek Israel's assistance in the fight against the coronavirus. On the other hand, they have upgraded their diplomatic warfare to try to delegitimize Israel in the international community. For Palestinian leaders, it seems that the war on Israel is more important than the battle against a pandemic and saving the lives of their own people. Yet, these leaders and their families, if they are diagnosed with the disease, will undoubtedly be the first to rush to Israel to seek medical treatment there.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.