The fabricated stories spread about sick workers being smuggled through water drainage systems and Jews walking around and spitting are part of a new Palestinian campaign of incitement against Israel, using as a pretext the outbreak of coronavirus. The campaign's main message: Israel (or, to be more accurate, Jews) is deliberately spreading coronavirus among Palestinians. Pictured: An employee at the Palestinian Authority ministry of health sprays disinfectant on workers returning from Israel through the Tarqumiah crossing near Hebron, on April 6, 2020. (Photo by Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images)
The heavy downpour of rain last week prompted the Israeli authorities to open some water drainage systems in the West Bank to avoid flooding Palestinian-owned agricultural lands. Israel, in other words, wanted to prevent damage to Palestinian farmers, whose crops would have been destroyed in the flooding.
Some Palestinian officials, however, have exploited the Israeli move to claim , falsely, that this was one of Israel's methods to spread the coronavirus among Palestinians.
What is the connection between the water drainage systems and the coronavirus?
According to the Palestinian officials, Israel opened the drainage systems to allow Palestinian workers (in Israel) to "infiltrate" back to their homes without having to undergo tests for the virus and be placed under quarantine by the Palestinian Authority. (The PA assumes that most of these workers contracted the disease after coming into contact with Israelis.)
"Israel opened the water systems to facilitate the movement of the workers," said Osama Qawassmeh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian ruling Fatah faction. "Our people are fighting two epidemics: coronavirus and Israeli colonialism."
The PA recently announced that all Palestinian workers in Israel who wish to return to their homes must undergo tests for coronavirus and place themselves in quarantine for 14 days. Israel has allowed tens of thousands of Palestinians to work in various sectors, particularly construction and agriculture.
On the eve of the Jewish Passover Holiday early this month, thousands of Palestinian workers began returning to their homes. Some of these workers, however, sought to avoid Palestinian checkpoints to avoid being forced into a two-week quarantine. Those workers chose to return to their homes by hiding in the trunks of vehicles or walking through fields to avoid Palestinian checkpoints manned by health and security officials.
The false claim about the water drainage systems is part of a new Palestinian campaign of incitement against Israel, using as a pretext the outbreak of the coronavirus. The Palestinian campaign's main message: Israel (or, to be more accurate, Jews) is deliberately spreading coronavirus among Palestinians.
Why would Israel do such a thing? The Palestinian officials claim it is because Israel wants these workers to spread the disease in Palestinian cities and villages.
Israeli officials vehemently denied the charge as a new libel, lie and fabrication. If Israel had facilitated their return to their homes through water drainage systems because the Palestinian workers supposedly carry the virus, wouldn't Israel be afraid that when they returned to their jobs in Israel, they would bring the disease back with them and transmit the disease to Israelis?
These workers already have permits to return to their workplaces in Israel. If they are infected with the virus, why would Israel not just revoke their permits and ban them from coming back?
Moreover, if these workers were allowed to return to their homes in West Bank as part of an Israeli scheme to "spread the disease," wouldn't the hundreds of thousands of Jews living near Palestinian villages and cities also get infected? What about the thousands of Israeli soldiers and policemen stationed there? Wouldn't Israel be worried that the Palestinian workers could also transmit the virus to them?
Even at this moment of global crisis, the Palestinian leadership does not wish to be "confused with the facts" -- especially when these facts contradict the particular narrative the Palestinians are seeking to market to the world.
The fabrication about Israel allowing infected workers to crawl back to their homes through water drainage systems came after yet another false charge: that Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers were going around spitting in public places in Palestinian cities and villages to spread the coronavirus among Palestinians.
The false story about the purported spitting, like the one about the water drainage systems, was echoed by senior Palestinian officials, including Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and his spokesman, Ibrahim Milhem. Needless to say, the Palestinians have yet to provide any proof of these allegations, which come at a time when Israel and the PA are working together to curb the spread of the virus.
One might have hoped that the Israeli-Palestinian cooperation against the coronavirus would usher in the beginning of a new era in relations between the two sides.
One might have hoped that this cooperation and Israel's assistance to the Palestinians would have had a moderating effect on the Palestinians, especially their leaders, who have long been engaged in vitriolic anti-Israel rhetoric. Sadly, it seems that even the joint war on the pandemic has not changed the hearts and minds of most of the Palestinians' leaders.
"Israel is not only exporting the virus to the Palestinians," a defiant PA government spokesman, Ibrahim Milhem, told reporters this week, "but it is an agent of this epidemic, which is called the occupation."
By repeating such allegations every day, Palestinian leaders are not only libeling Israelis and Jews, they are also seriously endangering the lives of Israelis and Jews by depicting them as responsible for spreading the deadly virus. This is the kind of talk that prompts a Palestinian to go out and murder the first Jew he meets.
By talking falsely about sick workers being smuggled through water drainage systems and Jews walking around and spitting, the Palestinian leadership is seeking to create the impression that Palestinians are under attack and must therefore defend themselves -- by launching violent attacks against Israelis on the pretext of attempting to stop them from spreading a deadly disease.
The lies spread about Israel will undoubtedly pave the way for more violent attacks against Jews. The next time a Palestinian goes out to kill a Jew, he or she will say: "I had to do that in order to prevent these evil Jews from spreading coronavirus among my people. My own leaders told me that Jews are spreading the virus."
The international community, meanwhile, appears blithely unperturbed about the Palestinian leadership's continued libels against Israel and their continuing incitement to murder.
"Make no mistake about it: the belief that Jews or Israel is responsible for the coronavirus is a deadly serious threat," warned Dr. Harold Brackman, senior consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The indifference of the international community does not bode well for any future talk of peace or coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians. After all, why would any Palestinian want to make peace or live next to a Jew who, according to Palestinian leaders, is spreading a deadly disease and professedly trying to kill him?
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.