A new bill that is moving swiftly through initial rounds in the Israeli parliament is garnering harsh criticism from the Palestinian leadership. The bill basically states that an Israeli citizen or resident who commits a terrorist act and agrees to receive payment for it from the Palestinian Authority is thereby stating a preference to receive benefits from the Palestinian Authority over those of the State of Israel. When the terrorist completes his prison sentence, he will then move to the place of his chosen alliance, the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Needless to say, this also means that re-entry into Israel is prohibited.
Sounds fair enough. Not, however, to Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
According to the Palestinian Authority's official news agency Wafa, Shtayyeh is livid. He has warned of "the serious consequences of the Israeli Knesset's approval of the law to revoke the nationality of our imprisoned children in the lands of 1948 and in the occupied city of Jerusalem."
Notably, Shtayyeh, like many other Palestinians, refers to the State of Israel as "the lands of 1948." That means that these Palestinians do not recognize Israel's existence: as far as they are concerned, Israel is one big settlement that needs to be uprooted.
Shtayyeh is furious about the revocation of the citizenship of terrorists from the state that he refuses to acknowledge exists. He is also saying that Israel has no right to defend itself or take any measures against Palestinians involved in terrorism, who are then financially rewarded by his own Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
It is quite the conundrum. Shtayyeh claims he wants an independent Palestinian state next to Israel, calls Israel the "lands of 1948," but is irate about the revocation of Israeli citizenship from an Arab citizen of Israel. It is a difficult stance to maintain.
Still, he persists, in utter defiance of logic, to appeal to "the United Nations, the United States, and the European Union: To denounce the resolution, and to put pressure on Israel to force it to cancel it... this decision is a racist practice and a flagrant violation of international law and international humanitarian law."
In the view of the Palestinian leadership, if Palestinians murder innocent civilians simply because they are Jews, that is not racist or unlawful, but if Israelis hold those murderers responsible and imprison them, that is racist and unlawful.
The Palestinian Authority is bolstered in this perversion of justice and law by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which has come out in defense of the "plight" of the murderers, whose citizenship could be revoked under the new law:
"It leaves people without any status, it leaves them stateless... They are even talking about not allowing these people to re-enter Israel – whether with a work permit, or even to visit family."
Would-be terrorists can now contemplate that choice, unlike the victims of terror who will never get to "visit family" again.
Adalah, founded in 1996, calls itself The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights. In light of its position on the revocation of the Israeli citizenship of terrorists, perhaps the group should change its name to The Legal Center for the Rights of Jew-Murderers. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, should change its name to The Palestinian Authority for Defending Terrorists.
Unlike the many times Palestinian leaders have grotesquely called the slaying of children and the murder of innocents a "natural response," this time Shtayyeh has it right when he calls the new legislation "a natural result."
One could almost hope he has seen reason, but that hope is instantly dashed. He continues that this legislation is, "a natural result of the double standards policy, which sends wrong messages to Israel encouraging it to commit more such violations as long as it is able to escape punishment."
Ironically, it is Shtayyeh's Palestinian Authority that "sends the wrong messages" by rewarding terrorism -- in cash -- instead of holding the attackers accountable. Paying for murder in lieu of negotiating is not what the Palestinians committed to in the Oslo Accords or any other agreement.
All the same, Shtayyeh is extremely worried about the rights of terrorists living both in Israel and under the rule of his government in the West Bank. He apparently wants to make sure that while he continues to fund the families of the terrorists in the West Bank, the Arab terrorists in Israel will be able to maintain their citizenship, live a pleasant life inside Israel and be able to continue murdering Jews.
This is about to change, it seems -- and that is why the Palestinian leaders are having a fit.
Israel has had enough of seeing murderers released to the cheers and parades of a hero's welcome, as witnessed recently with the release of Israeli Arab citizen Karim Younis, who murdered an Israeli soldier in 1980.
After being carried on the shoulders of an admiring crowd, Younis declared that he would gladly do it again if given the chance. "I'm prepared to serve another 40 years in order to liberate the homeland of the Palestine," he was quoted as saying.
To ensure that more terrorists do not get the chance to continue murdering Jews, 94 members of the Israeli parliament, in an unusually cross-spectrum representation, voted in favor of the recent legislation.
Minister of Knesset Ofir Katz, commenting on the bill, said:
"Let there be no mistake... it doesn't matter if it is a terror organization or a lone terrorist. I promise the bereaved families who are here or are watching us... we will not allow a situation where, while our brothers are bleeding to death, just a few meters away the families of the terrorists will joyfully hand out candy."
The intriguing thing is that Palestinian officials who are upset by this bill seem extremely worried about "Palestinian rights to citizenship," but only in Israel -- not in Lebanon or Jordan.
In Lebanon, Palestinians, with rare exceptions, are not permitted citizenship, period. They are prohibited from owning property, from working in most desirable vocations, and are denied even the most basic government welfare services. Palestinians are considered by Lebanese authorities as "refugees."
"Palestinian camps in Lebanon are ghetto-like settlements, sometimes surrounded by segregation walls, barbed wire and military surveillance," according to Lebanese journalist Sawssan Abou-Zahr. "They are overcrowded and unorganized concrete blocks with decaying infrastructure."
The Lebanese government's human rights record regarding the Palestinians in its country is beyond dismal.
Instead of addressing the criminal treatment of his people in Lebanon and seeking reforms, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in his 2017 visit to Lebanon, was seen hobnobbing with celebrities at the Arab Idol television show. Somehow, he missed visiting a single Palestinian refugee camp.
One of the camp residents bitterly noted:
"Abbas doesn't know about suffering and us being deprived of civil rights and the right to work, and Abbas doesn't care about the living conditions of the people here."
Another asked, "Why did he come?... Did anything change.... will we be able to own property or get passports and travel to other countries?"
The answer is no.
In Jordon, Palestinians are permitted citizenship but can easily be stripped of it. This problem does not seem to be of urgent concern for either the Palestinian Authority or Abbas, although there has been a lot of mutual back-patting and behind-the-scenes coordination.
The advocacy group Minority Rights spells out the situation:
"... the Jordanian government has engaged in a policy of stripping some Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship, often on apparently arbitrary grounds... and had few practical avenues through which to appeal the decision.... [Jordan] has also engaged in refoulement of Palestinian refugees to Syria, in contravention of international law."
According to a report from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, when Palestinians in Jordan are stripped of their citizenship,
"children... can be barred entrance to, or expelled from, public schools.... Palestinians.... can be fired from current employment no matter the length of time or status in such a position.... and have rendered lifetimes of work and experience irrelevant."
Worse, Palestinians stripped of citizenship in Jordan can no longer "obtain certain medical treatment free or at low cost at public health facilities. Stateless Palestinians are excluded from those benefits."
Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah II are working together for political control rather than out of any actual concern for the Palestinians' condition. As for stripping thousands of Palestinian-Jordanian
's of citizenship, "Jordanian officials have defended the practice as a means to counter any future Israeli plans to transfer the Palestinian population of the Israeli-occupied West Bank to Jordan." Needless to say, this is a false accusation and another libel against Israel.
Whether in Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank or anywhere else, Abbas, Shtayyeh and the Palestinian Authority are not worried about the rights of Palestinians, their citizenship, or international law. What these Palestinian leaders are worried about are the rights of terrorists -- far more than they worry about the living standards or economic hardship that millions of their people face in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The motivation, sadly, seems to be shoring up their own political power at the expense of their people.
They seem concerned about "Palestinian rights" only when it can involve delegitimizing Israel.
The Biden Administration and the European Union, meanwhile, continue to provide political and financial support to the Palestinian Authority without demanding an end to Abbas's "pay-for-slay" "jobs program" that incentivizes and rewards the murder of Jews, or the ongoing campaign to defend the "rights of terrorists."
By their silence, the Biden Administration and the European Union are sending a message to the Palestinians that it is perfectly all right to finance terrorism and murder Jews.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab Based in the Middle East.