Allowing senior Palestinian Arab politician Saeb Erekat into Israel to be hospitalized for treatment of coronavirus was a major government blunder. It needs to be analyzed for future reference. Erekat held many positions in the Palestinian Authority. In 2015, he became the secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He was admitted to Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital on October 18. He passed away there from the virus on November 10.
Hadassah apparently played no role in the decision to let Erekat into Israel. After he died, the head of the hospital’s intensive care unit explicitly said that patients are not treated according to their politics.
Erekat’s hateful anti-Israeli record includes ongoing support of Palestinian Authority payments to terrorist murderers of Jews, the spreading of the huge lie that 500 Palestinians were killed by the IDF at the Jenin refugee camp after the terrorist attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya where 30 Jews were murdered and 140 injured in 2002. The real number of Palestinian Arab casualties in Jenin was 52, mainly (over 80%) armed men. 23 IDF soldiers were killed. Erekat supported boycotts of Israel as well as actions against Israel at the International Court of Justice.
We do not know what motivated Erekat, or his family, to seek treatment in Israel. The far more important question is why did Israel let him in? One prominent reason given in the media is humanitarianism. This is a greatly distorted version of the concept. There was nothing ethical about letting a man with such a major anti-Israeli record into the country. That would only have been the case if Erekat could not have been treated anywhere else in the world. Yet the ailing Erekat could have been brought to a hospital in an Arab, Muslim or European country.
We might also recall here that toward the end of his life Arafat was brought to France to die. Erekat could not have expected anything like President Jacques Chirac’s glorification of Arafat from President Emanuel Macron. Yet even a tiny percent of this honor might have been worthwhile.
Retired Israeli diplomat Freddy Eytan has described the absurd levels Chirac went to in order to pay tribute to Arafat. At the time of his death, it was already known from documents found in the Orient House, the former Palestinian headquarters in Jerusalem, that Arafat had personally signed off on the money individual terrorists would receive for specific murders of Jews.
Eytan wrote “Chirac was the first head of state to offer Arafat treatment in exile when he became terminally ill. No Arab leader had either the courage or the desire to do so publicly. Chirac remained loyal to Arafat until his death.
“After Arafat's death, Chirac went far beyond the requirements of protocol. It would be difficult to find in modern times another head of a democratic country who paid such homage to a warrior chief of a virtual state…” Chirac remained loyal to Arafat until his death. On 11 November, Jacques Chirac bowed before Arafat's remains.
Eytan adds: "On the tarmac of the airforce base of Villacoublay, Arafat's coffin was covered by the Palestinian flag and carried by eight French soldiers to the sound of Chopin's 'March of the Dead.' Three companies of the Republican Guard paid their honors. The military band played the Palestinian 'national hymn' and the 'Marseillaise.' French and Palestinian flags were blowing in the wind when an A309 airbus of the airforce flew Arafat's remains to Cairo. It was escorted by another French plane with the foreign minister on board. This procedure went beyond any good sense.”
There is a second negative aspect concerning Erekat in Jerusalem. After his death various Israeli politicians and figures --mainly, but not only on the left -- expressed condolences. This might have been more subdued had Erekat not died in Israel.
Among those were current Labour leader and minister Amir Peretz, one of his Labour predecessors Shelly Yachimovich, Meretz leader Nissan Horowitz and one of his predecessors Yossi Beilin, Furthermore, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who had been in jail for corruption, former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni and even Likud Settlements Minister Tzachi Hanegbi. Most of these people falsely stressed that Erekat was a man of peace. They intentionally forgot to mention that, among other things, he frequently supported payments to murderers of Jews.
The behavior of these Israelis has a strong similarity to that of Jews in exile traditionally known as galut Jews. They regularly prostrate themselves before their enemies. How can a responsible Israeli who is in favor of peace praise a person who has supported payments to the murderers of Jews? You can, apparently, if you are a Jewish masochist. Such scandalous statements of praise are profoundly unworthy statements. They provide an additional perspective on the distorted mindsets of leading figures, mainly on the Israeli left.
Various foreign media eulogized without mentioning his support of awarding the murder of Jews. Some were written by their correspondents in Israel and could have easily been exposed by the Israeli authorities. Yet their continued negligence on this issue is well known.
The story of Erekat’s illness and death and the reactions to it are a necessary case study of Israel’s poorly thought through behavior when dealing with the Palestinian Authority.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has been a strategic advisor for more than thirty years to some of the Western world’s leading corporations. Among the honors he received was the 2019 International Lion of Juda Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the recognized leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism. His main book on the subject is: The War of a Million Cuts The struggle against the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews and the growth of New antisemitism.