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As the Jerusalem Post's Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported Monday, over the weekend he and the newspaper fell victim to a Fatah hoax. Saturday, Abu Toameh was "summoned" to Fatah's General Intelligence headquarters in Ramallah where he was given a "scoop" - a graphic videotape of the murder of a 16-year-old girl in July perpetrated as a so-called "honor killing." The Fatah officer in Ramallah supplied Abu Toameh with the phone numbers of two "eye-witnesses" to the episode who would corroborate the story.
It later worked out that the "eye-witnesses" were Fatah militiamen in Gaza. The story was a fabrication. The video was taken in Iraq in April. The purpose of the elaborately crafted tale was clear. Fatah wished to use the Post to project itself as a credible, moderate actor battling the forces of evil and darkness in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Abu Toameh had written up the story and it appeared on The Jerusalem Post's Web site on Saturday night. It was removed when the Post was alerted to the hoax and did not appear in the Sunday paper.
Abu Toameh's forthright admission of his error and his report in Monday's paper of the anatomy of the Fatah ruse is a testament to his own journalistic integrity. But he is not the issue here. The issue here is Fatah and what the hoax tells us about the organization on which the Olmert government and the Bush administration are basing all their plans for a future peace between the Palestinians and the State of Israel.
As Abu Toameh noted, the false videotape was Fatah's second propaganda story last week. Wednesday, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's terrorist organization's propaganda services announced that its forces in Bethlehem had intercepted two rockets "ready for launch" against Israel in the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala. They further announced that they had turned the rockets over to the IDF. This story, which came as Abbas was meeting with US President George W. Bush and other world leaders at the UN in New York, of course projected the image of Fatah as a terror-fighting, Israel-protecting, peace-seeking, credible, moderate actor.
SPEAKING to The Washington Post on Thursday, Abbas used the story to explain why Israel should feel comfortable giving Fatah all of Judea and Samaria and half of Jerusalem. Responding to a question regarding his view of Israel's concern that areas transferred to Palestinian control will be used as operational bases for carrying out attacks against its cities Abbas said, "Last night, [our security forces] seized two rockets. We handed [them] over to the Israelis. We are very worried about these deeds and I think we can put an end to all this. Our security apparatus is ready to stop all kinds of violence."
The Washington Post published the interview without noting that the story was a total fabrication. The "rockets" that Fatah transferred to the IDF were just a pile of metal pipes which had apparently been used as toys by local children. The IDF had already noted that the rockets weren't real when The Washington Post conducted its interview with Abbas. Unlike Abu Toameh and The Jerusalem Post, The Washington Post and its veteran reporter Lally Weymouth saw no reason to mention that Abbas's anti-terror credentials were based on nothing but lies manufactured by his own propaganda arms.
AND THAT'S the thing. Since Fatah's creation in 1959 its primary weapon has been disinformation and its primary asset has been the Western media's willingness to be duped and stay duped. What is notable about the honor killing video story is not that it was false, but that The Jerusalem Post acknowledged that it had been lied to.
But today, even the media's complicity with Fatah's lies cannot hold a candle to Fatah's newfound, greatest asset - the Israeli government.
In reacting to the rocket hoax, which caused a minor panic among Jerusalem residents, the IDF went out if its way to cover for Fatah. Although they noted that the rockets were fake, the IDF spokespeople applauded Fatah for giving its metal pipes to Israel.
Yet, the IDF's embrace of Fatah's hoax is nothing compared to the treatment the terror organization receives from the Olmert government. Monday the government enthusiastically released 87 mainly Fatah-affiliated terrorists from prison. Speaking to a delegation of policemen and women on Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised that these of prisoners - many of whom police officers like the ones who met with Olmert risked their lives arresting - were only the first batch of many still to be set free.
My government, Olmert stated happily, wants to drastically reduce the number of terrorists in our prisons. Actually, he didn't call them terrorists. He called them "security prisoners." Among those sent home on Monday were men who conducted shooting attacks at Israeli motorists and laid bombs to murder Israelis. Some of the men had held contacts with state sponsors of terrorism. Racad Sallam, for instance oversaw terror financing ties with Saddam Hussein's regime. In short the men released on Monday are enemies of the State of Israel who have dedicated themselves to the murder of Israelis. They were convicted and imprisoned for their actions by duly authorized Israeli courts.
But none of this is mentioned by the government. Olmert and his colleagues extol Monday's move as a confidence building gesture towards Abbas. Its aim is to shore up his support among the Palestinians to give them confidence in Abbas's ability to secure their interests.
No mention is made of the fact that there is something terribly wrong with Palestinian society which views these attempted murderers as heroes and champions of their cause. The fact that Abbas says there is a direct link between his political strength and the freeing of these terrorists is not viewed as significant. The basic immorality of a society that praises the murderers of innocent people is similarly given no attention whatsoever by the government in its mad rush to "strengthen Abbas."
And of course no one says a peep about the simple fact that by releasing these men and pledging to release still more terrorists from jail, Olmert and his colleagues signal to the Palestinians that from their perspective, the Palestinian desire to kill Jews is basically legitimate.
SINCE HAMAS'S takeover of Gaza in June, the Olmert government has only had positive things to say about Abbas. Olmert and his colleagues make no mention of the fact that until the Hamas takeover, Fatah - with Abbas at its helm - was a junior partner in Hamas's "unity government." Abbas isn't the only beneficiary of the Olmert government's embrace of the Fatah hoax.
In the interests of "strengthening" Abbas and Fatah, last week Infrastructures Minister and former defense minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer recommended releasing Fatah terror chief and convicted mass murderer Marwan Barghouti from prison. Ben Eliezer and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai defend their position by extolling Barghouti as "the new Yasser Arafat." It was during Ben Eliezer's tenure as defense minister that the IDF arrested Barghouti in April 2002. Four months later, the State Prosecution submitted his indictment. Israel indicted Barghouti of 26 counts of premeditated murder, accessory to murder, solicitation of murder, attempted murder, criminal conspiracy, membership in a terrorist organization and terrorist activity.
The indictment explained how from 2000 until his arrest, Barghouti, among other things, set up Fatah's terror arms in Tanzim and the Aksa Martyr's Brigades; coordinated and often ordered Fatah's terrorist operations; mobilized and recruited terrorists by inciting murder and financing it; oversaw operational collaboration between Fatah and Hamas; and told the terror cells when to attack and when to hold their fire.
IN ITS 2004 verdict, the Tel Aviv District Court found Barghouti guilty of five counts of murder. Regarding the other murders, the court felt he had "moral responsibility" but that he had no "legal responsibility," for the carnage he directed, incited and financed.
While leading the Palestinian jihad against Israel, Barghouti also served as a propagandist for Fatah and Arafat toward the Israeli Left, (that is, the Israeli media) and the international media. At the same time he was ordering the murder of Israeli civilians, he was meeting with Israeli and international "peace activists," and speaking of the need for a "two-state solution."
The Israeli Left went nuts after his arrest and its leaders - first and foremost Meretz chief Yossi Beilin - have been calling for his release ever since. And now the man who signed his arrest warrant agrees. In an interview with Army Radio last week, Ben Eliezer explained that freeing Barghouti is necessary to "strengthen Fatah" against Hamas. Rather than castigating Barghouti for his close ties to Hamas, Ben Eliezer presented them as an attribute. In his words, the arch-terrorist is "well-respected by Hamas." He then said, "For us he might be a murderer, but I'd like to remind you that Arafat was no less of a murderer, and we approached him as well."
Ben-Eliezer failed to note the irony of his statement. Yes, Israel "approached" Arafat and lo and behold, Arafat remained a murderer committed to Israel's destruction. As a result of Israel's decision to "approach" Arafat, some 1,500 Israelis are dead today and Palestinian society is the most jihadist society in the world. Indeed, Barghouti's close relations with Hamas perhaps make him attractive to a terror-obsessed Palestinian public, but still that public - in Barghouti's own hometown of Ramallah - voted overwhelmingly for Hamas in the January 2006 elections where the imprisoned Barghouti headed Fatah's candidates slate.
Fatah has only benefited from its devotion to the big lie of peace loving murderers. The question is why has the Olmert government decided to embrace it?