What is the media going to do now that its favorite go-to-guy is no longer the Palestinian Authority’s most visible spokesperson? Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has resigned as a result of the leak of the so-called Palestinian Papers to the media. Referring to Al-Jazeera’s role in the Palileaks saga, Erekat attacked the network:
What Al-Jazeera did was the most unfair smear campaign of taking things out of context, taking half-sentences, to score a point.
It’s odd that Erekat should accuse the media of distorting the truth. Over the years, Erekat himself has been the source of numerous distortions about Israel that have appeared in the media.
Most (in)famously in 2002, as Israel mounted Operation Defensive Shield in response to the Palestinian terror campaign, Erekat falsely accused Israel of carrying out a “massacre” in the Jenin refugee camp:
The numbers of killed could reach 500 since the Israeli offensive began. Thousands of wounded. The Jenin refugee camp is no longer in existence, and now we’ve heard of executions there. – Erekat on CNN, April 10, 2002
A few days later, Erekat again appeared on CNN, interviewed by Bill Hemmer:
HEMMER: OK. You brought up Jenin, and you used the word massacre there. Earlier this week, you said 500 Palestinians were killed there. Do you still stand behind those numbers in the refugee camp?
EREKAT: I said 523 were killed actually since the incursions began throughout the West Bank, and I asked you a question, Bill.
HEMMER: But you said specifically and others said 500 in Jenin. Where are you getting the evidence that shows 500 people were killed there?
EREKAT: I don’t have evidence. I really can not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but I ask one question. What do the Israelis have to hide?
. . .
HEMMER: … Back to my question though, Israelis say the number of dead is less than 100, closer to 70. The defense minister said that on Sunday morning. If their numbers are right and your initial numbers are wrong, will you come back here on our network and retract what you said?
EREKAT: Absolutely. Absolutely, Bill, and I hope that the numbers will be nothing. I hope the numbers will be zero, because every human life (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and count for me. I have 1,600 names, missing people from the refugee camp. I have mothers calling me speaking about missing their daughters, their sons. I have husbands missing their wives. I have parents missing their grandparents.
Nine years later and we are still waiting for Erekat’s retraction. Despite this, the media continued to call upon the camera-friendly, English-speaking and well-presented Erekat for comments that regularly reinforced the demonization of Israel, responding to events with unsubstantiated accusations and libels.
Erekat was always prepared to employ the language of demonization, referring to Israel as “an apartheid regime worse than that of South Africa.”
Only recently, Erekat accused Israel of carrying out a “war crime” following the death of a Palestinian woman allegedly as a result of Israeli tear gas – an allegation that was, like the Jenin “massacre”, a libel.
Demonstrating his penchant for never letting verifiable facts get in the way, Erekat also accused Israel of carrying out a “war crime” over its handling of the Gaza flotilla.
Here, Erekat, back in 2002, claimed in a live interview on CNN that Israeli forces were attacking Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah compound, describing the shooting, shelling and the injury to a Palestinian policeman that the Israelis were preventing from being evacuated by ambulance. During the interview, CNN crossed over live to its correspondent some 200 meters from the Ramallah compound to find out what was going on there … absolutely nothing.
Indeed, Saeb Erekat is an habitual liar and offers a prime example of how the media favors charismatic personalities at the expense of integrity and credibility. We hope that the resignation of Erekat will also mark the end of his regular appearances on screen and in print although we doubt it. No longer accountable to the PA, perhaps Erekat’s lies and spin will become even more pronounced. Will the media even care?
So it’s goodbye to Saeb Erekat – you will not be missed. If indeed it was an Al-Jazeera smear campaign that forced you out then all we can say is: What goes around comes around.