Fact #7: Arab leaders have been abusing the Palestinians for political gain since the beginning of the conflict
Certainly the most tragic example of Palestinian leaders abusing their own people is their explicit policy of maximizing their own civilian casualties in order to generate worldwide condemnation against Israel. Both Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon intentionally put their own civilians in harm's way by firing rockets from civilian areas, including hospitals, mosques, schools, UN posts, residential areas, and foreign press buildings. Hamas fighters have grabbed children off the streets to use as human shields, made their war headquarters under the largest hospital in Gaza, and booby trapped and stored weapons in schools, zoos, civilian buildings, and even their own homes to maximize the carnage. They have prevented civilians from fleeing, broadcast messages on public television and radio calling on women and children to shield their fighters, and killed Palestinians who tried to resist being abused in this way. Civilians who were injured by Israeli attacks in both Gaza and Lebanon have blamed Palestinian terrorists for intentionally drawing fire to their homes. Several Arab leaders have also blamed Hamas and Hizbullah for dragging the region into conflict, including representatives of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority, among others.
Palestinian terrorists also make it extremely difficult for Israeli forces to differentiate between civilians and combatants by abusing humanitarian symbols, including a long history of hijacking ambulances and TV vehicles to transport fighters, explosives and suicide bombers. Both Hamas and Hizbullah have fought behind white flags; their combatants fight wearing civilian clothes and Israeli military uniforms; they have also used the Red Crescent symbol to disguise combatants. In the 2009 Gaza conflict, Hamas increased rocket attacks during the ceasefires, and repeatedly stole humanitarian aid (then tried to sell it back to the people), to the extent that at one point the UN suspended delivery of aid. Hamas has attacked aid trucks and border crossings; stolen fuel; refused aid; converted medicine bottles into grenades; and barred the injured from receiving medical treatment. When issuing requests for international aid, Hamas asks for weapons and fighters, instead of basic commodities for its people. In 2007, a Gaza resident who had been receiving treatment in an Israeli hospital used her medical permit to try to blow herself up in that same hospital.
Palestinians and their supporters also generate blame towards Israel by exaggerating and fabricating civilian suffering for the international media, which routinely proceeds to propagate these claims unquestioningly. “Pallywood” tactics include staging injuries, funerals and power blackouts, doctoring and misrepresenting photos and videos for the press, and wildly exaggerating casualty figures. Several foreign and Palestinian journalists have been threatened and attacked for reporting stories not in keeping with the desired Palestinian image.
The mass abuse of Palestinians at the hands of Arab leaders began with the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem in the War of 1948. Before launching the war, leaders of the invading Arab armies ordered Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes so they could “obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in”. From then until today, Palestinians refugees have been denied basic rights in almost every Arab country where they have sought shelter, including Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. Libya expelled 30,000 of its Palestinian refugees; Kuwait expelled over 400,000. Yasser Arafat himself said that “What Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories.”
According to the Arab League, the explicit policy of denying Palestinians citizenship in other Arab countries and keeping them in “very bad conditions” is in order “to preserve their Palestinian identity”. An Egyptian foreign minister also openly stated that the intention in demanding the right of Palestinian refugees to return “is the extermination of Israel”.
Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza fare no better. Though they are the largest per-capita recipients of aid in the world, their leaders have to a large extent refused to use those funds to improve the conditions of ordinary Palestinians. Instead, several billion dollars in aid were diverted to Yasser Arafat’s personal accounts, while other aid was used to fund terrorism against Israel. The wealthy Arab states, for their part, have remained true to their policy of neglecting the Palestinians by giving only five percent of total aid, much less than they had publicly pledged.
“For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: 'We desire death like you desire life.'”
- Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, 2008 [translation by MEMRI]