Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks at a news conference in Ramallah, on Aug. 23. 2010. Photo by Issan Rimawi/Flash90.
by Jonathan Feldstein
Bless Saeb Erakat’s heart, and lungs.
If you don’t know who Erekat is, you’re to be forgiven. Global media rarely highlight terrorist leaders unless they are masterminds behind some atrocity, and specifically not when they are terrorist leaders who kill Jews.
Erekat is a leader of the Palestinian Authority and its subset terror group, Fatah (the PLO). He’s been an especially visible face among PA leaders for decades, as a senior negotiator in talks with Israel, including the Oslo accords. He was a senior adviser to former PLO terrorist leader Yasser Arafat, and current PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
This week he was admitted to one of Israel’s top hospitals in critical condition from COVID-19, made all the more complicated with his medical history, including a 2017 lung transplant.
Erekat’s being transported and admitted to an Israeli hospital despite the PA severing ties with Israel, and its history of incitement and violence against Israel, is a paradox at best. To put it in perspective, hostility toward Israel is such a part of Palestinian Arab culture that were it a sport, Saeb Erakat would be its national team’s clean-up batter.
I’m mixed about whether Israel should have allowed Erekat to come to an Israeli hospital. He’s not the first senior Palestinian Arab terror leader to be given that opportunity, while average PA residents have to get by with third-world medical care. Rather than investing in building a society of their own, for which they have had no shortage of opportunity or funding, the average Palestinian Arab suffers due to the PA’s failed leadership.
The hateful lies and rhetoric against Israel that spew from the likes of Erekat and others has hijacked a whole society; along with their squandering money, refusing to cooperate with Israel, much less actually make peace, highlight the duplicity of the PA leadership. It’s no irony that when they practice their anti-Israel rhetoric, they look in the mirror and see the true culprit.
Jewish law teaches that saving a life supersedes nearly everything. The Talmud states, “He who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the world.” But does that mean Israel has the obligation to save a specific life? The life of a terror leader? Could Erekat have not gone to a Jordanian hospital close to his home in Jericho?
Other than showing our humanity, does Israel gain anything by saving Erekat’s life, forget using a bed and resources that an Israeli might need?
If one agrees Israel is doing the right thing, does anyone believe that if Erekat dies, Israel won’t be blamed? Conversely If he recovers will Israel doing the right thing mean a change in heart if not tone from the PA? Will it end incitement and terror? Bring peace? Or is it good enough just to “do the right thing?”
Some Israeli Knesset members said Israel should demand concessions from the PA for this gesture, specifically from Hamas in Gaza. That’s laughable, because Hamas could care less if Erekat survives. If he lives, Hamas will call out Erekat’s duplicity, if not traitorous action, in coming to an Israeli hospital, despite the fact that Hamas leaders and their families have also been treated in Israeli hospitals. If Erekat dies, they will blame Israel. The PA has virtually no influence over Hamas, which cynically and evilly holds Israeli hostages and the remains of Israeli soldiers.
There is no end to evil rhetoric and lies propagated by PA and Hamas leaders along with their incitement to terror and violence, and blaming Israel for all their problems. Arab states are now articulating this publicly. Why should Israel enable that?
Yes, this shows that we value life while they don’t. Does that matter? As one friend wrote, “Is Israel doing the right thing? Of course. Will it be blamed if he dies? Most likely. If he recovers will it create peace? No, highly doubtful.”
Another friend shared, “It’s lose, lose. If he dies, we’ll be accused of killing him. If he lives, he continues spreading his toxic lies about us.”
A friend who lives near Erekat’s home in Jericho provided some more depth to the issue. “I understand (and agree) that doctors should treat all ill people irrespective of their actions or politics. Israeli hospitals should treat Erekat and do their utmost to ensure he recuperates from his illness. (But) Erekat is a leader of the PA, number two in the organization… (more) a corrupt crime syndicate than a government entity. The PA pays terrorists based on how many Jews they kill. It teaches children, through the curriculum in their textbooks, to hate Jews, and honors Arabs who have successfully killed Jews. Erekat is key player in these policies. I wish the doctors well, and I would not pray for his demise. But I will not be praying for Erakat’s recovery. I will not pray for someone who takes steps to kill my family. I live less than 10 minutes away from Erakat, and my children and I have been stoned by his neighbors. Would (you) pray for someone who incentivizes others to kill your children?”
Erekat is not just getting the best medical care in the region, if not the world, he’s getting a privilege that most Palestinian Arabs are not only denied, but told to reject. The PA instructs its residents to avoid “normalcy” with Israel, from buying Israeli products to shopping in Israeli stores. It’s a rare Palestinian Arab who gets the privilege of coming to an Israeli hospital, and privilege it is.
In Erekat’s case, he’s not only connected to a ventilator, but also to an ECMO machine, artificially oxygenating his blood. This special device is a last resort for patients whose bodies can’t absorb enough oxygen, even on a ventilator. According to a news report in Israel, Erekat’s daughter, Salam, affirmed this. “My father is still in the intensive care unit. His condition is stable with ventilator support. Today, he was connected to the ECMO machine to support the lung and prevent its damage. God willing, his condition will improve.”
A friend in Israel vented, Erekat “accuse(s) us of war crimes in international forums, making up all sorts of lies, aid(s) and abet(s) terror, but suddenly when they don’t feel well, they want our help. Helping them has proven that it doesn’t affect their behavior.” Then he added sarcastically, “Maybe after he leaves, the head of Shabak (Israel’s internal security) should thank him for his assistance and providing important information,” suggesting that Erekat is an informer and putting a price on his head among other Palestinian Arab terrorists.
When Erekat was taken to the Israeli hospital a Fatah (PLO) spokesman tweeted that the Jerusalem hospital was chosen because it is the nearest one that has the necessary equipment and staff to deal with Erekat’s needs. This intersection of hypocrisy and blind hatred is transparent.
Who gets Palestinian privilege? Their terror leaders. Do average Palestinian Arabs who don’t have the privilege to get hooked up to an expensive piece of life saving Israeli medical equipment, have the best doctors in the country, and consulting with the best doctors in other countries understand this, or care?
Do they understand how their leaders hypocritically and selfishly keep Palestinian Arabs in a state of victimhood? Will they demand better; better hospitals, education, building a non-corrupt society, or are they content to be part of a lose-lose equation and try to destroy ours?