Palestinians “retain the moral high ground” with “mass peaceful nonviolent resistance,” “Ambassador” Husam S. Zomlot of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) absurdly proclaimed on February 1 at Washington, DC’s anti-Israel Jerusalem Fund. Such outlandish, strident claims from the PLO General Delegation to the United States call into question the value of a PLO representative in America’s capital, as well as the wider Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Zomlot’s inaccuracies begin with the very title under which he addressed the Jerusalem Fund, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has noted. “Given that the Palestinian mission in Washington is not an embassy, Zomlot is not an ambassador. He is an envoy, or head of the delegation,” CAMERA has explained. Nonetheless, such distinctions are of little concern to this longstanding Palestinian propagandist and supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
The PLO’s long terrorist history and terrorism incitement by the Palestinian Authority (PA) created under the 1993 Oslo Accords appear nowhere in Zomlot’s description of a supposedly nonviolent Palestinian conflict with Israel. He distorted an actually violent protest as a “dignified mass protest, mass prayer in Jerusalem” against increased security on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in 2016 after Muslim Arabs used weapons hidden in the Al Aqsa mosque to kill Israeli police officers. “It is not a coincidence that Ahed Tamini is now a Palestinian icon,” he said of the Palestinian adolescent arrested for assaulting Israeli soldiers, and whose relatives have longstanding terrorism ties.
A discerning listener could perceive Zomlot’s fraudulent public relations strategy of a Palestinian David nobly withstanding an Israeli Goliath. “A nation must always look and find where it is strongest and we are not the strongest in the military arena,” he said of Palestinians after decades of Muslim Arab aggression failed to destroy Israel. “We are strongest in the moral arena, in the political arena, in the legal arena,” he claimed improbably, while Israel “is inflicting indescribable pain and horror on millions of people” with an “irresponsible living by the sword mentality.”
Zomlot’s Palestinians live either under the PA’s corrupt dictatorship or Hamas’ jihadist totalitarianism in the Gaza Strip, yet he described them as a people committed to rule of law both domestically and internationally. Palestinians have a “solid conviction in the importance of respecting and maintaining an international order,” he said, with an obvious emphasis on institutions such as the United Nations (UN), where the Palestinian cause has its strongest support. Meanwhile, “our most important weapon…our commitment to a democratic political system must be unwavering; we cannot face up all the challenges if we do not have the power of the people.”
Zomlot declared that UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) such as the post-1967 war UNSCR 242 were “absolutely crystal clear” and “clear-cut.” In fact, the terms of UNSCR 242 actually leave considerable latitude for negotiations over the extent of Israeli withdrawals from territories won in that war and the drawing up of secure, internationally-recognized Israeli borders. Yet, he claimed, Palestinians “did not accept international resolutions to negotiate the principles of these resolutions. We accepted international resolutions for implementation of international law. It was never up for further compromise.”
One possible solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for Zomlot was “full sovereignty on the entire land that Israel occupied in 1967,” without the slightest deviation in Israel’s favor at Jerusalem’s Western Wall or anywhere else. He suggested that Palestinians would already be generous enough in recognizing an Israeli state on the 78 percent of British Palestine Mandate territory that Israel held in its 1948 independence war. “For a nation that has been able to concede 78 percent of what is its own land for the sake of peace, it is unacceptable to consider further compromises….We will not receive any proposal one centimeter less.”
Zomlot’s territorial red line entailed dividing Jerusalem anew. He falsely ascribed central importance to Jerusalem for Palestinian identity, even though Muslims historically have often neglected this city, which has never been a capital for anyone other than Jews:
For us, no state of Palestine without East Jerusalem its capital. For us, Jerusalem is not just a city. It is our identity, it’s our compass, it’s our national hub, in every sense, in the historic sense, in the religious sense, in the cultural sense.
Even such an absolutist territorial settlement would not satisfy Zomlot, for he demanded a “right of return” for Palestinians who fled what became Israel in 1948, as well as their far more numerous descendants. “The issue of refugees is the origin of the Palestinian cause; it is the heart of the matter,” he emphasized, while claiming that there are “more than six million of them today, myself included. I was born in a refugee camp.” “My father lost his farm in what has become Israel. I have the right to go and farm my land,” or be compensated, he argued, yet such masses “returning” to Israel would entail the demographic death of Israel’s Jewish state. He failed to mention that 850,000 Jewish refugees fleeing oppression in Middle Eastern and North African countries in the decades following Israel’s creation lost significantly more wealth than did Palestinians in 1948.
Zomlot’s claim that internationally for refugees “there are standards and we are no exception” ignores the unique status of Palestinians under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA). International standards count as refugees only people who have fled their home, not their descendants, but UNWRA has counted as “refugees” an ever growing number of descendants of some 600,000 Palestinian refugees from 1948. This definition thus includes his children born in Sweden.
Zomlot accordingly deplored President Donald Trump’s recent decision to cut funding for UNWRA, an organization known for its infiltration by groups including Hamas, and its role in attacks on Israel. Noting his education in UNWRA schools (known for their incitement of jihadist terrorism), he echoed his introduction by Jerusalem Fund Executive Director Mohamad Mohamad. He lamented that Trump’s “unprecedented step of withholding millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to UNRWA” will “impact critical services needed for Palestinian refugees.”
Zomlot ludicrously tried to cast UNWRA funding as being an American interest, as this
funding was part of an international and U.S. obligation. It makes sense that the U.S. funds its own vision of building two states on the 1967 borders. The U.S. has invested in the infrastructure of peace for all these years.
No Jewish state would survive Zomlot and UNWRA’s definition of refugees, yet he somehow declared that “Palestinians accepted the two-state solution as a concession.” Before 1988, the PLO charter proclaimed “full equal rights in the historic land of Palestine for every citizen” in “one democratic state.” He said that he and other Palestinians would still be willing to consider as an alternative conflict solution this one-state solution that would probably be even less favorable to Jews than Lebanon is towards Christians. He ominously neglected to mention that the charter had specified that only Jews whose direct ancestry in the Holy Land preceding Israel’s Zionist settlement would be allowed to stay.
Yet several audience members found unacceptable even Zomlot’s discussion of a “two-state solution.” “The Israelis rule and we rule too? Two-state solution? What do you mean by that?” asked one incredulous questioner of Palestinian descent. “You may have to cut the land to save your child,” was Zomlot’s response.
Given the undiplomatic, non-negotiable positions of Zomlot and his fellow Palestinians, it is questionable what purpose his Washington, DC, PLO office serves. Several American legislators have already proposed closing an exemption to a 1987 American ban on terrorist organizations that allows this PLO presence, just as the Trump Administration has threatened. Responding to questions about these initiatives, Zomlot asserted that the PLO delegation “represents the collective political aspirations of a righteous people. It represents decades of struggle.”
Contrary to Zomlot, these decades of unrelenting Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state necessitate more pressure to break a Palestinian will still seeking Israel’s destruction, as the Israel Victory Project has advocated. Pointless negotiations will only fan the implacable vanities of people like him who blather myths about a historically new Palestinian identity supposedly representing a “very proud nation, very rooted.” He can peddle such propaganda to the Jerusalem Fund, called by him a “Palestinian icon of perseverance,” and its audience members, such as BDS-supporter Paul Verduin and Arab League Ambassador Salah A. Sarhan. Yet the American government should not waste efforts on people such as Zomlot, who can hardly undertake the “direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel” stipulated by the PLO delegation’s terrorism law exemption.