Palestinian Major General Jibril Rajoub, Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and the president of the Palestinian Football Federation and the Palestine Olympic Committee, spoke to reporters at United Nations headquarters in New York on June 6th. He was accompanied by Palestine’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Riad Mansur.
Jibril Rajoub told reporters that promoting the ethics and values of sport in youth was a strategic choice for Palestine. He promised to remain committed to the Olympic Charter and to abide by the statutes of the International Federation and other relevant sporting and youth organizations.
Rajoub used the platform provided by the UN to accuse Israel of “suffocating” violations of the Olympic Charter and the International Federation of Football Associations statutes by interfering in Palestinian sports activities and restricting the freedom of movement of Palestinian athletes, including between Hamas-controlled Gaza and the West Bank. Then, appearing to take the high road, Rajoub declared: “Instead of throwing grenades on each other, let us throw balls.” As discussed below, however, Rajoub speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He is a grenade thrower at heart, remaining true to his terrorist past.
I asked Rajoub during his UN press conference to comment, in his capacity as president of the Palestine Olympic Committee, on the Palestinians’ unique contribution to the Olympic Games – the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre by Palestinian terrorists that took the lives of eleven innocent Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer.
“We should look forward, not dig into the past,” Jibril Rajoub said. He claimed he never supported the attack on civilian athletes, but castigated Israel, which “keep[s] using” the forty-year-old incident to serve its own purposes. This cavalier dismissal of the lingering effects of the unprecedented Olympic Games massacre on the Israeli psyche may explain in part why Rajoub called a simple request for a minute of silence at the July 2012 Olympics to remember the eleven murdered Israeli athletes “racist.” However, a fuller answer requires some digging into Rajoub’s own past as a Palestinian terrorist.
Indeed, Rajoub’s moderate-sounding rhetoric to UN reporters suggesting that the throwing of grenades be replaced with the throwing of balls is ironic, to say the least, considering that back in September 1970 he was arrested and convicted for throwing a grenade at an Israeli army bus near Hebron. Although he received a life sentence for the attack, Rajoub was released from prison as one of 1,150 Arab prisoners freed in exchange for three Israeli hostages held by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Rajoub quickly returned to his terrorist ways upon his release in 1985 and was in and out of prison several times thereafter. He became a close associate of Yasser Arafat, whom he recently called “the greatest Palestinian since Jesus.” As Arafat’s loyal lieutenant, Rajoub helped organize the first intifada and was allegedly behind a 1992 plot to assassinate Ariel Sharon. He was also the aide and advisor of Khalil al Wazir – aka Abu Jihad – the commander of Black September in the early 70s – the very same group that committed the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.
That’s all in the distant past, Jibril Rajoub would have us now believe. Today he is only interested in pursuing “peaceful means” to further the Palestinian cause, he told reporters at his UN press conference last week. Yet this “reformed” grenade thrower and confidante of Yasser Arafat was singing his old terrorist tune in August 2009 when, during an interview with Al Jazeera, he stated that “We [Fatah] adhere to all options and first and foremost, the option of resistance and armed struggle.”
In 2010, Rajoub lauded the use of grenades as part of the “resistance.” In an appearance on Palestinian TV (Fatah), he said that use of grenades was just as valid a “resistance” tactic as building a school: “Building a school and throwing a hand grenade, in my opinion, are resistance. I build the school in order to strengthen the reasons for my people’s resolve, as one of several aspects of the resistance, and when there is a need to throw a grenade [or launch] a rocket, I’ll do that as well out of my belief in the inevitable victory of my cause and its justness.”
In 2011, Rajoub represented the Palestinian Authority at a reception for Palestinian prisoners released under the terms of the deal that freed the young Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. He praised Shalit’s kidnappers: “I say in the name of the Fatah movement — we salute those who dug the tunnel [to capture the Israeli soldier]; we salute those who captured the captive (Gilad Shalit), and salute those who guarded the captive until this deal was completed. I salute our courageous prisoners and I say to you — [I cannot] describe you, neither as heroes, nor as courageous, nor anything else. There are no words in the Arab dictionary, nor in any other dictionary, to describe you, but this modest reception is [our] utmost honor to you, your history, and your families.”
Many of the released Palestinian prisoners whom Rajoub was extolling were terrorists, presumably following in Rajoub’s own bloody footsteps.
To a Palestinian audience last November, Rajoub said (as transcribed by the Middle East Media Research Institute): “We shall only return our swords to their sheaths when the [Palestinian] state is established, your hopes are realized, and the refugees return.”
And just last month, to underscore that he would stop at nothing to destroy the Jewish state if the Palestinians had the means, Rajoub declared on the Hezbollah-affiliated television network Al Mayadeen that “I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning” (as reported by the Palestinian Media Watch).
In other words, everything for Jibril Rajoub is about resisting the “enemy” Israel through all means possible. Violence is still on the table. Throwing grenades, not soccer balls, at Israelis is still a part of Rajoub’s playbook, as well as launching rockets and even using nuclear weapons if the Palestinian terrorists ever get their hands on them.
At the same time, Rajoub has exploited his Palestine Olympic Committee position to try and delegitimize Israel in the international sports world. He offered to lead a campaign to expel Israel from all international Olympic unions and committees. Sports in Palestine is “one of the methods of resistance” against Israel, Rajoub was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying during a seminar last year in Ramallah. In this regard, Palestinian youth had a particularly important role to play in maintaining a “permanent state of confrontation” with Israel.
In an interview with AFP, the terrorist-turned-president of the Palestine Olympic Committee boasted that “sport in Palestine is a means to achieve national goals” as well as “a tool of struggle to present the Palestinian cause.”
Playing sports for its own sake, and to promote more understanding between Palestinian and Israeli youth who may be the leaders of tomorrow, is not part of Rajoub’s agenda. Quite the contrary. During the opening of the first forum for Arab women sports journalists last year, for example, Rajoub spewed out his hatred of Jews: “I understand by normalization that the relationship between me and you will be normal, that we’ll play [sports] together and there’ll be a joint program. I say to you: Under no circumstances will there be normalization. Next time we are prepared to bring the Executive Committee in helicopters… so they will see no Jews, no Satans, no Zionist sons of bitches.”
Thus, it is no surprise that Rajoub spurns all opportunities for joint sporting events intended to foster better relationships between Israelis and Palestinians at the non-political community level. For example, he summarily rejected the invitation of the star-studded soccer team Barcelona FC to play what it described as a “bridge-building” exhibition match for “peace” this summer against a joint Israeli-Palestinian team. He claimed there were too many “obstacles” to allow a joint match. Israeli “occupation” must end first, he said in rejecting the invitation.
What does Rajoub mean by “occupation?” He tells Western audiences that he believes in a two-state solution, based on the pre-June 1967 lines, with minor adjustments. However, to his Arabic audiences, he lays out a vision that would ultimately eliminate the Jewish state altogether. “As God is my witness,” he said in 2010, “I’m sure every tract of historical Palestine between the sea and the River Jordan will return to the way it was before.”
The next time the president of the Palestinian Football Federation and the Palestine Olympic Committee, Major General Jibril Rajoub, tries to convince Western audiences of his dedication to peaceful sports and talks about throwing balls instead of grenades, it will be long past time to call foul.
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