- Longtime operative of the PLO and Fatah
Abbas Zaki, (born Sharif Ali Misheal in Hebron in 1943) began his activist career in 1962 when he joined Fatah, the largest political faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1982 Yasser Arafat appointed Zaki as the PLO’s envoy to Yemen, a position he held until he was expelled from that country in 1986. From there Zaki spent the next three years at the PLO’s Tunisian headquarters, where he was an assistant to Mahmoud Abbas, then head of the PLO’s department of national affairs. In 1989 Zaki joined the Fatah Central Committee. Following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005, Zaki was named the PLO representative to Lebanon, a post he retained until 2009, when he was forced to resign by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. At that point, Zaki again became a Central Committee member of Fatah. He continues to hold this post today.
Zaki has used his varied political positions to promote the PLO strategy of engaging in terrorism while simultaneously taking part in sham peace negotiations with Israel, which he characterizes as “an enemy country which owes us certain things.” “The heroic Vietnamese,” he noted in November 2008, “used to negotiate with the French, while they [the Vietnamese] were slaughtering them.” To this end, Zaki wholeheartedly endorses suicide bombings aimed at Israelis, saying in 2009: “I now support any operation that will make the women and men in Israel cry … All those who always flex their muscles, and say they want to slaughter Israel – this is their opportunity … Currently, in light of what is happening to the children of Gaza, any martyrdom operation is permissible, I swear by Allah … Don’t forget we’re Arabs – we believe in blood vengeance …”
Asserting that the Palestinians’ use of terrorism has been given sanction by no less an authority than the United Nations, Zaki noted in July 2009: “We have General Assembly Resolution 3236, [which permits us] to use all means of struggle, including armed struggle…. Therefore, on the strength of international legitimacy, we will wage the campaign on all its fronts.” The details of that campaign can be found in the PLO’s 1974 Ten-Point program which outlines the organization’s plan to systematically, incrementally eradicate the Israeli state, a program that Zaki says “has not changed… even one iota” since it was first established.
In an April 2008 interview, Zaki further articulated the PLO strategy to “procee[d] through phases” until “the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem … [and] drive them [the Jews] out of all of Palestine.” “We believe wholeheartedly that the Right of Return is guaranteed by our will, by our weapons, and by our faith” he affirmed.
In 2009 Zaki explained that a negotiated two-state [Palestinian-Israeli] arrangement could be implemented to serve, temporarily, as a stepping stone toward the ultimate Arab goal of eradicating Israel from the face of the Earth. Said Zaki: “With the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? … They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward.”
Zaki expanded upon this point in a September 2011 television interview on Al-Jazeera, in which he assured viewers that the Palestinian Authority’s public demand for a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 armistice lines was but the first step along the path to a “greater goal”: “The settlement should be based upon the borders of June 4, 1967. When we say that the settlement should be based upon these borders, President [Abbas] understands, we understand, and everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go. If Israel withdraws from Jerusalem, evacuates the 650,000 settlers, and dismantles the wall – what will become of Israel? It will come to an end.”
Zaki further made it clear that the negotiations which the PLO and Fatah had already conducted with Israel were merely part of a long-term strategy based on stealth and deception: “If one says that one wants to wipe Israel out … C’mon, it’s too difficult. It’s not [acceptable] policy to say so. Don’t say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself.” On another occasion, Zaki said of the PLO: “We talk politics, but our principles are clear.”
In an April 2013 interview on Al-Mayadeen TV, Zaki said that “many institutions have determined that Israel, in its stupidity, attacked the U.S. administration and was responsible for 9/11, and was greatly involved in it.”
In December 2016, Zaki participated in a Hamas rally where he paid tribute to the organization’s military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades. Said Zaki: “I salute the Al-Qassam Brigades. Therefore, anyone who bears arms for the sake of Palestine is sacred to us … whether he languishes in prison or is in Paradise…. The restoration of Palestine is the top priority of all our fighters.”
In March 2017, Zaki called on the Fatah terror organization to “recruit tens of thousands Fatah activists to rise up against Israel,” saying: “The sword continues to be aimed, and the gun continues to precede the olive leaf…. This is because what binds us is the fight against Israel, and not the dialogue with Israel, which has already lost its efficiency in every way. The government and Palestinian Liberation Organization’s active committee needs to chase after Israel in international courts, try Israel for its continued crimes, and present everything related to Israel as criminal activity: the settlements, the prisoners, the destruction of the foundations of Palestinian life, arson crimes, murder, demolition of buildings and taking away our nation’s freedom. We must present these as criminal acts in order to class Israel as an apartheid state …”
After U.S. President Donald Trump announced in December 2017 his intent to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Zaki said: “This is clear evidence that Trump has joined terrorism, because occupation is the highest form of terrorism. He is the only U.S. president to accept the Israeli skullcap, and to perform Jewish rites…. Mr. Trump is ignorant. He does not know what place Jerusalem holds in the hearts of the Christians, who believe that Christ was resurrected in Jerusalem … and in the hearts of the Muslims. Our Prophet Muhammad was flown from Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and from there, he ascended the heavens. [Trump] knows nothing of this. This is one lunatic individual, who wants to export the crises he faces in the U.S. to us…. We must boycott this administration, and must not maintain any contact with the head of the serpent.”
In December 2018, Zaki lauded a recent Palestinian terrorist operation in Ramallah that had murdered two Israelis and wounded two others. “We are proudly following the events in the West Bank,” said Zaki. “The young Palestinians are avenging a blood vengeance … This is a great thing.”
In a January 2019 interview, Zaki said: “Wherever there is a problem in the world, behind it is a Zionist fingerprint.”
In February 2019, Zaki said: “We have sworn that we would … condemn anyone who attempts to implement normalization [with Israel] or bypass the PLO…. No one will dare to publicly declare their treason, because their people will slaughter them even before we take any step.”
In a March 2019 interview with Radio Mawtini, Zaki said: “We … will not be servants, will not succumb, and will not be prisoners of coexistence with this hangman – in other words, the Israeli occupation state. We will continue our struggle until we obtain our goals, an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem.”
Zaki’s contempt for Israel extends also to the United States, a country which he considers “to be an enemy because its only strategic alliance is with Israel.”
Portions of this profile are adapted from “Voices of Palestine: Abbas Zaki,” by Frank Crimi (Front Page Magazine, 12-30-2011).