There are some pretty outrageous conspiracy theories about COVID-19 going around these days. Some of the nuttiest ones are coming from Palestinian Arab leaders. When you hear the details of what they’re claiming, it’s tempting to laugh. But these conspiracy theories are no laughing matter – in fact, the ramifications could be deadly.
The latest comes from the pen of Muwaffaq Matar, a regular columnist for the official Palestinian Authority (PA) daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. “The racist occupation government has worked to export the COVID-19 epidemic to us, after our institutions succeeded in limiting and reducing the scope of its spread,” Matar wrote. “[Israel] used the virus as a new weapon to weaken the scope of economic life to the lowest point, and to leave it in an almost fateful dependency on its economy!”
If one isolated lunatic wrote those words, there would be no reason to take him seriously. But the publication of that conspiracy theory in the official PA newspaper means that it reflects the views of the PA leadership. And it means that this is what the PA wants the Palestinian Arab public to believe.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud al-Habbash, adviser on religious affairs to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, has offered his own crazy conspiracy theory regarding COVID-19. According to al-Habbash, all of the problems in the world today, from coronavirus to inflation, are a divine punishment for “the injustice directed against [the Palestinian Arabs] … Our land was stolen, our people were expelled, our holy sites were desecrated, and not only is the entire world silent facing the oppressors but they are also blaming the victim.”
“The punishment that is befalling all of humanity – the rise in prices, economic collapse, epidemics, climate change, global warming – everything that is happening in the universe is because of the injustice,” al-Habbash declared.
Again, if these were the ravings of some kook in an insane asylum, we would pay no attention. But they are the views of a senior PA government official – and they were broadcast on official PA Television, on Nov. 26. Al-Habbash was saying what his fellow PA leaders believe, and what they want all Palestinian Arabs to believe.
Joining Muwaffaq Matar and Mahmoud al-Habbash in the crazy corner is Sheikh Issam Amira, the official imam of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. According to The Jerusalem Post, Amira presented his own foaming-at-the-mouth twist on the COVID-19 conspiracy theories in a recent sermon in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“Why has this abomination spread? Why has coronavirus – with its Indian variant and its Omicron variant – spread?” the imam asked. “What are these names, these diseases, that were not known to our forefathers?”
His answer: “The reason is clear … It is the infidel and licentious media [and] rulers who permit and promote homosexuality [and] the rulers who follow the feminist organizations … These are all the precursors of the spread of diseases which did not exist among our forefathers.”
Of course, the PA leadership’s COVID-19 conspiracy theories are just the tip of the iceberg. Anybody who has followed the pronouncements of PA government officials knows that the list of wild (and often antisemitic) conspiracy theories is almost endless. Here is a small sampling of what PA leaders and their official publications have claimed in recent years:
• The Holocaust was fabricated by Jews (in order to gain international sympathy).
• The Protocols of the Elders of Zion are an authentic expose of the Jewish plot to rule the world.
• Israeli rabbis teach Jewish children to kill all non-Jews.
• Israel poisons the air in the PA-controlled territories (in order to reduce the population there).
• Israel feeds Arab children candy laced with a chemical that makes them infertile.
• Israel causes earthquakes in PA territory.
• Israel and/or the U.S. carried out the 9/11 attacks (in order to justify invading Muslim countries).
The reason this insanity matters is that if a Palestinian Arab state is created next to Israel, its leadership, public opinion and popular culture will be saturated with these beliefs.
Countries can peacefully coexist side by side without agreeing on everything. They can have widely differing views on all sorts of political, religious and social issues. But they do have to agree on a few basic things, like what constitutes aggression and what constitutes self-defense. Or whether the Earth is round or flat. Because if one of the countries isn’t governed by rational, sane people, then you can expect that they will do irrational and insane things.
Nobody wants to live next door to a country governed by insane people. Czechoslovakia learned that the hard way in 1938; same for Poland, in 1939, and France, in 1940.
Everything Palestinian Arab leaders say illustrates that they do not have a firm grip on reality, to put it mildly. They live in a kind of mental alternate universe, where they sincerely believe nutty things and make their policies accordingly. Giving such people a sovereign state – and reducing Israel to nine miles wide in order to make room for it – would be the height of folly.
Stephen Flatow, an attorney, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.