What’s so funny about Saeb Erekat’s call for “peace”, “rights” and “international law”?

Guardian readers should – but, of course, won’t – take note: For Saeb Erekat, words and lofty, progressive rhetoric don’t have objective meanings. They mean ‘just what he chooses them to mean, neither more nor less’.

In a Jan 19th op-ed at the Guardian, Saeb Erekat calls on the EU to recognise a Palestinian state.  Perhaps the only elements noteworthy in Erekat’s otherwise predictable, reductive and mono-causal explanation for Palestine’s woes are his word choices: he used the word “peace” eight times, Palestinian “rights” seven times and Israel’s putative violations of “international law” five times.

So, what exactly does Erekat mean by peace, rights and international law?

Well, based on his recent comments on another matter, they don’t appear to mean much at all.

Media Line reported on Jan. 6th about new terms added by the European Union in 2019 which merely “obligate Palestinian institutions to ensure that no beneficiaries of their projects or programs are affiliated with groups listed on the European Union’s terrorist organisations list”.

However, it wasn’t merely representatives of Palestinian NGOs who rejected the requirement.

Saeb Erekat also weighed in.

On December 3, Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, in a letter addressed to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, called on the EU to reconsider the new conditions and to ensure equal, impartial and transparent access to funding for all.

According to a publication sent to The Media line by Erekat’s office, Erekat denounced such restrictions, which, it was claimed, directly affect Palestinian rights pursuant to international law, in particular the right to self-determination, stressing that it is not in line with the European Union’s commitment to a two-state solution and peace and stability in the region.

Let’s briefly unpack this. Erekat is defending the “right” of Palestinian NGOs supported by the EU to use their funds to benefit groups listed by the EU as terrorist entities, and that to preclude the “right” of groups which call for Israel’s destruction and the murder of Israeli civilians to receive this money is inconsistent with “peace”, “self-determination” and “international law”.

So, Guardian readers should – but, of course, won’t – take note: For Saeb Erekat, words and lofty, progressive rhetoric don’t have objective meanings.  They mean, as Humpty Dumpty said, just what he chooses them to mean, neither more nor less.

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