He pauses as he ponders the events going on thousands of miles away in Washington D.C.
“You are not working for peace, but for murder.”
That’s Muhammad’s message to J Street. The anti-Israel organization claims that it wants to listen to ‘Palestinians.’ But the man I’m on the phone with is one Palestinian they don’t want to hear from.
While Senator Elizabeth Warren and other 2020 Democrats bemoaned President Trump’s eviction of the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic delegation from Washington D.C., he’s all for it.
“We don’t want them. If the Democrats want them,” Muhammad says. “They can take and keep them.”
While I’m on the phone with Muhammad, and Amit Deri of Reservists on Duty, a pro-Israel campus group getting the real story out there, in D.C., Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, and other 2020 Democrats are partying with the biggest anti-Israel group in America.
Reservists on Duty, a group of former Israeli soldiers, whose Shillman Fellow activists come to American college campuses to tell the truth about Israel, have a fraction of J Street’s massive budget. None of the 2020 Democrats come to visit their events. Instead, Amit and other Reservists are in touch with Arabs like Muhammad who are telling the stories that J Street doesn’t want its members to hear.
Muhammad had spent 7 years in an Israeli prison fighting for a Palestinian state. And when he got out of prison, he learned the hard way the ugly reality of what he had really been fighting for.
Old photos show him wielding a Kalashnikov, draped in a keffiyah, the embodiment of the Palestinian cause. On the phone, Muhammad describes himself as, “Mamash Mehabel.” “A real terrorist.” But these days he lives at an undisclosed location in Israel. And being caught by the Palestinian Authority would mean death. But there is one place that Muhammad does want to go. The J Street conference.
J Street, the anti-Israel organization that sets the agenda for the Democrats, invited Palestinian Authority apparatchiks like Saeb Erakat, the Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, and Osama Qawasma, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, organizations that Muhammad is all too familiar with.
Muhammad describes them as a “mafia” who don’t represent anyone except themselves.
“These Jews are part of the problem for inviting them,” he says, meaning J Street. “Shame on you, giving a stage to the people oppressing us, they are to be blamed for our suffering here.”
“I wish that J Street would invite me to come and hear my story.” Muhammad says.
Senator Bernie Sanders spends a lot of time talking about how the 1% run everything. I ask Muhammad if the Palestinian Authority is a social justice utopia.
“We have the 2%,” he says. “The 1% of the rich officials and the 1% of the terrorists.” And, in the Palestinian Authority, they are usually one and the same. “There are only rich people in the leadership,” he sardonically notes.
While 2020 Democrats have called for a restoration of aid to the Palestinian Authority, Muhammed accuses them and J Street of being “accessories to the crime”.
“Europeans and Americans giving money are part of the problem,” he passionately warns. “It's an illegitimate political system kept afloat by foreign money, the moment funding is cut off, Palestinian Authority officials will flee and whole thing will collapse.”
Foreign aid isn’t helping the “Palestinians” whom the Democrats are so worried about.
The Palestinian Authority “only take money from the US and Europe for their own families, and put money into their pockets,” Muhammad says. “The Palestinian Authority is getting rich from the Palestinian people, they don't care about the people, they control the people because they control the system, hospitals, welfare system, the basic needs, that's why people are afraid to talk.”
He describes how an acquaintance with cancer was denied a permit to be treated in an Israeli hospital because he had spoken out against the Palestinian Authority.
Many, like his friend, he says, “want the Israelis to come back. Most are oppressed by the Palestinian Authority, not Israel, and their voices are not heard at J Street.”
In the 90s, when Muhammad was in an Israeli prison and the Oslo Accords were announced, he was optimistic. Like everyone, he says, “Israelis and Arabs, I thought the Oslo accords would bring peace between two peoples.” But, instead of peace, they brought war, terror and oppression.
He vowed then that if he ever got out, he would escape to Israel and tell the truth.
That’s what he has been doing ever since.
It wasn’t the Israelis, but the Palestinian Authority, the interlocking organizations of Fatah, the PLO, and the PA, which tortured him in prison. The 2020 Democrats who appeared at the J Street conference and sent in video messages criticized Israel; but none said a harsh word about the Palestinian Authority.
Muhammad would like to change that. He would like to tell the conference attendees, the political candidates, and all the rest about the “Hayim shel mavet”, his “life of death” in a PA prison. He wants to tell them that he was almost beaten to death and suffered bleeding in the brain. He would like to describe the ‘shabeh’ torture in which he was left hanging suspended by his wrists from a hook.
‘Shabeh’ in Arabic means ghost. It’s a torture recently made famous by ISIS. But it’s also used by the PA.
And these days, Muhammad is a ghost. He can’t go back home. And J Street and other anti-Israel groups which claim to care about human rights would rather listen to the lies of his torturers than to him.