9 June 1999
BADIL Resource Center
Erekat Reaffirms that the Palestinian Position is Based on UN Resolution 194
British journalist Alan Philps has apologized for a false statement attributed to Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in a May 27 editorial (Arafat ‘set to demand more land from Israel’, p. 21) published in the British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. Erekat was falsely quoted as having assured Israel that there is no intention to claim the right of return for refugees from areas inside Israel.
In a letter to BADIL dated the 6 June, Erekat strongly reaffirmed that the Palestinian position regarding the refugees is based on UN Resolution 194 which includes, first and foremost, the right of refugees to return to their homes and lands. Erekat stated: “What was stated [in the May 27 editorial] under my name is completely false. I deny what was stated generally and specifically.”
One day later on 7 June, The Daily Telegraph, retracted the comments attributed, without prior verification, to Mr. Erekat. According to the retraction, “Saeb Erekat, was quoted as having reassured Israel that he would not be demanding the right of return for Palestinian refugees in the forthcoming negotiations with Israel. Mr. Erekat would like to make clear that his comments, in a television interview reported in the Israeli press, were misinterpreted. The Daily Telegraph accepts that Mr. Erekat made no reference to the refugee issue in his comments.”
BADIL made inquiries about the May 27 editorial following commitments by the PLO Refugee Affairs Department at a workshop organized by the activist forum of BADIL Friends in the north of the West Bank to abstain from discussing with Israel any details/practicalities on the refugee question, until Israel provides recognition – principle – of the Palestinian right of return and to unify speech concerning the right of return. The Refugee Department also extended its support to the popular campaign for the defense of Palestinian refugee rights which is based on the right of return.
The Daily Telegraph is owned by Hollinger, Inc., which also has media holdings in Israel, including The Jerusalem Post. Coincidently, a second unsubstantiated and slanderous editorial about Palestinians was published during the same period by journalist Barbara Amiel, the wife of Conrad Black, owner of Hollinger, Inc. In an article which appeared in the Canadian news magazine, Macleans (“Hatred, Palestinian-Style”, June 7), Amiel described Palestinians as “a population that is trained to think of Israel as the incarnation of Satan” and stated that “incitement to hate Jews is the backbone of Palestinian life.”