The official Palestinian Authority (PA) media sent a series of mixed messages to the Palestinian audience today regarding continuing violence against Israeli targets.

PA officials and the PA endorsed the “tahdiyya” – “cooling off period” or “lull”-while also extolling as a “heroic martyr” an escaped terrorist who opposed the “lull.”

“A new day at the Voice of Palestine, respected listeners, and at the start of our news is the heroic martyrdom of citizen Shafiq ‘Awni Abdul-Ghani, 37, commander of the Battalions of Jerusalem of the Islamic Jihad in the village of Saida near Tulkarm during an invasion of the Israeli occupation army.” (V.O.P. radio 8 a.m.)

The clash in Tulkarm between Israeli forces and members of a unit of the Islamic Jihad was treated by Voice of Palestine radio (Ramallah) and PBC Television (Gaza) as an unjustified act of Israeli aggression and an invasion of Palestinian sovereignty in an area that had been returned to PA control.

The dead Jihadi terrorist was part of a Jihad unit responsible for the recent attack on a nightclub in Tel Aviv, according to Israeli army sources, and he was the local commander of Jihad, according the PA media.

The harsh anti-Israeli and pro-Jihad tone of the PA media was evident, even though, the PA had promised to disarm or to co-opt all militias, stopping their attacks on Israeli targets, and even though the dead terrorist had “escaped” from a PA jail.

The ambivalent attitude of the highest PA officials to the continuing activities of the Islamic organizations-HAMAS and Jihad-was apparent during a morning interview on PBC Television with Deputy PA Prime Minister Nabil Sha’ath:

PBC television intervew and lead-in, deputy Palestinian prime minister Nabil Sha’ath

“There is no such thing as a Palestinian-Palestinian conflict, but it is important to enforce the law against anyone who has violated the law and broken the cooling off period (tahdiyya).”

“It is not acceptable to play with the law and to threaten national unity and national security.”

Asked about the sovereignty of law, Dr. Sha’ath supported it, but he added, “we distinguish between the rifle of the soldier and the rifle the killer, and we distinguish between the rifle of the resister and the rifle of the one who threatens people’s rights. We want the cooling-off to succeed. We do not want to give Israel excuses, and as you know they love excuses. (PBC Television 7:15 a.m.)

HAMAS-PLO Relations

Regarding HAMAS, V.O.P. radio, which is controlled by PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, continued to treat the Islamic organization with great respect but also to hint that a HAMAS election victory would hurt Palestinian interests:

“In another matter Israeli sources say that it is necessary to open negotiations with the Hamas should Hamas win the legislative elections.but sources close to Sharon say that no party in Israel will deal with HAMAS if it wins the elections.

In a related matter, secret talks are taking place between the leadership of HAMAS and European and American negotiators, with positive results, according to the sources. And according to sources involved in the talks there are contacts between HAMAS and the American administration and to hold a meeting between the leadership and the Americans in a European capital.” [V.O.P. RADIO 7:58 a.m.]

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution and The Jerusalem Post.