Mohammed bin Araf Massad is the lone candidate running for Chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA) against Mahmoud Abbas, who has held the position since replacing the late Yasser Arafat in 2004. During his exclusive interview with Israel Today, Massad reminded me of a Palestinian Donald Trump, only without the money. He is passionate and an outspoken outsider who fearlessly confronts the corrupt and immoral Palestinian leadership with the kind of straight talk one hears in the local pub.
No typical politician
Massad was born in Jenin, a Palestinian city known as a stronghold for cultivating some of the PLO’s most ruthless terrorists. At the tender age of 13, Massad joined the militant wing of Fatah, the ruling faction within the Palestinian Authority. By age 15 he carried a machine gun on his shoulder wherever he went in his “fight against the Israeli occupation.”
He was soon promoted to commander of a terrorist cell after being trained in suicide bombing tactics and how to murder Israeli soldiers by some of the most blood-thirsty Palestinian terrorists. After taking part a number of attacks, Massad was captured and spent several years in an Israeli prison, until he was released as part of the Oslo Peace Accords. He was then invited in 1994 to join the PLO, which at the time was seated in Jericho.
“That is where I experienced firsthand the corruption, treachery and immoral lifestyles of the Palestinian leadership,” Massad recalls of these years. “I was sorry for everything I had done for them. I was being used and abused by them to support their own indecent and treacherous lifestyles. Because I was not afraid to speak out I was seen as a spy for Israel and they put me in prison, where I was tortured for weeks.”
After being released, Massad earned a living by slipping Palestinians illegally over the Green Line to work in Israel. On one of his ventures, a terrorist infiltrated the group and attacked an Israeli soldier guarding the fence, snatched his machine gun, and ran. Massad chased after the terrorist, knocked him down, and returned the gun to the soldier. “After that incident,” he recalls, “the Israelis understood that I was no longer a terrorist, and we began to work together.” He maintains strong relationships with Israeli security and government officials.
Massad has lived with both sides of the conflict, and believes he can make a difference. That’s why he is now running for Chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the governing body for the autonomous Palestinian regions in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
“My goal is to create a new social and political climate including full cooperation with the State of Israel on economic and security issues,” Massad says. “In order to make this happen, we must eradicate the terrorism and corruption in the PA and join forces with the State of Israel to improve the economic situation on the ground. We must fight the corruption, personal and institutional, that eats us from within and deprives us of freedom, and instead create equal social and economic opportunity for all.”
Israel Today: Historically, the Palestinian leadership has been unwilling to negotiate in good faith with Israel. Do you trust the Israelis enough to make sacrifices for peace?
Massad: I do. Ninety percent of the Palestinians want peace with Israel. It is only the corrupt leaders and terrorists that are keeping our people from moving forward.
I also know that if we come forward with good intentions about our desire to make peace with Israel, that Israel wants that, too. And they will have no choice but to respond. The European Union and Americans will put pressure to keep both sides on the path to peace once an honest leadership from the Palestinian sides steps up to the challenge. I am ready to do that.
What about the right-wing Israelis, the settlers, and Prime Minister Netanyahu? Can you make peace with them?
Even more so with the right-wing! The Left always talks about peace, but they do nothing. It is the right-wing Israelis that really want peace and will do something about it. They only need a new Palestinian leadership that will come to the table honestly and without hidden agendas.
What are the Palestinians saying about your candidacy?
When Mahmoud Abbas heard that I was running to challenge him for the chairmanship of the PA, he decided to cancel the elections. Just this week at the PA Central Committee, Abbas made an announcement that he is thinking of cancelling the elections that are scheduled to be held in July this year. Abbas simply does not want to change anything. He wants to remain a dictator without allowing the people to vote and continue to govern by fear and intimidation.
If the European Union and the Americans can get behind my candidacy, they can put pressure on Abbas and the PA to hold elections, and I could bring real change to the entire region.
There is hope on the streets among the people and that is why the corrupt leadership of the PA do not want to hold elections. They see the many peace agreements that Arab countries are making with Israel, and the Palestinian people are ready too, they only need honest leadership to come to the table.
The Arab world no longer believes in the “Palestinian cause” and the current leadership in Ramallah. The PA leadership continues to blame Israel for all their problems because they are not willing to admit their own corruption, intimidation and injustices that are the real cause of our problems.
The people like what I say. I am not a politician. I am not afraid to say what is in my heart.
I have no money to promote my candidacy, only the good will of the people. They know me was one of them. There are over 6,000 family clans representing many thousands that support me. I also founded the Palestinian Workers Union to take care of Palestinians working in Israel. We have over 60,000 Palestinian workers who support me.
There are good people behind my candidacy, it is only the corrupt and terrorists that are resisting. Again, I promise you, 90 percent of the Palestinian people want peace with Israel.