The vice president of the Palestinian Authority said the body has "our people work[ing]" in the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, according to audio exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Mahmoud al-Aloul, who assumed the position as PA President Mahmoud Abbas's first-ever deputy in February, said in a recording dated to March: "We have relations with BDS, our people work there and we have delegates there. We cooperate with BDS on all levels, and not only with the BDS, but every group whose aim is to boycott Israel, we are with. Every group working to lay siege on Israel and isolate it from the world, we are with it."
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In a second audio recording, from August, a reporter with an Arabic-language news outlet asked al-Aloul, "Do you, as the PA, support BDS?"
"Yes, of course," said al-Aloul.
Asked how the PA shows that support, al-Aloul said, "In every way … We actively participate in the events they organize."
Al-Aloul stopped short of acknowledging financial support for BDS initiatives, but said the PA is "very pleased with their activity and endorse it."
These comments mark a departure from past statements by PA leadership distancing itself from the BDS movement, including a 2013 comment by Abbas stating, "We do not support the boycott of Israel."
Itamar Marcus, founder and director of Palestinian Media Watch, which monitors Palestinian Arabic-language media content, said Palestinian officials have often made statements of support for BDS, but that he had never before heard claims of such extensive, direct coordination with the international movement and the PA.
"Like al-Aloul said, the PA will work with and support anyone who is isolating Israel. That is the PA's goal, and they try to do it in any way they can, be it at the United Nations, UNESCO [U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], or the International Criminal Court," said Marcus.
"No doubt, if anyone were to ask for cooperation on isolating Israel, the Palestinian Authority would be thrilled to give it, even if it violated Oslo," he added, referring to the 1993 recognition by both sides of the legitimate existence of the other, a provision the BDS movement rejects in favor of dismantling Israel as a Jewish state.
However, Marcus said he believes al-Aloul's statement to be mostly "grandiose claims" that aim to falsely position the PA as a leader in a worldwide anti-Zionist initiative.
Marcus said the PA is "barely organized to keep track of things going on locally," and he finds it unlikely that the body is "organized enough around the world to be having any major, major impact on the BDS activities."
Marcus said he imagined that PA and Palestine Liberation Organization representatives would happily show up to anti-Israel events in the United States and Europe, but doubted "systematic direction from the top down." If any such coherent PA-BDS relationship existed, he said, its work would likely appear regularly in Palestinian press.
Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, said the PA tries to play all sides of the BDS issue.
"Abbas has said publicly that he supports boycotts of the settlements, but he never tried to prohibit the approximately 15,000 Palestinians who work every day inside the settlements from going to work," said Eid. "From time to time, Abbas will say something publicly against [wholesale] BDS, so then he will arrange for al-Aloul or [convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan] Barghouti to say something for BDS. That way, he stays out of it himself."
Eid was skeptical that the PA would ever involve itself financially in boycott efforts, saying "corrupt leadership always tries to collect money rather than to spend it."
Eid was insistent that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are almost universally unaware, uninterested, or unsupportive of an economic boycott of Israel. He cited the anger he encountered in Palestinian employees of Israel-based company SodaStream, when 500 Palestinian workers lost their jobs after the company moved operations out of the West Bank following a BDS campaign targeting the company.
"I've seen marches for BDS in Los Angeles, in New York, at Columbia University, but I've never seen Palestinians marching for BDS in Gaza or the West Bank," said Eid.
Al-Aloul formerly served as head of the military arm of the PA majority party, Fatah, and is now considered by some to be in line to succeed Abbas, an aging leader who is rumored to have faced recent health scares.