RAMALLAH, West Bank, (AP) – A senior Palestinian official condemned Qatar-based Al-Jazeera on Monday and a crowd of protesters vandalized the satellite channel’s West Bank headquarters after it reported on leaked documents that claimed Palestinian leaders offered large concessions in peace talks with Israel in 2008.
The angry outburst followed the airing late Sunday of what al-Jazeera said were leaked documents showing that Palestinian leaders had offered broad concessions on two of the thorniest issues in negotiations with Israel: Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told reporters on Monday the news network engaged in “media games … to trick and mislead the simple citizen.” He angrily accused the Gulf state of Qatar, which bankrolls the station, of damaging Palestinian interests.
“What Al-Jazeera is doing today is an attempt to distort the national position of the Palestinian leadership,” he said.
Abed Rabbo said the report relied on out-of-context quotes, insinuations and outright fabrications.
Comparing the program to WikiLeaks, which he said merely publishes leaked documents, he said Al-Jazeera could “draw conclusions, counterfeit documents and change texts, cut a word here and there and put together images of people with no relationship to negotiations.”
He added: “This is what serves Al-Jazeera’s prior position.”
He also took aim at the prince of Qatar, calling the program “a political campaign of the first degree” coming from “a political decision at the highest level from our brother in Qatar.”
But while dismissing the documents in general, Abed Rabbo remained vague in disputing some of the program’s specific claims.
He said the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority would take no steps against local Al-Jazeera correspondents.
Late Monday, about 250 Abbas loyalists rallied in support of the president in front of the building housing the local Al-Jazeera office on the seventh and eighth floors.
A small group climbed the stairs to the station’s offices, where they broke security cameras, glass door panels and station logos. Wall graffiti read “Al-Jazeera are spies” and “Al-Jazeera equals Israel.”
Palestinian police removed the violent protesters and prevented the larger crowed outside the building from entering.