Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) – A Palestinian scout group in Jerusalem is under fire for promoting the story of a man accused of perpetrating a terrorist attack, and the global scout organization in the United States is distancing itself from the group.
A group calling itself the Palestinian Scout Association – apparently a name to which it is not entitled – hosted a leadership training course in the name of a man called Baha Alyan in mid-August.
Alyan, whose photograph the group also posted, killed three Israelis – one with dual American-Israeli citizenship – in a knife and gun attack on a bus last October in the midst of a wave of violence that swept the country and claimed dozens of Israeli lives. Alyan was killed in the attack and his accomplice is in prison.
Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a conservative Israeli research group that monitors and analyzes Palestinian media, learned of the scout course honoring Alyan when it found an announcement about the program in a local Arabic-language newspaper.
According to the organization’s director, Itamar Marcus, that announcement prompted them to take a closer look at the Palestinian Scout Association.
“We wouldn’t have thought to check the various scouts organizations except that it was reported in the official Palestinian newspaper,” said Marcus. “We even found a picture of an event that was held in Jerusalem.”
“The person who is the WOSM [World Organization of the Scout Movement] representative to the Arab world, he came to this event in Jerusalem,” he added. “We have his picture posing next to the father of Baha Alyan.”
Marcus said that in the past week, evidence of the event, including photographs, have been deleted. In fact, the group’s website has been disabled. Phone calls and emails from CNSNews.com went unanswered.
“There was so much incriminating material on their website,” said Itamar, adding that staff at his organization made sure to take screenshots of everything before it was removed. Then it contacted WOSM in the United States, urging it to act.
“We ask that you take steps to guarantee that the distinguished World Organization of the Scout Movement will have no part in training future scout leaders to see terrorist murderers as role models, by immediately canceling the PSA’s membership,” it said in a letter to WOSM.
WOSM, however, says the Jerusalem group is not an affiliate. WOSM’s website shows numerous scouting groups in the West Bank that are active, largely concentrated in Jerusalem, Hebron, and Nablus. The official affiliate is called the Palestinian Scout Association.
WOSM spokesman Stephen Peck said in an email that nothing like this has ever happened in the past. Peck said organization officials typically “support and monitor” member organizations in the West Bank with “volunteer leaders and governance structure in the area.”
He added that WOSM has asked the Jerusalem group to stop using the recognized name of the Palestinian Scout Association “on a number of occasions but they have so far refused.”
In a statement on its website, WOSM also blames administrative confusion. It says a group that calls itself "The Palestinian Scout and Guide Association" secured the Palestinian Scout Association’s website domain and has been holding it “hostage,” in a manner of speaking. The reason: it wasn’t admitted to the club.
“When we were considering membership of WOSM we were concerned that this group did not subscribe to the values of Scouting and therefore were not recognized,” said the Sept. 8 WOSM statement. “However, they continue to run this website and hold the domain name.”
WOSM said that anything published on the website is “not an official communication” of the local or global group.
A Facebook page and LinkedIn profile under the name of the Palestinian Scout Association does belong to the WOSM-recognized affiliate.