World scout body: controversial Jerusalem troop not a member

JERUSALEM (AP) — The world's main scouting organization on Sunday said it has no connection to a Palestinian troop in Jerusalem that dedicated a recent training course to one of the killers of an Israeli-American man.

Stephen Peck, spokesman for the World Organization of the Scout Movement, said the Jerusalem troop is not a member of his organization's Palestinian affiliate and "has no right to speak or publish on their behalf."

The east Jerusalem troop last month hosted a course dedicated to Baha Alyan — one of two Palestinian attackers who shot and stabbed passengers on a Jerusalem bus last October. Alyan was killed by a security guard, while a second assailant survived and is now serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli prison.

Richard Lakin, a retired school principal from Connecticut and advocate for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, was among three people killed in the attack.

Lakin's son, Micah Lakin Avni, had appealed to the world scouting movement to expel the Palestinian Scout Association, saying the Alyan course violated the group's core principles.

The Palestinians have two scouting organizations: the globally recognized Palestinian Scout Association and the similarly named Palestinian Scout and Guide Association. The Jerusalem branch belongs to the second group, Peck said.

"The World Organization of the Scout Movement strongly condemns any acts of terrorism and all actions which seek to support them," he said in an emailed statement. "WOSM also condemns any attempts which seek to link our members with any such actions."

"WOSM is the world's largest youth movement with a strong commitment to peace and we will always take the strongest action to uphold these values," he added.

Tawfiq Salem, the general secretary of the recognized association, said his group is "fully committed" to the standards of the world scouting movement.

"We did not do any course in Jerusalem," he said. He declined to comment on the course, saying he did not want to discuss a "political" matter.

Ahmed Mashahreh, leader of the Jerusalem troop, on Sunday confirmed that his group did not belong to the Palestinian Scout Association.

He had claimed earlier that the recognition of Alyan had "nothing to do with politics." He said Alyan had been a longtime activist in his troop and the dedication was to acknowledge his years of activities.

Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli group that monitors what it says is incitement in Palestinian media and society, rejected the scout movement's conclusions.

In a letter to the movement, it said it had found overwhelming evidence that the two Palestinian scouting groups work closely with one another, including dozens of pictures identifying the same people as leaders of both organizations. The photos indicate "that the organizations are one and the same," it wrote.

Avni said he was "appalled" by the global scouting movement's response.

"There is no question that the Palestinian scouting association has been systematically inciting to violence and murder," he said. "I can't believe any true scout would want its hand in incitement in terror."

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Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this article.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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