The West Is Helping the PA Torment Palestinians

Western governments are telling their respective citizens that the financial support they give to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is used to foster security and promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in the occupied territories.   These governments might also be deluding themselves into thinking that the often harsh repression meted out by the PA to its own people, long tormented by Israel, would be conducive to promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  But the west is wrong on both accounts.

Today, much of the western “financial aid” provided to the Ramallah-based regime is being utilized to consolidate a police-state structure, actually a police state without a state since the Israeli occupation army continues to tightly control all parts of the occupied territories, including the vicinity of Mahmoud Abbas’s own headquarters. According to reliable sources, more than one third of the PA budget, which is based on “donations” from western and oil-rich Arab donors, goes to the security agencies which operate with virtually no legal or moral restrictions.  In comparison, less than one percent of the budget goes to agriculture in both Gaza and the West Bank. This is the sector upon which more than 50% of Palestinians depend for their livelihood.

We all know that the raison d’être behind the very existence of the PA security apparatus is to repress Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation.  Otherwise, Israel wouldn’t have allowed the US and other countries to bankroll, train, and arm these “Palestinian forces.”  Today, the way these so-called forces function seriously undermines the rule of law, civil liberties and human rights in the occupied territories.  They are arresting, maltreating and torturing innocent people. They are imprisoning journalists who are carrying out their duties as journalists. They are closing down and vandalizing social, cultural, academic and other institutions in utter violation of the rule of law.  In short, there is a reign of terror being fostered all over the West Bank under the pretext of “fighting Hamas.”

The PA claims its heavy-handed tactics are necessary to prevent Hamas from carrying out a coup in the West Bank.  This claim, however, is ridiculous and mendacious. The reason is that in order for Hamas to be able to carry out a “coup” in the West Bank, it would have to be militarily stronger than both Israel and the PA combined, which is a far-fetched prospect, to say the least.  In truth, the real reason behind the reign of repression and flagrant human rights violations in the West Bank is an overwhelming desire for revenge for the ousting by Hamas of Fatah militias from Gaza more than a year ago.

A few weeks ago, the PA arrested three journalists in the West Bank on manifestly frivolous charges such as “endangering national security” and “creating divisions within the people.”  These journalists, including Awadh Rajoub, a correspondent for the Arabic service of the, are still languishing in PA lockups and jails.  Rajoub’s relatives said he was likely to be prosecuted by a military tribunal!! Yes, a military trial of an innocent Palestinian journalist by an authority that has no authority or sovereignty, and whose very survival and existence depend nearly completely on the good-will of Israel, the Palestinian people’s ultimate tormentor and oppressor.

Moreover, dozens of community leaders, religious officials, elected mayors, as well as college students are being jailed and probably tortured by security interrogators.  A few weeks ago, a visitor to the local government hospital in Hebron intimated to this writer that he saw a badly-beaten young man tied with iron chains to his hospital bed, with three armed security guards posted at the entrance to his room.  Last week, PA crack policemen beat savagely two teachers who were tutoring high-school students at the Anwar Academic Center in Dura, 10 miles south West of Hebron. The two teachers were identified as Naim Talahmeh and Salem al Hureibat.

Earlier this month, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he ordered the security agencies to release all political prisoners rounded up following recent Gaza events.  However, two weeks have passed and 95 per cent of the political detainees are still languishing in PA lockups and jails.  Indeed, PA security forces continue to arrest innocent people and close down businesses and charities on a daily basis without any regard for the rule of law.  In recent days, the PA security forces even began arresting lawyers defending illegally-held detainees. Human rights sources in the West Bank have reported that Advocates Muhammed Farrah from Hebron and Fadel Bushnaq from the northern West Bank are languishing in PA jails.

The reign of repression being carried out by the PA against its own people can’t be justified by whatever unacceptable conduct by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, including the unlawful arrest of political figures affiliated with Fatah.  Persecuting people perceived as Hamas supporters as a reprisal for the arrest by Hamas of Fatah activists, or vice versa, is an unethical act fitting gagsters and street thugs.  To be sure, Hamas has released the vast bulk of Fatah’s political leaders, including Zakaria al Agha, the group’s most prominent leader in the strip. So why is the Fatah-dominated PA continuing to violate the human rights and civil liberties of the Palestinian people?

The West is wrong in thinking that beating and tormenting Palestinians by the PA will produce security for Israel.   The PA had carried out a lot of repression of its own people during the so-called Oslo era (1994-2000).  That ugly episode of repression, we all remember, eventually produced two things: The al Aqsa Intifada and Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006.  It is therefore very likely that the Western-sponsored repression by the PA of the very people it claims to serve and whose interests it claims to be protecting and safeguarding will boomerang on both the West and its increasingly ruthless child.

The West is thus advised to create a clear linkage between its financial aid to the PA and its human rights records. That would be compatible with its declared ideals and policies, and would also serve the interest of peace in Palestine.  In the final analysis, the last thing the Palestinians need is another tormentor augmenting Israel’s genocidal terror against our people.

Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. Read other articles by Khaled, or visit Khaled's website.