By Khalid Amayreh
With obvious American-approval and encouragement, the Palestinian Authority (PA) regime in Ramallah is seriously persecuting the very people it is supposed to protect and whose interests it claims to safeguard.
“They are worse than the Israeli occupiers,” an old shopkeeper from the Hebron region whispered to this writer after local security agents arrested his neighbor for selling Islamic paraphernalia.
Some observers in Occupied Palestine have begun using terms such as “reign of terror,” “fascists,” “gangs,” and “terrorist regime” to describe the way the American-backed regime is treating Palestinians.
This week, a leading Palestinian human rights group, described the status of human rights and civil liberties under the PA regime as “dismal and appalling.”
Al-Haq, which means “truth,” pointed out in a detailed report that the PA was letting the security agencies run the country in utter violation of the rule of law.
“I tell the donors it’s high time they pressured the Authority to implement its commitments towards the independence of the judiciary,” said Shahwan Jabarin, al-Haq director.
He pointed out that “military courts” were issuing arrest warrants against civilians and undermining a civilian judiciary that had undergone reform and improvement in the West Bank.
“Subjecting civilians to military jurisdiction severely infringes upon the fundamental rights of Palestinians and the rule of law.”
The al-Haq report, though bleated and substantially circumscribed in its overall tone, is an appreciated effort.
After all, human rights and civic groups should speak up against the scandalous reign of repression that is taking place in the West Bank now by both Israel and the PA.
Interestingly, the wanton repression is being carried out in the name of upholding law and order and under the false rubric of safeguarding Palestinian national interests.
Today, the PA regime is a serious liability undermining our people’s ability to withstand Israeli repression. Some Palestinians are already contemplating emigration because they can’t withstand the sinister behavior of the PA government, especially the security agencies.
PA repression of the Palestinian people should therefore be viewed as no less than another layer of the Israeli occupation since the PA is very much a police state without a state, an entity that is first and foremost responsible to Israel and the United States; it is an authority that represses and torments its people on Israel’s behalf and in order to obtain a certificate of good conduct from the donor countries.
There is indeed a mountain of evidence incriminating this authority. Western donors, upon which the PA depends almost completely for its very survival, are well aware of the serious abuses meted out by the PA to its own citizens in West Bank.
These are the same states whose leaders don’t stop blathering and babbling about building the infrastructure of a modern Palestinian state where the rule of law is upheld and democracy is the way of life.
In fact, however, the West, especially the US, is actively helping the PA build a police state (of course minus sovereignty) where political dissidents and non-conformist journalists are arrested, beaten, tortured and occasionally killed.
The un-elected government of Salam Fayyad in Ramallah often presents itself as an example of a modern administration that is transparent, corruption-free and upholding the rule of law.
But in reality this is very much a deceptive and inaccurate portrait of a government that is answerable to no one except perhaps the American administration.
The utter bankruptcy and powerlessness of this government manifest itself in its failure and/or inability to rein in the rampant encroachment on citizens’ rights and liberties by bloated security agencies that have gone really wild.
Needless to say, the security apparatus intervenes and interferes in every aspect of Palestinian civilian life, like who is instated in his job, who receives a regular salary, who receives a promotion, and who is allowed to take part in societal and civic activities.
Indeed, “political loyalty” has already become the most determining factor in the way the government deals with its citizens and civil servants.
Today, the notorious “security committee” introduced into every government ministry is granted the final say in instating civil servants in their jobs or firing them because of their political orientation.
A classical or rather scandalous example of how the security agencies are corroding Palestinian civil life is the refusal of the PA government to pay the salaries of some 3000 teachers hired in 2006 under the democratically-elected government led by Hamas.
For two years now, the PA government has been telling the teachers that their “files” are still being reviewed by the “security agencies.”
However, the truth is that many of these teachers are being punished because they are suspected of having voted for Hamas or other political parties when the legislative elections took place in 2006.
When the Fayyad government is confronted with this scandalous conduct, it usually resorts to evasion and prevarication.
“We have committed some mistakes but we are still committed to upholding the rule of law,” Salam Fayad was quoted as saying recently.
Well, Fayadh can’t be given the benefit of the doubt since the rape of the rule of law by the security agencies has really reached unprecedented proportions. Some observers contend that even at the height of Israeli repression, when the Israeli army’s so-called “Civil Administration” was running the West Bank, teachers continued to receive their salaries, notwithstanding their political opposition to the occupation.
But if Fayadh is truly sincere about upholding the rule of law, he should immediately order the security apparatus to stop interfering with civilian life, such as arresting journalists and suspected Hamas activists. After all, the Palestinian justice system, if allowed to function without interference from the executive authority, can effectively deal with any violations of the law.
Unfortunately, the fact that the unelected Prime Minister has utterly failed to do so shows that he is not the long-sought-after democrat western media loves to caricature.
A few days ago, a high-ranking PA official told an Israeli newspaper, that the repression was necessary to “govern.”
Well, this official should be told that a government based on repression of its citizens is a failed government, both politically and morally.
Besides, what “governing” is this uneducated official talking about? Doesn’t he realize that he can hardly leaves the confines of Ramallah without an Israeli permit?
Finally, the PA regime in Ramallah often seeks to defend its repressive tactics in the West Bank on the ground that that the Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip are repressing Fatah supporters in Gaza.
Well, regardless of the veracity or mendacity of reports about the “Fatah plight” in Gaza, the PA government should realize that two wrongs don’t make a right.
Apart from that, it is obvious that Hamas is not really trying to topple the PA rule in the West Bank (as Fatah is doing in Gaza), since doing so would necessitate that Hamas be militarily stronger than Israel and the PA combined, which is a silly and unthinkable idea.
Hence, the claims by Fatah that the current reign of repression in the West Bank is meant to forestall a possible “coup” by Hamas against the “legitimate authority” has absolutely no credibility whatsoever.