The Israeli occupation is in full swing, taking victims almost every week. While the Israelis are the more obvious perpetrators, we cannot forget the greater system and forces that contribute to the perpetuation of the Palestinians’ condition.
Along with the obvious mistreatment Palestinians face at the hands of the Israelis is the lesser-discussed problem of the mistreatment they face at the hands of their own.
One example is the Palestinian security forces torturing and generally mistreating Palestinians.
The Palestinian security forces operate under the Palestinian Authority (PA), which means they also cooperate with Israel, allegedly working together at times.
“Israeli officials have lobbied Congress to pass an amendment to the anti-terrorism law, in order to keep U.S. money flowing to the Palestinian security forces. The U.S. budgets about $60 million in security funding annually for the Palestinian forces.”
That the Israelis should be nervous is reason enough to be suspicious of the activities of the Palestinian security forces.
According to the Jerusalem Post:
“In the past, Palestinian security forces have released arrested terrorists and then quietly tipped off Israel to mitigate internal public criticism against handing over Palestinians to Israel.”
It’s difficult to verify this claim, but given the behind-the-scenes amicable relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, it would not be a surprise.
There appears to be further reason for suspicion. A new report from Human Rights Watch alleges that these forces, along with Hamas in Gaza, operate with impunity; terrorizing their own.
Sure, Human Rights Watch also has reports such as Lesbian Parents in the US Should Not Need to Adopt their Own Children; the liberal secular stance of this NGO and those like it is not something we can get behind.
That does not mean however, that all information coming from their researchers is inaccurate. We can scrutinize the material for factual information, getting a broader picture of what’s going on and then look at it from our perspective.
This report comes a year after they allegedly killed Palestinian Nizar Banat, who was a staunch critic of the organization and had planned to run in the later-postponed Palestinian legislative elections of 2021.
His cousin witnessed the arrest last year and described the following:
“…a group of men, some wearing masks, burst into the house where Nizar was staying and sprayed everyone with pepper spray.”
This is also what Human Rights Watch describes:
“In the early morning on June 24, 2021, more than a dozen PA Preventive Security forces, which monitor political activities and threats to the authorities domestically, arrested and violently assaulted Banat.”
Banat later died by suffocation while in custody. According to the autopsy, his lungs had filled with blood and secretions.
Vital to understanding this story is the position of the Palestinian security forces, at the hands of whom Nizar Banat and many others have suffered.
From Human Rights Watch:
“The death in custody of Banat and rounding up of demonstrators in the weeks that followed reflects the Palestinian authorities’ systematic practice of arbitrary arrest and torture with impunity, Human Rights Watch said. PA and Hamas security forces routinely taunt and threaten detainees, use solitary confinement and beatings, including whipping their feet, and force detainees into painful stress positions for prolonged periods, including hoisting their arms behind their backs with cables or rope, to punish and intimidate critics and opponents and elicit confessions, as Human Rights Watch and Lawyers for Justice lay out in their parallel report.”
This is not about what you think of Nizar Banat (sure, a lot of us probably wouldn’t have been that convinced by some of his political ideas, which seemed rather divorced from religion). The main point is: he was a threat to the PA, and so they did what they deemed necessary to be rid of him. They acted with impunity—something that both Muslims and secularists can agree upon as being wrong.
In short, there is little about the circumstances surrounding his death that makes what happened to him seem legal, nor is there much disagreement as to what took place (various outlets tell a similar story).
Problems From Within
The PA is itself a secular organization in the sense that it does not employ religion as the guiding authority.
Their secular bend, in which they pretend to be democratic by sometimes holding “elections” (and often delaying them) is only further evidence of the confused, disorganized nature of the PA.
It runs portions of the West Bank—at least those portions that have not already been given up to Israel in previous “peace” accords like Oslo—and has created some kind of hybrid-state in which their authority, secondary to Israel’s, dictates right and wrong in a most whimsical fashion.
Case in point: Israel is their great enemy, yet let’s just say it seems like they have a fairly amicable relationship with Israel under the surface.
Even when Abbas announced the postponing of legislative elections, it was thought that Israel approved of this move because it would help them to maintain their working relationship with Abbas:
“Israel has been making it clear that it prefers an election delay, fearing its coordination with Abbas’s security forces in the West Bank would be undermined by the vote, said Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution.”
In short, the PA does enough to stay afloat and receive funding, although what they receive is declining.
In terms of who has helped to fund and maintain the Palestinian security forces, western governments have much to do with that. A 2009 announcement from the US government tells us that a Palestinian security forces training center was built with over 10.1 million USD. The government announcement also added:
“The center is the first of several construction projects to be built with INL [International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs] funds in support of Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank.”
Would the US help build up the Palestinian security forces if they were actually a threat to the status quo? Of course not. To the contrary, they would fund things that would reinforce and maintain the status quo.
This is the impasse at which the Palestinian situation stands.
Getting past this utter mess seems increasingly difficult. No matter which side you stand on, secular or religious, it is glaringly obvious that there is a problem. This story (finer points made in it could be up for discussion) about a Gaza man who could not get to the right hospital in time illustrates painfully well the ins and outs of this web of Israeli-Hamas-PA-donor confusion that only serves to harm the most vulnerable.
The only ones who refuse to acknowledge these problems are those who benefit from these organizations—essentially those who work for them. They’re too busy quelling dissent among their own and holding on to their power.
This month, Biden will travel to the Middle East. He will stop in Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia.
While he was supposedly hesitant to take this trip to Saudi Arabia due to his previous comments about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, it’s reported that he was ultimately swayed by aids, describing amongst other reasons (such as the current fuel crisis):
“His final decision was further spurred by encouragement from Israel, which hopes the Saudi visit will secure Saudi support for Israeli-Arab rapprochement. Biden noted in Madrid that the Israelis ‘have come out so strongly for my going to Saudi.’”
Everywhere you look, from the groups on the inside and those on the outside, there appears to be very little in terms of relief for Palestinians.