A symposium planned by the Popular and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the People's Party (formerly the Communist party) has been prohibited by the Palestinian Security Forces. The audacious move was made because the meeting provided a forum for opposition to the direct negotiations due to resume in Washington next week. This is an unfortunate development by any standard, but most especially as the manner in which this symposium was stopped confirms that the Palestinian Authority is changing rapidly into a repressive, dictatorial regime in the same mould as other Arab governments. The only fundamental difference is that the Palestinian state has yet to be established; the PA, therefore, still exists under Israel's occupation and obeys its orders.
The Palestinian Security Forces, which are tasked with maintaining security and law and order, acted more like a group of thugs when they broke into the symposium HQ in large numbers. They proceeded to attack the participants, tear up posters and signs containing the title of the symposium and shouted provocative slogans in support of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The two groups behind the symposium are among the most prominent supporters of the Palestinian Authority and of Mahmoud Abbas himself. They have stuck by their membership of the PLO Executive Committee and have had to endure extensive criticism over the years for the political positions they have adopted. How inappropriate, therefore, to repay such support stretching back since before the signing of the Oslo Agreement, with such degrading behaviour. If supporters of the Authority who stand in its camp and have political cover are treated in this manner, then God help its opponents, particularly the factions of the Islamic Resistance Movement like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The symposium organisers wished to exercise their right to dissent and express their opinion on the decision by the Authority and its leadership to resume direct negotiations with Israel, which are expected to revolve around final status issues and set out the borders of a future Palestinian state. Is the attack on these groups and the attempt to prevent them from expressing their position a prelude to the way in which an agreement will be imposed on the Palestinians? With iron and fire and the blessings of the US, the EU and Israel, all states which claim to adhere to the principles of democracy and its associated freedoms? How can the US, the supposed "leader of the free world", allow the Palestinian people to be represented in these negotiations by a leader who does not enjoy democratic legitimacy to speak in their name, and who sends security forces to stop a symposium organised by his own allies wishing to express their opinions on the step he is about to take?
President Abbas has said that he will hold an investigation into the matter, as if to clear himself of this shameful and repressive act. However, although an investigation would be an important step, when have the Authority's investigations ever brought about real results? Indeed, when have real results ever been possible, the findings implemented and the accused brought to justice?
While disrupting the symposium the PA security thugs were raising their President's photo aloft, shouting his name and proclaiming their loyalty to him, his authority and his generals who appointed them to their positions. He thus has to shoulder much of the responsibility for their unacceptable actions.
The Palestinian people, who have always boasted of their democracy the democracy of a forest of rifles, as the late Yasser Arafat used to say do not deserve such treatment. If the future Palestinian state which Mahmoud Abbas wishes to bring to fruition through the new negotiations behaves so brutally towards it citizens, then it will be known as a state that is repressive and confiscates freedoms. In fact, this is already how the majority of Palestinians view the Palestinian Authority. Any Palestinian state that is established must be democratic; it must respect freedom and the rule of law. However, we do not believe that the Palestinian Authority holds true to even the minimum levels of these requirements and yet it wants to establish the new state; such shaky foundations will produce disastrous results.
Source: Al-Quds opinion
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