In the last week Palestinians have witnessed a spate of detentions and accusations of torture in the West Bank. The perpetrator in question is the Palestinian Authority (PA). Their policy, it seems, is driven by an aspiration to quash any dissent to the ‘governing’ authority. In the circumstances one may question how much ‘authority’ the PA has in the West Bank and if in reality it is only playing into the hands of the Israeli occupiers? If indeed the PA is trying to establish a viable state, what type of state is it trying to establish in the West Bank – an autocratic police state or a ‘democracy’?
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has highlighted growing concerns with the PA’s gross violation of human rights and their active policy of detaining Hamas members. The last week saw the ‘political arrests’ of 13 members in the West Bank and according to a PCHR investigation, included ‘university students, professionals and two journalists’. The report further highlighted accusations of torture, with one detainee alleging he had been ‘subjected to torture perpetrated by at least 10 GIS officers, resulting in fractures to his skull, broken teeth, and bruising throughout his body’. This highly disturbing description of abuse is not restricted to this one case and there are several reports coming out of similar detention centres.
The PA was established in 1993, a month after the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel signed the Oslo Accords. Its purpose was to administer Palestinian self-governance in the Occupied Territories in agreement with Israel. It was created on the basis of security cooperation between the two parties. However from the start this relationship was imbalanced, with successive laws and policies almost always in favour of Israel while the aspirations and national interests of the Palestinians were overlooked.
Over the past decade or so, the PA has realised the true essence of this ill-fated relationship with the continuous proliferation of settlements in the West Bank, the Judaization of towns and cities, including East Jerusalem and the destruction of homes and infrastructure.
Apart from Israel’s serial breach of past agreements, the PA faced a new problem when Hamas won the general elections conducted throughout the territories in 2006. Spurred on by Israel and the US, Fatah which dominated the PA since its inception refused to cooperate with the new government, indeed it worked to subvert it.
The resultant confrontation and division in the national ranks seeped down and affected ordinary Palestinian citizens in their everyday lives culminating in recent years in the unlawful detention and torture of Hamas members and the growth of dissenting voices within the West Bank.
Detentions are not limited to Hamas supporters, with the news of the detention of high ranking PA intelligence officers on Friday by Israeli troops, Israel has once again shown its duplicitous character, and has further embarrassed the PA by stamping on its authority and showing who really holds the political cards.
Granted there are inherent challenges facing the PA today; as an occupied entity it is difficult to establish any credible democratic institution when every decision is met by increasingly impenetrable obstacles courtesy Israel. In their designs to establish the PA as sole authority over the Occupied Territories, the PA have gone about creating more disunity and more anger amongst their people. The Palestinians have become restless with their leaders and want change; and change is something that the PA seems unwilling and incapable of giving.