Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas is still enjoying the limelight after insisting that security coordination with Israel will not be reinstated before certain demands are met, yet the PA’s security services are still deploying oppressive tactics upon Palestinian journalists. In fact, suspending security coordination only tackles a fragment of the problem which Palestinians face daily.
Ma’an news agency quoted an unnamed source close to Abbas stating: “the Palestinian leadership will reject any security coordination Israel asks for as long as Israel does not stop daily assaults, shootings, undercover raids, abductions of Palestinian lawmakers, officials and children in Palestinian cities and refugee camps in the PA-controlled territories.”
Palestinian journalists are omitted from the list and have once again been the PA’s target. Wada news agency reported that on Tuesday five journalists were arrested by PA security services and accused of “leaking sensitive information to hostile parties”.
While Wafa’s brief report included no other detail regarding the arrests, Quds network described the arrests as a manifestation of divisive politics. The outlet also quoted Omar Nazzal, a journalist who was placed under administrative detention last year, who stated that the arrests occurred to pressure Hamas into releasing Palestine TV’s correspondent in Gaza, Fouad Jaradah.
Security coordination and criticism of the PA may well be the underlying reasons behind these arrests. While Abbas has managed to make a case for suspending security coordination over Al-Aqsa, Palestinian journalists have emphasised the wider framework of the agreement and its implications for Palestinian society.
Journalists reporting on PA crackdowns of demonstrations – including during the collective hunger strike organised by Marwan Barghouti which the PA allegedly supported – were assaulted by the security forces for reporting and photographing the violence.
The difference between Israel and the PA in terms of oppression is minimal and only corresponds to the political power of both entities, in which Israel has the upper hand. When it comes to tactics, the PA has not shied away from using torture on detainees – an oppressive measure also practiced by Israel.
In July, Jihad Barakat was arrested by PA security forces for photographing Israeli soldiers stopping Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at an Israeli checkpoint. The PA has also blocked news websites in Ramallah which identify with different politics, notably those of Hamas.
In performing their duties diligently, Palestinian journalists are increasingly finding themselves as targets of authoritarian policies emanating from Ramallah. Now that Abbas has halted security coordination with Israel, further scrutiny should be focused upon the atrocities and human rights violations committed by the PA security forces.
Rather than celebrate Abbas’s decision, which can be reversed at any moment, this lull should provide an opportunity to expose the duplicity which contributes towards keeping the PA at the helm.
Al-Aqsa was a turning point for Palestinian society and it should not only be sustained and PA violence against journalists mobilised against, but it should also disassociated from the PA at all costs. Abbas’s only stronghold is a sliver of bequeathed power. Palestinian journalists are being targeted for exposing this reality.