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Palestinian Authority collaborated with CIA to spy on Palestinian dissidents

February 17, 2018 at 11:15 am

As I’ve written in this column several times before, the “Palestinian Authority” is, at best, a misnomer. It is neither particularly Palestinian nor even remotely authoritative.

Since its inception in the mid-nineties, the PA has been made to serve the interests of the Israeli occupier. Indeed, it was entirely designed with this purpose in mind. It allows Israel to outsource key elements of the occupation to local Palestinian subcontractors.

Preventing Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank has been a key goal of the Israeli occupation since its imposition by force in 1948. It’s for this reason that, prior to the foundation of the state, the Zionist movement colluded with the King of Jordan to ensure that the Palestinian state envisaged in the 1947 UN partition plan would never come to exist.

The PA is not really Palestinian, because its entire raison d’etre is to prop up Israeli occupation. And it’s hardly an authority, because PA “security forces” have standing orders to put down their weapons or withdraw from an area any time Israeli soldiers invade.

We also know that, for years, the PA has been collaborating with the US empire and its schemes in the region – of which Israel forms a key plank. For example, the American General Keith Dayton more than a decade ago oversaw a new training regime for PA forces to impose closer collaboration with Israeli occupation troops.

It can hardly come as a total surprise, then, to learn that the PA has also been collaborating with the CIA.

Earlier this month, it was reported by the Associated Press that a whistle-blower from within one of the PA’s spy agencies had lifted the lid on the nature of its collaboration with the CIA and its schemes in the region.

According to the whistle-blower, the PA’s head of  “Preventative Security” – the secret police, in effect – in 2013 asked the CIA to help it institute a new regime of phone-call wire-taps. The CIA apparently agreed in return for oversight.

The allegations are contained in an anonymously authored document which has reportedly been circulating on WhatsApp (the encrypted private messaging service) among Palestinians in the West Bank for the last month or so.

The document contains transcripts of phone calls of some of those the PA targeted for snooping. As well as armed Palestinian factions, those targeted included critics of the dictatorial PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, as well as lawyers and journalists.

At least one of these targeted confirmed to the Associated Press that the document is genuine. Bar association head, Jawad Obeidat, told them that transcripts of his phone conversations published in the document were accurate: “I made these phone calls and this is evidence that the leaked report is true.”

Obeidat spearheaded recent protests by lawyers after one of them was arrested from a court room during a legal case against the increasingly dictatorial PA, AP reported. While the PA has zero spine when it comes to standing up to Israel, it is quite telling how quickly it cracks down on internal dissent.

Also according to AP, Tawfiq Tirawi a former West Bank intelligence chief “said he checked with his contacts and believes the document is authentic.”

According to National Public Radio in the US, “The anonymous author [of the document] claimed that he began to secretly collect evidence of the eavesdropping in late 2017, when he said officials began unfairly listening to the calls of Palestinian lawyers after they protested the arrest of their colleague.”

According to these reports, at the behest of the CIA, the PA spies were trained in the use of the wire-tapping system in Dubai. Apart from arrests, beating, harassing, detention and torture of internal dissidents and Palestinian protesters against Israeli occupation, snooping on its internal enemies and critics seems to be the only thing the PA “security” agencies are good at.

Palestinian lawyers and campaigners have now issued a legal complaint against the PA for these reported actions. Considering the PA is now in the habit of arresting lawyers out of its own courts, even making this complaint was a brave thing to do.

The PA should be disbanded.

The supposed State of Palestine, founded on – even theoretically – less than a fraction of the mere 22 per cent of historic Palestine represented by the West Bank and Gaza Strip, is no more credible than the fake “homelands” (the Bantustans) which the South African apartheid regime set up as puppet entities in a failed attempt to fool the world into thinking that there was any sort of democracy there under apartheid.

Like the white supremacist regime in South Africa, Israeli apartheid too will fall.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.