Palestinian Authority security forces have recently attacked peaceful demonstrators in Ramallah and Nablus in a manner that appears to be a normalised extension of the oppression, beatings and humiliation that we see in many Arab countries, such as Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. Although this appears to be a turning point in the security forces’ way of facing domestic Palestinian issues and disputes, it is the entirely predictable outcome of the downward spiral of the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah.
The protesters who were attacked called for the PA to lift the punitive measures imposed against the Palestinians living in Gaza. Young people rejected such measures against any section of the Palestinian people, under political pretexts such as conflict or Hamas abuses, as the supporters of the Fatah movement like to call them. It is as if Hamas’s alleged transgression, or the Fatah-Hamas dispute itself, is enough to justify the misuse of civilians in Gaza as pawns in the internecine struggle between the movements. This is an example of the extent to which the PA may go in order to defend itself against any form of protest and rejection, without regard to any Palestinian human and legal rights within and beyond the occupied West Bank. The PA and its leadership are the only red line.
In this latest incident, the Palestinian security forces used high levels of repression and barbarism to achieve two separate yet complementary goals. First, to block any popular attempt to reject or oppose all or part of the PA’s policies and practices. Second, to reveal the manner in which the PA will deal with any popular attempt to break the isolation of the Palestinians in general, which extends beyond the isolation of Gaza Strip. The PA is working to promote division and separation between different Palestinian groups, as if the people of Gaza, for example, are different to those in the West Bank. Hence, the West Bank must not witness any popular action which calls for the PA to stop any of its measures against the besieged coastal enclave.
The PA uses the different values of each Palestinian group as a basis for division rather than working to find solutions and strategies that can unite the popular struggle. The different groups include Palestinians in the territories occupied in 1948; refugees in the diaspora; Palestinians in the Gaza Strip; and those in the West Bank and Jerusalem. The PA believes that perpetuating this division will enable it to deal with each of the groups separately and according to its own vision, without any national, humanitarian or political considerations, and without any of these groups being able to express any opinions or rejecting any of these practices. The latter includes those that are basically crimes against humanity, such as the collective punishment of the punitive measures taken against the people of Gaza.
These practices date back to the adoption of the interim programme, which preceded the existence of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). This ignored all voices which rejected it, and it was the first step towards relinquishing Palestinian rights and isolating Palestinian groups and sections of society from each other, especially the refugees outside Palestine and the steadfast Palestinians in the territories occupied since 1948. This in turn constituted a political gateway towards a more severe downfall of the overall Palestinian cause, through the signing of the Oslo Accords, which represented the political base on which the PA was established.
Both the interim programme and the Oslo Accords show deviations and the abandonment of Palestinian rights. These include abandoning a large part of historic Palestinian territories, the impossibility of full implementation of the right of return and Palestinian division, which transformed the Palestinian cause into one of multiple and dispersed groups, each with its own interests, circumstances and conditions. The agreement and its subsequent deals also managed to create a fictitious Palestinian Authority; an authority without power, according to its current President, Mahmoud Abbas. More accurately, it is a security-based authority aimed at protecting the Israeli occupation, and does not enjoy any financial, geographical or political sovereignty or independence.
This fictitious authority has reached a new low by imposing punitive measures against the Gaza Strip even though the territory is already besieged by Israel, making the PA an accomplice of the occupation. It thus cooperates in acquitting the occupation of the crimes it is committing against Gaza, or at least in diverting attention from them, whether intentionally or unintentionally. By doing so, the PA is ignoring international law and all international and domestic laws and norms which say clearly that all collective punitive measures amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, whatever the pretexts are and whatever the circumstances are; this applies entirely to the Gaza Strip now.
As such, a normal political and moral position would be to condemn any regime that uses collective punitive measures against any party in the world, especially against its own people. Does the PA expect the Palestinian people to stay silent about such measures, even as we are still under occupation; to stay silent about a fictitious authority that only works in the best interests of the occupation? Or does the PA consider this to be a chance to perpetuate a security-based regime under the umbrella of the occupation, in order to repress the people and undermine any possibility of a clear and comprehensive national liberation programme?
The latest crime is no more than a link in the chain of authoritarian repression referred to above. It also rings alarm bells, perhaps for the last time, before it reveals the PA’s full integration with the Israeli occupation and its collaboration, even if that requires the siege of the entire Palestinian people and their repression, from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and any other point as directed by the occupation. Hence, all initial, free and national efforts must be united in order to condemn repressive practices, condemn punitive measures against the Gaza Strip and reject the interim programme in order to put an end to the decline in the Palestinian situation reached by the PA leadership. The aim must be to establish a new phase that will restore our just cause, as one cause for one people and for one state built upon all of the historic Palestinian territories.
Translated from Al Araby Al Jadid, 19 June 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.