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We condemn US measures against the Palestinians, but must condemn those by Abbas too

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attends a central committee meeting of Fatah Movement in Ramallah, West Bank on 13 September 2017 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

The US State Department announced on Monday that it is closing the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Washington, claiming that it did not help to promote a peaceful solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians,” the official statement explained. “However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.”

It is no surprise that the US has taken such a step, which came after a series of moves against Palestinian rights and principles. These include Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; the cutting of more than $200 million in economic aid for the Palestinians; the non-payment of more than $260m in donations to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA); and cuts of more than $20m in aid for hospitals in occupied east Jerusalem.

Bad as it is, cutting aid is not worse than sending the most modern US weapons to Israel in order to kill Palestinians, displace them and destroy their property. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a Washington DC-based coalition of Palestine advocacy and solidarity groups, wrote on its interactive website: “Israel uses these weapons, in violation of US laws, to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians living under its brutal, more than half-century-long, military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. These include injuring and killing civilians, detaining and abusing children, demolishing homes, uprooting agriculture, and denying freedom of movement and expression.”

Abbas still undermining truce efforts, claims Hamas

The strange thing about all of this are the responses and actions of the leadership of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, both of which are dominated by the secular Fatah movement. They do not keep up with the Palestinian principles or rights at all, and yet they have claimed that the US shutdown of the PLO office in Washington was intended to undermine these rights and principles.

“The decision to close the PLO office is part of the open war waged by the US administration and its Zionist team against our Palestinian people, their cause and just and legitimate rights,” PA spokesman Yousef Al-Mahmoud was quoted as saying by Wafa news agency. “It is a continuation of US policy of diktats and blackmail against our people in order to force them to surrender.”

We can be — and are, rightly so — angry at the US measures against the Palestinians, but what about the measures imposed by the PA against its own people? The day after the PLO office closure in Washington, the PA security services arrested 11 Palestinians, including students, social and political leaders, Imams and freed prisoners.

The families of the Palestinians imprisoned by the PA have reported inhumane treatment by the security services during the detention raids. “Complaints persisted of torture and ill-treatment carried out in the West Bank by PA security services,” Human Rights Watch reported. It noted that these acts “violate legal obligations that the state of Palestine assumed after it ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture in 2014.”

I wonder what veteran PLO official Saeb Erekat calls the cutting of the stipends paid to Palestinian prisoners who are locked up in Israeli prisons? What about payments to their families? Are these punishments not also considered a form of “open war” waged against the Palestinians? Freed Palestinian prisoners, who lost their payments, said that they were told that these were cut on the order of Mahmoud Abbas.

Mahmoud Abbas: the lost Palestinian leader

What about cutting by 50 per cent the salaries of the Palestinian public servants in the Gaza Strip, also on the order of Abbas? What about cutting electricity and halting coverage of medical treatment transfers meant for Palestinian patients living in Gaza? What does Erekat call cuts to monthly payments to those living in poverty in Gaza, and reductions in financial support for Palestinian schools, higher education institutions and vocational centres? What about cuts to the administrative fees for the Palestinian ministries in Gaza and halting medicine and fuel supplies for hospitals?

PA violations against the Palestinian people are not only limited to the Gaza Strip, where Abbas claims that they have been imposed to put pressure on Hamas, but also include the occupied West Bank, which is being ruled by him and his authority. Take, for example, the detention of Palestinian activists for posting on social media, and the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations calling for the lifting of the Israeli siege as well as the PA’s punitive measures imposed on Gaza.

Examples of the PA violations against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank abound, including chasing university students, closing around 30 mass media institutions and arresting journalists and activists like Issa Amro and others. All of these actions have been condemned by international and local rights groups, including Human Rights Watch.

Condemning the American measures against the Palestinians is all well and good, but Saeb Erekat and others within the Palestinian Authority hierarchy should also ask his president to stop his war against his own people, the people of Palestine.

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

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