The news that the US and the Palestinian Authority are planning for CIA Director Gina Haspell to visit Ramallah comes just as Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report which accuses Hamas and the PA of torture. Titled “Two Authorities, One Way, Zero Dissent”, is based on a two-year investigation during which 86 cases in Gaza and the occupied West Bank were analysed.
Both Hamas and the PA denied the report’s findings and cited lack of consultation during the preparation of the report. Their rejections of the report, however, differed. The PA’s rejection of the report was disseminated in a conventional manner seeking to convince the public that signing conventions and implementing them are interchangeable. However, the PA has exhibited ample evidence of its overt violence and torture accusations have surfaced prior to the HRW report.
Hamas insisted that its law enforcement facilities are “open to inspection by Palestinian and international human rights organisations.” Gaza’s unique situation and vulnerability can indeed provide a haven for torture to flourish – dissent in Gaza will be viewed differently from dissent in the occupied West Bank and the imbalanced power play between Hamas and the PA will continue to reap victims.
One common factor faced by both the PA and Hamas is the people’s distancing from the leadership. Time and again Palestinians have indicated their preference for a return to mobilisation of the people. Palestinian factions are belatedly supporting to the people in their endeavours and falling short when it comes to collective expression. The PA has repeatedly refused engagement with the people and categorises resistance as dissent. Hamas still retains the option to modify its political approach and move away from practices which, if proven true, will tarnish its image as an alternative option to the PA. Its diplomatic isolation can be used to an advantage if Palestinians are able, once again, to identify with its previous commitment to resistance. If not, Hamas knows it has much more to lose.
Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has vowed to investigate the torture alluded to in the report. The mentioned cases, however, should not have come as a surprise to Hamdallah. The torture of journalists was reported by the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media freedoms (MADA). Undoubtedly, the PA, while feigning outrage, will leverage this opportunity to cast itself as part of the system which denounces torture while implementing it at home. If not part of this elite, why is Gina Haspell meeting the PA in Ramallah?
Severing diplomatic ties, albeit at face value, has not impinged upon security coordination and US funding of the PA’s security services. To put it succinctly, torture is profitable and there is always a supply of victims. Human rights, on the other hand, are a lesser bargaining tool bequeathed by the oppressors in return for loopholes to continue violating the rights of other individuals, communities or populations. The PA will overlook the contradiction of asserting to investigate its human rights violations while entertaining contact with, and the presence of, an agency responsible for the torture of thousands. Security coordination remains “sacred”. Palestinian rights, on the other hand, only qualify as an afterthought in PA politics.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.