Today at dawn, Palestinians across the occupied territories were shocked to learn that a well-known activist in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, Nizar Banat, had been killed by Palestinian Authority security forces.
The PA Governor in Hebron, Jibreen Al-Bakri, issued a statement about the killing. He claimed that the security forces aimed to enforce the law as they went to detain Banat on the basis of a detention order issued by the Public Prosecutor. He said that the activist died during the detention process due to health problems. He did not mention the “brutal” and “barbaric” way that Banat was beaten on his head and face. Bakri said that Banat was transferred to hospital, but his friends and family have searched for him everywhere, and insist that wherever he was taken, it was not to hospital.
According to Banat’s family, “The PA security services detonated the door of the house, broke into the building and immediately started beating [Banat] with iron bars and batons while he was asleep, along with two of his brothers. They emptied three bottles of pepper powder in his face when he got up; stripped him of his clothes; lynched him; insulted him while he was bleeding; kidnapped him; took him to an unknown location; and murdered him.”
Palestinian factions, leaders, activists and international officials have condemned Banat’s “murder”. The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, described what happened as a “full-fledged crime that reflects the bloody policy of the PA.” It blamed the government of Mohammad Shtayyeh for “this unethical crime which is rejected by all Palestinians and unacceptable to all Palestinian traditions and norms.”
The UN Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, wrote on twitter: “Alarmed & saddened by the death of activist, former parliamentary candidate, Nizar Banat following his arrest by [Palestinian security forces] in Hebron… I call for a swift, independent & transparent investigation. Perpetrators must be brought to justice.”
The EU Delegation to the Palestinians also turned to Twitter: “Shocked and saddened by the death of activist and former legislative candidate Nizar Banat following his arrest by the PA security forces last night. Full, independent, and transparent investigation should be conducted immediately.”
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Palestine, Lynn Hastings, added: “Disturbing news on the death of activist Nizar Banat shortly after his arrest by Palestinian Security Forces from his home in Hebron. I note that an investigation has been initiated and call on the authorities to ensure that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice.”
Palestinian activists and journalists joined in the condemnation of the killing of Banat. Some made it clear that, in their view, he was “murdered” by the PA.
“The PA murdered Nizar Banat in a shameful way,” said journalist and activist Ismail Al-Thawabteh. “The liquidation by the PA of activist Nizar Banat today at dawn is strongly condemned and must be deterred in order not to be repeated.Thousands of words have already been written and spoken about Banat’s “murder”, and his name has trended on Twitter. Why, though, did the PA kill him?
Nizar Banat was an outspoken critic of the PA, Fatah and the PLO, all of which are headed by Mahmoud Abbas. He exposed many cases of corruption linked to them. The latest example was the PA-Israeli deal to exchange soon-to-expire Israeli Covid-19 vaccines for newly-produced vaccines intended for the West Bank. The deal was cancelled after it was exposed.
Banat intended to run for the Palestinian parliamentary election, and has been posting videos on his Facebook page about PA corruption and criticising the security cooperation between Ramallah and Israel at the expense of the Palestinian resistance and the principles of the Palestinian cause.
He was arrested eight times by the PA and tortured because of his views and activism against PA corruption. He was open about rejecting the peace made by the PA with Israel because, according to him, it met all the demands of the Israeli occupation and undermined all the rights of the Palestinians.
Recently, Banat phoned Muhannad Karaja from Lawyers for Justice, and told him that the PA was threatening him. He explained to Karaja that the PA intelligence services asked him to end his criticism of the PA and officials from Fatah and the PLO.
This suggests that the PA killed Nizar Banat to silence him, because he embarrasses the authority by exposing its conspiracies with the Israeli occupation plotted against the Palestinians. The PA killed him because he was a nationalist who believed that the authority is nothing more than a Zionist project intended to serve the Zionist project in the region.
Even though Prime Minister Shtayyeh has already announced that an investigation will go ahead, Banat’s family, Palestinian activists and rights groups are sceptical about it being “independent and transparent” as demanded by representatives of the international community.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian NGO Network has warned that the PA’s political crackdown on its opponents will turn it into “a police state governed by repression and a disregard for people’s lives and their dignity under the reality of the occupation.” It called for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to put an end to all infringements of civil rights and public freedoms to preserve the dignity of Palestinian citizens.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.