The assassination of political activist Nizar Banat during his arrest by Palestinian Authority security services is a turning point in occupied Palestine. It is no less important and dangerous than the shift represented by the recent Jerusalem uprising, which covered Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the territory occupied since 1948.
The occupied West Bank has not witnessed events like this before, and the PA has never appeared as strategically and morally stripped as it is now, because its failure in terms of managing internal affairs and human rights has also been exposed alongside its flawed approach to national affairs and resistance against the occupation. The only people who can't see this are those who benefit from the status quo.
What made Banat's killing different from all of the PA's previous crimes, both on the national and internal level, is that all of its flaws were condensed into one operation. The first was the silencing of the anti-occupation voice, as the difference between the latter and the PA is not based on personal interest, or even to the management of domestic affairs, but is essentially a dispute over the PA's performance and the way it deals with Israel and its occupation. His killing followed Banat's criticism of the shameful vaccine deal, according to which the PA would hand over new vaccines to the Israelis in exchange for vaccines that expire soon. This showed clearly that the PA favours Israelis over its own people.
Another national paradox for the Palestinian people is that the same PA security forces that melt into the background when their Israeli counterparts are on the scene — not least during the recent events in Jerusalem — and never, ever, confront soldiers or armed settlers when they attack Palestinians and their land, are the same "security forces" which beat Nizar Banat to death after entering his home like thieves in the night and dragging him from his bed. This paradox confirmed to every Palestinian that the PA security forces exist solely to protect the occupation state and oppress the people of Palestine under occupation.
Banat's assassination also revealed the PA's indifference to human rights, and its intolerance of criticism. It behaved like every other repressive Arab regime that kills its opponents because of their opinions. Although repression and human rights violations must always be condemned, they are even more shocking and criminal when they come from a self-rule organisation against its own people struggling under a military occupation. The people face a double cycle of repression, at the hands of the Israeli occupation — which is inherently repressive — and the PA, which is supposed to represent their interests. The Palestinians can resist the occupation but are helpless in front of the PA's repressive security forces, because they know that the occupation is the main issue. Hence, the PA not only adds to the repression of the people, but also distorts the national compass.
After the killing of Banat, the PA behaved like a typical Arab regime. The theory proposed by the late Yasser Arafat and applied to a large extent was dropped; the so-called democracy of the forest of guns, which had little to do with democracy, but was a slogan that allowed criticism and internal conflicts without resorting to weapons, within the framework of the Palestinian national movement. Arafat bore all criticism, accusations and even splits, even though he had national legitimacy to represent all groups of the Palestinian people at the time. The PA today not only coordinates its security repression with Israel, but also lacks any national or electoral legitimacy, and is incapable of accepting criticism. So it simply kills its political opponents.
The PA resorted to its base instincts which are a disgrace for a national liberation movement. It was in denial when it claimed initially that Banat's was a natural death due to a pre-existing condition. Then it issued contemptable statements about the investigation after the uproar at the murder. It then sent in its security thugs in plain clothes to attack protesters, and issued tribal statements in support of the president, especially from Hebron, where Nizar Banat was from. All of this exposed the PA like never before, as nothing but a primitive authority that identifies with other repressive Arab regimes, with a leadership that is supposed to represent a "national liberation movement".
Under normal circumstances, there is no "single" solution to any political crisis, as politics is the result of the interaction of several complex factors and profit and loss calculations. However, the killing of Nizar Banat and the events that preceded and followed it have made matters clear to every Palestinian. The national impasse has only one solution: delegitimise and close down this authority.
The Palestinian factions, especially Hamas, must bear their responsibility for this delegitimisation; they should refuse any dialogue with Fatah under the Oslo umbrella. Dialogue must be established on a national basis to agree on the way to resist the occupation, not on how to relieve Israel of its responsibility and grant it an occupation that carries no political, economic and security cost.
Ever since 2006, the Palestinian dialogue has been based on the wrong foundations, and was thus unable to break away from Oslo. If Hamas and the other factions are trying to end the division in this way, then they are making a big mistake. Fatah, meanwhile, must choose between being part of the people and their resistance, or standing with the occupier in an authority that has failed nationally, legally and in managing internal affairs.
This choice was clear in 2006, and many Palestinian writers and elites demanded that it be made. Now, though, it has become clearer after the Jerusalem Intifada and the victory of the resistance, as well as the assassination of Nizar Banat.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 28 June 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.