Dozens of Palestinian families, activists and factional leaders organised a protest on Saturday in the centre of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. They called for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to release political prisoners. Sources in Ramallah said that the protesters raised placards which said that the PA “should protect Palestinians, not detain them”, and that “Palestinian prisoners inside PA jails are heroes, not criminals”.
This was clearly a step too far for the PA, and its undercover security forces attacked the protesters, tore up the placards, beat them and dispersed them forcefully. The protesters described the attack as “treason… on behalf of the Israeli occupation.”
According to Al-Resalah newspaper, there are currently 23 Palestinian political prisoners enduring severe torture and harsh treatment in PA prisons across the occupied West Bank. They are mainly held in the notorious Jericho Prison, known locally as the “slaughterhouse”.
The Committee for Families of Political Prisoners said that the PA security services committed 315 violations against the people of occupied Palestine in August. The violations included house raids, detention, summonses for interrogation, physical assaults and destruction or confiscation of property.
The official spokesman of the PA Police Force, Major General Talal Dweekat, denied two weeks ago that there are political prisoners inside the jails run by the PA. “The claims by Hamas that there are political prisoners and the chasing of political opponents is completely false,” he claimed. All detentions carried out by the PA “are to treat illegal issues and to impose order and maintain safety in society.”
While this is the situation in the occupied West Bank, the US and Israel have been discussing how to strengthen the PA and its security services in order to curb Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation and the increasing number of daily attacks against Palestinians by Israel’s illegal Jewish settlers.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz discussed an initiative to strengthen the PA with an American official last year. “This morning, I met with Michael Ratney,” Gantz tweeted. “We discussed the importance of economic and social initiatives to strengthen the PA.”
According to sources reported by Axios, the Director of Israel’s internal security agency known as Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, told US Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf recently that the agency supports strengthening the PA, but it is harder to make decisions at this time because of November’s General Election in Israel.
Meanwhile, the PA’s Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein Al-Sheikh, told Leaf during her visit to the region that he did not complain of a weak economy or the lack of funds for the inability to act against the Palestinian resistance. The reason, he said, is the repeated action of the Israeli occupation forces against the Palestinian resistance. “How can the PA security forces work in the day while their Israeli counterparts work in the night?” he wondered. “We cannot function when the Israeli military enters our cities every day arresting people and killing people. What do they expect?”
It is clear that the minister does not want the Israeli occupation forces to do anything; they should leave it all to the PA’s own security forces. He wants PA employees to arrest Palestinians, beat them and, if necessary, kill them.
The latter should be no surprise. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed by the PA security forces since the authority was created in 1993. Killings have happened in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In 1996, for example, PA security agents surrounded Palestine Mosque in Gaza City and immediately after the Friday prayers opened fire on the worshippers, killing 17 and wounding hundreds. They have killed Palestinian resistance fighters during home raids, in the streets and in PA prisons under torture. They killed activist Nizar Banat last year just for criticising PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
So the US and Israel now agree that the PA needs their support to boost its security services allowing them once again to be able to work alongside the Israeli occupation forces in cracking down on Palestinian resistance activities, which have been increasing in the occupied West Bank.
Leaf has said that the PA cannot act against the Palestinian resistance due to its ailing economic situation as it has been unable to pay full salaries for its employees for more than a year. She warned that the PA might collapse at any time if it does not get financial support. Axios quoted her as telling officials in Tel Aviv that the “the ball is in Israel’s court” when it comes to strengthening and stabilising the PA.
This is not entirely accurate, because the PA is already acting against the Palestinian resistance and complies with Israeli diktats without hesitation. It imprisons Palestinian fighters, and then supplies detailed information about them to the Israeli occupation authorities so that Shin Bet and other security operatives can find and kill them easily. The security coordination — collaboration in all but name — with the Israeli security services is “sacred”, according to Abbas. The PA is loyal to Israel, not the people of occupied Palestine.
The Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank has surged, not due to the weakness of the PA or its economic crises, but to the Ramallah authority’s increasing oppression of the people; the increasing aggression of the Israeli occupation; and the increasing number of attacks by extremist Israeli Jewish settlers emboldened by international silence and complicity.
Palestinian resistance will only end when the Israeli occupation of Palestine ends. It may be suppressed and beaten down, but it will always rise again, like a phoenix. The liberation of Palestine and freedom for its people — from the oppression of the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority — remain the objectives as Palestinians continue to struggle for their legitimate rights.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.