PA uses foreign aid to scuttle human rights, civil liberties
On 11 June, members of the Palestinian security agencies detained Haitham Amr, a resident of the small village of Beit al-Rush, 25 kilometers south west of Hebron .
Two days later, Amr, 32 and father of three small children, was found dead in his cell at the Mukhabarat (General Intelligence) headquarters in downtown Hebron .
Amr apparently died after he was subjected to an unusually harsh session of torture resulting in a massive internal bleeding.
At first, PA security officials claimed that Amr had jumped from the second floor of the building in an attempt to escape. However, the claim seemed to have been totally concocted and contained no iota of truth.
The PA did carry out an autopsy on Amr’s body at al-Quds University Medical College immediately after his death. However, the forensic report has not been made public, despite the passage of nearly one month after the incident.
Amr is not an isolated case. Since the establishment of the American-backed regime in Ramallah, under the supervision of the American security commissioner, Gen. Keith Dayton, as many as eight Palestinians were either unlawfully killed or tortured to death at the hands of PA security personnel.
Today, hundreds of mostly political activists are languishing in PA detention centers, the majority of whom without charge or trial. And when trials do take place, they are usually conducted in clear violation of internationally accepted procedure.
The PA routinely claims it doesn’t hold “political prisoners” in its jails and detention centers. However, it is amply clear that this claim is false.
This writer has spoken with dozens of released detainees who testified that they were harshly tortured.
In addition, the former prisoners, many of whom have been re-arrested either by Israel or the PA for no legitimate reasons, said they were asked which political party they had voted for in the 2006 elections, what their political preferences were, and what they thought of Hamas.
It is widely believed that as many as 4000 political activists have been arrested ever since the ousting by Hamas of Fatah from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007. Now, there are as many as 750 political detainees in PA custody. Some observers have called the wanton campaign against the Islamic opposition a real inquisition.
In addition to arresting and torturing people suspected of sympathizing with Hamas, the PA security agencies have seized hundreds of educational, health, sport, and charitable institutions previously run by Islamic organizations.
Moreover, hundreds of civil servants, including teachers, have been unceremoniously fired from their jobs. Others, who have not been fired, have been receiving only partial salaries as a reprisal for their alleged sympathy with Hamas. In many cases, the charges are based on secret reports filed by local informers.
Human rights activists have pointed out that many of these informers often abuse their “function” by filing false charges against a given civil servant for reasons having to do with personal vendetta or clan feuds.
In the meantime, the Palestinian Justice system has been more or less in a state of paralysis thanks to the hegemony of the security agencies which often warn judges and lawyers against interfering in “security matters.”
Furthermore, freedom of speech, including press freedom, has also been suffering immensely as a result of heavy and occasionally draconian interference by the security agencies. Journalists have been arrested, tortured and humiliated for reporting news and views the PA wants to remain hidden from the eyes of the public.
Some of the incarcerated journalists and writers still languishing in PA jails include Mustafa Sabri, Fareed Hamad, Qays Abu Samra and Serri Sammour. The latter was arrested from his home after publishing an internet article on Fatah.
A few months ago, this writer was detained in a slimy cell in Hebron for 60 hours for saying during a TV interview that the PA was subservient to Israel .
The PA, an artificial entity without any semblance of sovereignty, is nearly totally dependent on politically-motivated foreign aid for its very survival.
The western rationale for keeping the PA afloat, at least financially, is ostensibly to prepare for the creation of a Palestinian state.
However, it is obvious that the West is actually helping create a police state, and in the Palestinian case, a police state without a state, an entity that very much looks like a graveyard for human rights, civil liberties and simple human decency.
Last month, President Obama vowed in his speech in Cairo to open a new chapter in U.S. relations with Muslims around the world, based on mutual respect.
However, one month later, Muslims all over the world are still watching U.S. continuing to help local dictatorships savage their masses by denying them basic freedoms and human rights. This is happening in occupied Palestine as well as many other parts of the Middle East.
Needless to say, a healthy relationship between Muslims and the West ought to be based on honesty, not on hypocrisy and moral duplicity.
This week, European states decided to summon their ambassadors from Tehran to protest the Iranian authorities’ crackdown on western-backed protesters.
Western powers, which have supported and embraced every dictator and tyrant in the Muslim world, from the Shah of Iran to Suharto of Indonesia, are suddenly invoking the mantra of civil liberties and human rights to justify their hostile posture against Iran, a country that is seemingly determined to be free and independent from western and Zionist subservience.
However, when it comes to Israeli crimes in Gaza, or the systematic persecution and savaging of non-conformist Palestinian activists, we see that the West is not only silent, but is actively standing on the side of tyrannical Arab governments and the Nazi-like Israeli occupiers.
Needless to say, the persistence of the erstwhile American policy of backing dictators and embracing the colonialist Israeli occupation will only vindicate the views of many Muslims and non-Muslims alike who argue that the US is not really sincere about having a dignified rapprochement with the Muslims world.
In the final analysis, people in this part of the world want to see real actions not just hear eloquent words lacking in substance.
As a Palestinian, I would like to see the Obama administration (and also the EU states) tie their financing of the PA to the latter’s respect for human rights and civil liberties.
Will the Obama administration and EU have the moral integrity to behave this way?